It's because you won't make a test garment!
I know, I know.
You really just want to start sewing. Who wants to spend all that extra time sewing up a garment more than once, not to mention using up extra fabric? Hello $$$
But does this sound familiar?
You take your body measurements and compare them to the standard body measurements on your sewing pattern.
You choose a size based on the chart.
You sew up the size in your pretty fabric. All excited to be sewing and making your own wardrobe! This is so cool!
You've put in a lot of work, you're excited. You try it on.
IT DOESN'T FIT.
Like, it really doesn't fit.
And you have no idea how to fix it.
Here's the deal:
Testing the fit of a sewing pattern before you sew up the final garment is part of the construction process.
I know that most sewing pattern don't include this in their instructions. But they should!
Fitting the pattern for your body is THE MOST important part of sewing up a garment.
What is the point of sewing up a garment, spending time and hard earned money on something that is probably not going to fit you? You won't wear it and you will feel frustrated and defeated.
Now I know there are people out there who say: "I never need to sew up a test!" or "Sewing patterns fit me perfectly every time!"
But I would almost bet you my hard earned money that their garments do need some fitting but they don't bother to learn what those fitting needs are. Because they don't test and fit. Their garments could be tweaked for the perfect fit for their body.
Do you have trouble reading sewing patterns? Are they just too confusing?
So why do sewing patterns never seem to fit?
There is no way a generic sewing pattern is going to fit your unique body and measurements perfectly.
A generically drafted sewing pattern can't take into account how old you are, the kind of job you've had, or if you've had kids. These things affect our bodies in individual ways.
What if you have forward rounded shoulders from sitting at a computer desk for years? Or bad posture?
Maybe you were in a car accident and now one hip is higher than the other.
Maybe you've had 3 kids and your lower tummy is rounded.
I could go on and on.
None of these things are problems. They are what make you, you. Your body tells your unique life story.
A sewing pattern that is drafted from a set of average measurements can't take all of those unique features into account.
Think of a sewing pattern as a template.
You use their average measurements to get close to your measurements to find a size to start with.
It then becomes your job to take that template, tweak and adjust it till it fits your unique body and measurements the way you want it to.
You are the master of the pattern! The master of your own sewing fate!
Fitting the garment should be what takes up most of the garment construction time. I spend about 2/3's of garment construction on fitting.
Because once I have the garment fit perfectly for me, the sewing up is the fun, fast, easy part!
And the next time I want to sew up the garment, the fitting is done. Now I can just whip up a new dress in no time!
You can now use your perfectly fitting pattern over and over again with new fabrics, textures, even playing with the design elements.
Let's take a look at a few reasons that the pattern might not fit you without some adjustment and fitting.
What the heck is ease anyway?
Ease is simply the roominess of a garment. A garment has to sew up larger than your actual body measurements or it would be skin tight and you wouldn’t be able to move, sit, dance, or just be awesome!
A garment will have two types of ease. Wearing ease and design ease.
Wearing ease is just a small amount of room that allows you to be able to move, bend, or sit. It is very close fitting. This usually refers to garments made out of woven fabrics.
Design ease is how tight or loose the pattern designer wants to garment to be. Think a skin tight body-con dress all the way to a mumu that is very loose.
A garment that is skin tight made out of knit fabric can have negative ease. Negative ease is when a garment is actually smaller than your body measurements and stretches over your body to fit.
Most comercial patterns have a lot of ease built into the finished size of the garment.
More than you probably want or need.
Even if you choose a size based on your measurements, the size will have anywhere from 2 or more inches added to the size measurements. Meaning the size you choose will sew up much larger than your actual measurements, making the fit too large.
That is why it is very important to pay attention to the finished garment measurements included with the pattern.
Every good pattern should have the finished garment measurements listed on the pattern envelope or inside on the pattern pieces themselves.
Compare these measurements to how you like your garment to fit. Some of us like our clothing very fitted, others like more looseness.
Where to begin with fitting?
Start at the top.
The entire garment hangs from your shoulders. If the shoulder isn’t right, you’re gonna have problems further down.
One of the most common shoulder fitting adjustment needed is for a Forward Rounded Shoulder. Think hunched shoulders from bad posture, for example.
Check out this tutorial by Alexandra Morgan if you need some help with this fitting adjustment:
If you need this adjustment, pay attention to the area across your shoulder blades. Depending on how rounded you are, it can cause garment tightness in this area because your shoulder blades round out.
What are your boobies doing?
A lot of us can be pretty blessed in the boob department. Most commercially drafted sewing patterns only draft for a B cup. If you are a C or above, there just isn’t a deep enough pocket for your girls to hang out in without causing pulling and tightness.
This is where a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) comes into play.
You need to make room for your girls without increasing the overall size of the pattern. Here are two good FBA tutorials to get you started if you need it:
Junk in your Trunk?
If you have a prominent bum that protrudes outward or you have a posture that causes your bum to stick out, you might need a Swayback Adjustment.
I always need this one and just do it to all of my patterns before I even sew up a test.
This should get you started on your testing and fitting journey. The more you sew for yourself the easier it will become and you will begin to just know what adjustments you need.
Please don’t think of these adjustments as body flaws or problems. You have a beautiful, unique body that tells your life story. And you get to create something with your own hands to reflect your story and fits you just right.
Remember it will take time and patience to learn what your fitting needs are and how to address them. But the more you sew the easier it will get!
Don’t let your fear of sewing patterns hold you back. Sign up for my FREE workshop and learn to read a sewing pattern like a Pro!