Focus on Fit


After my class at Sewing Summit, I’ve been receiving numerous requests from the ladies who attended to publish the material I presented there, here. So to catch y’all up to speed, I did a lecture style class on fit and gave some advice on how to go about the fitting process with some ideas for resources and I demonstrated a few of my favorite alterations and adjustments. I feel that the number one reason people end up never sewing again, is fit. Fitting is frustrating. Oh my gosh, it is so frustrating! What I’ve also found is that while you can get the best fit by sewing for yourself, most times this is the result of a lot of hard work. Personally, I also find (lots to find out with fit!) that ready to wear clothing actually does fit me better than just trying to recreate the look with a sewing pattern. This also usually depends on the sewing pattern in question and the particular style/garment I’m after, but goodness gracious, it can be difficult.

I think the process of fitting a garment can not only be frustrating, but intimidating. Where do I start? What is the best course of action? Do I always have to make a muslin? When I make a muslin, what do I look for? Do I make more than one muslin? What is a muslin? How do I know that what I am looking at needs to be altered and at what point do I reach crazy, and jump off that train so as not toΒ overfit?

So I’ve decided to take you through the process that I go through when I’m looking at sewing a new sewing pattern plus we’re going to have some awesome discussions on different fitting related subjects. I’ll be showing you how to adjust a sewing pattern from a list of measurements – that you’ll take yourself – and from there how to create a proper muslin, what you’re looking and feeling for, my favorite fitting books for looking at your muslin to see what’s wrong and how to fix it and how it is possible to go through this process by yourself and fit yourself without a fitting buddy. A sewing/fitting buddy is awesome, but if you’re anything like me, and you’re fitting yourself at 11pm at night, its not like you can just call up your bestest fitting friend and tell them to get over here and help you out. Fitting is also a process. A long process when you have a fitted garment and sometimes you don’t get all the kinks out of the pattern until you’ve made it up a few times.

I’m really really excited to show you some of my tricks and I received permission to publish one of my favorite fitting tutorials here – one that came as a complete revelation to me and one that I’m pretty sure you’ll love too. Also, all the tutorials and posts for this series here on my blog are mostly finished – meaning they are practically ready to post any day! Yes! That’s means that I’ll be giving you bites every few days and you won’t have to wait and I won’t be a liar and well, you know how that goes.


To make matters even better, this is all going to lead back into my Pattern Play series that I kind of, sort of started at the beginning of this year. I’m actually getting kind of passionate about how hard it can be to fit a single pattern and then filling your closet with versions of that pattern – easy peasy changes to create a completely different look from one pattern.

So, look for fitting posts up and coming. I hope you’ll find my process not only informative, but also easy to follow and get a feel for. Fitting is not necessarily easy, but if you tackle it all one garment at a time, you will get the hang of it. It’s about practice and training. Kind of like running a marathon or playing a musical instrument – before your big debut, you have to have built up to it.

What do you think about fitting? Is it frustrating for you? What’s the most overwhelming part of the process?


39 thoughts on “Focus on Fit

  1. Thank you so much for doing this. I have taken a few classes from Craftsy on adjusting patterns and making a muslin. However, the “in-between” steps that you mentioned above aren’t often taught. I know everyone has there own process once they get going – however, it will be so nice to learn your approach to making pattern modifications, creating a muslin, and adjusting from there. Thanks for taking this time!!!!

  2. This is very exciting. I have read lots about fitting, but have never quite managed to put it properly into practice, so am always keen to learn more.

  3. Thank you very much for doing this. My daughter and I help each other fit patterns and have learnt a lot since 2008 when we first started doing this but we still have those “scratch our heads” moment when we have no idea what to do next. Looking forward to learning more.

  4. I’m VERY excited to learn from you about getting a good fit. The number one reason I focus (almost exclusively) on making kids’ clothes is because they are so easy to fit. No crazy curves. I seldom make anything for myself because it takes a long time to get the fit right, and I’m not very patient (aka – I don’t make muslins first) so I waste a lot of beautiful fabric in the process just wanting to sew quickly. Thanks for sharing your experience!!

  5. Thank you so much for doing this. Fitting is my big problem and the reason why I am not very productive. I have taken Craftsy lessons and acquired (and read) some fitting books and I am getting a lot better. Persistence is the key, which I didn’t apply until recently. I look forward to learning additional tricks from you.

  6. To be honest i enjoy this part in sewing. The first time i sewed a dress i pick my size on the pattern and got to work. i put it on and i did not fit at all. all that hard work down the drain. so i turn to sewing for my child. then years later i tried again but this time with fit for real people in had and many test garments i learned about my alteration and i took off. I really enjoy fixing pattern to my size. yes it took lots of work..but now it does not.

  7. I’m so glad you’re going to do this! I have so much trouble getting the right fit, because I never know what I need to fix, how I need to fix it, and where to stop fixing things and say “Yes, this does fit, actually.” My upper body is also weirdly shaped and doesn’t seem to fit into commercial pattern sizing, so sometimes I just get too too frustrated.

  8. Oh my! I’ve been waiting for something like this. I make muslins, but I don’t know what I’m looking for. Everything looks fine with the muslin. Then when I sew it out of fashion fabrics, I have to make more adjustments. I might have to sew a muslin as if it’s fashion fabric. I think that’s the best way for me. Fit is frustrating, but the perfect fit is everything.

  9. As a beginner, fit is the part of sewing I’m most intimidated by. Like Lene and Magda I wouldn’t know what to look out for. So thank you a lot for sharing your process, I’m very much looking forward to the series!

  10. I so agree with your comments on fitting…surely the biggest bug bear of all time even to seasoned sewers. I am also eager to learn [which is what I love about your site and posts] and will be logging in regularly to follow the course. If, like me, you have been sewing for yourself for many years, you think you know your own body – that can be a trap – one I’ve fallen into many times. Once I could walk into a shop, pick up a RTW and not even look in the direction of the fitting room, confident that it would fit – and it generally did. Now – all bets are off, and each garment is a bright new revelation. Which I why I make most of my clothes now – so fitting? Yes please!.

  11. I am new to sewing, just finishing up my fourth item and first dress. I had to make three muslins before I got close to a fit (most problems relating to my short stature, and large, and apparently low, bust). Now, after laboring over the dress for days, I won’t really know whether it fits until I insert the zipper today. Fit is so very important, and elusive for me, as I do not have a standard build. I have an inexpensive, dialable dress form, that seems to be worthless, because even if I get the bust, waist and hip measurements right, the distance between shoulders a bust, and bust and waist are completely wrong. For these reasons, I am very eager to learn every technique you are so generously about to impart. Thank you!

  12. I am so excited for this series! I *want* to sew for myself ~ I have a really difficult time finding clothing that fits me perfectly (of course, I don’t shop at pricier stores, where I might be more likely to find something πŸ˜‰ but you are correct; I get stumped on the fit.
    Another big problem for me is – the fabric. I prefer knits. I am a stay at home mom; knits suit my lifestyle…. but even among knits, there is such a vast difference in how they hang and wear. I’ve made things that fit well, only to have them begin to pill in just a few washes (and I always hang my clothes to dry after just a 10 minute tumble through the dryer) I’ve used my perfected pattern, and ended up with clothes that what the heck?!
    I am totally sold on the idea of using a tried and true pattern to build a wardrobe, too πŸ™‚

  13. I am trying SO hard right now not to let fitting myself being the reason I stop sewing. I have no one really to help me fit myself, so I’ve enlisted my husband to learn. Yesterday I made a muslin and we worked on fitting the bodice. Our accomplishment of the evening was that he pinned the back up for me so that I could see what it looked like on. At that point we had to take a break before we both went crazy. Baby steps, right?

    So a series on fitting yourself without help would be awesome! So looking forward to this.

  14. Looking forward to your posts! I made four shirts from the same simple sleeveless top pattern and finally felt like I got the fit right. Patterns seem to always be way too tight in the armscye and they gape at the back neck. I’d love to see advice on how to modify these spots, especially if there are sleeves or collars to take into account!

  15. Sunni, this will be great! I used to find fitting hard, until I became a technical designer and that was my job. I have found a certain order of fitting (i.e. fitting from the shoulders down) that works for me. It will be interested to hear your process.

  16. Thank you so much for your generous spirit in offering this course. When I was younger I had no difficulty using Vogue patterns size 12 and had only to add a couple of inches around the hips. Now either they have changed or I have, but now I get it very difficult to get a satisfactory fit. I think that nowadays I need guidance on how much ease is required, as I know this varies according to the style, and not the type of garment.

    Anyway keep up the good work I really enjoy your posts, I read them from head to toe and am happy that there are other people out there that still sew!

  17. Awesome idea, Sunni! I can’t wait to read more. I definitely feel fit can be intimidating. It’s the “what do I do NOW?” part that’s the most confusing to me when I have those moments. I may know something is wrong, but not always know what in the world to do *about* it.

  18. How exciting!! thank you so much πŸ™‚ I find it very frustrating…the whole process but what really dives me up the walls is the “what am i looking for?” part. and then the “how do i fix it?” sometimes i can’t find a word on the internet and i think i am a freak…anyhow, thanks and i am looking forward to this sereis πŸ™‚

  19. Fit is the most challenging part of sewing and why I have thrown away too much fabric. I look forward to reading your insights.

  20. As another new sewer I’m really looking forward to this. I started out with a pattern fitting course but the fitting myself I’m finding tough.

  21. I’m another relatively new sewist — rather, I’ve been sewing for the past twenty years, but only one thing a year and then I get pissy about it because it looks like a 12 year old made it.

    I’m “new” in the sense that in the past two years I’ve been learning about things like “fit” and “actually paying attention to what I’m doing”. I even have to make a muslin of pajama pants because, seriously, I have a pajama pant muslin that is somehow about 5 inches too big around the waist. Why I am incapable of choosing the correct pattern size is beyond me.

  22. i definitely look forward to reading these posts! i feel like i understand my main fitting issues, but it’s taken quite a while to get to that point. there’s always more to learn, so thank you for taking the time to post about this!

  23. I have been concerned that I am so slow finishing my muslins after having been working at this for a year and a half. It is good to know that it is not that I am just slow but it is hard for everyone until we figure it out. I keep saying I am going to be really good at this someday. Thank you for sharing what you know. Everything helps.

  24. Yes! This is awesome! I actually enjoy the fitting/muslin process most of the time, but it can be very frustrating. My biggest hurdle however, is suppressing the urge to wing it. I am bad at structure and discipline, and doing things the proper way. But when I do manage to keep myself in line, things usually turn out wonderfully in the end πŸ˜€

  25. For me, the most annoying part of fitting is seeing what I have to change on a muslin, but not being able to pin it on myself. No one else I know sews, much less knows how to pin! Since that is the first hurdle, I’m not sure what other obstacles would lie ahead, but that one is frustrating enough!

  26. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I desperately need this. I’m always so confused and lost when I make a muslin. I can see the problems, but I have no idea how to fix them. I was planning on making several Hawthorn dresses, but I got so frustrated with the fit that I just had to put it aside. I’m looking forward to these posts!

  27. I really appreciate your honest and direct approach — “it’s challenging, it takes practice and you can do it!” I look forward to this so much, and thank you in advance for all the work it takes to create these posts.

  28. I’m super excited that you’re doing this! I can’t wait to read them!

    I’ve gotten to the point where I know I always have to do a gaping neck adjustment and lengthen the waist. I don’t know if I have to do an sba until I make a muslin- and I always have to make a muslin. I’m always shocked when a pattern fits other people right out of the envelope and sometimes a little jealous πŸ˜‰

  29. Great series idea, really looking forward to it. I have found fitting much easier since I got a friend to help me make a duct tape mannequin of myself. She’s not perfect, but it’s much easier to see when I put the garment on Missy (as I call the headless ‘me’) and then play around with fixing it. And that in turn has helped me recognise issues that I can now fix on paper without the need for her. Who knew one shoulder was an inch lower than the other? Missy made that glaringly obvious, but I never would’ve noticed it on my body.

  30. Oh my god, I kneel down before you in sheer joy! Thank you for starting what seems like the perfect series for me. I have been sewing for some time and still scratch my head about fitting issues. In fact, my standby is simply running in the side seams. I am beginning to understand this is not nearly fixing fit issues. It’s interesting to try on some of my older makes and start to see their faults with more experienced eyes, but still not understand where to start. I am excited to read your posts!

  31. Oh my how happy am I about this πŸ™‚ The fit is what I do battle with always. It’s the joy of having the proportions of an exclamation mark all top no bottom. I don’t mind the hardwork involved but I agree the start point is the real sticking point with me. Can’t wait to read allabout it.

    Thanks so much πŸ™‚

  32. THIS IS FANTASTIC. I’m obsessed with perfect fit!! When I was in high school I had an impossible-to-fit shape and my mother made many perfect-fitting mini-skirts from the same pattern. I’ve finally realized that I still long for those perfect fitting (lined skirts) and have taken up sewing for just this reason.

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