Are you someone who has “given up” on garment sewing? Too many problems with fit? Too many “wadders” that don’t produce the look you envisioned, wasting both time and money?
Maybe there are a couple of things that could help smooth out your process. To start with , let’s talk about picking the right size pattern. We all have been taught to measure our full bust, waist, and full hip measurement. Then use the pattern company measurement chart to select your corresponding size.
Well, that approach often doesn’t work out very well, especially if you are anything other than slim-to-average. There are a couple of reasons for this, one being that measuring “soft tissue areas” like bust, waist and hips doesn’t tell you much about your bone structure. Fitting your shoulder line, sleeves, and neckline area is all about your frame size – and nothing to do with full bust, waist, and full hip.
Susan Khalje has a wonderful, free video on her website talking about picking the right pattern size from the large American pattern companies. Rather than using soft tissue measurements, she recommends starting with your front chest width. According to her analysis, I should be buying a size 14 pattern. According to my body measurements I should be buying a size 16 and adding a bit extra in the hip area. Funny thing, but I had sized down to 14 before watching her video and was much happier with the resulting fit of garments.
Other sewing experts advocate measuring your high bust, and using that number for the “full” bust category. This is a similar principle as Susan’s approach; concentrate more on your frame measurement than your soft tissue measurement.
Another clue that can help you decide which pattern size to use is the finished garment dimensions. If you open up your tissue pattern, you will often see the finished dimensions for bust, waist, and hip. What this tells you is how much wearing ease + design ease as been added to the model size measurements for the garment. Regardless of your body dimensions, you can select a pattern size that will produce the kind of fit you like. You are in charge!
Now, fabric. Oye, that is really another whole set of blog posts. But I can give you one quick, little hint. Take a look at the recommended fabric suggestions on the back of you pattern envelope, and think about the kind of drape, weight, and texture of these fabrics. Linen, denim, and firmly woven cottons have structure and will stand away from your body. Rayon, many silks, chiffons, and gauze are softer and more drapey against the body. It’s not all the fiber tho; the weave plays a role in how a fabric behaves, too. I talk about this more in my pattern and fabric video. Sometimes you can get away with picking a fabric with very different characteristics than the pattern calls for, but if you are less experienced at pairing patterns and fabrics it is safer to pick a fabric that is listed or one with similar qualities.
Sheesh! Who am I kidding anyway? These issues fill volumes in libraries and bookstores. People take college level classes to try and figure out pattern making and fitting, textiles, construction, and much more. Readers, just jump in. Make some clothes. Put the quilts away for a while. 😉 You are not going to improve much if you aren’t willing to practice. Make some mistakes and learn from them! There are plenty of worse ways to spend your time than working at improving your sewing/fitting/garment-making skills.