Six Steps to Fitting Success

fitting fundamentals Feb 18, 2020

Like the majority of sewing enthusiasts, you probably first learned to sew by following a commercial sewing pattern. Along with the step-by-step guidance offered in the pattern’s sewing instructions and a few video tutorials, you probably found it pretty easy to get acceptable results no matter how complicated the garment. You simply executed each step one at a time until the garment was complete. As your sewing skills progressed you likely began to imagine a unique and beautiful handmade wardrobe filling your closet, but you hit the snag that most of us do; getting a good fit became a struggle.

Fitting is generally thought to be a trial and error process and the one thing that impedes sewing progress. There seems to be no road map, no sequence of logical steps to follow and no hope of ever getting a pattern to fit. Today’s video just might help  you change that.

In this week’s video I’m going to share the step by step process I use on all my sewing projects. If you’d like to follow along with the step by step process I share today, I encourage you to get The Perfect Fit Guide. It’s a free, downloadable guide to all the steps I am going to cover today. Now, I know many of you have already received this guide but today I want to walk you through it so if it’s sitting in your inbox unopened, find your copy and let’s go through it together. 

STEP ONE: Take Your Body Measurements and Choose Your Size

Step One is to take your body measurements so you can choose your pattern size. This is rather obvious if you’re a seasoned sewist, but I’m not just talking about your bust, waist and hip girth. While these measurements are important you need more information than this to choose the best size to start with. 

There are two additional and pivotal measurements that will give you insight about how a sewing pattern will fit you. The bust cup size and the CB neck to waist length. While these two measurements are not often highlighted on the pattern they are important for understanding how the pattern will compare to your body’s proportion and shape. These measurements alone can identify how your body is different from the pattern and allow you to anticipate some of the alterations you may need to make in order for the pattern to fit you.

Inside The Perfect Fit Guide you’ll find a document called The Pattern Measurement Worksheet. I’ve made a list of all the important body measurements you’ll need to assess how a pattern will fit as well as how to measure them in a handy chart that you can use as you follow through with all the fitting steps I'll share today.

How to Measure Yourself

STEP TWO: Measure the Pattern and Determine the Ease

In this step you will measure the pattern in the same areas that you measured your body so that you can compare the two. This comparison will highlight areas of the pattern that may indicate a fitting challenge. You’ll find a guide on how to measure the pattern inside The Perfect Fit Guide and here's a link to another helpful video as well:

How to Find the Bust, Waist and Hip Position on Your Sewing Pattern

Once you have the measurements of the pattern your next step is to determine the ease in the pattern.

Pattern Measurement - Body Measurement = Ease

Comparing your body measurements to the measurements of the pattern will give you clues to areas that may be too large to too small on you. I have included standard minimum ease allowances on the Pattern Measurement Worksheet. Just take note, the ease allowances I’ve listed in the chart indicate wearing ease only and does not include design ease which also must be taken into account. If you’re not sure what the difference is, I’ve got another video that will explain it in full and also discuss the idea of optimal ease. 

Here's What You Need to Know About Ease

STEP THREE: Make Your Initial Pattern Adjustments

The idea here is to take what you learned from the pattern measurement and ease exercise and alter your pattern in the most obvious areas that do not align with your body measurements. Altering for center back neck to waist, cup size, width and girth differences are key here. I cover this in great detail in a video on how to prepare for the first fit session.

STEP FOUR: Cut and Mark Your First Sample

Making a sample is key to understanding how the garment will hang on your body and give you the opportunity to correct fitting issues before you cut into your fashion fabric. While some believe this sample making is a waste of time, I would much rather spend my time creating a pattern that fits than sewing a garment that I’ll never wear. 

The key to this step is to mark the horizontal and vertical balance lines on the sample. The horizontal balance lines are the bust, waist and hip level, the vertical balance lines are the center front, center back and side seams. These lines, or at very least the indication of their position on the garment will help you assess the fit of your sample. Here's another video resource that will give you more insight on this and the next step in the process which is Step Five, make a fitting assessment of the sample:

How to Assess Fitting Issues

STEP FIVE: Fit Your Sample

Now this is where most of you will get confused and run yourself ragged by going in circles. It absolutely doesn’t have to be that way. You’ll find that when you assess your sample in a specific order you’ll be able to eliminate the fitting issues in a step by step fashion. Here is the order to work. 

  1. First assess whether your sample feels too tight. It is difficult to assess a garment correctly if it is too tight so release those areas first.
  2. Next, assess length. Aligning the bust, waist and hip level to that of your body will bring the proportion of the garment in alignment with your proportion and put the darts and curves of the garment into the correct position for you.
  3. Contour shaping comes next. Contour shaping refers to the shape of the pattern which is created by using darts and seams that address the curves of the body. Here you’ll assess if the shaping for back, bust, waist and hips are adequate for you.
  4. Width and Girth issues come last because it is likely that you solved them in the initial pattern adjustments, but you must determine if you need to make further adjustments here. 

That’s just a quick summary of step five, you’ll get a full list of what to look for and the order to work inside the perfect fit guide. Download your copy today.

STEP SIX: Adjust and Refine the Pattern

When you’ve assessed your sample for fitting changes you must take those changes back to the pattern so that you can test if your assessment was correct. The best way to approach this is to make the same adjustments to the pattern in the same order that you assessed the muslin.

Length, Contour, Width, Girth.

Always working in this order will help keep you from going in circles. You’ll find a list of helpful tips for adjusting and refining patterns inside The Perfect Fit Guide

Once you’ve completed step six and have a refined pattern you can then make the decision of whether to make another sample or cut into your fashion fabric. I always recommend a second sample but if your changes are minor go ahead and dive into sewing your garment in some fashion fabric.

I hope you found this helpful in highlighting some of the important information covered in The Perfect Fit Guide. I’ve already highlighted some of my other video tutorials that will reinforce these ideas and give you practical solutions to solving some of the fitting issues that may arise for you. You can find even more in depth tutorials at

Next week I’m sharing three tips for choosing the right pattern size. I hope you’ll join me. I’ll chat with you soon, by for now!

All My Best,