a few thoughts on fitting

i had wanted to muslin and tweak and muslin again for my plaid dress, but time slowly got away from me so i had to streamline the process a bit. i had just picked up a copy of the palmer/pletsch “fit for real people” which goes to great lengths showing all sorts of possible fitting problems and how to tweak them out. now, you know when you have a rash or some weird ailment that you are just sure is a sign of something worse? then you google the heck out of it and come up with all sorts of possible deadly diseases and you’re convinced that you are officially knocking at death’s door? that’s kind of what this book does to you. it’s a little overwhelming and quite honestly, might be the cause of so many sewists over-fitting.


not to discredit the info, but it can be a bit much. and lest the sewing gods strike me down right here and now, i should clarify: i’m all about making clothes that fit. in fact that’s what has fueled my sewing. i know i simply do not fit one size from top to bottom and unless it’s good quality RTW (i.e. the kind i can not afford), it’s difficult to make your own alterations. if i want a fitted dress, i’m gonna have to make it myself. but, i also need to remember to leave some breathing room and not reject a make simply because maybe i should have done this or that alteration. sometimes good enough really is good enough.

[steps off soapbox]

at any rate, these gals came up with the whole “tissue fitting” idea, so i gave it a half hearted try. i don’t have a fitting buddy, and i’m not enrolled in any sewing classes, so an accurate tissue fitting is pretty difficult to do by myself. it did cue me in that perhaps my sleeve fitting problems are simply due to the dreaded “forward shoulder.” curse not having good posture all my life! thankfully, this is a super easy adjustment to make, and one i will be making from now on. after tissue fitting and making several flat pattern alterations, i made up an actual muslin. turns out (other than the forward shoulder thing) i made a few too many “fixes,” solvable by tracing out a new size. yes, tracing. cuz i do that now.

so, when i declared to all the interwebs that i was going to make a plaid dress and it was going to be awesome, that clearly came from someone who had never in fact done plaid. the envelopes always warn you to buy extra yardage for plaid-matching. did i heed the warning? no. no, i did not. in my defence, it’s in tiny print.



i spent a full hour with my fabric on my dining room cutting table puzzling out how to arrange things when i finally traced off an extra copy of each pattern piece so i could arrange and cut the entire thing as one layer. then i went back to the cutting table and spent another two or three hours arranging and matching plaids. i was determined to get this to work! ultimately i found a way with minimal compromise. initially i had the fat black stripe going down CF, but i shifted things slightly and really, it’s for the better. this is one of those uneven plaids so it isn’t symmetrical anyways. ultimately, that works out in my favor so it’s less obvious when something isn’t perfect.


to make myself feel better, i kept referring back to some online pics with way less than perfect plaid matching. that they are selling for money. i would never in my life pay for such poor matching! sewing snob? guilty!

see that? one quarter of the
fabric is upside down.

things aren’t much better here either.
look at that skirt! shameful.

[these are from modcloth.com. i seem to have lost the direct link if you’re
looking to buy a plaid dress that is poorly constructed.]


but really to top it all off, the twill weave of this fabric caused it to constantly pull off grain. not only were my pieces butted up against each other for cutting, but the whole thing kept shifting. i kept stretching and pulling, then quickly cutting my pieces before it twisted again. all in all, this dress was not the quick make i thought it would be. i had wanted to finish it before thanksgiving, but alas it was not to be. which was okay. i was able to put it aside and come back to it without a deadline. and… it might actually be finished now. and… it might actually be pretty awesome. but more on that later.

—lisa g.

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10 thoughts on “a few thoughts on fitting

  1. Gail says:

    Hehehe – are you talking to me? I am truly aghast at those bottom pictures. Truly.As for FFRP: I read the whole thing, section by section, about a year ago. It is a lot of info. But it worked for me to read the whole thing, and then spend a few months "noticing" the fit issues that bothered me most, both in RTW and me-mades, and THEN go back to the book to find out how to correct them.I also think that since I've spent close to 50 years in purchased clothing without an ideal fit, it's not a huge deal if my me-mades aren't perfect fit-wise. But I find it a very intersting intellectual exercise – I like knowing that with attention and practice, I can eventually make something that does have a perfect fit for my own particular shape!

  2. Cari Homemaker says:

    I can't believe you traced off all the pieces so you could lay them out individually. My hat is off to you.That Modcloth plaid matching thing is seriously one of my pet peeves. They are forever putting up unmatched plaids, or even horizontal stripes for review by the people. The few pieces they have had for sale with the plaids actually matched are in the $200-300 price range. At least you know all your hard work will make you look like you shop expensively.

  3. Dana Gray says:

    Wow, some interesting thoughts on fitting. I think it's something that I do overthink, but I also really struggle with the ways that different fabric affect fit. I can be perfectly happy with the fit in one fabric and in another fabric it's just not quite right and I spend hours tweaking and re-tweaking. Lack of experience I guess.Did Palmer/Pletsch invent tissue fitting? I thought that was a very old technique but I'm not sure why I thought that.

  4. lisa g. says:

    i do think the book is a good resource to have and something i'll delve into more and more. i am at heart a perfectionist so yes, i'll tweak this and that… eventually i'll have a long list of changes i need to make to any given pattern. i think sometimes we paralyze ourselves with too much information! BUT, i do love that a comprehensive book like this exists to help point us in the right direction. overall, the book gets my thumbs up!

  5. lisa g. says:

    haha thanks! eventually i realized it would be FASTER to trace everything then risk screwing it up altogether!glad i'm not the only one peeved by the unmatching! once there was a $100-ish coat i spotted that was atrocious! couldn't believe how bad it was. that's what we get in the fast/cheap fashion culture i guess. no attention to detail!

  6. lisa g. says:

    i completely agree about different fabrics fitting differently. this plaid dress, even though it's 100% cotton and a woven, has a bit of stretch. i know it wouldn't fit the same in a different fabric. overall, i'm just trying to relax my expectations in regard to fit. i don't know if the tissue fitting is an older technique or not; perhaps they revived it. i would have to imagine that pin basting in the fashion fabric is something that would have been done a lot in time past. they do suggest cutting wider seam allowances and pin basting the seams to check fit. this would definitely help if you don't know exactly how a fabric is going to feel and behave.

  7. Barbara J says:

    You're right, sometimes there is just too much information about it and maybe more fuss too. I have drafted a sloper (skirt / bodice / pants) for myself and will have to really set some time to look how it compares to commercial patterns with ease added.I don't do tissue fitting mostly because like you there's no one here to help me also I download my patterns on regular paper so that will difficult to wrap around.What I will consider is to do a muslin for garments that I intend to spend much time on for eg. jackets and tweak from there.

  8. lisa g. says:

    i do think having a sloper is the way to go, and that's something i'm working toward. i try to avoid muslining unless it's really important, mostly i don't like the wasted fabric. i do agree, jackets and coats need a muslin! way too much work involved to end up with something that doesn't fit right!

  9. dixie says:

    i have the palmer/pletsch book for pants and tried the tissue fitting and gave up. it was just to hard to tell how real pants would fit with only one leg. i think i'll just be sticking with muslins. i know that sometimes plaids just can't be perfectly matched, or are only matched on one side but down the center back? puh-lease. that's just being lazy or dumb. i can't even believe they could sell that! especially the one with a piece that's upside down!!

  10. lisa g. says:

    i think the flat pattern alteration info is really great, but the tissue fitting method just isn't quite right for me. on plaids… i get that a side seam might be off, but CB is unforgivable!

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