Friday, 5 July 2013

Pattern Fitting, Part 1

Last week I attended the Fit And Sew The Perfect Shift Dress class taught by Mandy of Fit2Sew. The class was mid-week and I was the only student. Which was perfect for me, as I got Mandy's full attention and help.

We were going to make Butterick pattern 4386, view B which has a big white collar and a bow tie. But because I wanted to have an everyday dress, I decided to sew version E. The dress has an invisible zipper at the back, two bust darts and two long waist darts at back and front.

I am going to make version E (blue dress).

My main fabric is a cotton lawn from Liberty (copy print), which I bought on Goldhawk Road (London) for £7/meter. I choose to add a lining as the lawn is sheer. The lining is a silk cotton blend, £4/meter. I bought matching thread and a 22" invisible zipper.

Fabrics :)

According to my high bust measurement, I needed pattern size 10. Mandy had already traced the pattern pieces for me, so that we could go straight to fitting. I made the following changes on the tissue:

Back Bodice:
  • moved the shoulder seams forward to account for my sloping shoulders
  • made a little tuck at the neckline, as the neckline was gaping
  • added some tissue at the waist and hip area and pinned according to my shape (which is flat and not curvy as in most patterns)
  • took out some tissue at the upper back to account for my sway back
Front Bodice:
  • moved the bust dart down as it was pointing above my apex
  • shortened the waist dart on both ends, as the top end was pointing above my apex and the bottom end was just too long
  • added some tissue to waist and hip area

Puh, that were a lot of changes. And the dress is only semi-fitted! What am I going to do, if I ever make a fitted dress? I was a little bit worried, that I would not remember how to alter the pattern, but all of the changes are described and drawn in the "Fit for real People" book by Palmer/Pletsch.

Next, I cut the fabric! Without making a muslin first - that was scary. The cotton lawn was quickly cut, but I did not have experience with cutting silky fabrics! The silk cotton blend was slipping around a lot, but with a lot of patience we managed to align the selvages. To help with the cutting and avoid slipping we put some tissue paper in between the two layers of silk cotton. Then pinned the tissue pattern on top of that sandwich and cut all three layers (silk-tissue-silk) together. It was still slippery, but doable.

As both fabrics are really thin, Mandy advised me to make an interlining, for which main fabric and lining are sewn together. I sewed my cotton lawn and silk cotton together with a stitch length set to 3 and approximately 3/8"  from the edge.

In the next picture you can see the bodice front to which I attached the interlining. For an even distribution of the lining, you have to start stiching in the middle and then sew to the right or left and down to the hem. The lining was not attached to the hem at this stage.

Bodice front. Sew in direction of the arrows, 3/8" from the edge.
After having attached the lining to bodice backs and bodice front, it was fitting time again. We pinned in the darts and then pinned front and back together. You will need a helper at this point, because Mandy had to pin my back close as we had not inserted the back zipper at this point. I was surprised how well the dress fit already and we had to do only a few changes:
  • adjusted the shoulder seams as one of my shoulder is higher than the other
  • deepened all darts
  • adjusted my waist and hip line by taking in the side seams - that was a good feeling :)
  • because my right side is smaller than the left (scary), we had to take in more fabric there

The last task of the day, was to sew in an invisible zipper. I was especially interested in this technique as the invisible zippers I have sewn in so far look bulky and make the fabric stand out. So, not really invisible! The technique we used and the techniques I used before differed only in one point: We ironed the coil of the invisible zipper flat only after we had basted the zipper to the fabric with a normal zipper foot (the techniques I read about recommend to iron the zipper coil open before attaching it to the fabric). Then we used the invisible zipper foot to properly attach the zipper. And the result? Yes, it looks for sure better than the ones I tried myself. Let's see how it will look on the finished dress!

Can you spot the zipper? ;)

So, that's it for part 1! Eight hours hard work and I fitted the pattern, cut out fabric and lining, attached the lining and sewed in an invisible zipper. I think we made really good progress and I feel more confident in the Palmer/Pletsch approach (so confident, that I started immediately to fit the Hawthorne dress from Colette Pattern for the sew-along!). I think the most tricky part in the fitting is to actually spot, what the problem is! I, for example, did not know that I have sloping shoulders until Mandy pointed it out. Also it would be great to have a fitting buddy, as it is quite difficult to do some of the alteration yourself. But, I do think that with more experience I will be alright.

This week, I will have the second part of the class which is all about sewing! As a homework, I had to sew in the darts (done, yeah) and then we are going to attach the sleeves, facings and hem.

PS: I used an overlocker for the first time in this class and love it! It is so fast - scary fast - just amazing. I know what will be on my Christmas list this year, hihi...

Just one more sentence: Mandy did not asked me to write a review.


  1. Isn't it amazing to get face-to-face direction on fitting? Fitting was obviously part of my pattern drafting course and I learnt so much! The invisible zip looks great. Good luck with the next class.

  2. Thank you! And yes face-to-face directions are much better than having to read about it. At least I know my "problems" now :) and know how to transfer them to the pattern. But I think your pattern drafting course was far more advanced (I haven't read all of your posts yet).

  3. That course sounds great, I'll definitely have to consider doing that (or a similar one). Did you find that you needed to have done her beginners' fitting one first, or could you just have gone straight in with this one? I'm thinking it's the kind of thing you probably want to learn fairly early on in your sewing life, so as to avoid getting frustrated like you did the first time round! Have you been able to apply the stuff you learnt since?

    1. I actually did her beginners fitting class first and liked it a lot. But I wanted more practice and also wanted to see if you can sew the actual dress with that method. The class helped me a lot, especially because Mandy pointed out my problem areas. Now I know which alteration I have to make and often I also use my altered tissue pattern from the class to compare it with the pattern I am going to use. I can really recommend the fitting class. Especially, because I am now able to make garments that fit me. Not that everything goes smootly but there is much less frustration involved!

    2. Thanks, I'll definitely look into doing one!


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