Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Four B's

SarahLizSewStyle wrote - As you say, if you just knuckle down to it, it is not really that difficult. It's the idea of dedicating lots of time to a very boring and tedious job that is difficult.

Most sewist probably do find making a fitting shell boring and tedious. It's similar to a muslin but needs to be very accurate because you are a developing a base to measure or design with but there's not actually a lot of time involved. I've spent less than ten hours on this project so far and most likely one more version will do the trick. I've spent more time on projects that didn't fit properly, which is the point of the process - upping my success ratio.

Plus... I find the whole process fascinating. I've always loved puzzles and a fitting shell is simply a three dimensional version with the challenge of getting it correct. I get sucked right in and have to figure "it" out... which is why... LOL... I'm sewing in my sleep I'm sure. Another reader described me as a dog with a bone at one point. That made me laugh. Yes... BUT... wait until you see what I do with this.

When I was talking to my daughter yesterday, she said it doesn't look very good on you. That made me laugh too. Fitting shells do not look good.  They are not pretty and not terribly sensitive of your ego. So far, the biggest new learning has been the slope of my shoulders and that they slope differently and may need to be dealt with individually otherwise I've confirmed the four B's - small b--bs, a wide butt, a narrow back, and a belly.... which I really dislike... and will begin working to get rid of... but I hear that's hard to do at my age. Darn!

I don't need a sway back adjustment. The excess fabric is due to my narrow back. In the first picture, I pinned out a 3/4" tuck (nicer on my left side) which means I can adjust the tissue by eliminating the shoulder dart and narrowing the back waist dart. The dotted line in the image above is the...

... stitching line from Butterick 5678. Since it's the most successful blouse I've sewn, I compared the armholes as a starting point. Peggy Sagers says to find the sleeve that fits and use that armhole. Sarah Veblen says to shape the perfect armhole and then find the sleeve that fits. I'm doing a combo of the two.

The smaller cup size made a tremendous difference. You still see a few wrinkles from the bust point because I let out one of the waist darts in the skirt and narrowed the waist dart on the bodice to compensate for my belly. That left part of the bodice dart unaccounted for so I'll rotate the rest to the side dart. Right now, it's a wrinkle.

This time, I left the neck seam allowance on, clipped to the line, and determined if it's the right depth for my neck. It is. I should have stay stitched the edge because now I'm wondering about those folds but I'll wait until the sleeves are on to determine if they mean anything.

Peggy Sagers is constantly saying in her videos to know your numbers. She means the numbers on the French curve for your armhole, hip line, neckline, center front and center back widths, and so on. It's really good, stop re-inventing the wheel, advice and I'm starting to learn some of mine. The numbers are measured along or between stitching lines. My hip curve is 11 at the hip line to 2 1/4 at the waist. I've been consistently drawing that shape and it makes it easy every time I alter anything to do with the hip. I'm looking forward to knowing my armhole numbers. 

I pinned the sleeve in place around the bottom of the armhole just past the notches on each side. This allowed me to let the sleeve cap drop so that the bicep line was level and then I could measure the missing amount. I used the sleeve pattern from the last version of Butterick 5678 and it's 1 1/4" too short which is - ironically - the difference between it and the fitting shell sleeve. The good thing about that number is that I don't need to draft a new sleeve. I'll use the one from the fitting shell.

Before I do any more sewing, I'll make all the changes to the pattern tissue and take some notes because we're leaving very early tomorrow morning to go visit our daughter and son-in-law for the weekend. I don't want to forget what I did and have to start over when I get home on Tuesday.

Even though they're adults, I'm feel bad leaving the "boys" home alone at Easter so we're having corn chowder (a family favourite) with chocolate eggs for dinner tonight and barbequed steak (a guy favourite) with chocolate bunnies when we get back so if we mentally stretch the weekend a couple more days, I've spent the holiday with all my children and that is, in my opinion, the perfect holiday plus... if I get my work done quickly this morning... I may have time later today to start on the next shell.

I'm not taking my computer with me so I'll post again Tuesday or Wednesday, hopefully with good fitting news.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - progress


  1. Good morning Myrna,

    Wow - that looks great! Can't wait to see the tweaked sleeve in it. You've done an excellent job :-)

    Hope you have a wonderful Easter!

    1. Thank you. You too. Happy Easter. I won't be eating too much chocolate or I'll have to tweak the fitting shell again - LOL. Sarah mentions in her book that some women's weight fluctuates so greatly that she feels like she's trying to fit a moving target from one fitting session to another. Yes... that would be me.

    2. That would be me too! I've made good progress this week on the weight loss front, so my plan is to try to continue. I don't have to worry TOO much about the dark chocolate; it's the bread products that do me in!

  2. HI Myrna - thanks for commenitng on my comment. You are absolutely right, housr is spent on making up commerical patterns, trying to get them to fit, and putting the whole result in the bin. I've done the same and am working on my own shell, slowly over time this year. Wieght is really interesting, because if we lose weight, it is now known that in some people, the body will attempt to go back to the weight it was - so it becomes quite a battle. As many people know. Have a good puzzle fitting session.

    1. Weight is definitely a battle but - in terms of fitting shells - it's often in and out in the same area as opposed to shifting to new ones. This is good.

  3. Hi Myrna! your muslin is looking really good, congrats on seeing the fruition of all your hard work!

    "Peggy Sayers is constantly saying in her videos to know your numbers." This reminds me of something i read years ago in a blog written by a savile-row-trained, practicing British tailor. He referred to it as 'rock of eye'. Basically, over years of fitting and paying attention to how the shape of the three dimensional body relates to the shape of the flat pattern, you develop a feel for how a flat shape should be shaped in order to give the effect you want. Sure there are all type of systems of measurements and so on, but to him it really came down to draping on the body and learning the relationship between 2D and 3D shapes.

    I really agree with him. I end up with the same shape to a side bodice seam whether i drape on the body or draw out a bunch of measurements and connect with a french curve. Same with crotch curve, armscye, etc. My weight fluctuates up and down within a ten pound range, and i like clothing to fit me fairly loosely (especially wovens) because 1) i am hard hard hard on clothing 2) nerve damage makes too tight clothing painful. However finessing the fit so that the shape is indicated is a whole different concept than a big, square sack. And also a whole different animal than a fitting shell :)

    i've used nicely-fitting clothing as a resource for fit for years. In fact i think people should study clothing they like very carefully, as there's no end of info it can tell you about fit, construction, fiber and so on.

    Happy Holiday!! steph

    1. Knowing your numbers and your shape are both valuable. I think the more we sew, the more we can recognize the shapes and when something is right or off. I hope. At least I'm that way. With this fitting shell, I'm more confirming things than making new discoveries.

      The problem with using nicely-fitted clothing as a resource is if you can't find any nicely fitted clothing. Then you have to create some first to have that experience. I pay a LOT of attention when I sew something I really like that gets worn over and over. Why? How to duplicate it? Was it the style, the fabric, the fit, the... ? ? ?

      Studying well constructed clothing has taught me a lot. It's an invaluable resource and one of my favourite things to do.


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