Thursday, November 22, 2012

Does Size Matter?

There are a number of answers to that question.  As I am clearly plus sized - my answer is comfortably 'no', however, when it comes to sewing.  It does.  In a big way.  Let me explain . . . . .

This weekend I had the pleasure to attend a 'Fit for Real People' sewing class held by the lovely Janice in her home.  There were just two other ladies present so there was lots of one-on-one assistance.


The course is based upon the Pati Palmer and Marta Alto book of the same name.  Oh boy - what an eye opener!  Following a (very) interesting exercise where we drew round each others' bodies so we could 'see' what we looked like and compare ourselves to' standard' proportions we tried on upper body slopers.  Now this is where the fun started.  I have always purchased patterns based upon my bust measurement - it is the largest measurement and I can always take in the other areas.  Right?  Well, no - actually not.  Turns out that this is where I have been going wrong for so many years.  Turns out that I should have been using patterns based on my upper bust measurement - in other words, using a pattern THREE sizes smaller.  And guess what . . . . all the fitting problems that I have had in the past magically disappeared.

I have avoided fitted sleeves for as long as I can remember - not because I cannot set them in, but because I always looked like a line backer.  I recently bought a number of '80's sewing patterns because of their dropped shoulders - they would fit me, no problem. 

The same with the backs of tops and jackets - they were waaaay too big.  In fact, this can be seen in the back view of the cardigans that I have recently made, but I just passed this off as being 'casual'.  Janice showed me that I needed a FBA (Full Bust Adjustment) - I had heard of these but never really understood why they were required or when.  Oh, and one of the most irritating issues was that tops would slide down my back, raising the front neckline.  I was constantly pulling the front of my tops down.

And this is what my pattern pieces look like:


I should mention here that my dressmaker's dummy is somewhat smaller than the 'current me' - I think that I will have to trade her in for one more my size!  Anyway, there are a few adjustments made that will now have to be added to most of the patterns that I use in the future - but now I know what those adjustments will be:

  • 3" FBA
  • Drop the bust point 1"
  • 1/2" and 3/4"  back adjustment.
There are a couple of other minor adjustments that will make a 'perfect' fit of the sloper, and we will be refining them next week.  It was very interesting and helpful, commenting on the fit issues of my classmates and 'seeing' where the problem areas are and how to handle them.  I am just so pumped up with enthusiasm following this class, and look forward to the next one where we will also be fitting skirts.  It will mean a total change in my approach to sewing - as well as opening a whole new world of patterns as I now fit into mainstream patterns, and despite being plus-sized, the patterns don't have to be!! 

I plan to make some really great TNT patterns just like my heroine Carolyn - I would love to make some dresses and she truly is an inspiration.

The funny thing is (and you know, it is not really funny - it is quite obvious really) but my RTW clothes also have the same fitting issues.  Fancy that! 

The lovely Janice will be holding more classes (I think that I will just pay a retainer and attend them all!) and wants to set up a 'drop in' for us so we can discuss ongoing projects, get advice etc.  I really can't recommend this type of class enough.  Reading through the 'Fit' book this week it is clear that Janice has been following a set training schedule that is similar to a really good franchise such as using specific pins/tape/paper (all for very good reasons), following a step-by-step measuring process that gives accurate results etc., - and she is on first name terms with Pati Palmer - I'm smitten!

So you see - size does matter!


  1. Wow Lorraine, I wish I could attend one of those lessons too. I actually own the book you have mentioned but found it too hard to do solo so I gave up and am still fumbling around with other methods. I look forward to reading more about your progress. How many weeks will you be attending? Pity I live all the way in Australia! :( LOL

    1. This class is just two sessions (6 hours per session) and tomorrow we will be tissue fitting a 'fashion' jacket/blouse and a skirt and fabric fitting at least one as well. I did a quick search for you because I think this training is franchised (even down to using the sticky tape and pins mentioned in the book and following the measuring step by step) and came up with some links that might be of use to you!

  2. How wonderful that you can get together with others! I don't know anyone in my area who sews (other than quilts, and that just isn't the same). I have tried using upper bust measurements, and it really does help.

  3. I bought the it cover to cover...still none the wiser. Gleaned a few things like I needed to move my bust apex but FBA's etc just confuse me.
    I think I really need an expert to take me though it in person. Or make me a sloper.


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