Recommended book on fitting

I picked up a copy of The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting at the library, and almost instantly ordered my own copy to keep. It’s that impressive. My favorite thing is that the book is chock-full of photographs – not just of the alterations done to a pattern on a table, but of the fitting issues, and then the resulting adjustments done on a person wearing a muslin. I think this is a big improvement over most of the popular fitting books in sewing-land, all of which are a few years old now and use illustrations or black and white photos a lot (to keep the production cost of the book low?).

I’ve just posted a review of the book on Examiner, and while I was at it mentioned some of the other fitting books I’ve tried out.

So far in my sewing career, I’ve had sort of a Goldilocks experience with fitting books. Several of them have been useful and I’ve learned something from reading all of them, but none of them has completely satisfied me. If you go on Pattern Review the first book usually recommended is Fit for Real People (FFRP) which I agree is a decent overview of fitting but I think it has some flaws. I’ve actually used Sandra Betzina’s Fast Fit the most, because I like Betzina’s approach and I find it easier to navigate than FFRP, but it doesn’t have any model photos, just illustrations of the ‘figure faults’ and photos of the flat pattern alterations. FFRP is fine, but they’re obsessed with tissue fitting (which I find doesn’t really work well for fine details – if I’m making something complicated a muslin is definitely required), and the ease and styling are definitely a bit old-fashioned now. I own Pattern Fitting with Confidence and it’s fine, but Nancy Zieman uses the pivot and slide approach, and for some reason my brain works better visualizing changes with slash and spread.

Both the Reader’s Digest guide and the Vogue sewing book I own have basic alteration info in them, and to be honest I’d recommend starting with one of these if you are new, and then asking for help online for your specific issues. I’ve heard good things about the FFRP/Palmer-Pletsch fitting DVDs, and given how awesome Sarah Veblen’s book is, I’m very tempted to take one of her fitting courses on Pattern Review now.

Do you have a favorite fitting book or approach, or do you avoid alterations like the plague?

[This post contains affiliate links.]

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Cup size yet again

A while ago I posted about bra cup sizes and how I’d realized that I’d been wearing the wrong size bra. Since then I’ve settled on a bra size that’s a band size down and a cup size up from what I had worn for the past few years, and been pretty happy with results. At that point I was still trying to work out in my head why we use this relative size scheme where the cup sizes don’t mean anything by themselves – they’re relative to the band size, so a 36D and a 38D aren’t the same – in fact, a 38D and a 40C are the same, total volume wise.

I just ran across this informative blog post from Butterfly Collection that explained it in a way I could easily visualize. Basically all cups of the same letter are, in theory, the same depth but different widths. In other words, the depth – the amount your bust protrudes from your chest, e.g. as seen in profile – is the same in a 36D as a 38D, but the 38D is wider. This results in a larger total cup volume. The blog post has great illustrations of this.

This also reiterates why the standard sewing advice if you’re a C cup or larger is to use your upper bust measurement to choose your bodice size and do a full bust adjustment to accommodate your bust. Assuming your bodice size is correct for the rest of your measurements, you don’t need any more width all the way down your torso, you just need depth at the bust (which manifests itself in the pattern as added length, and a little both of added width, but only at the bust, not at the shoulders or the abdomen).

I’ve never been that spatially gifted, but sewing is definitely helping my 3D visualization skills!

Thinking about cup sizes

[Drafted this post and then I saw this news article today – 600 year old linen bras found in a castle in Austria (!)]

I’ve been on a bra-fitting odyssey recently; hang with me for a second and it’ll wind back around to topics sewing-related. I knew the supposed factoid that more than half of American women are supposedly wearing the wrong size bra, but as it always goes you figure that must mean other folks, not you. But I was monkeying around online and found a bra size calculator (at butterflycollection.com) that gave a different size than I usually wear. So I ordered some bras to try and a couple worked pretty well – they are one band size down and two cup sizes up from my previous size.

So apparently I was one of the woman wearing the wrong size bra. It’s a different silhouette that to be honest I’m not used to yet – I feel like I’m all boobs now when I look at myself in the mirror. The received wisdom is that it’s better to look busty than chunky, but I’m already chunky so I’m not sure I want to be both!

If you’re interested in bra sizing the blog busts4justice.com is a great place to get info. The usual advice about how to figure your bra size is to add 4-5 inches to your underbust measurement to get your band measurement, but this blogger convinced me, at least, that that is nutballs, and you should forget adding inches and just start from the exact underbust measurement. This reminds me a lot of how a lot of new sewers start with a pattern size that matches their full bust measurement, but then learn that for most of us that results in something that’s way too big in the shoulders and it’s better to start with a smaller size and do a full-bust adjustment (AKA the famous FBA).

All this got me thinking about cup sizes in sewing patterns. Most sewers know that the big American pattern companies use a B cup in their drafting, although they now offer some patterns in multiple cup sizes, and the indie pattern companies all have their own tendencies and figure types.

But here’s the thing – the way cup sizing works is a little weird. In bras, cup size is relative to band size. A 36D is equivalent to a 38C is equivalent to a 40B in absolute volume of the bra cups, or at least it’s supposed to be. So as lovely as multiple cup size patterns are, they don’t really make sense if you think about it. If, say, you’ve got sizes 16-22 and cup sizes B, C, and D all in the same pattern, the pattern will have different tissue patterns for each of the cup sizes, ranging across the size range. But, according to bra sizing, a 16 D should have the same room in the bust area as the 18 C, although with different shape in the rest of the bodice, the shoulder, etc. In my experience with cup size patterns, that’s not been the case.

It really does your head in if you think about it too much. Figuring out how to grade a pattern, for pattern designers (or clothing designers), is a question of how to fit the most people possible, not to do it the right way for every person. As sewers, we have to somewhat reverse engineer the patterns to fit us, not some abstract average. I’ve learned more about my body and its variations since sewing than I ever did before, and sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t have been easier to just learn how to draft patterns from scratch from my measurements. Learning how to draft is considered an advanced skill, but it seems like it can’t be as hard as some of the complex alterations I’ve seen people have to make to patterns.

Make & Mend is off to a grand start

This weekend I: fixed the zipper seam on two skirts, fixed the hem on two more, and restitched a crotch seam on a pair of PJ pants. I am embarrassed to say how long some of these garments had been waiting around for me to mend them.

I also hemmed the one unfinished edge of an embroidered linen remnant from my recent sewing gals get-together. Voila, instant tablecloth. (Table also featuring the roses my husband got me for our anniversary two weeks ago, which are showing their age.)

I also finished a small quilt top, but I’ll post about that separately once I get photos taken.
Tonight there’s hockey, so I hope to get some buttons sewn on while I watch, and keep the streak going.
Yes, I do tend to work in manic bursts of speed balanced out by long stretches of sloth, why do you ask?