Sure Fit results

The thing about working on fit is that you can’t just slap the results up on your off-the-rack sewing dummy and take photos with any meaning. You have to stage a shoot and you have no unpaid interns to do all the prep work or even snap the shutter for you.

Since the last post, I made many more muslins to complete my Sure-Fit dress blueprint.  I omitted the skirt portion to speed things along and strictly worked on the bodice. Selecting the right dart size took care of my issues in the front. The back, which looked like this…..

back blog…took more work. Glenda gave me some very helpful advice, which included adding a shoulder dart. I was amazed at how much of a difference that made. It cleared up issues that I thought were length-related. I am not as swaybacked as I thought.

I also worked on my sleevecap and armscye and eventually got them wrinkle-free, but they were also over-fitted and not right to wear. Even though I would very much like to understand the mysteries of sleeves, I was tired of making muslins, so I borrowed a sleeve and armscye from Ottobre and called it finished.

I then used my blueprint to fit and adapt a basic blouse from the first Ottobre Woman issue. I had made it before and knew that it fit better than average. Now I knew that it could fit even better. I checked the shoulder slope and pitch, waist length, dart placement, and pattern widths against my blueprint and adjusted them where needed – most of the work needed to be done to the shoulder. Here’s the blouse made from the adjusted pattern.


There’s still some room for improvement, but this is better than I was doing before. I also happen to know that one of the creases is due to a cutting error. I can do a little pin fitting on this blouse, refine the block a bit more, and give it another go. This is where the intern would have been useful, giving a little artful pull here and there so that all would hang right.

I also used the blueprint to modify the shoulders on the Cutting Line Designs Anything But Ordinary top. I had made this top before and was not happy. Here it is, much better – a simple, breezy, casual top.

CLD ABONow, my unpaid intern/stylist, had I had one, would have advised me to wear darker foundation garments before shooting. But I’m not going to do it over.

Lastly, I used the blueprint to adjust the shoulders and compare widths to make a block for a basic sleeveless knit top based on an Ottobre pattern. I also used it to modify the Style Arc Abby cardigan, so I have a little twinset.

knit block_Abby Cardi

By the way, the pants that you can’t see very well in these photos are Style Arc’s Jasmine pants. I was not too happy with these when I finished them, but after they hung around for a month or so I finally decided to wear them. Evidently the time out improved my attitude, because now I like them well enough to go back and fine-tune the pattern to use again.

Reviews of the Jasmine pants often mention that the pants poke out where the V of the back yoke meets the center back seam. This is why:

style arc jasmineI sewed up the CB following the line indicated by the ruler to avoid the pointy poke.

Speaking of Style Arc, I have some thoughts on home garment sewing in general that have gelled because of working with some of their patterns lately. Style Arc seems to me to kind of replicate the RTW sewing experience in their styles, terminology, and assembly methods. I can’t cite anything as a real fact, but I believe I’ve read that Chloe Parker, the woman behind Style Arc, has a background in RTW and is bringing her expertise to pattern design for home sewers.

What follows here is not knocking Style Arc at all. I like and buy patterns from them. One of their features is small seam allowances – like a quarter or 3/8 of an inch, as opposed to the 5/8 inch that has long been a standard for home sewing patterns. Many home sewers are very enthusiastic about the narrow seam allowances and wonder why the other pattern companies are so old fashioned as to retain wider ones.

To me the wider seam allowances make more sense. I do not sew in a production environment, where consistency is a primary goal – that is, where the garment is being made by the thousands, and it’s important to have every size 12 be exactly the same as every other size 12. Narrow seam allowances help with that kind of accuracy. And they save fabric, too.

But I’m not trying to make identical multiples of a garment. I won’t use “couture” to describe what I’m doing, but it is “custom” work, like custom dressmakers used to do. I may make the same pattern a few times, but it’s going to be in different fabric each time, which means that I might need to let out the seams a bit. Can’t do that when the seam allowances are 1/4 inch.

Also, I’m not making a garment to a set of pre-determined size 12 specifications. I fit as I sew, and need to have enough fabric to work with. It also means that my construction steps might be different, since there are some options I want to keep open until the very end. That’s not always the most efficient (as in fast) way to sew.

Funny that 3/8 of an inch can cause you to think about what you are doing, why, and who your tribe is.

My resolution to the seam allowance question comes from becoming used to Burda and Ottobre magazine patterns. Leave ’em off. Trace the patterns without seam allowances, then add whatever you need when cutting. Makes for easier pattern alteration, style changes, and fitting. For me, that more than compensates for the few minutes it takes to chalk them on.


16 thoughts on “Sure Fit results

  1. I enjoyed your post on fitting. I keep thinking I will try Sure-Fit for pants. I have never made a pair of pants that I like or fit well. RTW works well for me most of the time so I sew other things I like to sew.

  2. I also enjoyed your post. I have the SFD – traced the bodice, pants, skirt – compared to my TNT patterns and did nothing more with it. I definitely need to revisit the bodice. Thanks for all your details. I have the Ottobrae mag but again – never traced anything. Maybe a basic T with the SFD would be a good place to start. Thanks again for all you detail. Lots of food for thought.

  3. I feel your pain regarding the fitting struggle. Just today, I folded up the muslin for a Chanel style jacket because I couldn’t stand to struggle with getting it to fit. The sleeves are all wonky and I can’t figure out what’s wrong. I agree, fiddling with sleeves and armscyes are a mystery. I agree, too, that not having an intern is the pits. I think your blouse looks great in the pictures. Pretty color.

    • Sorry to hear you had to abandon the Chanel jacket. With a classic design like that, you could pick it up again if you want – after a nice long break, of course.

  4. I don’t want to have to add seam allowances to everything I sew. I want them on there so that I don’t have to think about it. AND I want 5/8″ seam allowances for all the reasons you have mentioned. I guess I am a creature of habit. 🙂

    • I hear you! I resisted having to add seam allowances at first, but then I realized how much easier it made other steps. For me it was the logical way to go. It would be another good job to delegate to an intern, though.

  5. Thanks for the update! I’ve been wondering how things were going with the SFD system. I vacillate as to whether to order it or not. I’d mainly want it to help me alter patterns rather than design a pattern. I generally make a muslin and then make changes from there, so if SFD could cut that muslin step, it would be nice, but I just haven’t pulled the trigger to order. Regarding seam allowances: I do like sewing the 3/8 seam, but I do like to have that added 1/4″ for fitting insurance. Like you say, fabric makes a difference. .

    • If you can easily create a nicely-fitted sloper from a pattern you already have, that would accomplish the same thing. The beauty of Sure-Fit is that it’s an easy way to draft for yourself from your own measurements. The other thing that makes it worth the money is having access to Glenda’s coaching. You can e-mail her for fitting help and can also buy Skype sessions with her for live help.

  6. I’ve found that fitting the shoulders and armcyes is the most important part to get right. The rest just follows from there. So you’re definitely getting somewhere! I wonder if your blouse would benefit from some fisheye darts in the back to take in some of the fullness and help it glide over the curves better?

    I’m voting for good old 5/8″ seams! I’ve been using them so long I literally can draw them accurately freehand without a ruler. They give you some adjustment room, are easy to feed through the serger and are wide enough to make nice French or flat-felled seams. It’s such a habit that I make mistakes when the seam allowances are different! I’d probably add the extra to make them 5/8″ anyway.

    • Thanks for the suggestion on the fisheye darts. I have some in there, but maybe they are not positioned correctly. And you’re so right about French or flat-felled seams! I always like to have the option of clean-finishing the insides of my blouses and shirts.

  7. Good job. Regarding the ABO shoulders – how do you know where the shoulder ends with the dropped sleeve in order to adjust them?

    • Paula, I only adjusted the slope, not the length. To do that: lined up the center back and the shoulder seam at the neck, and judged how much the armscye needed to be lowered. With really unstructured styles like the ABO, I don’t usually adjust the shoulder width.

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