How to make any sewing pattern fit YOU!

Sewing your own clothes is a rewarding and empowering skill. It allows you to create unique pieces that reflect your personal style. However, one of the biggest challenges in sewing is achieving a perfect fit. Commercial sewing patterns are often designed to fit standard body measurements, which can leave many of us struggling with ill-fitting garments. But don't let this discourage you! With the right techniques and method, you can adjust any sewing pattern to fit just the way you want it to! No more wasted fabrics and fruitless hours of unproductive second-guessing... 

I will guide you through the Better Fit Method, a structured approach to customising sewing patterns to suit your body shape. This is the method I use when making a new sewing pattern to ensure I choose the correct size, achieve the amount of ease I like, and tackle any fit issues that arise. It’s also the foundation of my online course Better Fit Academy, where I take students through each step of the method and teach you how to determine which pattern alterations you need and how to confidently implement them. Whether you're a seasoned sewist or a beginner, these tips will help you create garments that not only look great but also feel comfortable and are something you’re proud to wear!

You don't have to become a professional pattern maker to create a good fit - you just have to learn exactly which alterations you need to create the perfect fit for you.

The Better Fit Method, an overview:

  1. Take Your Measurements
    Accurate measurements are the foundation of a perfect fit. Make sure you are taking your measurements accurately. 

  2. Determine the Ease in the Pattern
    Understand the difference between design ease and wearing ease, and learn your preferred amount of ease, as this is very individual.

  3. Choose Your Size
    Selecting the right size can be tricky. General guideline: choose the most important measurement for the garment and pick the size that is closest to your body measurement. For tops and dresses choose a size based on your high bust measurement (make a small/full bust adjustment when necessary). For skirts it's often a good idea to choose a size based on the waist measurement. Trousers depend on the design, preferred adjustment method, and preferred ease; pick a size based off of the waist or seat measurements. 

  4. Do You Need to Grade Between Sizes?
    Very few people are one size from top to bottom. Learn how to grade between sizes for a better overall fit. The key is to create smooth lines and always true the seams that are going to be sewn together.

  5. Test a Paper Toile (woven garments)
    Before cutting your fabric, create a paper toile to check the basic fit and make initial adjustments. Use tissue paper for example. This step is great to determine if you need any major adjustments right off the bat, and also to make any changes to the design, such as changing the shape of the neckline, sleeve length etc. Evaluate the design and decide if you want to make any stylistic changes.

  6. Check Bust, Waist, Hip, and Side Seams
    Assess critical areas for fit issues and make necessary alterations. Make sure the bust/waist/hip/side seams hit at the correct place on your body. 

  7. Make Your Initial Adjustments
    Adjust your pattern based on the paper toile feedback. Start with the most "invasive" adjustment (such as bust adjustments for example) and work your way to smaller adjustments and tweaks. If you are unsure - make one alteration at a time and test the result. This way you will learn the most and figure out what works and how your alterations affect the fit. If you make too many adjustments at once you won't know which ones were good and which ones you can skip. 

  8. Make Your First Toile in Fabric
    Sew a mock-up garment in fabric to test the fit before cutting into your final fabric. You can use a cheap fabric like a second hand bedsheet for example, just make sure the fabric is as close to the intended fabric as possible. For knit garments you need to use a knit fabric with a similar stretch percentage. 

  9.  Fit Your Toile - From Top to Bottom
    Analyse the fit of your fabric toile, starting at the top and working your way down, noting any adjustments needed. Start at the shoulder seam for bodice patterns and at the waist for trousers/skirts. 

  10. Pin and Mark on Your Toile
    Use pins and fabric markers to indicate where changes are necessary. Take your time, experiment and test what happens when you pinch, tuck, fold, pin, etc. This is where your understanding of fit will come from. 

  11. Record Yourself
    Take photos or videos of yourself in the toile to better see fit issues and document the process. Prop your phone up on a table for example and step away to get a good view. 

  12. Transfer to Pattern
    Transfer all the adjustments from your toile back to your paper pattern to finalize it. If the pattern gets cluttered with a lot of adjustment lines - trace it onto a new, clean piece of tissue paper so you don't get confused. Make sure the pattern lays completely flat when you've made your adjustments. A flat pattern is just that - flat! 

  13. Make a Second Toile
    Create a second toile to confirm that all adjustments have resulted in the perfect fit. 

  14. Repeat steps 5-13 until you are satisfied with the fit! 

By following these steps, you’ll be able to tackle any sewing pattern with confidence, ensuring a perfect fit every time. Let's get started on the journey to perfectly fitting garments!

If you want to learn more - check out Better Fit Academy here

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