My poor dog has very sparse, short hair and next to no body fat. We don’t live in a very cold climate, but she definitely needs something to keep her warm on cold morning walks. But, in my area, stores only stock clothes for toy breeds. Time to break out the sewing machine and make my dog a coat!
Sew Everything Workshop has instructions for a self-drafted “Canine Couture Coat”. The pattern is very simple and is based on your dog’s measurements, plus added ease. The most difficult part was deciding on the dimensions for the chest and neck area- I went with wide and shallow, since this seemed to fit her best based on her muslins. My dog is very deep-chested, so I placed the belt a bit higher than the middle so that it would go around the thickest part of her body, not her skinny belly.
The pattern features decorative buttons at the chest and side. Cute! I used silver metal ones. I used my French curve to round the ends of the jacket instead of making them rectangular.
The coat I made is fastened with hooks and eyes because I was worried about my dog undoing the fastenings; you could also use snaps or Velcro. I plan to use Velcro next time.
I made one major change to the pattern; Diane Rupp drafted the pattern with a two-piece belt that meets underneath the dog’s body in the middle of her belly. This seemed like too much trouble to me, so I just made a one-piece belt that attaches to the side of the coat instead. Much easier to get on and off the dog!
This pattern is great- simple and easy. I like my single-piece belt idea, but don’t have any other complaints, As long as you make a muslin or two to tweak the pattern so that it fits your dog properly, it shouldn’t be too hard to make a good dog coat.
After I tried Lynda Maynard’s suggestion, only to be rewarded with a still-wrinkly back AND the reappearance of all the problems I had already worked hard to correct*, I decided I needed to move on to another project for a while. Yes, I know I said I was not going to do anything else until I successfully made Craftsy’s fitting class dress, but I really needed a break. Sewing is a hobby for me, and hobbies are supposed to be fun! Instead of being fun, sewing was just becoming a grueling task that made me angry.
For my cooling-down project, I choose McCall’s 6331.
It has several options- over the shoulder straps, halter straps, as well as a romper option (with a back zipper instead of a side zipper, which seems like it would make going to the bathroom hard, but whatever). I’m not really built for halter straps, so am going with the shoulder straps option (View B). This dress looks good for warm weather, and will let me avoid having to deal with fitting my arms and upper back, meaning I might actually be able to make something wearable. It has different cup size options, which is a plus.
I started off making a bodice muslin in a size 14, cup size C. Despite the fact that the muslin still had folds and drag lines in all the usual places (diagonal line from bust to waist, lots of horizontal folds on back), it was clearly too big. But, it did expose a problem that I thought had been due to mistakes I made in altering previous muslins; the back waistline clearly dipped down in back. I made a second muslin in a size 12; the fit was closer, which was good; this is supposed to have a close-fitting bodice. With my size selected, I was able to start making alterations.
I’ll get to the front alterations in my next post, but first I’m going to discuss the back. Making it in the proper size made the fit closer, but also made the fit problems more apparent, especially the dipping in the center waist. In fitting, drag lines are supposed to point to the problem area; this is especially true here. As I already said, I was surprised to learn that this problem was a result of misalignment between my body and the pattern, and not a drafting mistake that was my own fault.
To correct this, I took off the zipper and made a 1 1/2″ triangular horizontal wedge to remove length from the center back, but keep the length of the side seams the same.
Comparing the two sides, I was happier with the left side. I marked and measured the changes on the muslin, then transferred them to the pattern. I also added length to the darts to keep the overall length the same.
Making these alterations presented me with a new dilemma; how to adjust the balance lines and where to put the new zipper, since these things shifted during alterations? I marked two options on the pattern; one wider than the other.
I tried the narrower center back option first, but ended up going with the wider center back option, since that one had fewer back wrinkles. Is it perfect? No. But, this is progress. At least there isn’t a huge lump of fabric on my back like other muslins have! I’ve decided that for this project, I will be happy with “good enough,” instead of “perfect.” Only making muslins is getting boring!
*I think Lynda Maynard’s suggestion is probably correct, but I’ve been getting some great responses from the readers as well. I’m going to start from scratch one size up when I feel ready to deal with the aggravation again.
I really needed a concrete plan to get rid of the wrinkles on my back, so I posted a question on Craftsy’s Sew the Perfect Fit question forum, along with a picture of my back from muslin 3 on my last post. So, now I have a plan. Here is the question and the reply:
Of course I’m still working on muslins! You didn’t think I was ready to make an actual garment, did you? Oh well, it will all be worth it when I have a sloper to help me see what changes I need to make to other patterns. Warm weather is just about here in Texas, and I would like to have some nice-fitting dresses and skirts to wear, not things that are embarrassing.
I broke down and ordered two new physical sewing books- Vogue Sewing: Revised and Updated and Clotilde’s Sew Smart. I have high hopes for Sew Smart. But, now I’ll have to get rid of two other books to avoid clutter. I wish more books were available as ebooks…
You can see that there are still a lot of issues here- the drawn-on balance lines are supposed to be hanging straight. There is bagginess above my bust, a strong fold or wrinkle heading from my bust to my back, wrinkles on my back, and the balance line under my bust heads down at the sides. On the plus side, it seems to be hitting at the waist.
I fiddled with this endlessly. To do this, I undid one side seam and both front darts on that side, and played around with getting a good fit while the bodice was on my body. I tried to lower the front side dart and move the vertical side dart out a bit, so that the darts point to the fullest part of the bust.
I made another major change in order to try to get a slimmer fit below my bust and get rid of some back wrinkles- instead of simply pinching out the excess evenly, I tried wrapping the sides according to this method. I think armhole balance is the source of some of my back fitting problems. I focused on getting the balance lines that weren’t altered by the different darts straight and keeping the very front waist at the waist. This method really shows the difference in length between the front and the back (the waist is marked by the lowest blue line; the very large seam allowance exaggerates the difference:
This method enlarged the armscye quite a bit- (maybe too much? I’ll deal with it later), so the distance between my armpit is reduced quite a bit- about 2 inches. I drew in a new waistline and side seam. I also ended up taking a vertical wedge out of the back to reduce the width a bit.
I traced the changes from the muslin using my wax tracing paper from Richard the Thread. This stuff is so much better than the terrible wax-free tracing paper they sell in stores. It’s large enough to actually work with, and doesn’t leave a oh-so-annoying colored chalk stain on your fabric.
Here’s the third muslin. It isn’t perfect, but it is more form-fitting on front torso below the bust. The strong diagonal wrinkle or fold heading from my underbust to my side is mostly gone, and the bust horizontal balance line is essentially level.
It might be a little overfitted- I think this is causing the wrinkles on the lower bodice. I plan on letting out the front vertical darts a bit to correct this. But, I could be wrong.
I have to admit, I was a little surprised by the placement of the front vertical darts- I wanted them to be further apart, but instead they start closer to my center, and curve out as they head up. I can’t tell if they look like a nice style detail, or just make my torso look wider. I’ll try to fix them on my next muslin. I changed the side seams quite a bit, so I need to check if they are going straight up and down- right now, they seem to be good…but maybe they are creeping forward a bit?
I have several goals for my next muslin:
1) Now I can see that the shoulder seams are too far back. I’m going to move them forward so that they are nicely centered.
2) I think the shoulder straps need to be a bit narrower.
3) The front neckline has some ripples that I need to get rid of.
4) I need to see about getting rid of the wrinkles on the front of the bodice. Letting out the front vertical darts a bit might take care of this. Or, the wrinkles could just be caused by being worn on the body. At this point, I can’t tell.
5) Move the front vertical darts outward, and make sure they are actually vertical
6) Possibly move the front horizontal darts down a bit. I hate to mess with them because I’ve already spent so much time on them…but, I think they might be a bit high on me?
7) Take care of the bagginess above my bust. I’m not sure if I need to adjust the shoulder slope and length to do this, or need to actually pin out a wedge of fabric in this area Or, I could be misinterpreting the problem entirely. What do you guys think?:
8) Get rid of more back wrinkles! I think this might be a length issue (still!), but pinning out a horizontal wedge seems to raise the waist too much. I know the waist is dipping down by the zipper- that is my fault for drawing it on incorrectly. Do I just need to shorten the back some more? Or, it there a better solution?
The bodice seems to feel nice on my body, so I don’t think I need more width. BUT, I could be wrong- maybe these are horizontal strain lines from not enough width? What do you guys think? I don’t want to look like a stuffed sausage!
I am taking Craftsy’s Sew the Perfect fitting class! This class uses Vogue 8766 as a fitting shell. The pattern isn’t one I would normally choose for myself- I think I look better in V-necks because they help balance out my figure, which is top-heavy. But, I can see why the teacher, Lynda Maynard, chose it- the pattern is nice and simple, without a lot of details to get in the way of fitting. There are some options for fuller skirts, but I will be making the straight skirt option, probably with 3/4 sleeves.
The class emphasizes tracing or copying the pattern instead of cutting into the pattern itself. This is a good habit that I need to start. It also emphasizes the importance of having vertical and horizontal balance lines on your project. This helps you to figure out where the project is hanging correctly and where it is not. The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting emphasizes this as well. Using extra-large seam allowances is important, so you have room to make changes on your muslin.
I recently asked for help fitting my last project (which I have now abandoned for good) on the blog and on Pattern Review, and got some great responses! For one, I need to go up a size. Yes, this is painful to admit- but size is just a number, and overly tight clothes never look good. Size 14, here I come. I have been lying to myself- and for what reason? Because society wants women to weaken themselves through starvation? Ugh. Why buy into that? It is a bit annoying technically, because the difference in my upper and lower halves means I have to grade from a 14 up top to about a 10 at my hips, but I guess I’ll figure it out eventually.
The first adjustment I made was to add a shoulder pad on my right shoulder only. Longtime readers know that I messed up my shoulder by sleeping on my side too much, so now my right shoulder is lower than my left. Let this be a lesson to you! Sleep on your back. I have of course been ignoring this and hoping it would go away- but, sewing is about being honest with what you have to do to look your best. To look my best, I need to admit my problem, and fix it with a shoulder pad on one side only. (Please note that for the muslin, the shoulder pad is not sewn in, just placed on my shoulder).
Going up a size does make a difference- the armholes are less tight, and there isn’t a huge amount of strain across my bust.
The first thing to do is assess the shoulder seems- they shouldn’t show up at shoulder level from either the front or the back- if they show, they need to be moved either forward or backward. I think mine are OK. There’s still some unevenness in the shoulder height, but the shoulder pad helps.
You can see from the horizontal line under my bust that the bodice is riding up a bit. The waist is a little high, especially in front. This also shows up from the side on the line above my bust. There is bagginess on my torso under my bust, a diagonal drag line from my bust to my waist. There is too much fabric on my back, perhaps caused by excess length.
The first change I made was a full bust adjustment, cutting horizontally into the fabric above my bust, and angling the cut down at the sides. This allows the fabric to relax and spread apart. I adjusted the lowered part of the bodice, letting it settle where it seemed to fit, and pinned in a piece of fabric to secure this more flattering fit. This brings the waist, especially the front waist, lower down. I added a little more length later, but didn’t get a picture.
I am not a fitting model, so one change isn’t going to do it for me. Once I did the full bust adjustment, I worked on the baggy back. I think my problem here is that my back is shorter than the fitting models, so I pulled the fabric down and pinned out a horizontal wedge across my lower mid back. This really helped! My goal was to reduce the amount of horizontal fabric, without really changing where the back waist was hitting.
Once I was happier with the back, I needed to address the bagginess at my sides. To to this, I simply pinched the sides in a bit and pinned. This was effective in adding shape and definition. I may deepen the darts more in the next muslin if I need more shape.
After this, I realized the bodice is sitting a bit high on my shoulders. To reduce length here, I pinched the shoulder seams up and pinned out the excess. One shoulder is pinned on the outside, one is pinned on the right side.
The muslin is much better now! The waist is closer to where it should be, the back is smoother and has less excess fabric, and the lower section is less baggy. There are still some issues that I need to resolve in the second muslin: it is a bit loose on my upper bust, there is a diagonal drag line under my bust (that is much more horizontal than before, which I guess is good?), and some wrinkles on my back. I need to assess if the shoulder seems need to be wider so that the outside shoulder seem hits where my arm hinges onto my side. My breasts appear to be a different heights here- this is caused by the asymmetrical pinning in of fabric for the bust adjustment, and should resolve itself naturally when I make the second muslin.
Now comes the hard part- transferring my changes to the pattern. The Craftsy class is excellent at showing you how to do this. I am not overly impressed with the class in terms of it showing you what the problem areas are and how to fix them. I guess this is inevitable thought, because there are endless figure variations, so logistcally speaking, one class simply won’t be able to deal with all of them. You’ll still need a book or a teacher to point out what your particular problems are and what adjustments you make to correct them.