Category Archives: Fitting issues

Adventures in full-bust adjustments

Well, surprise, surprise. I wasn’t sure how to handle the full-bust adjustment on Butterick 5846. The front and back bodice pieces gather into yokes at the top and pleat into the waist, like so:

There's a lot happening on the front bodice of this pattern.

There’s a lot happening on the front bodice of this pattern, so I wasn’t sure how to handle a full-bust adjustment. You can’t tell from the drawing, but the front and back yokes are separate pieces, so there is a seam at the top of the shoulder.

With the structure of the pattern being what it is, I didn’t even hazard a guess about what to do and instead went straight to sewing a muslin of the bodice. The results were surprising.

First, the back and neckline fit fine. The side seams are right where they should be, and I could pin the center fronts together at the top. Then things became wonky. The center fronts spread wider and wider from neckline to waist until they were four inches apart at the bottom.

Wait, shouldn’t the gap only be at the bustline, not the front waist, too?

It seems that I don’t need just a full-bust adjustment; my front torso from bust to waist is a size bigger than my back torso! How weird is that? I needed four more inches across the front width but not at the neck or the shoulders. Well, with the gathers and stitched pleats, I just added 2 inches in width from the top to the bottom of the bodice piece, in the space between the pleats. I also added 2 inches in length above the pleats to lower the bust point, and took out that two inches at the side seam with a dart. I also added one inch of overall length to the front and back bodice pieces. The pattern pieces now look like this:

There is an awful lot of slashing and spreading going on here.

There is an awful lot of slashing and spreading going on here. Both of these pieces gather into top yoke pieces that fit fine.

Of course, now I’ll need to add four inches across the skirt front. But not the back. This is all pretty dicey pattern engineering, to say the least, so I am not cutting my nice teal and navy cotton lawn quite yet. I have 4 yards of a bright and gaudy Paris-themed quilt fabric in my stash (purchased for a work event, long story), so I’m going to sew it up in that and see if my adjustments work out.

I told you it was bright and gaudy.

My “wearable” muslin fabric. I told you it was bright and gaudy.

After all that, I am hoping it will be clear to me how to fine-tune any problems. It will also give me a chance to see how bad the gathered sleeves might look on me. I have some off-white buttons in my stash, but I want red thread for sewing them on and for the topstitching, not that it will stand out much on this print. I’ll be heading to Jo-Ann’s in the morning. I just pulled the fabric from the dryer, so I’ll cut it out tomorrow while the boys are in Oakland watching the Giants play the A’s. Maybe I’ll get a crazy but wearable Paris-themed dress out of this experiment. I don’t know what else I would have ever done with that fabric.

If cutting up the Paris fabric means the teal and navy lawn ends up as a well-fitting dress, the Paris fabric will not have died in vain.

Wide-leg denim trousers with zipper hidden in the pocket

I recently finished a modified version of Simplicity 3688.

Wide-leg denim trousers from Simplicity 3688.

Wide-leg denim trousers from Simplicity 3688.

This project had three new-to-me techniques:

  • Palmer/Pletsch’s fitting method.
  • Sandra Betzina’s zipper hidden in a pocket.
  • Faux flat-felled seams and the use of topstitching thread.

This is how it went:

Palmer/Pletsch’s fitting method

I used Palmer/Pletsch Pants for Real People as my guide. P/P fitting books recommend that you pin-fit the pattern tissue, then partially sew the garment and finish by fitting as you sew. Pin-fitting even reinforced pattern tissue seemed a little dicey to me, so I traced the pattern with Swedish tracing paper (which is really more like nonwoven interfacing than paper) and used the P/P fitting methods from there.

I was really  happy with the fit of the tracing paper version, but the fabric version somehow went awry. I think it’s because you fit only half the garment in tissue, and I didn’t end up with enough width by the time I cut it out in fabric and sewed the two halves together. P/P recommend 1-inch seam allowances, but I ignored that good advice. That would have saved the day. Instead, I sewed 3/8-inch seam allowances rather than the 5/8-inch allotted for a little more room. That improved the fit somewhat, and made all the faux flat-felled seams faster because there was no trimming necessary.

I also goofed up their excellent method for fitting a waistband. You cut and pin the waistband to fit you the way you like. No measuring involved! Then you attached the pants to it. Well, you’re supposed to fit the INTERFACED waistband to your waist. I missed that part, so I fit a stretch denim waistband to my waist. When I added the interfacing, it wasn’t so stretch anymore, so it ended up too tight. (At least it was too tight right at that moment. I’ve since lost 5 pounds, and the waistband fits a lot better.) But I did use their special waistband interfacing and the technique that goes with it. I love it! It will definitely be my go-to for straight waistbands in the future.

P/P have tips for fitting pretty much every figure variation you can think of. And it’s all illustrated in their book, showing real people and their real pants. But when I make — and fit — this pattern again (which I definitely will), I’ll make a muslin, then use their fitting methods from there. P/P are very successful with their pattern tissue fitting method, but I’m just more comfortable with fitting a sewn muslin.

I do like the overall shape of the pattern, so I think it will be fantastic once I fit it to me properly.

Sandra Betzina’s hidden zipper

I wanted to make wide-leg denim trousers, but I didn’t want a center front fly. Too much bulk in the wrong spot! A back zipper on denim trousers just seemed wrong. But I also wanted side pockets. I hate not having a pocket to slip my phone or keys into. So I scoured the Internet for a solution and found a reference to Sandra Betzina’s method for hiding a zipper opening within a side slash pocket. It sounded well worth the investment in a used copy of her book Power Sewing, where she illustrates the technique. Genius! I had to give it a go.

Well, what do you know? It worked. I’m not sure I love it, but it definitely worked. I bought both polyester and brass zippers because I couldn’t decide which to use. Once I was sewing, however, I knew I had to go with the brass for denim. It’s a little difficult to zip up pants inside a pocket, however. And with no back flap protecting my skin, I’ve nipped myself once or twice with those brass teeth. If the fit on the pants were better (say, looser), or I used a polyester zipper, it might be OK.

There's a zipper opening hidden in that pocket!

There’s a zipper opening hidden in that pocket! See the pulling at my tummy? All my pants do that. I do need to reduce the width into the waistband, but probably not where those darts are placed. Maybe just at the side seams.

See the zipper hiding in the pocket? Crazy, no?

See the zipper hiding in the pocket? Crazy, no?

Faux flat-fell seams

The construction was very straightforward, and I had some fun with the denim and topstitching.

I was very pleased at how the Fancy Damn Sewing Machine handled multiple layers of denim. It had to pause and collect itself twice when I pushed it a little too hard, but other than that, it sailed through the project without a hitch.

The faux flat-fell seam from the inside.

The faux flat-fell seam from the inside.

The faux flat-fell seam from the outside.

The faux flat-fell seam from the outside.


I have never done a flat-fell seam before, faux or otherwise. It’s a great technique for finishing denim seams. And I was really pleased with the how the topstitching went. I did opt mid-project to buy a proper topstitching needle. It has a bigger eye for the bigger thread, so it prevented the shredding of the thread I encountered a couple of times. I used the appropriate gold topstitching thread and love the way it looks. It wasn’t until I got to the hem that I remembered to increase the stitch length, so that area looks best.


The topstitched hem.

I had purchased  a nice brass button for the closure but wasn’t sure how well a buttonhole would sew through denim and the interfacing, so I chickened out and did a hook-and-eye closure. I really need to sew in another set for the underlap.

All in all, it’s a successful project that just doesn’t fit as well as it should. Or perhaps as well as it will, as I’m back in weight-loss mode. I’ve lost five pounds since I fit the waistband. Who knows? Another 10 and it may fit great.

It is a great wide-leg pattern, however. I look forward to solving the fitting issues and making it again in denim (lighter blue with red topstitching?) and dressier fabrics (the wool crepe in the stash). I may have to give more thought to the pocket and closure, however.

Sewing and weight loss

I’ve been on a healthy living program of my own devising for eight weeks. I’ve lost nine pounds. This is great for my health.

This is not so great for my sewing.

Just when I was getting my dimensions all figured out, they are changing. The wearable muslin skirt I most recently made was a little big in the waist when I made it. An inch, inch and a half, I figured. I few adjustments to the pattern, and it will be fine, so I thought.

Now it is 3 inches too big.

Two weeks into my own healthy living program, work started a 16-week weight loss challenge and I joined up. There are still 10 weeks to go. Having to go into HR and be weighed every four weeks is a great motivator.

Meanwhile, several months ago, I realized how challenging it is to find good apparel fabric. I’ve never been one for a big fabric stash (I prefer to buy for specific projects so I get exactly the correct amount), but now every time I go to JoAnn’s, I look. If I see something I like, I snatch 3 to 4 yards, or the rest of the bolt, if it’s about that much. By this time, I have a nice little stash going.

But I don’t think I should sew anything. Not quite yet. I’m thinking I wait until the weight loss challenge is over, which will be early December. Last December, I made it all the way to January without gaining any weight, so I think whatever weight I am on Dec. 5 is potentially the weight I’ll be for a while.

I realize this is a good problem to have, but I just know the Fancy Damn Sewing Machine misses me.


The wearable muslin that may never be worn

What a disappointment!

Last night, after finishing the bodice on Simplicity 2151, a princess seamed blouse, I was feelin’ the love for sewing. It fit like a glove. I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was going to be to have two winning projects in a row. I was practically smug.

Well, what a difference a day makes. After setting in the sleeves today, I tried it on. Hmmm. Something was not quite right about it.

Here’s the finished blouse. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s not working.

“Maybe it will be better if I put on the matching skirt,” I thought to myself. So I did. And that’s when I realized what’s wrong with this blouse:

Oh no! This looks like something Laura Ingalls’ schoolmarm would wear! NOT the look I was going for.

I know I used a quilting cotton, but good heavens, it might as well have been a true calico. I knew the fabric was heavy for a blouse, so it almost feels like a lightweight jacket. But that is clearly not the main problem here.

The main problem is the fabric pattern and color. Dreary, dreary, dreary.

I had thought so when I finished the skirt. But I’ve worn that several times with a sweater, and it was OK.

But I cannot currently conceive of under what circumstance I could wear this blouse in public.

What I do like:

  • The fit. It’s very, very good (better on me than on the dress form). As I mentioned previously, this is a Simplicity Amazing Fit pattern. The only adjustments I made were to choose the D cup front pattern pieces and lower the bust projection 2 inches. I thought the ease would be way too much (according to the pattern 4½ inches at the bust), but it seems just fine. Oh, and I lengthened the sleeve 2 inches. I made a similar sleeve years ago and found I couldn’t bend my arms without unbuttoning the cuff. Two extra inches were perfect on this.
  • The neckline. I LOVE the neckline.
  • The length. The blouse is an excellent length for tucking in. Usually I have to lengthen blouses, but not this one.

What else I don’t like (besides the dreary fabric)

  • The shoulders are too wide. I don’t usually have that problem, but I’ve already adjusted the pattern for the next go around.
  • The sleeve ease. It seemed a teensy bit too much. According to my measurement, narrowing the shoulder width just by redrawing the armhole seam front and back seems to have lengthened that seam, so that problem may be resolved.
  • The cuff being one pattern piece that folds in half. It was supposed to be fully interfaced, but I didn’t have enough for that, so I only interfaced half. That was plenty. I’d like the cuff to be two pattern pieces so I could cut the facing a little smaller.
  • The sleeve style. It’s pretty in the sketch, but I’m not sure it works on me. It could just be the weight of the fabric, though.

I’ve tried to figure out what would make this blouse less Little House on the Prairie, but I’m at a loss. Maybe it would look better with pants, untucked. My daughter (just shy of 14) suggested that if I were someone else I could wear it with skinny jeans. Um, no.

Maybe I could wear it to a Living History re-enactment:

I found the perfect accessory, the apron I made in serger class several years ago.

If I’m going to go through all the trouble of making a wearable muslin, I should put more effort into making it wearable. Which means casual low-cost apparel fabric, but quilting fabric is so much easier to find. My coral polka dot top is quilting fabric, and I like that a lot better. Regardless, I’m going to stay out of that section for a while. It works for cute skirts, but I think that’s it.

So now, I need to decide on the next project. Do I make the skirt up in the nice poly-wool crepe I found? Do I remake this blouse in a pretty white or ivory blouse-weight fabric? Or do I move on to try to perfect another garment for my Vintage Separates Project? I have the Sense & Sensibility Patterns romantic blouse on order. Katrina at Edelweiss Patterns made it up as a gorgeous 1940s style blouse and really liked the pattern, so I’m inspired to try it.

Meanwhile, if anyone has any ideas on how I could leave the house in this blouse, please let me know!

Gemini note (because it’s not all about the sewing): Buying a new bike for my 8-year-old son has inspired me to get back into bike riding. My daughter has been using my abandoned one for the past year or so, but my husband got her a new bike. So, I took back possession, only to remember why I stopped riding it. The seat (saddle in bike-speak) is quite uncomfortable! A new one with rave reviews on Amazon is on the way. Bike riding, it’s good exercise, it’s vintage. What’s not to love?

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