Debunking a Common Fitting Myth

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.



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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  • Marie Roche

    08.07.2016 at 22:34

    Very helpful post, thank you for all of the points that you made.

  • Danie Duchesne

    10.07.2016 at 16:44

    Hi Joi!
    Thanks for the wealth of information you kindly share with us. After taking your classes, I bought a bolt of muslin and I now make a sample before sewing garment. I just completed a dress last week that I am really proud of. Using the measurement on the pattern, without using your technic, I would have cut a size 14 or 16. I went ahead with adjusting the size 12 and the result is garment that I will actually be wearing!

    • joi

      10.07.2016 at 23:19

      Thank you so much. I really really enjoy talking about fit, but not just to talk about it. I enjoy working with others and helping you all with fitting and sewing. Email a picture of your dress I would love to see it!

  • Gini Denninger

    07.08.2016 at 15:19

    Hi Joi,

    Your methods are the best. Your two Craftsy classes made crystal clear what you teach in the book. Since taking those two classes and buying the book, I have had no fit issues whatsoever. Of course I’m always interested in learning more. I hope in the future you might do a craft class maybe a project class, using princess lines for a dress, which could show how versatile your methods are. I know a lot of people once they take these classes, freeze since they arenot quite sure how to translate methods like yours into patterns with different cutting lines. Another topic that could be fit it in with the princess line dress I think would be a discussion of ease. Is it something I think many home sewers when working on adjusting patterns, find problematic.

    • joi

      11.08.2016 at 19:21

      Thank you so much Gini! I hear this a lot and my passion is to help sewists recive results. I would love to do a project class with my method on Craftsy. Please pass that along to them too. I have lots of proposals out and we all know that you have to achieve fit before you are able to do all the fast sewing classes. DO follow my blog for some new things happening this fall along with a new series of live classes I am doing.

      Thanks so much!

  • Gini Denninger

    07.08.2016 at 15:20

    Opps in the above posting, I did not mean craft class, I meant Craftsy class.


    18.09.2016 at 15:47


    • joi

      18.09.2016 at 19:17

      Thanks Marjana! Please stay tuned to my social media, I have a new class platform launching this fall and really a LOT of really cool things happening. I have a few proposals into Craftsy right now. It seems they want a lot of project classes right now which is instant results but we all know that the fitting is what keeps people sewing longer. It sometimes takes a while to film specific content, BUT I am filming classes this week on another platform and like I said starting around the holidays there will be daily short videos and things from my new studio so stay tuned. With the drooping breasts you have two options. You can wear correct undergarments to lift them and provide more of a stable shape. Undergarments do not need to be like corsets and constrictive things. Being fitted for a really great bra takes a few days to get used to, but there are lots of jersey knit comfy bras out there where you can just stitch the straps in place so they don’t stretch out so that is an idea. Of course in sewing you are in the driver seat soooo although I do a lot of prepping they body you can choose what you want to wear. If you opt out of that you can indeed drop the bust line so the bust on the pattern just sits lower on the body. Just know that sometimes you run into drag lines and things like that when a droopy bust which may not matter in the type of garments you are making. Sometimes there are limitations on fixing everything when you opt out, but you can just compromise to what your desired fit is and again that is the JOY of fitting!!!!

  • Anita Haynes

    29.10.2016 at 22:18

    Thanks for this blog. Excited to follow you. Hope you will do more princess line as well as fit for round back and forward thrust shoulder. You are helping me get closer to my fit. Have your book and crafty classes. It takes a while for my brain to sort out the information. You give a lot which is great but it takes a while for my brain to use the correct information. Keep the blog going and I will follow your new classes.

    • joi

      13.12.2016 at 18:26

      Hi Anita,
      Thanks so much for posting. We have a huge line up of blog posts. With my new studio move I have not been able to post them all but I have done quite a lot of Facebook live events and that was hugely successful so also follow our FB page Designer JOi Mahon to catch those too. I usually do thursdays at 4:00 central time. I admit I DO post a lot of info that is my hardest thing to change. There really is a lot of info and the way and how is really important. I think a lot of teachers skip that or they dont know it themselves but understanding that is how you really learn to fit. More to come.

  • AmyInNH

    12.12.2016 at 03:35

    Apparently I need a full retool of what I was taught in junior high. Go straight from the pattern with fabric, 12 stitches per inch, etc. Dread the thought of making a garment twice, but then, a total bummer when straight from pattern and fit is wrong. Lots to learn. Thanks for your time educating us.

    • joi

      13.12.2016 at 18:16

      LOL I LOVE this. It is very home sewing of the 80s and earlier. It just does not apply the solutions that sewists and bodies need today. Going straight from a pattern never works. I am glad you posted this.

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