Ask Alex: Your Questions Answered (The Fitting Ones)

ask alex Nov 13, 2018

A few weeks ago I sent a survey to my email list. The purpose of the survey was to get an idea about what they were struggling with so that I could be of greater service to them. One of the questions I posed was this:

If you could ask me one question regarding your struggle what would it be?

In my previous email I answered some of the more personal questions, this week I'm answering the five most common questions asked about fitting. The short hand version of the video content is below for your convenience, but if you need elaboration on any of the topics, by all means watch the video!

Here we go:

  1. Where do you start with fitting?

First, choose a simple pattern to experiment with. The Chelsea top by In-House Patterns or the Scout Tee by Grainline Studios (best for small cup sizes) is perfect for your first fitting project. The Montrose top by Cashmerette is also a good choice.

Next, choose the appropriate pattern size. To do this, determine how the pattern’s size chart measurements are different than yours. Comparing the pattern companies body measurements and cup size to yours will give you clues as to what pattern adjustments you can make on the pattern even before you stitch up a sample. For instance if you already know you need to do a full bust adjustment on a pattern, you know that this alteration will add to the bust, waist and hip circumference so it is likely that you may be able to choose a smaller size to start with.

The key measurement points are shoulder width; CB neck to waist; waist to hip; bust, waist and hip circumference and cup size. These may not be readily available on the pattern so check the pattern designers website or email them to get some additional information.

I’ve got two videos that will help you get a quick start on your next fitting project which also demonstrate this process:

Four Things That Will Get You to a Better Fit Faster

How Patterns Work

  1. How do you measure yourself?

To measure yourself you’ll need a necklace, 3 lengths of ¼” elastic to tie around your bust waist and hip and a tape measure. These will act as anchor points for measuring body length segments and give you clear direction on where to measure your bust, waist and hip. The trick is to make sure the elastics are level with the floor and that they address the fullest and narrowest parts of the body. It isn’t always possible for the waist elastic to be level so there is a small exception to that rule here but do make sure that the waist elastic is set to the correct waist level at the center back since this is where most of your length measurements will be taken.

Once you’ve got these in place, you can use the pattern measurement worksheet and follow the measurement directions as they are described. I think most people get confused on where to place the tape measure on certain points so I’m going to save this for a future video tutorial and I’ll show you each measurement point on the pattern measurement worksheet and how I measure it on myself, so keep an eye out for that. 

  1. How do you fit yourself?

This can definitely be challenging but it is not impossible especially if you use some of the methods I’ve shown you in the Fitting Fundamentals video series. If you have yet to view that series, I encourage you to watch because it outlines the entire process I use for fitting so I think you’ll find that helpful.

The Fitting Fundamentals Video Series:
1. Three Fitting Methods to Improve Your Fitting
2. Why Fitting is Difficult and How to Make it Easier
3. The First Fitting Session-How to Prepare Yourself and the Garment
4. How to Assess Fitting Issues-Some Guidelines to Follow

The easiest way to fit yourself is to be aware of your body measurements in relation to the pattern measurements. You will find more success with your fitting projects if you first align the bust, waist and hip positions of the pattern to those positions on your body. I truly believe that this will eliminate most of the fitting issues you are experiencing because this will put the darts curves and shaping in the correct position for you.

Next, tackle the bust adjustment if it’s needed and then any minor width adjustments, like shoulder width or adding a bit of hip circumference. All these adjustments can be made on the pattern even before you sew a sample. The extra time you take analyzing and adjusting the pattern before you make it up will save you loads of fitting frustration and improve the result of your first sample. With an improved first sample you’ll feel less confused about what the fitting issues are because you’ve already eliminated some of them.

In order to fit your project objectively, I recommend that you take fitting photos. This is a method I used while working in the industry with overseas factories. Simple set your camera up so that you can take a front side and back photo at eye level.

I have a free download that shows you exactly how to do this: How to Take Fitting Photos

Look at the photos to assess potential fitting issues then experiment with pinning your sample according to your thoughts. You will be spending some time in your underwear during this process as you put the sample on and take it off but the process does work. I know because this is what I do myself. 

  1. How do you interpret the wrinkles?

This can be a bit confusing for sure, but I think Nancy Zieman summarized how to do this in the most easily understandable way with her “Wrinkle Chart” in her book Pattern Fitting with Confidence. It very clearly explains what to look for and what each type of wrinkle indicates.

Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman

 I also have a version of this in this free download: The Good Fit Checklist 

  1. In what order should you work when making fitting changes?

Length first; contour second and width and circumference last. Working in this order will eliminate fitting issues systematically. For a quick example, I always make a CB neck to waist adjustment first, a bust adjustment second and shoulder width and hip circumference adjustments last. I do these three adjustments to my pattern even before I sew up a sample. I suggest you try it; it really will improve the fit of your first sample and eliminate many of your fitting issues right out of the gate.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a question, I hope my answers and links to other resources clarified things for you. If your question wasn’t answered yet, I’m sure I’ll be covering it soon in a future video tutorial!

All My Best,