Subversive Sewer

{February 3, 2010}   On Second Thought…

The dozen-ish of you who read my blog are wonderful.  A few nights ago, I posted this rant about my frustration with trying to figure out what my fit issues are.  I said I was giving up, but several of you posted comments encouraging me to continue, along with helpful advice.  Gigi and Mary in FL gave me helpful tips on measuring.  I did as instructed, putting pattern envelopes under each armpit to mark the start and end point and measured with a yardstick (I had been using a tape measure).  Not surprisingly, I got a much different measurement.  I previously got 15″, and this time it was 12″.  WTH???  That puts me at a size 6.  I don’t know what to think.  I’ve made clothes in so many sizes and there doesn’t seem to be much difference to me, but I really doubt I’m a 6 on top.

I happen to still have a size 8 jacket I made many years ago that I did so well on I can’t bear to get rid of it.  I tried it on again…. I could barely get into it… it’s too small everywhere.  It won’t close anywhere, the arms are skintight, and of course, I can’t move my arms.  I’m doubting I’m an 8, let alone a 6.

Some history:  pre-child, I was 106 pounds, 5’4″, and a A cup on a good day.  I sewed a size 8.  Post-child, I’ve been averaging 140 pounds and a D cup (though until a year ago, thought I was a C cup).  At first I went up to a 10, which seemed fine, then I remeasured and high bust put me at a 12, so I’ve been sewing that.  The 12 seems fine, but woven tops and jackets do not fit at all.  I actually stopped making jackets because I was tired of not being able to move and subsequently giving them away.

I know I have a couple fit issues: sloping shoulders and large biceps.  FBA goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway for reference.  I suspect there is some back issue as well, and maybe my shoulders are narrow.  I also have the dreaded gaposis pretty often.  I might  have a rounded back too, because sometimes back necklines sit away from my actual neck.  The issue with long sleeve woven tops and jackets is this:  I can’t move my arms.  At all.  The arms are too tight in the bicep,  the sleeve cap sticks up when I move my arms, and it’s tight across my back.  I actually ripped out a sleeve at the armhole once just by moving my arms forward far enough.

And apparently I can measure myself worth a damn, either.  I might have to ask a coworker or friend to do it, but who knows if they’d be any more accurate than me.

So, I’m getting more and more confused by the day.


Lacy Harrison says:

Okay, first of all, fitting yourself, by yourself can be difficult to the extreme. I have nearly 50 years of sewing under my belt and I still struggle with this issue. Absent a clever and knowledgeable sewing buddy, you can read and experiment or find a fitting class, where the instructor will help with your issues. The first time I did this, it was a real eye opener. There is no pattern manufactured to fit a real live woman. We all vary in our size, in many different ways and that constantly changes during our lives.

That being said, one of the greatest joys of sewing has to do with fitting yourself with clothing that is so comfortable you can’t believe they feel so good. As my grandmother taught me there is more than one way to skin the proverbial cat, so try different methods until you find the one that does the trick for you.

Please do not stop sewing and blogging. I am sure I am not the only reader who enjoys your blog and doesn’t comment. My apologies for my silence. You are clever enough and skilled enough to learn fitting. I know this from reading your blog. I have taught others to fit, both individually and in groups, so email me and I will help if you wish.

Sue says:

I saw somewhere that if you stand with your back to a wall, on which is taped a blank piece of paper, then have a friend/partner draw around your shoulders and head you can use this shaping on your commerical patterns to get the correct shoulder slope. Actually I think it was on a Threads Fitting DVD that I saw it. So if you do have sloping shoulders you will see immediately where you need to alter the commerical pattern for your shoulder shape.
For your biceps, you can split the sleeve pattern and widen it as much as you need without altering the sleeve head.

Have you tried measuring just your back and then just your front? It’s amazing how much differance there can be. Perhaps you are narrow across the upper back/neck but wider below. And then perhaps a different size across the back to across the upper chest.
I have to cut 1-2 sizes smaller in the back/upper chest, then do a FBA and then cut a bigger size through the waist and hips.

I’ve found the Cynthia Guffey DVD’s to be full of wonderful information on measuring and adjusting patterns.

I do hope you can work it out, I’m sure you will!!
And I totally understand your frustration too!!

Lauren says:

I don’t know if this helps at all, or if someone mentioned it, but I use my high bust to determine pattern size. My measurements are about (they do fluctuate throughout the day and week) 38-32-41. My high bust is 32 and I use a 12 on top. It works perfect with an FBA. If I go by my bust, the armholes, neck, and upper chest area are horrible. As for lower body, I measure the hipline and decide from there. Patterns have way too much ease and I end up using either a 12 or 14. My general rule is to go 2 sizes down from my measured size. And I always measure the waist and hip on the actual pattern piece to double check. And keep in mind a muslin might not always help b/c different fabrics can fit different. Some fabrics just have more give. I don’t do muslins (I know really bad) but I measure my patterns before I cut. And if I’m unsure about something, I baste the fabric before I sew.

Also, different pattern brands fits are different. I have found Burda to fit a curvy body (me) much better than big 4. In fact, I have the least luck w/ the Big 4. I’m not sure how Kwik Sew or Jalie fit, but I’ve heard good things about them. Maybe you should try a different brand.

My last thing, I don’t want to write a book, but measure cloths that fit you well. I’m not familiar w/ sloping shoulders b/c I don’t have that fit issue, but measure the shoulders, back, and neck of something that fits you well and compare that to your patterns. HTH

And if all else fails, just sew knits 🙂

mamafitz says:

your weight/cup size is pretty much me, though you are 2″ taller. i usually use a 10 or a 12, depending on the design ease (i’ll go for the 12 for more fitted things). i don’t have your shoulder/back issues. anyway, remember that you won’t ever be able to move in a jacket like you can in a tee shirt or blouse, they just aren’t designed that way. it is going to feel snug when you bring your arms forward (like driving a car), the caps are going to go up, it’s the way it is when you wear clothes.

by any chance would you use a suit jacket? i have 2 that i never wear, and i bet they would fit you. i have a black wool crepe sewing workshop firenze jacket, and a pink tweed nancy erickson jacket. let me know, i’m seriously decluttering/cleaning and would love these to go to a loving home. my email is mamafitz AT ameritech DOT net.

i really should’ve made a better effort to get together and sew/fit with you when you were here!

Gigi says:

Nikki, how does that 8 fit through the shoulders and upper chest? That is the only place it needs to fit and then you’ll make alterations for the other areas.

Well, heck, if the 8 doesn’t fit your shoulder frame, try the 10. Please report back! We’re here to help you.

Bunny says:

Keep going, Nikki. I agree with Gigi. You get that upper chest/neckline/ shoulder area right first. It all hangs from there. Then it is fairly easy to adjust everything else. May I suggest you get a little notebook. Every time you make something keep notes. like what method you tried for what area, how it worked, was it difficult. There are so many ways to adjust for fit that you can try several easily and then you will have the notes to help you. You also want to do all adjustments all the time, or pretty close to it. For myself I do an FBA, narrow the shoulders, put in s-darts when needed, widen hips, petite the pattern, etc. Its good to have a written list to follow as I have more than once forgotten a specific alteration. How dumb it that? Also, whatever pattern you end up with, flat pattern measure it before you cut. If you have 4 inches of ease in a snug knit top, well you know thats not right. So get a little book, a friend who can measure, some muslin for , well, muslins, and get going girl!

I agree with Gigi. Also, do you have Sandra Betzina’s “Fast Fit”? I like her methods for fitting various areas. It’s a well-used resource in my sewing library, and I recommend it highly.

angie.a says:

Ok, I have the back neck gaping thing too and it drives me BONKERS. I’ve got most of the ‘popular’ fitting books, and I’m waiting on one on to come down into my price range that’s older but supposedly wonderful (the Minott book). But here’s what I think my problem is for that (yours could be different, but you’ve probably googled and searched and read and still not found much on it because I sure didn’t!) I made this top last summer from BWOF that fit great everywhere, but the collar was seated way too high on the back neck. I kept scooping out the back neckline (before I attached the collar, I could tell it was going to sit too high). Well, that of course enlarged the neckline which threw off fit other places. I wore the shirt a couple of times because I liked it otherwise, but I knew it was a fit issue that I needed to learn to fix.

Finally I took scissors because I read somewhere buried on the internet, that maybe I had a broad back. I do have sort of a swimmer’s build, or I did when I was younger. I’ve been starting with a 16 in tops (or the BWOF equivalent) and that fits perfect in front with an FBA. Well, i tried on that top, and sure enough it DOES feel a bit tight across the upper back, right in the middle of the armhole in back. So I took some scissors and slashed a vertical line on both sides, about 1/4 of the way in from the sleeve seam (toward the CB). And guess what? The entire top dropped into the correct position in back. The collar dropped down, the back didn’t feel snug. When I turned with a mirror to look at the distance spread from the slash, it was about 1″ (!) on each side!! Mind you the armhole fits perfectly, but the upper back just needs that much more room. And I swear I don’t look deformed from the back (do I?)

I have been contemplating how to incorporate this, but meanwhile I’m cutting 1 size bigger in back (an 18) and then doing a pivot/slide on just the upper back a’la Nancy Zieman. I may just need to do the p/s since that sort of jacks up the armhole too.

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