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.
There’s a reason I haven’t been making many posts recently: All I ever do is make muslins that don’t fit quite right. I don’t even cut into real fabric anymore! This has been a little discouraging (I want to be able to make beautiful clothes, RIGHT NOW!), but realistically I have made good progress in learning how to change patterns to fit my body. And, I’m sick of making nothing but wadders.
I do have a couple of fitting books, but neither of them seem to address the particular problems I have, or if they do, they don’t address them in quite the right way for my body. Of course, my own inexperience is largely to blame. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I don’t have a fitting partner to help me.
Lately I have been making endless muslins of Vogue 8765. I was making endless muslins of Butterick 5638, but needed a change. Vogue 8765 is a simple dress with kimono sleeves (the sleeves are drafted in with the bodice, not attached later). Yay not having to mess with set-in sleeves! The dress is so simple looking, but I still haven’t gotten it right.
The first thing I did was optimistically make an unaltered muslin in a size 12, B-cup bodice. Maybe the dress would fit me just fine! Maybe I would immediately be able to go to making a beautiful dress in a fashion fabric! Sadly, no. The usual problems presented themselves- way, way too much fabric on the back, forming a huge bubble mid-back, and diagonal drag lines from my bust to my hips. I didn’t take a picture, because ugh.
My first impulse was to shorten the waist by folding down the fabric from above the waist down to meet the waist. I didn’t want to make a new muslin at this point because of laziness, so I removed the zipper and altered the muslin itself as a trial. This made the muslin look sloppy, but was an OK way to try to get a good fit.
I still had excess fabric at the back, so I followed the directions in one of my fitting books and undid the side seams and removed 1/2 inch from the width of the back piece at the sides. Ugh, this did not work for me at all. The dress was way too tight above the waist, squeezing me like a sausage (attractive!), whole still leaving me with the problem of excess fabric on the mid and upper back.
At this point I became desperate and willing to take risks. None of the fitting books seemed to have suggestions that addressed this problem adequately, so I had to try to figure out a solution on my own. Keeping in mind my goal of having the fabric lie smoothly on my back, I grabbed my pins and headed towards a mirror. Manipulating the fabric by grabbing it and trying to figure out where exactly the excess lay, I ended up with huge amounts of fabric in my hands at the sides of my neck. I pinned these in place and went to see how to manipulate the dress when I wasn’t wearing it.
In order to incorporate the fabric removal into the muslin, I pinned the fabric down, making faux darts running diagonally from the side of my neck to my armpits. These darts are huge– 3 inches at the side of the neck- but improve the fit of the dress amazingly. They taper to nothing by the time they get to the armpits. This is weird, because I perceive this are of my body to be the relatively large, out-of-proportion part. Huh. By removing this fabric, a lot of the back problems were removed, and the bodice itself sat higher and more securely on my shoulders, eliminating a lot of the gaping at the top of the bodice.
Finally, a change that made an actual improvement to the muslin! To incorporate the change into the pattern, I noted where the changes were on the fabric, then transferred them to the paper pattern. Rather than cutting into the pattern and removing excess that way, I was able to simply fold the pattern flat. If the changes wouldn’t lie flat, I would have
had to make more permanent changes to the pattern itself, but luckily this wasn’t necessary. I was also happy to see that the actual shoulder seams were not affected, so I wouldn’t have to make any corresponding seam length adjustments to the front of the bodice- all the fabric removal is in the neck portion.
Now that I had something to be happy about, I was willing to admit something to myself- the bust apexes were not at all in the right place. No, no, no. They were much to high. I jammed one of my shoulders lower than it should be by sleeping on my side, but that can be fixed with a shoulder pad. The bust apexes…not so much. I realized that I shortened the waist much too much (2 1/2″!). Also, the dress was too tight across the bust. Being squashed into your clothes is not attractive! I made another muslin using the faux slash-and-remove pattern alteration method on the back described above before admitting this to myself.
To figure out where the waist should really be, I put on my latest muslin and tied a ribbon around my natural waist. I marked my natural waist with a sharpie, and was surprised at the difference. I am still figuring out how my body differs from the standardized bodies used to make sewing patterns. I thought I was really short-waisted, so I moved the waist up 2 1/2″- but it turns out I should have only moved it 3/4″. what a difference! I made another muslin with this waist change, and was very happy with the results- the dress was much more comfortable, and I didn’t have sausage waist, since the bodice was now also wider!
My longer-waisted muslin still was a bit tight at the bust, so I took a chance and tried a c-cup for my next muslin, making the necessary changes to the waist and neck. Success! The bust apexes were still a tiny bit too high, but acceptably good compared to earlier versions. The problems with excessive back wrinkles remained, but at least I didn’t have a fabric hunchback.
I still haven’t made the dress in the
fashion fabric I plan to make it
in- a nice lightweight linen with black threads running one way and hot pink threads running the other way (it looks better than it sounds. Hilariously, I planned to make this dress for last spring and summer- my sewing skills have not progressed as quickly as I thought they would). I am still not happy with the back, but I think I know what I need to do- remove more fabric horizontally from high up on the back, without affecting the fit in the front. I made another muslin where I pinned in fabric to try this out, and was reasonably happy with the results. The darts or wedges are horizontal- I tried deepening the original diagonal faux slashes, but was not happy with the resut- so somehow taking length out this way seems to be the answer. You can see that in the lower picture, the back is much smoother. For me, this is acceptably smooth, because it is so, so much better than any other back I have made so far. Yes, there are strong diagonal wrinkles running from my armpits to my neck- but maybe that is because of the kimono sleeves? Is that reasonable, or am I wrong? Can these wrinkles be removed?
So, the next change I need to make is figuring out how to transfer the horizontal wedges to the pattern so I can put them on my next muslin. I think this might involve actually cutting into the pattern paper, which makes me apprehensive. I need to make a tracing of the pattern that I can work with without being afraid of ruining it. I am also going to make the skirt a bit straighter, instead of slightly A-line.
What do you guys think? How can I fix the wrinkles on the back? Am I going about this in the wrong way, ignoring a better solution? Is having armpit-to shoulder wrinkles on a kimono sleeve normal, or can they be fixed?
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.
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!
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.
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?
Ok, so far sewing has been a challenge. But I am still excited to learn how to make my own handmade clothes. I know that I will have to learn a lot in order to make anything successfully, and I continuously struggle to understand pattern instructions (which seem to be written in code). My latest project, (Its so Easy) Simplicity 2418 has been my most difficult project so far. I used a smooth polyester fabric that is supposed to resemble silk.
I made the slit front version (View B), not the cowl neck version. I don’t do cowl necks, although Katiekadiddlehopper made a gorgeous version that suits her perfectly. Two specific parts of this pattern were difficult for me to make: the front of the shirt (the v-shaped part: step 7) and the yoke (step 12).
Step 7 (the front of the shirt) includes lots of stitches that must meet at the correct point for the shirt front to lie smooth and flat.
The yoke was a particular challenge because I had no idea what a yoke was. When I hear yoke, I think ‘oxen’. The pattern instructions for how to attach the yoke are on Step 12. Unfortunately the illustration for step 12 was created by a blind drunkard. Here I have reproduced it:
Thankfully, the pattern instructions explain what is going on in step 12. These instructions were very helpful. Here they are:
12. Aliquam lorem ante, dapibus in, viverra quis, feugiat a, tellus. Phasellus viverra nulla ut metus varius laoreet. Quisque rutrum. Aenean imperdiet. Etiam ultricies nisi vel augue.Curabitur ullamcorper ultricies nisi. Nam eget dui. Etiam rhoncus. Maecenas tempus, tellus eget condimentum rhoncus, sem quam semper libero, sit amet adipiscing sem neque sed ipsum
Is that clear?
It was at this point that I realized that the pattern authors must have decided to start condensing the pattern instructions to an unreasonable degree so they did not have to include a third piece of paper in the pattern instructions. Another piece of paper would have cut into the profits.
It took 3 full muslins for me to figure out this pattern, and it still looked terrible. Here are my tips for help on Simplicity 2418 if you are a novice:
1. Make a muslin. Use large baste stitches so you can try again if/when you mess up. Don’t backstitch so it is easier to pick out the stitches. You don’t need to make a full length version of the shirt, just work on the neck, yoke and top of the back.
2. For STEP 7: Remember what our friends the Ghostbusters taught us: DON’T CROSS THE SEAMS. You will sew 3 different stitches to meet at the center low point for the shirt slit.
Have the exact point in mind where you need to stop sewing so each one of the three stitching sequences do not cross each other. Otherwise the front of the shirt won’t lie flat.
3. For STEP 12, you will be enclosing the raw edge of the back of the shirt inside of the raw edge of the yoke. The aforementioned Step 12 illustration fails to make this clear. If you are a complete yoke novice like me, remember that the yoke is not spread open in the shirt. It is folded wrong sides together, so you have the right side of the fabric both facing outward and also against your back (just in the yoke portion) in the final completed version of the shirt. I noticed that Miss P mentioned that the yoke instructions were confusing, so if an experienced seamstress feels that way then I don’t feel too bad about being a bit lost.
Here are some details on how to attach the yoke, in case anyone else needs help with step 12. There is probably a better way to do this, but at least this will get the shirt made.
Start by opening up the two pieces of fabric that make up the yoke. Place it wrong side up. You should have already folded up and pressed 5/8 of an inch of the yoke’s raw edges. Place the back of the shirt so that the raw edge of the back of the shirt is aligned with the right side of the yoke flap. Pin and sew, as the directions state.
- The directions state to attach the font of the shirt to the shoulder of the yoke. I think you can finish attaching the back of the shirt to the yoke (my step 3) first, but in the end it doesn’t seem to matter as either way will work.
The Yoke is now partially attached to the back of the shirt. Fold the yoke closed so that the wrong sides of the two pieces of the fabric are together. Align the pressed folded edge of the yoke so that it aligns with the back of the shirt, covering up the raw edge and creating a neat line. Pin and sew as in the directions.
After you have completed Step 12 and attached the front of the shirt to the shoulder portion of the yoke, you will have a nice even neck hole, pleats at the front of the shoulders, and gathering at the center of the back. You are ready to complete the arm holes and sew up the sides of the shirt next.
Ultimately, the sleeves on this shirt don’t suit me, and the shirt looks a bit shapeless even though I made a size smaller. The sleeves stick out too far as the edges are stiff, when they should drape down my shoulders and my arms. This makes the shirt unwearable.
I thin I might have a bit more luck with this pattern after I have a bit more sewing experience.