Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Multiple Muslin Mentors

While the studio work was being done, I spent some time studying better fit keeping in mind my goal to simplify the process. I studied Pati Palmer's, Sandra Betzina's, Sarah Veblen's, Peggy Sager's, and Lynda Maynard's techniques in particular and have combined tips from my multiple muslin mentors to develop a system that works for me. In the end, I want a sloper of my shape to compare to patterns to make any necessary adjustments up front and increase my success ratio. Both Lynda and Peggy illustrate this process and it makes so much sense. Why keep re-inventing the wheel. Let's get to the good stuff faster.

I also want to fit myself by myself and have realized that all I need is one person - me - because I know exactly what I want to accomplish and I'm the only one I can count on being around when I need me. While there's a little more taking the muslin on and off using the self-fitting process, that's okay because I eventually get exactly where I'm going with a lot less frustration than I've experienced trying to explain to someone else what I want. Surprisingly - LOL - they haven't watched all the videos I've watched or read all the books I've read.

On Sunday, I watched Lynda Maynard's Craftsy course Sew The Perfect Fit. It's fabulous and clearly illustrates the process of fitting the garment. If you're wondering how to go about making a muslin, I highly recommend this course only - LOL - I do a few things differently.

Lynda uses Vogue 8766, view D, with a fitted bodice, waist seam, darted skirt, and set in sleeve. Any pattern like that will work. Vogue 8766 is a multi-sized pattern and yet in the demo a singular size was cut. That made absolutely no sense to me because it's much easier to fit when there is enough circumference to begin with. I used the Butterick 5627 fitting shell for my upper body because it comes with cup sizes, is already drafted with 1" seams, and clearly marks the different fitting lines and options. I merged it with...

... the fitted skirt in McCall's 3830 because I needed a lot more hip width than the singular bodice size provided. Working this way made things a lot easier as did...

... using a zipper. Most of the fitting instructions I've read say not to use a zipper and to instead pin yourself into the garment. That's really hard to do by yourself and incredibly fiddly if you're taking it on and off repetitively. What I do instead is stitch the left and right, front and back, skirt and bodice sections together and then seam them at the middle. Then I pin the shoulder seams, put the garment on over my head, pin the underarm seam, and make any adjustments necessary to the shoulder to bust, bust to waist, and waist to hip lengths. I stitch those tucks by machine, press them, and then baste a zipper down center front so I can get in and out. It doesn't have to be pretty. It just needs to work. After that, I pin fit the side seams.

As you can see, I also cut off the seam allowance at the neckline - and the hem allowances - as they get in the way so what's the point. With the first bodice, I needed a 1" adjustment to the center front and center back length. On one of the videos, it said to begin adjusting with the back because it's much easier to see what you need there without the interference of the bust line. I could feel the extra fabric in the back and see in the front that I needed to adjust the bust level so I pinned the tuck in the front and then...

... pinned it in the back. In both cases, I pinned through the armhole because I wanted to determine if I should be making the adjustment above or below the armhole. Do you see those pushed down wrinkles at the back underarm and how the drawn line bends downward at the side? Those both indicate that the armhole is too high so in the second muslin I made the 1" adjustment below the armhole to confirm that positioning and at the same time moved the bust point back down 1/2" and took the other 1/2" out between the bust and waist. At one point, I worked on the bodice and the skirt separately. This is optional but I found it helpful.

You can see that my lines are drawn with felt pen. Apparently that's a no-no and will compromise the integrity of the muslin except it was never stated HOW and without an explanation that makes sense, it seems to me that a lightly drawn felt line is easier to see and quicker to make and no less intrusive than a stitched line. I've used it for years and it works so good and enough although...

... I learned a new way to mark the lines with tracing paper and a wheel. After cutting out the pattern piece, roll the wheel across the lines with the tracing paper underneath marking the under side of the bottom layer and then...

... take off the pattern tissue, put in a few stabilizing pins, turn the fabric over, and trace over the lines you just drew marking the opposite side. After tracing, I then drew with felt pen over those lines as they were quite faint.

As you can see, my fabric is somewhat wrinkly. Some instructors are very particular about how pristine the muslin fabric is. I could have pressed this image first but really I smoothed the fabric before cutting out the pieces and pinned securely. The fit is more likely to be affected by what I ate for breakfast and which undergarments I'm wearing than these slight wrinkles... which are now pressed out.

The Butterick fitting shell pattern comes with three options for shoulder lines. The narrowest one fit my shoulder perfectly although I squared out the shoulder line by 3/8". My right shoulder seems to be more sloped than my left. I'm not sure if I'm going to worry about that or not in the future but for the purposes of this sloper, I'm ignoring it.

In her webcasts, Peggy often comments that there is no anatomical mark on the body that designates the side seam or the shoulder seam... which there isn't... but she doesn't say how you know where to put that seam. With the underarm seam, I'm guessing that you put it where it looks pleasing and balanced however, with the shoulder seam Lynda mentions in the Craftsy course that the shoulder seam is not supposed to be visible at eye level from the back or the front. If you can see it from the front, it's too far forward and if you can see it from the back, it's too far to the back. That's helpful and could be applied to the sides seam. If you can see it from the front...

In this image, you can see how much I increased the waist to merge with my hip size. This creates a winged out look to the side seam so I decreased the size of the original dart by....

... cutting up the center of the dart and over to a hinge at the side seam. Then I moved the tissue the other way overlapping and decreasing the original dart to half the size while transferring the other half to the side seam to create a better line.

The bottom is filled in and the new narrower shape of the dart is redrawn. It's orange. There are a lot of lines on this tissue. It's rather messy but I'm ready to test the final version with 5/8" as opposed to 1" seam lines and once everything has been confirmed, I'll redraw a neater sloper on card stock for repeated use.

The last time I made a muslin, I hired a seamstress to help me and we ended up pinning this and pinning that and there were way more adjustments than I have determined in this process working by myself. As instructed by all the mentors, I started at the top making sure the shoulder slope was correct and then moved down to the bust point, the waist, and the hips. I'm about to put the sleeves in and perhaps that will change things but at this point, the only alterations I've made are to square the shoulders, shorten CF and CB by 1", and add sufficient circumference for my pear shaped figure. That's minimal. Apparently, I've been over-working things. You think ! ! ! ! LOL

In Sarah Veblen's book The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, she writes on page 86, step 2, to Note that the back of the arm is crushing or pushing down on the fabric at the back armhole. This indicates that the back of the garment is too wide and that the back armhole needs to be clipped. Another way to conceptualize this is that the back armhole seam is not in the correct place, but needs to be farther in on the garment.

I have never read that description in another book nor seen a picture but that is exactly the issue I've been having behind the armhole and the solution is the solution I'd worked out. It doesn't seem to be present in the fitting shell but if it is once the sleeves are in, I know what the solution is. Once I draw that adjustment into my sloper and then use it to adjust other patterns, I can stop dealing with this issue.

In a recent posting, Kristen asked how many muslins do you have in you? VBG - as many as it takes because it's time well worth the benefits of taking that information forward to future garments BUT... I don't want to be making the same discoveries over and over. This fitting shell is work up front. The benefit will be the information and the sloper that makes every other project more successful right from the beginning. Peggy illustrates this in Success From The Start and Lynda in her book DeMystifying Fit.

After watching all the videos, I've worked on the actual muslin in two sewing sessions so far - probably not more than six hours. Today will be the third session and this should be the last version and the one from which I can develop my templates.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - multiple muslin mentors and combined wisdom


  1. good morning! I am so impressed with your perseverence and wonderful results. I'm more like a little kid and get distracted (sometimes) by yet another bright shiny idea! The new studio is lovely and those French doors are stunning. I just requested Veblen's book from the library. Thanks again for your lovely posts.

    1. Good morning. You're welcome. I'd love to get distracted by delightful garments only I keep telling myself it's like running - I'm doing it (muslins) for the results (well fitted sloper) and once I get there, it'll be smooth sailing (with creative garments). In future posts, I'll show how I use those results. It's motivating... at least it was for me.

  2. I too am so grateful for multiple muslin mentors! They keep me in the game. And the Sarah Veblen book - though it frequently makes my head spin - is the best fitting guide I've ever seen. She approaches fit as a tailor (it's all draping) rather than as a rule-follower.

    1. Draping seems to be a commonality among the mentors I've gotten the most advice from and it makes sense. If I'm going to sew for my body, draping my body is what needs to happen and then transfer that information to the flat pattern.

      When I first explored Pattern Master Boutique software, in the discussion group I'd say something like my shoulder slope is... and inevibly the return would be oh... that can't be because shoulder slope is supposed to equal X + X. In a perfect world. Our bodies are what are bodies are. Draping works with that. Draping gives me me and then I can make the software equal my body using the tools available and that work so much better.

  3. Excellent progress! I've been considering which blouse pattern to make once the current project is finished, but you know, I think I'm going to copy you and do what you're doing now. A good master pattern will serve my needs much better than anything else.

    1. I think it's a great idea to make a master pattern. Do you have any of the resources I've listed? If not, email me privately and I'll let you know which ones were the most useful.

  4. I'll be interested in seeing how this is translated into fitting new patterns--given design ease, dfiferent fabrics, etc. You're blazing the trail, I'm enjoying the clear path. Thank you! Elle

    1. It's really fun how it works. If I'm remembering correctly - did you get your copy of DeMystifying Fit yet? You'll find a lot of the info in that book. It's an excellent resource for working with this method.

      The sloper is minimal ease and takes care of any issues that you couldn't adjust after the fact. From there, ease is typically in the side seam and you can adjust based on how you like your clothes to fit. The sloper says whether this commercial pattern will or won't fit you and shows how to adjust for success. There's always the fabric factor. I think it's often the wild card.

  5. It's great that the new space has got you working on fit in a more concise manner and with good visible results!

    I really like your solution to rotate some of the ss out of the dart. Have you tried the smaller dart in fabric yet?

    I've purchased the Maynard class on Craftsy and haven't sat down to watch it and really pay attention yet. One of these days I'll find time! LOL

    1. LOL - I'm not sure it's the new space. I've always been just a bit (read a lot) fit crazy however the construction phase did give me time for more research and - come to think of it - I've been doing a lot more resolving in my head before getting to fabric and this is good. I'm not over-reacting. The actions I'm taking are more planned out and methodical.

      I did try the rotated dart in the latest version and it worked wonderfully. It takes the same amount out just in a different but still acceptable place.

      The class is worth the time. One thing I noted in it was how working from the top down is so necessary rather than trying to fix too much at once. Things shift as you move downward and sometimes what you thought was going to be a problem no longer is and other times a new issue develops. I'm at the fine tuning stage now.

  6. Myra, thank you for this great post. I have been sewing for 30 some years and have only attempted a sloper once and that was for pants and I always hoped to lose weight:) Being in my 50's now and accepting and even enjoying reality, I am now ready to really get myself "fit". And when/if I loose weight, at least I will know how to make pattern changes better.

    Your article really gave concise information that I really appreciate. If you were me where would you start?

    Maybe you should write your own fit book or make a video or both. That would be awesome...a real person, not a sewing professional writing for the real people.

    1. Enjoying reality - yes, that's the fifties. Not that I don't want to be toned and fit but I have a better grasp on real. The great thing with slopers is that with weight loss, it's more a matter of circumference and the length issues don't change.

      I'd start with a fitting shell or multi-sized pattern and make sure it had enough circumference to go around me, clearly mark the balance lines, and then I'd work my way down from the shoulders adjusting as one thing at a time. Be prepared to make several slopers to check what you've discovered. Some things change as other areas are resolved.

      LOL - well... I have written several books but they weren't on sewing fashions. Maybe one day. What I'm excited about are the benefits of a sloper when applied to other garments to up your success factor and the ability to use successfully adjusted patterns to make highly creative garments.

    2. I can't wait for that installment appling the sloper to garments and making "highly" creative garments. Too cool.

      I guess I have made too many relaxed fitting garments of the years :)

    3. Even with relaxed garments, the sloper is beneficial because it makes sure that the center front and back lengths, the depth of the armhole, the bust point and so on are in the correct place so that it's a matter of ease as opposed to incorrect fit.

      Hopefully by the end of next week I can demonstrate how to use the sloper. I could now but I'd rather get my fit tweaked a bit further and actually use it to adapt a pattern that I sew so we can see the whole journey.

  7. Hi Myra - yes a very good post, and the conclusions you have come to are the ones I have also been slowly coming to. Well done on your perserverance. And as you point out, it is tedious having to reinvent the wheel all the time.

    1. Definitely gets tedious. Once I get this sloper fit I'll be able to demonstrate how to use it. That's the really fun part.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.