As I am preparing for my Designer Joi’s Sewing Holiday fitting classes I am reflecting on some common fitting myths that certainly need debunked. I teach fitting a little different than I think almost everyone else. I come from a tailoring and design background where our job is to solve problems. When I apprenticed for 6 years with a tailor I learned custom sewing, but I also learned to fit thousands of men, women, children, and every type of clothing from tailored suits to wedding gowns.
When you alter RTW clothing you learn to solve fit problems in creative ways because the garment is already sewn. You also learn and visually see every type of body and shape and how they interact with clothing and pattern pieces. The same solution does not work for every body type. I really could see the garments in the pattern stage which gave me the insight into custom fitting patterns. Most pattern fitting techniques that we learn in fitting classes are standard fitting solutions that work for textbook fitting issues.
Textbook is great as a foundation, but in real life you have to learn it is ok to deviate in order to get a really good fit. My job is to give my students permission and the freedom to achieve the results they never could when their hands are tied.
Here is one very basic fitting myth that will change your sewing forever if you heed my advice.
SKIP THE TISSUE! SEW A FIT SAMPLE!
DESIGNER JOI, FIT DOCTOR
TIP: Mark your muslin accurately and carefully take it apart. This will be your new pattern. Do not back track and mark on the paper pattern that is going backwards. Always go forward in sewing and fitting. If you want a polished paper pattern make it from the muslin which is the most accurate.
I know it is a common practice in home sewing and a popular fitting method. I don’t hate it and I won’t say it does not work to some extent, but it is very home sewing focused and your results are limited. After all, tissue is not fabric. When I teach draping I always instruct my students to drape in a fabric similar in weight and hand of the final fashion fabric. Other draping teachers instruct the same. Tissue does not reflect fabric. Professional fitters and those who are the most skilled at fitting and creating clothing all know to sew a fitting muslin. It is imperative. To the best fit possible.
There is a myth that taking the time to sew fitting muslin takes extra time, when in fact it saves time in the long run. No one likes to sew a garment from their fashion fabric only to find they have some fit issue that could have been prevented in the testing phase. I don’t know where the mindset got started to just sew your garment from your pattern w/o any work? We all have limited time and want to sew fast and efficient, but having to go back and rework something already sewn takes far more time, removes the enjoyment of sewing and sadly that has discouraged many a sewer from sticking with the art. Sewing can be fast and efficient with the right advice.
#1 Adjust your pattern in the paper stage first. It takes 5 minutes to create a pattern to the scale of your body (reference Create the Perfect Fit: Measuring and Pattern Fitting for Real Sewing Solutions by Joi Mahon and Fast Track Fitting Craftsy class by Joi Mahon). Skip over thinking and don’t make a pretty photo quality pattern it is not necessary.
#2 Once your pattern is roughly scaled to your proportion then you can go straight to making a muslin. Skip fiddling with the ridiculous tissue paper. Unlike in couture sewing, you do not need to hand baste the muslin, or include details like zippers, pockets and collars. Cut the basic shapes and sew shoulder, princess, side seams and any other basic seam. That is it. Sew and try on.
#3 Use the muslin fit sample to refine and polish out all the little things that you can’t do with a 2D flat tissue or paper pattern and tweak things that you can’t fix once you cut and sew the fashion fabric. An altered pattern will give you good fit, but polishing a muslin will give you fantastic fit. Some things need to be fitted to the 3D real body. It takes about an hour or less on most patterns to do this. Plus, you can practice the order of sewing the seams making it even faster in the fashion fabric and you have a polished pattern you can use over and over again.
#4 Now, you are prepped for seamless sewing start to finish in the final fabric thus speeding up the process so you can sew MORE! You will have successful garments and NO surprises each time. This is what I do with my clients and my designs. It has never failed and you get faster and faster each time.
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