Learning how to fit, part 1: Butterick 5638 Muslin

Butterick 5638
Butterick 5638

I am finally ready to learn how to properly fit garments!  I am using The Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns as my guide to identifying and fixing problems. I am starting out with Butterick 5638, a fitted dress that uses princess seams instead of darts to hug the body.

B5638 lets you chose your proper size based on your measurements, but also your bust size.   I started with a size 12. The difference between my high bust and bust is about two inches.  I seem to be on the borderline between using the  A/B cup pattern piece and the C cup pattern piece.  Figuring I was probably unconsciously inflating the numbers, I decided to use the A/B cup piece. This pattern has shortening lines for petites, which I used.

The first problem I encountered was a misprint on the pattern- the center front piece (piece 1, 3 or 5, depending on your cup size) doesn’t have the arrows indicating that you’re supposed to cut on the fold. Hmm. At least I was using cheap muslin fabric instead of real fabric.  Undeterred, I cut out another front piece along the fold and basted my muslin together.

At this point in the project, I am still focusing on basic fit, so these pictures are of my unhemmed muslin, without any front or arm facings.

B5638 Muslin Front View
B5638 Muslin Front View

At first glance, the dress was pretty good. Anything that looks like a dress is good! Once I got over my self-satisfaction, I was ready to stop ignoring problems and start fixing them.

In this picture, you can see that the waist is a little high, and that there are diagonal wrinkles on the front of the dress.  But, it gives me some curves, and it isn’t outrageously big. The bust seems to hit where it should.

I was tempted to end my scrutiny there, but I fought my laziness and continued taking pictures.  In order to identify fitting problems, you need to look at the sides and back of the garment too!




B5638 Side View
B5638 Side View

Ah! Looking at the side view, the fitting problems become much more obvious.  There are strong diagonal wrinkles running from the bust to the hips and butt.  Instead of lying smoothly, the fabric on the upper back is baggy and wrinkled.

Instead of going straight down, the side seams are pulled forward under the butt.  I think this contributes to the fold of fabric you can see at the bottom right corner in the above picture.






B5638 Back View
Heavy wrinkling between armpits and waist

First of all, huh, I never knew my shoulders sloped at different angles.  That brings up a whole other category of fitting issues, but I’m not advanced enough to deal with those yet.

More important for my purposes right now is the terrible wrinkles and bagginess above the waist and below the armpits.

The waist seems to be hitting where it should.  I’m pretty happy with the fit of the lower half- it seems to give a little curve to my butt- yay for optical illusions!  I might like the skirt to be a touch more narrow in the lower half, but that can wait until the fitting problems in the torso have been fixed.

Fixing the problems

Based on the my muslin pictures and the info in The Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns, here is what I think the problems and there solutions are:

Full Bust: The waist is hitting at the right spot in back,  but is pulled up in front.  The bust seems to be hitting at the right spot (I think), so a high bust is not the problem here. Combined with the diagonal wrinkles running from the bust to the butt, this makes me suspect that bust fullness is the problem here.  Luckily, there is an easy solution for this dress!  I just need to try again with the C cup variation. If there wasn’t any cup variations in this pattern, I might be in trouble.  There are no darts to deepen or modify in this pattern.

Short waist: The other major problem is the bagginess at the back.  I don’t have a particularly small waist, so that’s not the issue.  I don’t think I have a narrow back either, so I don’t think that is the problem. I am short-waisted, so I think I will try to fix this problem by shortening the back waist length in my next muslin. If this doesn’t work, I’ll have to  re-exam my back width assessment.

So, my next muslin will be made in what is hopefully the correct size, with a shorter back length.

I’m a very new novice to fitting, so my analysis could be wrong.  What do you guys think? Are these the correct problems and solutions?


Butterick 4443 dress

Butterick 4443
Butterick 4443 Envelope Picture


I’m very happy with my latest project, Butterick 4443, which is a fitted dress that comes with 6 style variations.  I went with the cap sleeve variation because I’ve never done cap sleeves, so it seemed like a good technique to learn.

Butterick 4443 Front View
Butterick 4443 Front View

I used some extra cotton fabric that Wrong gave me.  I think it might be quilting fabric, which was why she was against me using it for a dress.  It is a bit stiff and doesn’t drape as beautifully as it could, but I loved the pattern, and I was also feeling very apprehensive/economical.  Because I’m a very beginning level sewist, every pattern I do has techniques that I’ve never done before. So, I knew there was a high potential for failure.  I used some of the leftover linen/rayon blend that I used for Vogue 8645 for the lining.

I did make many, many mistakes when sewing this dress, but I managed to cover them up adequately, so the dress is completely wearable!  There are some fitting issues that I’ll discuss later, but that is because of my body type, not because of the pattern or because of sewing mistakes.

The bodice is made with princess seams; Nancy Zieman’s Sewing A to Z was a big help in figuring out how to do them correctly, so I managed to avoid the problems I had with  Simplicity 2017. The trick to sewing seams with different edge lengths is to sew with the shorter edge on top.  Then, cant the fabric so the feed dogs bite more of the longer (bottom) fabric as you sew.  It was a bit nerve-wracking not to be able to use a lot of pins to line the fabric layers up firmly like I usually do, but the seams were great the first time!

My main problem with this pattern was inserting the cap sleeves.  For someone whose never inserted cap sleeves into a lined bodice, the diagram was pretty much incomprehensible.  I couldn’t find good instructions online, so I just gave up and folded both the lining and the main fabric back about 5/8th of an inch, inserting the sleeve, and went on sewing.  Yes, there is a visible line of stitching, but I got sick of staring at the diagram and feeling stupid.

This pattern calls for a lot of hand sewing; instead of following the instructions and hand-sewing the hem, I decided to be ambitious and blind stitch the hem. Why bother having a machine that comes with a bunch of feet/functions if I’m not going to use them? I used this makeit-loveit.com tutorial to figure out how to do a blind hem. I’m very happy with the blind hem- there are some small vertical stitched visible, but I’m sure these will get smaller as my technique improves.

Butterick 4443- torso length too long
Butterick 4443- torso length too long, so shoulder sits too high

OK, on to my fitting issue- the bodice is just a bit long for my body, so the dress actually sits above my shoulders.  I am short, so I think I need to use The Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns to figure out how to shorten the torso when I am sewing.  The waist could also be a bit smaller so that it’s more form-fitting (Adding a narrow belt in a contrasting color helps). I’m very happy with this dress, but am taking it to Goodwill because of the fit.  I don’t need a dress that doesn’t fit well!  And, remember I love Goodwill!  Taking broken or overly worn-out things there is one of my pet peeves, and I don’t feel bad at all about donating this dress.  It will fit someone better than me, and hopefully they will get a lot of good use out of it!

I’m going to make a muslin of this next time to work out the fitting issues.  Still a nice pattern!

Helpful links:

The Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns

Nancy Zieman’s Sewing A to Z: Your Source for Sewing and Quilting Tips and Techniques


Butterick B5613: Misses Skirt (View C)

Butterick 5613 Skirt and Sash Sewing Pattern
Butterick 5613 Skirt and Sash Sewing Pattern
My latest sewing project was Butterick 5613 Misses Skirt and Sash Sewing Pattern.  I have to admit, I am not one for wearing skirts a lot. That is fortunate, because I will never wear this one.

I chose to make view C, a pleated skit with a yoke and a zipper in the back. Wait, did I just say ‘zipper’? I meant gaping, jagged hole. I CANNOT SEW ZIPPERS WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME???

The design of the skirt is casual and cute. On view c, the pleats give a nice flattering shape to the full skirt. I decided to sew top stitching on the pleats to give them a bit more structure. Um, the skirt has a fairly strong tennis vibe now. Overall, I like the design just fine, I was just unable to sew the zipper on correctly.


  1. Missing Pleat: Despite my best efforts at sewing the pleats (carefully tracing the lines, painstakingly pressing crisp folds) I messed up the pleats. When I had sewn all the pieces of the skirt together (pre-zipper), I looked down at my hard work and realized it was ruined. I had folded something the wrong way (or something) somewhere along the line, so there was a missing pleat. The inside of the skirt looked fine, so…maybe… I don’t know.
    Butterick 5613 Skirt
    Unhemmed, unironed...meh

    How I fixed it: I pulled out the stitches on the yoke above where the pleat should be. I then made a small fold in the main part of the skirt, essentially making a tiny pleat. I then sewed the yoke back on, and the dummy pleat looks just fine!
  2. Lining: Because I don’t want to walk around in an even slightly sheer skirt, I added the lining from view D (the Bubble Skirt). At first, like an idiot, I was pretty proud of myself for this innovation. It seemed like a smart idea! And for most people it seems like it would work. I am not most people. I think adding that extra fabric was what made it harder for me to deal with the zipper.
  3. And Finally… THE ZIPPER No matter what, I cannot sew on this zipper without a gigantic weird bubble at the end of the zipper. I have ripped off and reattached the zipper so many times. I even tried using an invisible zipper instead of a centered zipper, to no avail. Fine, Skirt. You win.

I did see a few examples of Butterick 5613 that other people made which were very successful. Adri Makes a Thing or Two made this skirt in view A. It looks good, I love the print. Sew It Make It Bake It also made this skirt, I believe in view C. She said it took her a couple of hours to make. Ha, I have been working on this FOREVER.

I used pretty cheap fabric to make this, at $4 a yard. This failure is not going to break the bank, but I am pretty disappointed. I am giving up. I am going to go sew an envelope pillow and lick my wounds.