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.


Sure-Fit dress kit

WARNING: No finished garments to be seen here…only ugly fitting photos, which I’m posting so I can share them on the forums with Sure-Fit experts.

This year I want to work on developing the fitting blocks mentioned a few posts back. And co-incidentally I started reading threads on the Sure-Fit system on both Stitcher’s Guild and Patternreview. The goal of Sure-Fit meshed perfectly with my desire for personalized blocks, so I purchased their Dress Kit. Even though I don’t wear dresses, this is the kit to use for fitting tops and tees. They also have a shirt and pants kits that are of interest.

With Sure-Fit you actually draft your own pattern using the template they provide. In the past I’ve tried drafting from scratch, but got myself so confused that it was not productive. The template was really good for reducing that confusion and I’m pretty pleased with this muslin which is my starting point. Based on the feedback I hope to get from the forums and from Glenda, Ms. Sure-Fit herself, I’ll be fine-tuning the block and learning how to use it to modify patterns.

Here follow the ugly photos. If you are of a sensitive nature, avert your eyes and click away now. If you have a strong stomach, bear in mind that the blocks have very little ease. I used an old sheet to make these up. Possibly a slightly stouter material might have been better. Even though the bodice feels pretty good, there are a lot of wrinkles that might be due to limp and flimsy fabric.

front blogThe front looks like I might need to redraft a larger dart. Based on the instructions, I drafted for a C even though I buy a D in foundation garments. The bodice feels like it fits, but the wrinkles appear to tell a different story. I believe the pulls below the waist indicate the need for more room in the rear. You can see how the side seam pulls to the back in the next photo.  I would open up a wedge in center back to fix, but this is something I want to get Glenda’s feedback on, and see how she would alter.

right blogLooks like the back is too long, and I need to shorten the sleeve just a little above the elbow.

back blogThe back. This is where I really need some help.

Now forget you ever saw this.

OTM shoulder alteration

I was asked how I altered the shoulder on the Of The Moment jacket so I’ve put together some diagrams to show my process. I think the pictures are clearer than photos, even if they aren’t exactly to scale. Got to add a disclaimer: I am no expert, and YMMV!

typical T shape
typical T shape

The problem – I have sloping shoulders and patterns that have the kimono-type T shape don’t do me any favors. They end up with excess draping under my arms. It’s the nature of these styles to have some of that draping, but too much is overwhelming. One solution would be to wear shoulder pads. I’ll do that for dressier versions, but don’t like to wear shoulder pads for everyday.

So…here goes. The blue is an approximation of one of the OTM front pieces, with the center front and the underarm dot marked. I didn’t draw the sleeve piece, but it joins the fronts and backs with very very little, if any, shaping to the sleeve cap and armscye. It’s basically a kimono T-shape that just happens to have the sleeve as a separate piece.


Pinkie represents the Paco Peralta asian jacket that I have made before and like the way the shoulder fits on me.

Paco pattern that has a shoulder slope
Paco pattern that has a shoulder slope

First I copied the portion of the OTM pattern that includes the end of the shoulder seam and the underarm dot. This is to be able to position the underarm dot correctly later on – so that the sleeve will still fit.

a little tracing
a little tracing

Now I laid the OTM pattern piece over the PP pattern I’m copying from. Align the center fronts and shift up or down until the points at which the neckline and shoulder seam intersect are on the same latitude.

patterns overlaid
patterns overlaid

Trace the shoulder line.

altered shoulder
altered shoulder

Lastly, get the little tracing and lay it on the altered pattern piece to determine the new location of the underarm dot.

white dot shows the new location
white dot shows the new location

The differences between the patterns are exaggerated for illustration purposes. They weren’t that extreme in reality.

Repeat with the back and the other front piece and you are ready to go. I hope this is of help!

duh! (shirt a month 9 & 10)

You are supposed to make your muslin first.

The second top/jacket for my little evening capsule was to be made from the latest Cutting Line pattern, called Take Me Anywhere. Since I’ve made many of the designs in this line I confidently went straight to my lovely black/gray dupioni, made my usual adjustments (forward shoulder, add length) and stitched. After the sleeves were in I wasn’t quite sure what to do – there was some bunching right under the arm that I had never had before, and I solicited Louise’s (the designer) help over on Stitcher’s Guild. Louise suggested a shoulder pad, and she is right, the pad helps.

It looked best with a big shoulder pad, but the big pad look is sooooo 80’s. Since a big pad seemed to be the solution, it made sense that the problem would be sloping shoulders. The trusty Singer book The Perfect Fit had some guidelines for altering kimono/dolman sleeves, so I grabbed some linen and decided to give it a try.

Here’s the basic alteration: 1. Cut out the sleeve/shoulder area with the vertical cut parallel to the grainline. 2. Slide the whole shoulder/sleeve straight down the amount needed for your shoulders. I used 3/4 inch. 3. Connect the neckline to the shoulder. The Singer book used a dressmaker’s curve for the connection. Since Louise herself has used a curved shoulder line like that on Your Everyday Drifter, I used it for the front. For the back, I just used a straight line.

The result – much better look, and more comfortable, too.

You can see that the sleeves are narrower than some of the other patterns in this line. This seems like a good place to mention that I did overlay some other CLD patterns on top of this one, with the idea of borrowing a shoulder and a sleeve from another pattern. Let me tell you, each pattern really is different. Many of them are shirt-like in nature and appear somewhat similar because of that, but they really are cut differently from one another.

I really liked the linen version (which I made without the hidden button placket and double collar band for speedy testing), so I bit the bullet, unpicked the dupioni one at the shoulder and sleeve seams, recut it, and re-stitched. Better! It’s improved even more with a small shoulder pad, and I can live with that. Small pads will be permanently installed.

I’m doing my Betty Rubble hands in these photos so you can see the width of the sleeve. The drafted sleeve length is long enough that I can turn up little cuffs and still have them wrist length – and the instructions have that sleeve seam finished so you can turn up a good 3 inches or so and they are attractive on the inside.

Lesson learned. Make the muslin first, not second. Now that the little shoulder issue is sorted out, I think this will be one of my favorite casual shirt patterns. And, I get to add two to the  Shirt-A-Month tally!