Subversive Sewer

{July 17, 2011}   Fitting shell, revisited








Once in a while I get motivated to try and figure out my fit issues. I got out my fitting shell I made last year, hoping that it might no longer be a mystery to me.

Here is the front.  I had to let out the shoulder seam by the neck because it was choking me. I seem to be kinda fleshy there. I think that’s related to the shoulder slope issue. I also can’t close this thing. I made the D cup bodice. I got a bra fitting at jc penney, and they said I’m a 34c. I was wearing that size and spilling out of it, so I’ve been wearing a 34d instead. However, one side still spills out unless I’m wearing my strapless bra. I’m at a loss.

I also had to let out the darts on the bottom couple inches. It should be apparent that I have a belly. I’m too lazy for cardio.  I’m wondering if I have a swayback as well.

I’m also suspecting narrow shoulders (tops and bra straps slip off pretty often) and large biceps. These 2 issues alone have rendered me unable to wear any jacket I’ve ever made.

So, I’ve got fast fit and fit for real people. I’ll be reading both for the umpteenth time, documenting my progress here in the hopes that it might be helpful to somebody. Any feedback would also be very welcome.


Well, I got ambitious.  Here’s the jacket:

The center front is obviously nowhere near my center front.  My shoulders seem REALLY narrow.  See any other issues?

Here’s a side view.  You might be able to see the bust point on the side of my boob; I don’t think it belongs there.  I can see the forward shoulder.  The front is shorter than the back, possibly due to the poor bust fit.  What else is wrong?

Here’s a side view with my arm up, in case that helps.

And the back.  This does not reach my center back, and it’s REALLY bad at the bottom.  I don’t know where to start here.

{April 30, 2010}   Tissue fitting, again

Tonight I’m preparing my pattern pieces to try tissue fitting McCalls 5859 again.  This time, I cut a size 12 and I think I transitioned to a 14 on the bottom.  Stay tuned.

While I wait for McCall’s 5859 to go on sale so I can buy a size 12, I decided to tissue-fit another jacket, which I’d cut out and had sitting on my coffee table for the last couple weeks.  It’s Butterick 5446, which I really like:

However, when I tried on the pattern, I found that I couldn’t get the sleeve all the way up to my shoulder- it’s just too tight:

Here’s a side view:

The back is also a mess:

But at least the center front reaches my center front:

And here are 2 attempts to get a good side view, still fighting to get that sleeve all the way up to my shoulder:

It’s pretty hard to diagnose fitting problems when I can’t even get the jacket on.  This is a size 12, which is my size.  I put it on over my t-shirt because it’s a jacket and thus should have enough ease to fit over a shirt.  And this thing is described as loose-fitting, no less.

You know what I’m going to ask:  What should I do?  Should I just say forget it and pick another pattern?

And, as promised, Here’s the 12 pounds of fabric I bought from Denver Fabrics!  I usually buy from because I like their free shipping when you spend 35 bucks, but they didn’t have anything I wanted.  I was pretty impressed with Denver Fabrics- hadn’t ordered from them in a while.

So… top to bottom:  red jersey knit (making Simplicity 2998 for a friend), gray french terry (for Jalie yoga pants), navy shimmer jersey knit (for Kwik Sew 3592), fuchsia stripe jersey knit (don’t know yet), white multi jersey knit (don’t know yet, either), magenta stretch jersey knit (guess!), dark beige twill (for McCall’s 5525- when I can fit a jacket!), yellow floral t-shirt knit (nope, don’t know yet), and navy blue jersey knit (no clue).  I got a yard and a half of each knit, because this seems to be the most common yardage required for most of my knit top and dress patterns.  I’m hoping to sew at least one of these this weekend, if I’m not spending the whole time trying to fit things!

Here is what I did sewing-related today.

This picture makes me look like a damn cow.  I cropped my face out of it too, because that also looked like hell.  Maybe I should ruch the sides a little.  Anyway, this is McCall’s 6078, made from the last piece of decent fabric left when Wal-Mart decided to close their fabric department, the last one in my town.  And yes, I made a dress from the same fabric. 🙂

While we’re discussing knits, can someone tell me how to avoid this?

I believe those are known as puckers.  Yep, they’re awful.

I also undertook the tedious task of tissue fitting a la FFRP.  You may recall my mentioning that I bought their DVD, as I’m a visual learner and thus the book was no help to me.  Here is my result:

It is obvious even to me that this center front is nowhere near my center front.  This is a size 10 in the shoulders, and a 12 from the waist down.  I cut it a long time ago, and have since decided I wear a 12 in the shoulders.  That may be part of the problem, but not all of it.

Here is the back.  It seems that at the back neckline the center fronts match, but from there on out they do not.  I also see that I have some back fat.  Hmm, that’s new.  Do I also see a swayback?

Here you can see that the bust point is WAY off.  I even added about 1/2″ FBA to the princess seam, which is apparently not the FFRP way, but I cut this out a while ago.  My bust seems to be at the right height, though.  (I am wearing a new bra that is not a $10 Target bra this time.)

I left my face in this pic because it didn’t look too horrible this time!  I can’t decide if I have a high rounded back.  I do notice that my tops tend to ride up in front, which is apparently a sign of that.  Do I have a forward shoulder? My posture does look better than it used to.

If I’m right about where my shoulder begins, this shoulder seam is about an inch away from it.  I wonder if this is the cause of my inability to move my arms when wearing long sleeve woven garments.  I know I have sloping shoulders, but I don’t see any ill effects of it here.  But of course I could be wrong.

I’m thinking I need a bigger FBA, and I need to buy this pattern in a size 12.  By the way, it is McCall’s 5859.  Thanks so much to all of you for your help.

{March 28, 2010}   Fitting Adventures

I took your great advice and got a bra fitting.  However, it wasn’t the amazing revelation that I expected.  First, I checked the Lane Bryant store Cacique, but they start at a 36 band.  I’m a 34.  I went to the Bealls next store, which if you’re not familiar, is like Kohl’s Department store, only more geared to snowbirds.  Their service was terrible (apathy was a good way to describe it), so I hightailed it out of there like I do every time I go there looking for something.  Then I decided to hit up JCPenney, which was recommended by several of you.  The lady was very nice and measured me.  She got the exact same measurement as me.  34C.  I used to wear that size until I realized that is isn’t normal to have one’s boob pop out of the thing if you move wrong.  So, I brought a 34C and my current 34D to the fitting room.  Upon inspection, I was able to confirm what I had suspected: I’m lopsided.  In case that’s not clear, one boob is a C and the other is a D.  Fun times.  The saleslady confirmed that this is very common and supported my decision to buy the 34D, what I’m currently wearing.  I mentioned that my bust is lower than the apex on the fitting shell, and she felt that didn’t make me malformed, either.  And I just saw  Marta Alto lower a bust dart on a pattern in the Fit for Real People DVD.  So, it’s not just me.

So, I’ll be making a bit of padding for my smaller boob and sticking it in the bra to even ’em out.

I’m also going to try the tissue fitting technique in the FFRP DVD, now that I know what it actually means.  I can see why they don’t use fitting shells.  Not all the garments she made for that nice Ethel lady needed the same alterations due to ease (when something’s got 10″ of ease, reducing it to 8″ isn’t going to make that much difference).

{March 28, 2010}  

I got my tax refund yesterday, so when I was at Hancock Fabrics I decided to “splurge” on a $20 DVD- Fit for Real People!  I had a busy day attending a baby shower and my daughter’s birthday party, so I only had the opportunity to watch part of it.  Well, I am definitely a visual learner, because the fitting process is so much clearer to me now!!   The only challenge will be making the adjustments on myself.  I might ask my cousin, who is staying at my house now, to take pictures so I can look at them on my computer and see if I can find any needed adjustments.

Thank you all for your fitting observations.  So many of you felt that I need a bra fitting that I am going to do just that.  I have never had one before, but I believe the department stores offer this.  I need a strapless and halter bra anyway, and there are no known patterns for that style of bra, so I will buy one at whatever store I get fitted at.  Does anyone have any suggestions for which store?  I have a Dillards and Macys in my area.  I’ve heard that Victoria’s Secret doesn’t do a good job, but if you know otherwise, I’ll go there.  There is a Soma store nearby, but it’s in a ritzy area and I couldn’t pass for ritzy in this lifetime, so I’d just assume avoid that option.

Coming soon: an exploration of personal style.  I recently discovered the blog Male Pattern Boldness, which I really enjoy.  He recently blogged about finding one’s personal style, which reminded me that I really need to find mine.  I think that because I’m almost 33, I think that I should get on that soon!  I’m kinda all over the place.  Do I want to go bohemian?  Artsy?  Retro?  Vampy?  Preppy?  Rock n roll?  Urban?  Glam?  Or a mix of some of these?  I’ll blog about each of these, and maybe that’ll help me decide.  Of course, if you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear it!  And that includes hair, makeup and accessories too (like start wearing some!).

{March 20, 2010}   Fitting shell and a swimsuit

Well, I’ve been pretty busy this afternoon.  First, I’ll show you the swimsuit I made for Sofia:

This is Kwik Sew 2605.  I cut different sizes for the length and width so it should fit her very well.  She’ll wear it to swimming lessons this week.  It was just as easy as I’ve read about!  This post on Dawn’s blog really inspired me to go ahead and give it a try.  If Sofia likes it, I’ll make more of them.  I also have a suit in mind for myself, but I have to modify a pattern to achieve what I have in mind.

Then there’s this fabric.  I bought it in Miami last month.  I was going to make the maxi dress in my last post, but as you can see, the print is a little weird.  I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a border print or what.  Anyhow, I don’t know what to make with it.  I really wanted to make a maxi dress.  Maybe if it’s wide enough after cutting off that brown (black?) part, I can draft something myself.

Now for the big event.  I finally took on the (boring) task of sewing up the fitting shell.  I took a bunch of pictures, so hopefully one of you nice folks can see something in them that can point me in the right direction.

First, a few observations.  I had to rip out the waist darts, but left a bit of them at the top.  This belly fat is really cramping my style.  There is definitely no ease in this thing.  I could barely move, and the neckline was choking me.  I also don’t see any indication of sloping shoulders.  Maybe this is because I’ve been improving my posture?  Well, here they are.

{March 2, 2010}   The Numbers

I’m off work again today, so I went to Alterations by Nora and had my measurements taken.  Here are the numbers:

bust 36 1/2

under bust 31

waist 34

hips 40

Man, that waist one kills me.  She actually measured lower than the actual waist, asking instead where I wear my pants.  The hip measurement is 3″ bigger than when I took it, and the bust is 2 1/2″ bigger, so I definitely see the reason for not taking  your own measurements.

Let’s see what pattern sizes I am:

Bust: 14

Waist: 20 (ouch)

Hips: 16

Now, that bust measurement is full bust, so I’m still not sure what size to use.  I’ve been making size 12 and I suppose it’s fine, from what little I understand about fit.  I’ve made 14 in pants and skirts, but it’s always too big.  So I guess not many questions have been answered.  On that note, I’m now going to make a knit tunic in a size 12…

{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.

{February 2, 2010}   Nancy Zieman Can Kiss My Ass.

First, I want to thank all of you who’ve tried to help me solve my fitting woes.  I’m about ready to give up.  There is obviously something wrong with me, either physically or cognitively.  A couple of you suggested Nancy Zieman’s Fitting Finesse book.  I ordered it immediately, and I got it today.  First order was to measure my front width.  I read the instructions and measured very carefully.  I got 15.”  I check the chart and find that it corresponds to a size 18!!! Are you fucking serious????  Now, I’d have no problem being a size 18 if I actually was that size.  Look back at my posts… there are many pictures of me.  Do I look like an 18?  I’m currently sewing a 12, which seems to fit everywhere but my arms/shoulder/occasional neckline.

Fuck it.  I give up.

{January 25, 2010}   Fitting Odessy, Part 1

Well, I have Fast Fit. I have FFRP.  I’ve read countless posts on Pattern Review.  I’ve read Debbie’s blog.  The last thing I could think of to try was to buy a fitting shell pattern, and after several months of forgetting to do so, I finally remembered a couple weeks ago.  Then of course I forgot to ask my mom to help measure me (there’s only so many people you can ask to help measure your bust), so I decided to measure what I could on my own.

I’ll ask my mom to re-measure, but what I got so far is way different than what I’ve been sewing.  I’m still not totally sure where my waist is, either.  I’ve been sewing a 12 on top and a 14 on the bottom, taking in at the waist.  Here’s my measurements and their corresponding pattern sizes:

Bust: 36 1/2″, size 14

Chest: 34″, size 14

Waist: 30″, size 16

Hip: 38″, size 14

Bicep: 11 1/2″, size 26

Shoulder to elbow: 14″, size 14

Elbow to wrist bone: 10″, off the charts

Back base of neck to bust point: 13 1/2″, for a C cup, I’d be a size 10, for the D cup that I know I am, I’d be a size 8

About that cup size discrepancy: prior to having my daughter in 2004, I was an A cup.  After that, I was wearing a C cup until about a year ago when it finally dawned on me that the girls are supposed fit into the bra cups.  I tried a D cup and everything fit.  So, I’ve only had about 6 years to figure out what size I am, but I’m fairly sure I’ve got it right now.

Anyone well-versed in fit issues want to take a stab at this one?

{October 25, 2009}   McCall’s 5799 Dress

I don’t know if this has happened to anyone else, but sometimes I’m just so happy I finished a project that I’m temporarily blinded to the fact that it didn’t turn out well.  I think that’s what happened here.  I’m hoping for some honest feedback and advice.

Here’s the dress in question:


First, I’m aware that most people would not wear (or like, for that matter) a bubblegum pink dress.  Especially not with bold flower appliques.  What’s your opinion: is it awful or simply not your thing?

Second, some technical shortcomings are very apparent to me.  The first one is that there’s too much fabric under the bust.  This pattern has separate pieces for A-D cups, and I used the correct one.  So, I don’t know why all that fabric is there.  The next problem requires a closeup of the dress:

003 (2)I don’t know if you can see it in this photo, but 2 things bother me.  First are the darts.  I tried to fix them, but the ends are pointy, like beacons guiding the eye to my boobs.  I also don’t think they’re pressed well enough.  I used a ham and steam, so what else am I missing here?  The second problem is the topstitching.  It looks Becky Home-ecky to me.  Is it because the stitch length is too short? I used 2.6, as I forgot to lengthen it to 3.0 as I normally would.

For reference, here is the pattern:

Any feedback will be received with cheers, no matter how grim it is.  I would really like to improve my skills.

{August 10, 2009}   FBA success!!!!

It’s been 5 years in the making, but I finally figured out the elusive dart FBA!!  Thanks to Debbie’s advice and tutorial, I appear to have succeeded.  I don’t think I’ve solved all my fitting issues, but at least it’s not too tight in the bust anymore!

Here are some photos:

013There are still some wrinkles pointing toward the bust, but like I said, at least I can breathe. 🙂

014Debbie suggested I make a horizontal tuck between the shoulder and armhole, but I forgot- oops!  She said it would help these back wrinkles.  So would being honest about my waist measurement! LOL

015Here is my handiwork. 🙂

{August 6, 2009}   Can you help with a FBA?

OK, I’m making a tunic dress (sorry can’t remember the pattern, but it’s a Simplicity Cynthia Rowley pattern), and I made a muslin.  (See, I’m getting smarter!)  I took these pictures of it:

002005I do know that the wrinkles in back are because it’s too tight there, so I cut it up the sides and then determined that I need to add 3″ total.  I seemed to fix the sloping shoulder issue my making a deeper seam allowance toward the edge of a shoulder seam.  However, I need a FBA.  I think I feel confident enough to enlarge the dart, but the big question is how much?  I’m really hoping one of you can help me with this!  I’ve got some Ralph Lauren sateen from waiting!

et cetera