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confused over fitting shell
using fitting shell patterns to make alterations
dollydolittle
dollydolittle
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Date: 5/21/12 3:09 PM

Hello, I've been a frequent visitor admiring all the lovely garments that you have all made, and would like your advice so that I can be proud of my own efforts in future. Apologies in advance for the long post:

I've been sewing for over thirty years but have always struggled with fit.

I used to sew a UK 12, as that's what my body measurements indicate, but they never fitted and I always had to unpick and take about an inch out of both side seams below the armhole tapering to nothing at the waist. Of course this then meant adjusting the sleeve head and it was never very successful.

So I decided to sew size 10 patterns and that was better, but I then had to widen the shoulders which is tricky, and increase the bust cup size.

I decided to make a McCalls fititng shell in a 10 to work out what my standard adjustments should be and it quickly became evident that it was far too small. I then bought a size 12, and after some adjustments (lower bust point by half an inch, forward shoulder 1/2", round back 3/8", lengthen bodice 1") it fits perfectly! No need to take anything out the side seam under the armhole at all, in fact it is snug if anything.

So what's going on? If I make these adjustments to a standard size 12 pattern it doesn't fit and swamps me. Also, adding an inch to the body length is normally far, far too much, even though I am very tall.

I'm assuming some of the problem is because patterns seem to include too much design ease (why oh why do they do this?!) but can anyone advise me on how I can go from here and use what I have discovered to make clothes that fit me? And has anyone had the same experience?

Elona
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In reply to dollydolittle <<
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Date: 5/21/12 3:29 PM

Of course, you can always flat-pattern measure the critical areas of a pattern you are considering.

But in a sense, with the fitting shell you have made a body double. If you altered the paper pattern you used to make the shell, you can do what I do: Overlay the proposed pattern with your altered paper pieces. That will show you how much ease the garment will have, whether or not the shoulder is extended, how deep the armhole is, how long the waist is, and so on.

I do this all the time to decide if it's worthwhile to attack a new pattern. (And even then, I try a muslin on my custom dressform to see if the style is OK for my body)

NhiHuynh
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In reply to dollydolittle <<


Date: 5/21/12 3:56 PM

dollydolittle, you are absolutely right that the design ease is messing you up. I'm working on McCall's 2702. A size 6 has 7 inches of ease. Seven! If I made it up it would probably look like a muumuu.

Unfortunately the design ease it's different for every pattern. I pick my size depending on the finished garment size that I want, never my body measurements. Measure the bust, waist and hips on a garment in your closet that you like the fit and find that finished measurement on your pattern.

Since you didn't mention any bust (FBA or SBA) adjustments, you should just put your fitted shell pattern under the pattern tissue of the garment you're making and compare the lengths, armhole shape, shoulder slope etc and adjust accordingly.

For me this is close enough and I'll make up the garment. I don't aim for perfect fit since I don't believe there is such a thing. Plus little small tweaks can be done on the fly, if needed.
-- Edited on 5/21/12 7:10 PM --

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dollydolittle
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Date: 5/21/12 4:41 PM

Thanks to both of you - it's so frustrating, this shell fits better than anything 'real' I have ever made.

Is there a trick for removing the ease from a pattern? I really do need every bit of width in a size 12 shoulder, so I can't just cut the size that would fit me according to the bust measurement on the tissue, but it gets really difficult to fit sleeves etc when I try to grade in from the 12 shoulder to the 10 or even 8 underarm.

dollydolittle
dollydolittle
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In reply to Elona <<


Date: 5/21/12 5:36 PM

Can you tell me more about what you mean by a custom dress form?

i had one of the adjustable ones, but because of my sway back and round shoulders it was pretty much useless, then I tried to make a duct tape one, but although it was interesting and forced me to confront the less attractive features of my body, it didn't work for fitting.

sew2006
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Date: 5/21/12 5:52 PM

Treat your fitting shell as a 2D flat version of yourself with built in minimum wearing ease. The great news is that your bust, waist, hip & shoulder slope will remain the same if you're making a tshirt, a blouse or a jacket. I have 1 I use when making knit tops. It's traced on yellow bristal board a front, back and sleeve. Bust, waist, hip, bust point, is marked in black marker. The neckline shape is round representing the lowest I feel comfortable. My shoulder lenght extends 1" past my bra straps. When I open a new pattern for a top I place my bristal board piece on top matching CF and bustline. Now I can see how the front fits and where I need to make adjustments. I don't try to make the pattern a replica of the fitting shell, but I know it can't be any smaller. From there I can decide how much style ease I want above my basic required amount. If in dought add 1" SA. I want to do the same for a woven, a princess line, an empire and pants.

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margk

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Date: 5/21/12 7:07 PM

I also appreciate these helpful tips. Variable amounts of ease are such a source of frustration, when the illustration or photo doesn't show it!

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Marg
Tamworth NSW Australia Bernina 1130, Bernina 810B Babylock Imagine Wave Elna 614DE Janome Coverpro 1000 CPX

NhiHuynh
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Date: 5/21/12 7:37 PM

dollydolittle, I wouldn't put any time or effort into trying to remove the design ease. It's a pain in the butt and doesn't really accomplish anything. You need to pick the size by finished garment size.

So back to which size(s) it should be, if I'm understanding you correctly you need the width of the size 12 shoulders. The bust you need a 10 or 8. I think the problem you're running into is that you're try to grade from one to another when they should be treated as separate entities.

If everything else on the bodice fits an 8 or 10 and all you need is a wider shoulder. You can widen the shoulders by slashing the pattern and spread to it match the fitted shell.
You see how in this adjustment the arm hole doesn't change. When you're attempting to grade from a size 12 shoulder to a size 8 bust sounds like you're altering the armhole. If there's nothing wrong with the armhole you've just created yourself a new problem.

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carolbee
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In reply to NhiHuynh <<


Date: 5/21/12 8:15 PM

Thanks for the very helpful tips you just gave us!

CM_Sews
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Date: 5/21/12 8:21 PM

Threads Magazine: The Merits of a Basic Fitting Pattern.

This article has several diagrams illustrating how to use a fitting shell to alter patterns. I thought the pictures/illustrations might be helpful, but the article itself also provides some tips you might find useful.

CMC

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