That’s as done as it’s gonna get

I think I mentioned a while ago that I was working on a Colette Sorbetto in my new smaller size. It started out as a muslin and then it was going so well, I decided to try to make it a wearable muslin. I got as far as binding the neckline and then it sat there for a month or two on my sewing table, taunting me. This weekend I tried it on, looked at myself, and said, “Self, get real: you are never going to wear this out of the house, no matter how decent the fit is. The colors are loud and not your style, the way the center stripe isn’t at CF bugs the crap out of you, and besides, you hate bias binding armholes even more than you hate bias binding necklines (so true – why is it in every beginner pattern ever? It’s fiddly and it never ends up even).”


So here it is, my unfinished Sorbetto. It was made out of a remnant which is why the front is pieced. Actually, the back is pieced too, vertically, with an amazingly good match of stripes at CB which happened mostly thanks to luck rather than hours of slaving.


I am pleased about the fit, even though I didn’t end up with a wearable piece, and I am hoping that this can be my base bodice for alterations in the future. The only alteration I made, besides blending sizes and adding length, was an additional narrow shoulder alteration of 1/2″ following the directions from Colette. This made so much difference – all of a sudden the neckline isn’t too wide and the shoulders sit where they need to. There’s a touch of swayback-y-ness (technical term!) and the darts are a little high, but the amount of ease feels right and the fit over the waist and hips is good (always my trickiest part, since I have to blend sizes).

My next desire is to try a version with the dart rotated into gathers at the neckline, because I’ve got several summer tops with that feature that I’ve worn a lot (plus I suck at sewing darts; the sides never end up symmetrical). I’ve drafted the altered bodice already, but the fabric I wanted to use for my test run is not quite wide enough so I’ve got to move to plan B.

Wiggle while you muslin?

Finally I’ve managed a bit of time in my sewing cave. I’ve started work on a fitting muslin for the wiggle dress from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing. I traced everything straight onto STP (Swedish tracing paper, not Stone Temple Pilots). I know I’ll have to grade to a larger size below the waist, but with the sleeve gusset and the princess seams in the front, I’m not sure where exactly I’ll need to shift and how. I’m thinking I’ll baste the whole thing together to about the bust and then see if I can try it on and pin the rest.

One thing I noticed about the way the sizes were nested is that it’s not easy to grade from one size to another. They’re not the same length at the hem, or I should say they’re not lined up at the hem. I’m not a professional pattern drafter, so I don’t know if this was on purpose and is somehow better than what I’m used to with the Big 4, and, from what I remember, the European pattern mags, where hems and necklines all line up on the vertical axis and you can simply go between sizes wherever you need to, as long as you match it between your front and your back, or whichever pieces your garment has. Since I’m taller I’ll probably need added length anyway, so I’ll just start with the length given with the largest size and see how that works out.

I also have to mention that the size chart is more than a bit vanity-sized. I get that dress sizes are arbitrary anyway, and this happens to be a choice that benefits me personally since I’m on the larger end of things, but it surprised me generally. Following the chart, I traced a size 12 in the shoulders and bust, and believe you me, I haven’t been a size 12 since my age had a different numeral at the beginning of it. The smallest size included in the book is a bust size of 32 inches. This seems very big, especially for a vintage-inspired book. It is a very hourglassy shape – 12 inches difference between waist and hip – so if you have a very 50s figure, as long as it’s not too small, you should be set with these patterns. Sadly, I’ve got more of an 1850s figure (bring back panniers!) so the wiggle dress will be interesting to fit, that’s for sure.

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.]