4 tips for fitting a sewing pattern

Fitting is probably my very favorite sewing-related topic. I am a true fitting nerd. I’m drawn to pattern reviews that talk measurements and adjustments (and I get frustrated when these details aren’t included, if I’m being honest).

4 tips for fitting a sewing pattern

Here on this blog, my goal is to provide as much fitting information as possible, to demystify the process. We have a wealth of tutorials and posts about fitting, including our Fitting Room blog series.

But if you’re just learning to fit yourself, that might feel like too much information. So today, I wanted to share just my top tips for fitting a sewing pattern.

4 tips for fitting a sewing pattern, whether you're a beginner or seasoned.

1. Start small

Fitting is about determining your preferences. You don’t have to adjust everything; heck, you don’t have to adjust anything if you don’t want to. If you like the way it fits, great, you’re done! If not, choose one area to start with and go from there.

Me, I always focus on the shoulder and/or bust fit first. In fact, for a long time, the bust was the only thing I ever adjusted. Since then, I’ve learned that there are some other areas I should check on a garment. Despite that, I still have several shirts from those early days that fit quite well, and that I wear often.

If you need help with this, we have a number of bust adjustment tutorials, including how to move a bust dart, how to do a dartless pivot-and-slide bust adjustment, how to add a bust dart to a pattern. If you’re sewing a Liesl + Co. pattern, many of them already include full bust adjustment instructions.

2. Make a muslin

I’m not one of those people who thinks you should always make a muslin. I am more likely to make a muslin on a garment that is put together differently than I’m used to. For example, I rarely muslin a button-front shirt anymore, but I made a bodice muslin when I sewed the Saint-Germain Wrap Dress because I’ve never sewn anything with that sort of shape before and I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to make adjustments on the fly.

That said, if you’re sewing something unfamiliar, or if you really just don’t have any idea how something will fit, definitely make a muslin. It doesn’t take long and, if you have an old sheet or unloved quilting cotton yardage laying around, it doesn’t cost you much either. We have a post on making a muslin here.

3. Take notes

A year from now, you won’t remember how big an FBA you did on that shirt you just sewed, nor how much you lengthened that skirt. But at some point, you may want a point of reference, so save that information!

I post about my garments on my personal blog, including all relevant fitting details and measurements so that I can refer to them later. If you don’t blog, try keeping a notebook with a few notes about your makes. As you build fitting knowledge, you will want to refer back these measurements. You will thank yourself later, I promise.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Chances are, you’re never going to fit a garment to absolute perfection. There’s always going to be a wrinkle or a drag line that you don’t like. But remember, you made it. And that’s awesome. And I’m willing to bet that it fits you better than if you bought it in a store.

So there they are, my top tips. What about you? Are you already a fitting nerd with your own favorite tips? If so, please share them in the comments!

If you are just starting the journey of making customized clothing for yourself, what is the biggest challenge you face? Let’s talk fitting!



 

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Masha. Thank you for this post and your Saint Germaine and others I have read. I am new to fitting. Most of my sewing up until this Covid Time has been for daughter and grandkids – not for myself. The main obstacle has been fit. I have been immersing myself in the Leisl & Co patterns, as well as the site. I have invested in the Palmer Pletsch book. What I am finding is that it can be difficult to “see” myself. I take photos of myself but am sometimes not sure what I am seeing, especially in the back. I got lost in the Saint Germain muslin – trying too many adjustments – not sure if they helped or if I needed some of them at all. So I stopped and started again with muslins of the Montauk trousers and the Getaway blouse. And now the Camp shirt. These were great forays into fitting. Making the muslins was super helpful. I am almost finished sewing all 3 patterns in fabric and I have learned so much. I’ll post photos soon. After this, I may be ready to return to the Saint Germaine. Nirmala

  2. Chris W

    I just made a Gallery Tunic (what a terrific pattern – the placket is genius!). I took the leap to do a sloped shoulder adjustment and high round back adjustment. I struggled with which one to do first. I finally s
    tarted with the sloped shoulder and it came out fine, but I still wonder…….

  3. Natalie JSP

    I have a full size difference between my bust measurement and my shoulder width ( broad shoulders). I haven’t yet figured out how to adjust a pattern for this issue so there is no tightness or pulling in the finished garment. This really only applies to woven fabrics, which I prefer to wear. I always look for patterns with dropped or looser shoulders because of this. Close-fitting garments aren’t even on my radar. Some day I will tackle this issue….

  4. Liz

    Thank you, this is such a helpful article! I love the tip on taking notes. I feel intimidated by bust darts. I’m not always sure how they should fit and what I need to do to adjust them.

  5. Kay

    My biggest pattern making/fitting challenge is designing clothing for my 15 month old granddaughter who does not live close enough for trial fittings. I purchased a basic long sleeve tshirt and leggings. Then traced the actual size of each part of the garments on a roll of large tracing paper. Then I had her mom take photos in the outfit so I can refer to them as I work on future garments.

  6. Katie

    My favorite way to keep track of my fitting adjustments is an Excel sheet. I track size, fabric & amount used, notes of the changes I tried and how they worked out. There’s a spot for potential future changes, too. It has helped me a lot to be able to set something aside and then come back to it for a second look. I can also see which size I made for which kid last. Since I don’t put tags in my self-made items, the spreadsheet keeps it straight for me.

  7. Your tips are perfect Masha, and would have been my top tips too! I’m a big advocate of not overfitting and getting stressed about it. It’s supposed to be enjoyable and nobody will EVER notice the things you do. Especially if they’re not sewists themselves. Anyway, another similar tip I thought of that I find really invaluable is to use resources like social media (look up the pattern hashtag on Instagram eg. #chavalcoat) or on some of the pattern review forums and see how the pattern looks on other people. If you can find someone whose body is a bit like your own it helps SO much – and you can also read which pattern adjustments they made! It’s really helped me out before.

  8. This was very useful. Thank you Masha.

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