Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Knowing When to Seek Professional Help

Well, I've finally hit my sewing wall: despite hours of research (and muslin work) I just cannot figure out what is wrong with this dress's bodice.  I agreed with your essentially unanimous thought that the bodice is too long.  I had Mr. ASW pinch the back and determined that there is about an inch and a half of extra fabric; I folded the pattern one inch at the adjustment line on the bodice, and re-drew the side seams.  (I also graded down one size at the shoulders, as the shoulders were too big, which accounted for the remaining half inch that needed to go).  Here is the result:



Slightly better on the left side, but no real difference on the right.  To make matters worse, the front turned into an 80's style half-shirt, ending just under my bust.  (I'm not entirely surprised by this, as I felt that it hit in the right place at my waist originally.)

I  came to the realization that this is a problem I can't seem to solve on my own.  I endeavored to seek out a tailor in my area who I could cajole into giving me sewing lessons.  I was pleased to discover a sewing studio near my job (what did we do before Google?!) that has open sewing classes on Monday evenings.

After reviewing the dress's bodice, the instructor believed that I am cutting the size appropriate for my bust, but not my my frame. She took my measurements and determined that my high bust (upper chest above my bust) is a scant 32", while my bust is a 34". I've been cutting a size 12 for the 34" bust.

She suggested that I cut a size 8 (on this pattern, a 31.5" bust), but add to the side seam to get my waist size (I had to add about an inch on each side, so I'm probably back to about a size 12 at the waist).  After tissue-fitting the pattern, she recommended a full bust adjustment to accommodate a 34" bust.  The instructor showed me how to do a FBA; here she had to add a side dart in addition to the previously sole large dart that went from the waist to the bust.



I'd need to refer to an instruction book, but I do think that I could replicate a FBA adjustment again.  It was so helpful to see someone execute it.

As to the offending back, the instructor thought that I needed to do a forward should adjustment (apparently I have a bit of a slouch from sitting at a computer all day); she did this by adding about a half inch to the back shoulder seam, and removing that amount from the front shoulder seam.  Super easy!
 
In addition to pinching out a bit of "fabric" on the pattern near the shoulder where it was still gaping (the fold in the picture below), she felt that I needed a rounded back adjustment (the pie-shaped addition).
 
 
 
It was really helpful to actually watch someone cut the pattern to make adjustments.  My next step is to lower the front bust dart slightly as it is not hitting at my "apex" (the fullest part of the bust), and then sew this up to see if this fits.  I'm hoping these alterations do the trick!  They looked right in the tissue fitting, but frankly, I'm slightly wary of the Palmer Pletsch's much-exalted tissue fitting method.  Firstly, it only shows one side, and secondly, fabric must hang so much differently than paper.  But I'm new, and these are just my impressions!  Perhaps I will turn into a convert.  Do you have any thoughts (negative points or love stories) about tissue fitting?
 
When I began sewing, I thought that I could do it on my own.  I do feel that sewing is like cooking: if you follow the instructions in a cookbook, you can make a meal.  Similiarly, if you follow pattern instructions, you can make a garment.  For me, I'm realizing that while I can learn to sew, fitting is something that I just can't seem to grasp by reading it in a book.  That's just me.  I think that attending this studio will help me to perfect the fit of muslins I plan to make of classic patterns that I'd like to sew in multiples: a Chanel-style jacket, wide-leg pants, the perfect shift dress...

26 comments:

CarlaF-in Atlanta said...

You are so fortunate to have a sewing studio in your town. Welcome to the world of FBA :) In my quest to learn how to do an FBA, I bought several fitting books including Fit for Real People. I recently purchased the DVD, Full Busted? Sew Clothes That Fit! The DVD has examples of how to do a FBA on many pattern styles.
Thanks for the pictures. I think I might have to do the same adjustments for my shoulders.
Good Luck with your dress.

Kim said...

I don't tissue fit either. I have a heck of a time with it. When in doubt, I do a muslin. Do you have the Fit For Real People book? It's been a lifesaver!

Gertie said...

Wow, that is awesome! And a great testament to seeking out further sewing education. I've signed myself up for a pants-drafting class next month, and you've gotten me all excited about it again!

Sheila said...

I tried the tissue fit and it didn't work for me... like you one side is not enough. I hope the alterations work out and look forward to your dress.

Btw... where is the class located in the city... very interested. I know I need an FBA and sloping shoulder adjustment lessons.

Lisette said...

Kudos to you for trying to do this on your own. I didn't dare bother until we covered it in my costuming class and I had to!

Janet said...

The Palmer-Pletsch method really worked for me, much better than drafting my own or using a computer program. I think it is because the fitting I did with an instructor was actually done on the body, not with measurements ( which can tell you how big something is but not how it is shaped). She first fitted the MCall's sloper with tissue paper, then we made muslins. I have to admit, however, when I alter for myself I usually just do the alterations she recommended. That is NOT what the tell you to do but with the Big 4 at least, I have been very happy.

K.Line said...

I love this! What a great way to resolve your dilemma. I would so love to watch someone do an FBA with my dimensions! I have the DVD Full Bust and it does show the process - just not with a person of whom you can ask questions. Great stuff. I can't wait to see the finished product.

neighbourhood.gal said...

Oh man, I long, I pine for someone to help me with my fit issues.

I'm fond of the Fit for Real People tissue-fitting method. I also am fond of making a quick muslin of the most problematic area.

But there are times that I just don't know what to do and it would be super helpful to have a real, live person to help me.

Marie-Christine said...

You're right, fitting is something that you can always use outside help with. But let me also suggest pinning all the way down the opening - it's impossible to judge fit in muslin if you only have the top and bottom pinned up like that. If you're alone, it helps to put the closure in front instead so you can pin it up properly :-).

Susannah said...

Sewing is totally like cooking in that the instructions are only about half the story, and expertise involves knowing what the instructions leave out. I didn't realize this until I started teaching my bf to cook. A recipe that looks perfectly straightforward to me is full of mysteries to him -- HOW finely to chop? HOW long to saute the onions for? Etc. Sewing is much the same -- anyone can follow the instructions to make A Dress, but making a dress that looks professional and fits and flatters your particular figure can take years of learning. *sigh*

You're learning at quite a brisk pace, though! Let's hear it for sensibly seeking outside help.

Eugenia said...

The Palmer Pletsch book is my bible for how to make fitting adjustments to the pattern pieces but I don't rely on tissue fitting. Because I have to make quite a lot of adjustments I (almost) always make a muslin to fine tune the fit. It's really great that you have been able to get some professional fitting lessons - I think that will make a huge difference.

Pati Palmer said...

From what I can see you have a slightly lower right shoulder and possibly a slightly higher right hip so you would do a sloping shoulder alteration on the right, but you can adjust at waist for hip if necessary. See FFRP for steps. Also, in an older post, it looks like you need a sway/flat back adjustment. Hope this helps. Pati Palmer

DD said...

The new Vogue patterns magazine has an article on how to do Full Bust Adjustments. It is great that you have someone to h elp you with your fit.

Maggie said...

Wow, did you just get a comment from the Pati Palmer?!?! That is awesome. That completely distracted me from what I was going to say. So, uh yeah, what she said ;)

amber said...

The one-on-one instruction is so great, right? I'm really glad you were able to find a sewing studio close to you and have found them to be such a great resource. Sounds like you're making good progress on the dress and I'm excited to see the finished product. :)

Clio said...

WOW! That was a really clever way to find a solution to your fit problems! I am not sold on tissue fitting either - I always end up tearing the tissue. But I've recently really come to appreciate Fit For Real People and all it's helpful advice. Good luck - I can't wait to see how this comes out in muslin!

The Cupcake Goddess said...

I've never had good luck with tissue fitting mostly because I have weird fitting issues that only a muslin can point out to me. You might want to try out a fitting shell from one of the big 4. It's a testing pattern that comes with complete instructions on what alterations to make to a flat pattern to get it to fit you right. The idea behind this being that you would make these adjustments to your other sewing patterns without having to make a muslin. I just bought one at a flea market for 50 cents that I'm going to try. And I highly highly recommend Adele Margolis' book "How to Make Clothes That Fit and Flatter." It's out of print, but you can find it in online used book stores. Totally totally worth it. She gives you fitting problems and how to solve them.

Angela said...

How cool is that! I'm glad you were able to learn so much. I'm leary of tissue fitting myself, but I haven't tried yet. Can't wait to see your adjustments!

Andrea said...

I've never done a tissue fit either. Looks interesting though. Looks and sounds like you learned a lot. I can't wait to see the dress finished.

lorrwill said...

The Pati Palmer surfed your blog. Holy crap that's cool.

~buzzybee~ said...

You might be different on one side than the other (don't worry - most people are!) because it looks like there is excess vertical length in the back on one side (R side of the photo). The fabric across your shoulders appears to be symmetrical and I think the excess looks to be between your shoulder blade and waist. Can you pinch it out in the middle where the dart lies, tapering to nothing at CB and SS? This will close your waist dart a bit.
My tip when fitting is to work from the top down, getting the shoulders right first.

Janet said...

Patti Palmer has a web site I visit frequently and she once mentioned that she has a Google Alert going for Palmer Pletsch. For practical sewing advice and especially for fit, I don't think anyone else is better.

The Slapdash Sewist said...

What a fabulous resource! I would love to discover a little gem like that where I could get someone to alter a pattern for my body. It looks like a lot of changes but once you get used to them it will become second nature. So exciting to see how it will sew up!

Heidi said...

As an owner of a sewing studio myself, I always suggest doing a muslin for fit. And, I almost always find commercial patterns need a shoulder adjustment, just as many ready to wear garments did when I was a full-time tailor. Most patterns are styled for a 5'6" wearer, so this is where that shoulder adjustment comes into play, then move into the waistlength adjustment. I usually start at the shoulders, then work my way down, be weary of over fitting, you still want to move in the dress! I love this pattern, the perfect little black dress, or print for summer!

stephanie said...

I seem to have the same fitting issues as you. I always have to cut for a smaller frame, make an FBA and let out the side seam again to accommodate for my waist. It always seems so strange because according to the measurement charts on patterns I'm exactly a size 16, but if I cut a size 16 I'm swimming in it, and the back is too large and the neckline gaping, etc.

I always make muslins for almost every project, especially blouses, dresses, etc. and I don't trust tissue fitting at all. I think it's messy and inaccurate and yes, fabric behaves very differently, but a tissue fit can at least kind of show if the pattern somwhat fits and the rest can be adjusted when sewing. But no, I'm not a tissue fit fan at all...

I'm sure it was great to have professional help! Good luck on the project!

Rad_in_Broolyn said...

Wow, this post has taught me so much. Thank you for sharing all this. It's funny how much we learn about our bodies when we (well, when I have recently) begin to sew.
You're gonna look awesome in your finished dress.