Monday, October 29, 2018

Fitting Matters

Whenever sewists talk about sewing, the largest issue amongst them all is fit. How do you fit a pattern to your unique body shape? Some people have it easy and they can usually get away with minimal adjustments to get a garment to fit them. But most of us have to work at it. Especially when you’re nowhere near the usual shape that paper patterns are designed for.

I have to say that aging makes this fitting exercise even more difficult! After menopause a woman’s body goes through a number of changes. The following may not be true for everyone but a lot of us experience at least some of these. Fat accumulates around the middle, aka a “menopot”. Gravity and declining elastin in the skin takes its toll on boobs and butt and jowls and underarms and everything starts to head south. You might lose height as the discs between your vertebrae begin to degenerate. Your back shoulder gets rounder and your upper chest becomes more hollow. Sounds kinda horrific, doesn’t it? I like to think of it in terms of: I’m. Still. Here. Consider the alternative for a minute.

So what do we still have? A body that may not look like the ones you see in the media regularly. It still works pretty well though, thank you very much. And I want to dress mine to celebrate. To cherish it. To have fun. And to be seen. After all, it’s the only body I have. Truthfully, once I learned how to fit clothes for this potato-shaped body with short stick arms and legs I actually started to love it more! Sounds suspiciously like Body Positivity, doesn’t it? Yup. I don’t have to feel frustrated in the shops because nothing looks any good on me. I can have that expensive boutique garment or a close facsimile and it will fit me better than the real thing. Sewing your own clothes is powerful. Mindblowing. I don’t even go into clothing shops anymore - except maybe to borrow ideas. (Kind of wish some of them would share their fabric sources though. Just sayin’.)

Damselfly’s First Law of Fitting: Start at the top and work down. It’s important to get the shoulders, armholes and neckline right because everything hangs off of these points. I have to alter for the shoulder slope, forward shoulder with accompanying baby dowager’s hump and hollow chest, skinny upper arms and a forward neck. I almost got it right with my latest make, Grainline’s Farrow Dress:

I struggled with this one a lot even though it seems to be a fairly straightforward dress. The neck and shoulders are good but the underarm is still a little low for me. Which of course you can’t see in this photo! However the neck and shoulders fit really well. I discovered I’m starting to need even more fabric across the high back and less across the slightly hollow front. New fitting knowledge! I also didn’t need the back neck opening in the Farrow probably because the neckline is wide enough to get into it with my narrow head.

After the critical areas at the top, I tend to fit the bust without a lot of ease but skim into more ease at the waist and hem. In this pattern, I cut a size 12 at the bust but it was still a bit loose at the underarm. Then I graded out through size 14 and then 16 on the way down. I think next time I would go from a 10 through a 12 and it would still fit me fine. Of course none of the measurements given for bust, waist and hips in those pattern sizes correspond to my personal body measurements. At all. Happens all the time! Just measure your pattern and make sure it works for you and your desired amount of ease. Use your basic blocks, a similar pattern you’ve already fitted or a garment that fits the way you like it to judge this. The pattern size has nothing to do with your actual body.

This dress is rather an expensive wearable muslin in linen but it’s still going to be a garment I wear a lot. Next time I make it, it will be different again. I’ll re-draft the facings to have the armholes and neckline in one. The pockets are a little low which I should have taken into consideration because that’s often an issue for me. And the fit is quite loose and flowy and I might like it a little more snug. Kind of depends on the fabric as well. We’ll see but right now I’m done with this one.

So that’s 3 garments from a 5 metre length of fabric: a jumper (Helen’s Closet York hack) and a dress (Grainline Farrow) for me and a shirt (Thread Theory Fairfield) for Thom. Only tiny scraps left so excellent marks for waste avoidance! Next up there’s the grey version of the same fabric in another Fairfield shirt. After that I still have 2 more garments cut out for me and yet another shirt for Thom. I’m alternating one for him and one for me. Seems fair, no? I’m trying to increase his wardrobe of bespoke garments just like I have mine already. He certainly wears them enough. Appreciation gets you everywhere, hon’!

And in turn I appreciate Thom’s help chopping up the two buckets of madder root to dry. It took 3 days to finish! I love my Alaskan ulu for this job. These roots are harder than the rhubarb roots were. I was getting blisters.

Lots more than one dyebath worth this time! The above photo only shows less than a quarter of the total. It was a really excellent production for my wee patch. Whew! This will do nicely for at least 3 years until they grow big again.

Next year I plan to keep the dye garden simple. Besides the re-planted madder, I have a few weld plants that I left in plus a perennial coreopsis and a clump of dyers chamomile. I’m going to fill most of the rest of the space with Japanese indigo since I have lots of seeds this year and I never really feel that I have enough to do anything with the usual amount. More is better! At least they aren’t quite as ugly as the madder is. Sorry, madder. Love you anyhow! Especially now that I’m done chopping you up into tiny pieces. Mwa-ha-ha!!!


pao said...

"The pattern size has nothing to do with your actual body." Yes and yes! You've really got it down pat, Louisa. How great to be conscious and deliberate in all the changes you want/need to make with patterns. I'm still winging it and going big by default. This should be a magazine article, it's so tell it like it is. You are one wise woman.

Louisa said...

Aww...thank you so much, darling pao! Your kind words are so encouraging. I’m becoming quite the proponent for learning proper fit techniques since no commercial pattern can possibly work for everyone! I’m particularly interested in developing useful shortcuts.

Vancouver Barbara said...

When a garment fits beautifully everything just looks right. Your dress/jumper looks great on you. Brava.

Unknown said...
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Louisa said...

Jack, if you are indeed a real person, please don’t include questionable links or I will delete your comments as spam.