Thoughts on Tissue Fitting

I love this book on Tailoring. I think its THE perfect supplement for making a tailored jacket at home. I was reading it through again to refresh my prepping steps for making my coat. I have my pattern cut and dry pressed and am ready to tackle a muslin, but first the book recommends a tissue fit. I also have the book, Fit For Real People and this book is all about tissue fitting. When I read Fit For Real People a few years ago, I thought the tissue fitting idea was brilliant and it looked so easy.

And then I tried it and then I tried it again and again. I have mixed feelings about tissue fitting. In the Tailoring book, the tissue fit is just a preliminary fitting to get a better fitting muslin. The making of a muslin is seriously encouraged for a tailored jacket or coat since so much work actually goes into it. I can definitely see the tissue fitting use here, as a preliminary fitting. But as a final fitting, I’m not so sure. Fit For Real People goes through several steps for using tissue fitting as the final fitting. Now granted, there are several things you have to do, like make a fitting shell and know what your usual adjustments are and even after the tissue fitting, you’ll still be pin fitting the fabric in certain stages of the garment construction. I have made a fitting shell, but I find that since design ease can vary so much from pattern to pattern and from decade to decade its not entirely a reliable source to fit with. Not only that, it was a Butterick fitting shell. So really, it only works good for Butterick, McCall’s, Vogue and possibly Simplicity and not so good for the independent pattern companies which have a completely different sloper from which to base their patterns. All in all, I usually just end up making a muslin because then I know that I’ll get the fit right. I also find that I can’t see certain adjustments I need to make very well with the tissue. And they’re adjustments that I would need to make before I cut anything, you know. Like a sway back or broad shoulder adjustment. Those can’t just be worked in when you’re needing more than say a 1/2 inch adjustment. Now pin fitting the fabric, sure. That’s great advice because more times than not, I don’t do a muslin out of a identical/similar fabric. I just use as good a muslin as I can get my hands on.

What are your thoughts on tissue fitting? Have you read the Fit For Real People book (which is a great book for fitting even if you’re not into tissue fitting)? The idea of tissue fitting always looks much easier with another person helping you out too. And since, I’ve got a personal fitter right here with me…. Does tissue fitting work for you? If it does, what are some secrets you could share with the class here?



33 thoughts on “Thoughts on Tissue Fitting

  1. I have never had luck with tissue fitting myself- I wouldn’t drape with tissue, why fit with it? You know if you fit that Butterick sloper to you like a glove, you can use it as a base to alter all your patterns because it’ll be an outline of your upper body. Just fit it without any ease, and then when you make changes draft the ease in. That way any adjustments will be already built into that ease-less sloper.

  2. I am a convert to the tissue fit, I recently attended the palmer/pletsch workshop on fit in portland and it was fantastic. Marta and Pati are fantastic at teaching how to get the most out of tissue fitting. Before I couldn’t tell anything from doing a tissue fit, I thought it was a silly exercise but now I can’t praise it highly enough. When I got back home I tested a few of the patterns I tissue fit and adjusted at the workshop in muslin and they are perfect – it’s really amazing. I feel so much more confident when i pin the tissue together now and examine it that I can tell most of my fit issues- the one thing they do say is to do the adjustments in steps and refit the tissue after each step and I think this helps to highlight adjustments like sway back etc that you don’t always see at the first tissue fitting. I do think though for something that you’re going to spend a lot of time and energy on like a tailored coat that theres no harm doing a toile to be a 100% sure that you’re happy with the fit and design after a tissue fitting.

  3. I’ve tried to tissue fit-I really have. But I find it just short of a complete waste of time. I do use it to check length, but otherwise, I have a hard time finding wrinkles & such. Also I love sewing with knit fabrics, and since tissue doesn’t stretch, it’s virtually impossible to get a good idea from it.

  4. I have made muslins for every project, except for my last where I ditched the muslin and tissue fitted only. I felt like a naughty kid missing out the muslin stage – but the tissue fitting worked a treat ! The dress fit perfectly once it was made up, and I am seriously considering whether I need to make a muslin every time I sew for future (relatively simple) projects. I imagine with a coat a muslin is an essential part of the fitting process. I found that tissue fitting was easy once I had all my measurements clear, I need to spend some time measuring and adjusting the tissue before fitting it, and I would say it is essential that you have someone to help you out with the fitting. Overall tissue fitting gets a definite thumbs up from me :-)) Cant wait to see your coat made up ! Xx

  5. I’ve tried tissue fitting, but with my current set-up, it doesn’t seem to work very well. I always seem to tear the tissue, especially while trying to adjust the back, and the pins typically fall out. Also, the tissue just doesn’t act like fabric, so the muslins I make based on tissue fits end up looking bizarre. If I had a dress form or a sewing partner, it would no doubt work much better. Unfortunately, at present I have neither, so I tend to stick with muslins where I can slash/spread/pin in filler fabric to my heart’s content.

  6. It depends. If the style is relatively simple and doesn’t have a lot of pieces (or weird darts), I’ll usually just tissue fit (or trace the pattern on some sturdy, non fusible interfacing and use the same way–but it doesn’t rip like tissue!). I’ve found that usually this eliminates the bigger issues I have: like if I need an SBA, lengthening a bodice, or adjusting the distance between darts. But for more complicated garments (or those that I’m using pricey fabric on!), I always got with a muslin mock up.

  7. I do have that book, and I’m still trying to figure out this whole tissue fit thing myself. So far, the only pattern I’ve tried it on is Tasia’s Pendrell blouse– I didn’t want to bother with a muslin since I was just using some poly satin that had been in my stash for ages for the final, and I knew I’d probably have to make an FBA. I think I could still tweak it further, but it seems to have worked pretty well overall. I think I’ll probably end up trying it a couple more times this fall, for some jackets and skirts I want to make (though I’ll probably end up muslining at least one of the jackets, too. I feel like tissue fitting would be harder since the whole point is to wear it over top of other things, you know?)

    I think I’ll stick with muslins for pants, though. There’s just soooooooo many adjustments I have to make, and I’d tear my pattern to shreds just trying to turn around to see them all!

  8. Sunni I looked into this Tailoring book and it’s very expensive over on Amazon but is sold on Kindle. I have a Kindle but not sure how I’d like a book like that on there. However the Kindle Fire is coming out next month and I’m getting one so it should be in color there.
    Anyway I have never done tissue fitting and in the 50’s we were not taught this in school where I learned to sew. I have seen it mentioned from time to time on the net. All this fitting is not easy when you don’t have a girl friend around when you are doing it (who has a knowledge of sewing and fitting.)

  9. When I started sewing many years ago, tissue fitting was the norm. First a great deal of measuring of body compared to pattern, adjust tissue, tissue fit and adjust on the body if necessary. Then a fitting/s of the garment would be made in the sewing process. It worked extremely well. I still go straight to the pattern with my tape measure when using a tissue pattern. I use this same method when making pants and have very few problems even when sewing for others with bodies of various shapes.

    I seem to sew more for others than myself now. Normally I make my own patterns from a basic fitted shell in heavy weight muslin, duck or canvas (which seems to be thinner than in the past). This is the closest I get to making a muslin. I transfer this shell pattern to a heavy weight paper product so that I do not handle the fabric and cause stretching as I make a new design. Making my own patterns also allows more manageable seam allowances than the standard 5/8″. But, being able to do make my own designs and patterns took a bit of time and failure. Now it is the designing and figuring how to accomplish it with sequential steps, what kind of stitches, notions, etc. that delight me. When I get stumped I go for a drive to think….and be alone to do the thinking. One particular dress was more drive than sewing!

    I would like to say that whether making a muslin or going the tissue fitting method and fitting with garment fabric, that fusible interfacing on the seam lines prevents stretching of the fabric and stay stitching does not. Stay stitching was useful to an extent before fusible interfacing but this is a new time with better methods. Fitting a seam is way too much handling to not have stretching that cause problems.

    I didn’t realize that the sewing world of today use muslins so much until I really got into reading sewing blogs. It made me pause and consider my sewing skills. Certainly, in the past, muslins were used by the couture houses and by some seamstresses for hire, but not always so in home sewing. A sewer had a favorite pattern company and would use that company’s patterns as they knew what adjustments were needed with that company’s basic fit. Or, if they sewed an extreme amount, knew what adjustments needed to be made with each company’s patterns. (Each pattern and RTW companies have a fit model that is unique) So, I am a bit befuddled by this trend of making a muslin all the time.

    I do like the idea of a muslin when certain items are made or if a very expensive fabric is used. However, at the same time, the heft and drape of the garment fabric can react differently if the muslin is made from a fabric other than the garment fabric even when the two fabrics seem similar. A fitting in the garment fabric will still need to be made, just as in tissue fitting. I’m not convinced that making a muslin, in most cases, will make a better fitting garment. Although, I do make a muslin when doing suits or formal/bridal dresses. It just makes me feel less anxious.

    I would be curious to know if, with the restraints of time and money, some prospective sewers are discouraged when they read about muslins as the norm. If so, what a shame! I think it would have stopped my impatient young self and definitely would have done away with the reason for sewing back then, which was saving money.

    1. Thank you for your comment! Oh yes, it discourages me to read about muslins as the norm πŸ™‚
      I have just started to sew. My sewing is so slow anyway, making a muslin would take me ages without seeing results.

  10. One of my sewing idols is Gigi Louis and I was in a class with her some time ago. She told me she had been to a week-long Palmer Pletsch class (in Portland, I think) and she uses tissue fitting exclusively. I quizzed her about it and I gather that Marta and Pati really know their stuff and teach it very thoroughly. When you think about it, a week should be enough time to really learn a lot. It seems to me that once you get a good sense of your own body, and once you’ve developed the fine motor skills to handle the tissue without ripping it, tissue fitting works.
    I would love to take a class. Not only do you learn your own fitting adjustments, you can learn by watching all the other students get fitted. I still can’t tissue fit on myself, but I can tissue fit on my dress form and I am pretty happy with that when the pattern is simple enough.
    I will always make a muslin if there is any doubt.
    I wasn’t taught anything about fitting at all when I learned. Everything I have learned about fitting has been from books like FFRP, classes with great teachers and online.

  11. I also took the Palmer/Pletsch fitting workshop in Portland, and it revolutionized my sewing. I can troubleshoot most of my fitting issues in tissue and rarely muslin. I use mostly Big 4 patterns, so many of the adjustments are the same. I’ve also tissue fit for Burda patterns, and found similar fitting issues. I highly recommend “FFRP”. I only wish I’d found it sooner — it would have saved me BIG $$ in past wadders.

  12. I never tissue fit. I just measure all my pieces, subtract my seam allowances and put the measuring tape around the appropriate body part. Ie. I measure the top of the shoulder to the end of the sleeve, subtract the seam allowances and ensure that they are long enough.

  13. I have tried tissue fitting as a way to reduce the amount of muslins I need to make but to be honest found it to be quite useless. Paper will never behave like any fabric and it’s so complicated to assess fitting issues on paper that is crinkled because you had to crinkle it to make it fit around your curves, Does that make sense, lol. Maybe it’s easier with someone else helping but I gave up and decided on muslin only.

  14. By yourself it must be quite fiddly to do, and I just know I’d rip the tissue – which is not good when the only tissue patterns I have are vintage!
    Done properly, I expect this would give a good idea of fit, and for ordinary garments you could abandon a muslin. It probably takes quite a while to do though. I have a cheap and ready supply of calico and prefer to spend 15 minutes whipping up a calico, which gives an even better idea of fit!
    I make patterns from heavier weight paper, but I still hold the piece up to me to roughly check things like bust shaping, style lines, sleeve length/width, etc. What I am doing is the same as a very basic tissue fit – which is still worth doing to give you a rough guide, muslin or no muslin.
    Look forward to seeing your coat Sunni!

  15. I’m cautiously optimistic with tissue fitting. I’ve used it for a few garments and I’ve had excellent results, but I’m nervous that my good luck will catch up with me, since I’ve heard of so many people who have had bad experiences tissue fitting.

  16. I think a tissue fitting works in theory but I personall end up making a muslin anyway. My measurements are usually in several different collumns so to tissue fit would be not only stressful for the pattern but not a really good measure of fit. And besides, makng a a muslin is good practice for me BEFORE I cut the good stuff! (and I still need the practice since I just recently come back to sewing and am trying out new patterns)

  17. My sewing instructor is Palmer/Pletsch certified and we do tissue fitting. I never have finished a piece a garmet with this method, but have seen good results from other classmates. We are doing trench coats this semester. Hopefully, I’ll get good results.

  18. I’ve been very impressed with the Fit for Real People videos. On the Full Bust video, Marta shows how to tissue fit several tops to several different “real people”, and then follows up with fabric fitting. On the Pants Fitting and Pants Sewing videos, they demonstrate tissue fitting and fabric fitting. What I really liked was that Patti showed how to tissue fit pants on yourself, without help, which is probably what many of us have to deal with.

    Thanks so much for your blog!

  19. I think it depends on the tissue. I’ve heard about a special kind of Swedish pattern paper that is you can fit and even sew. But ordinary pattern paper? No, I don’t see the point in fitting that, esp if I don’t have help with the fitting.
    For my coat I first made a bodice muslin in thin cotton, to just test the pattern for basic changes. then I altered that one until I had made the major pattern changes I wanted. Then I cut a muslin from a denim twill cotton (might still become a long summer jacket) to perfect the fit in a material that was closer to the coatings thickness (did I mention I’m a slow sewist? =) ). Would a simple tissue fit have done the trick instead? Doubtful. Very doubtful.
    For simpler designs though, I would love to try the pattern paper one can sew!

  20. I would love tissue fitting to be as easy as it looks in Fit for Real People. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not as easy for a few reasons. I don’t have anyone the exact same size as me that I could do the tissue fitting on & I find it extremely difficult to assess on myself. It takes (me) quite a while to mark out all the seam allowances & pin it properly at regular intervals. I’m clumsy & often tear the tissue. Last but not least I’m quite precious about my patterns. I often don’t cut them & instead trace what I need. The idea of completely slicing & dicing the patterns doesn’t sit well with me, I always sit there thinking, but what if I put on 10 kilos & in 20 years time want to use this exact pattern? What will I do then?

    All in all I’ll stick with the muslins. πŸ™‚

  21. I think that tissue fitting is great if someone is sewing for you and they are very familiar with fitting this way. My mother (Sunni’s Aunt Vickie) is an exellent example of a wonderful tissue fitter. She nearly always tissue fits and the garments that she makes always(and really always) fit flawlessly. However, this is how she was taught to fit garments from the begining of her sewing days. I was NEVER successful at this type of fitting! I always had the best luck at muslin (or as my sweet mother-in-law called it) “junk fabric pre fit”. We would pre make the entire (minus the finishing stiches) garment using a very large stitch or the serger then fit from there. This works for me…however I have not made any clothes for a while, sniffle I need to get back to it.

  22. I agree with the folks who’ve said that it’s good for the big, basic alterations, but I haven’t had great experiences when I rely on it too much (though I’d be really interested to take a class as it seems if you learn it properly, you can make it work better). For example – I know that I usually need a FBA of between 1-3 inches, and usually need to shorten hems. I use tissue fitting to first check if the pattern size I’ve picked is way off, then to work out the amount of FBA or if I need to move the bust dart down, to check the back width, or the length (the latter usually amounts to holding the pattern piece up against my leg – yeah, I’m quite lazy!). For finer adjustments I haven’t had great results with tissue, so I’ll either make a muslin, make a not-quite-perfect wearable muslin, or for things like skirts or trousers, add a bit to the seam allowances in areas where I need it (hello, waist two sizes larger than hips, I’m talking to you). I think I’ve over-relied on tissue in the past without fully understanding it, which is why I don’t use it as much as I used to!

  23. I just bought FFRP, and though I haven’t read it cover to cover yet, I do agree… tissue fitting is great in theory, but until I have a set of slopers, muslins will still be necessary. I am looking forward to completing some of the exercises in the book, just to really figure out the alterations I should be making. Also, I’ve turned into a pattern tracer, especially with the more expensive patterns. And kraft paper doesn’t allow for tissue fitting in quite the same way as flimsy pattern tissue!

  24. I, too, think tissue fitting is wonderful in theory, but having tried it myself (and I’m nowhere near an experienced seamstress, though I’ve a few dresses & skirts under my belt), can’t say it works all that well. The paper doesn’t drape well (especially if you’re curvy), it tears too easily, and as others have mentioned, if you’re sewing on your own as many of us are, it’s really difficult to manipulate!

    I will do a tissue fit for skirt/dress length, as I’m pretty short and usually get to lop 4-6″ off the hem of every dress or skirt. And I’ll carefully, carefully fit bodices just to double-check the bust darts, but with the knowledge that an FBA is in my future, as is a waist-nipping. Maybe if I learned from the mistresses of tissue fitting I’d be better off, but for now, I trust my muslins more!

  25. I love that tailoring book too. The instructions are clear and the illustrations do exactly that. With help of the book I was able to confidently venture into a tailored jacket for my husband.

  26. I have to admit that I use FFRP more for how to make the necessary adjustments than for the actual tissue fitting. I rely much more on my tapemeasure and comparing my measurements to the pattern piece measurements and the info on the pattern. I know I nearly always need a FBA, so I use FFRP to ascertain the best way to make the extra room. Sometimes I just jump in and pin fit as I go (once I’ve done the flat pattern alteration based on my measurements) sometimes I’ll muslin the garment to check the fit. Really, it comes down to how precious the fabric is!

    Reading the comments thought it does seem that a proper course makes a huge difference on the success of the technique, but I’m happy with my process at the moment. As I develop and my knoweldge increases and my eye becomes ever more critical I imagine my methods will evolve…

  27. I love the Plestch and Palmer books on fitting, but tissue fitting does not seem to work for me either. I think the more bumps and valleys you have, the more difficult it is to get an idea of what is really happening. Flat pattern measuring and a muslin are the only way I can be sure I can get sufficient insurance that I am not making a colossal mistake (and even then I end up with more than my share of wadders!)

  28. I only tissue fit when doing a full bust adjustment (using Palmer Pletsch’s Full Busted DVD) or checking the waistband on a skiers. I make a muslin for just about everything. I love Palmer Plestch books and dvds.

  29. Tissue fitting is just about impossible without a friend. I recently bought the Palmer Pletch book and absorbed its contents. .Drew a body map and understood my figure variants so I knew that the problem was not for example, sloping or square shoulders, and also my torso is longer than the pattern sloper standard. Very helpful basic info. Got the Mc Calls Fit Pattern to complete the process. I made the fit pattern up, pinning seams only. However to make life easier, I put a ZIP up the front so I could get it on and off easily. Started with the back adjustments, then length and then bust points until a perfect fit. Then tested on old patterns that I had written ‘yuck’ comments on, re drew them as per my basic, sewed them up and ‘perfect’. I do incorporate design ease as I prefer, and think carefully about shoulder and neckline width adjustments with darts and/or ease to maintain integrity. I have also successfully resized patterns up to two sizes smaller than I using my basic sloper. I have a basic dress dummy also which I have padded out to more closely imitate my shape. That helps alot too. I am 99% self taught, trial and mostly error until now.

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