24 March 2009

Look Ma, it Fits! (Part I)

I think I got it! For my next few blog posts, I am going to chronicle my journey to finally getting a woven blouse to fit. First, let me start with some background history.

For the past two years, I have been working tirelessly on trying to get a woven blouse pattern to fit. You see, I am small framed with a big chest - not quite Dolly Parton big, but big enough to have significant issues with woven blouses and jackets.

I have tried to fit a number of blouse patterns:

as well as a few now out-of-print jacket patterns:
  • Simplicity 4698
  • Butterick 4463
  • Simplicity 4954.
With each try, came several muslins, intense frustration, and a shot to my sewjo that would take weeks to heal. I even took a class from a certified Palmer-Pletsch fit instructor in Richland, MI (about 2 hours west of me). The purpose of the class was to take the McCall's basic fitting shell pattern and fit it to me. The class was spread over two days for six hours each day. I won't say that the class was a waste of time and money, but I already knew most of what we covered and had already tried some of the techniques many times on my own. I did learn that I have narrow and forward shoulders, a slight high round back, and a swayback - issues, said the instructor, that will most likely require adjustment in every pattern. I'll comment more about these revelations in a later part of my series of posts.

Selecting the right pattern size has been somewhat of a problem with me. In almost every fit book I read (and I read a lot of them), it was always recommended that one purchase patterns according to the high-bust measurement. This way, you can ensure proper fit in the neck and shoulder area. The problem with that is the full bust area is so small, that I end up needing a substantial adjustment to accommodate my chest. Conversely when I tried to fit both a jacket and blouse pattern according to my full bust measurement, I found that the neck, shoulder, and armhole were too big.

Previous attempts at altering the pattern using a full bust adjustment created a number of challenges:
  1. massive darts that were next to impossible to reconcile,
  2. insufficient width at bust level despite the huge dart,
  3. too much newly-added length in the high-bust area,
  4. too much newly-added width in the waist area.
Below are some examples of two separate fittings of McCall's 5471. The first two photos show a muslin made in November 2008. I cut a size 14 (D cup) and adjusted from there. As you can see, there is too much length in the HB area and too much width in the waist area. Plus, the shoulder line looks too long.

The next muslin was made in April 2008. Here, I cut a size 18 (D cup) and adjusted from there. There is pulling at bust level and bunched fabric at the nape of my neck. Plus, the collar is larger than perhaps it should be.

As I study these pictures again, it occurs to me that the November muslin was made after having taken the fit class in October 2008. The April muslin was made long before I took the fit class and executed with knowledge learned on my own. Despite the pulling at bust level, the April version appears to fit much better. How about that? Based on these pictures, it looks as if multi-cup patterns should be selected according to the FB measurement in the chest area and perhaps a smaller size in the armhole, shoulder, and neck area.

Following now are some photos of my attempts to fit Simplicity 4077. This is the pattern that I attempted to fit as part of the class I took in October.

I started with a size 14 and altered from there. As you can see, some of the fitting challenges I mentioned earlier are everywhere. In no way is this pattern even close to looking half-way decent! I mean really, this thing is just awful!

Needless to say, after having several defeats with the fit demon, I gave up. Wait! I am a quitter. I just know when I've had enough. I took some time away from the blouse and sewed some pillowcases, pants, and a skirt. I made several knit tops and started working on my bedroom curtains.

Once I had time to reflect and refocus my energy, I forged ahead with another attempt at fitting. This time, I tried Kwik Sew 3620. This fitting wasn't as bad as the first...few. For this pattern, I cut a size medium in the neck, shoulder, armhole and morphed out to a large at the bust, waist, and hips. I did an unconventional 5/8" FBA. Instead of slashing and spreading a la Palmer-Pletsch, I drew a box around the dart and moved that portion of the pattern out 5/8". I did this so as to avoid the additional waist fabric created with regular FBAs. This method did not work at all. The shoulder area was just all wrong and poorly fitting.

As you can see, despite the attempt at fitting the centers front still don't meet. SIGH. What's a girl to do?!

Be on the look out for Part II!


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