Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Starting at the top!

Well, after studying all of the pictures and reading a lot about fitting, the decision is to start at the top and work my way down. We are all familiar with the prospect of doing one alteration and finding something else has gone wrong somewhere else in the garment, so if I start at the top, by the time I get to the bottom, I'm hoping each quirk will have been worked out. 

I did waste time by make a very valuable chart of all of the minimum ease requirement as copied here from The Perfect Fit.

MINIMUM EASE ala “The Perfect Fit” by Creative Publishing International

Minimum Bust Ease

Blouse, Dress, jumpsuit                                              2.5 to 3” (6.5 to 7.5 cm)
Unlined jacket                                                             3 to 4” (7.5 to 10 cm)
Lined Jacket                                                                3.5 to 4.5” (9 to 11.5 cm)
Coat                                                                            4 to 5” (10 to 12.5 cm)

Minimum Back Ease

Blouse, dress, sleeveless jumpsuit                              .5 to 1” (1.3 to 2.5 cm)
Jumpsuit with sleeves                                                 1” (2.5 cm)
Jacket                                                                          1 to 1.5” (2.5 to 3.8 cm)
Coat                                                                            1 to 2” (2.5 to 5 cm)

Minimum Sleeve Ease

Blouse                                                                        1 to 1.5” (2.5 to 3.8 cm)
Dress, jumpsuit                                                           1.5 to 2” (3.8 to 5 cm)
Unlined jacket                                                             3 to 4” (7.5 to 10 cm)
Lined jacket                                                                3 to 4.5” (7.5 to 11.5 cm)
Coat                                                                            4 to 5.5” (10 to 14 cm)

Minimum Waistband Ease                             

Up to size 16                                                                ½” to ¾” (1.3 to 2 cm)
Size 16 or over                                                            1” or more (2.5 cm or more)

Minimum Hip Ease for skirts

Up to size 16                                                                2” (5 cm)
Size 16 or over                                                            2.5” (6.5 cm)

Minimum Ease for pants

Crotch depth sizes 4-10                                              ½” (1.3 cm)
                        Sizes 12-16                                          ¾” (2 cm)
                        Sizes 18 and over                                1” (2.5 cm)
Crotch length                                                               1 to 2” (2.5 to 5 cm)
Waist                                                                           ¾ to 1” (2 to 2.5 cm)
Hips                                                                             2 to 2.5” (t to 6.5 cm)
Thighs                                                                          2” (5 cm)

Sorry the formatting is kind of wonky, but it didn't copy right from my Word document, which was of course perfect! :P}}

Perhaps I didn't need to actually copy every single area, but it is going into the binder where I keep measurements and drafting notes, and such. I think it is a tremendously valuable resource to have this where I can check it whenever I'm doing a pattern. 

So from the top. My first adjustment was to increase the seam allowance at the neck edge by 1" making a total of 1 1/4" seam allowance, curving down in a slight arc to about 9" down from the neck edge. I'll insert pictures as I go so you can see what's what. 

OMG, I FINALLY figured out how to do a self timed photo with my camera. Isn't it amazing that all I had to do was pull out the CD and read the "manual!" LOL

Okay. These pictures are not great, but give us something to work with. WOW... what a difference that made in just taking in the back neckline to fit my actual neck! 

Looking at this, I can see that the armholes at the shoulder are still too high. It also looks like there isn't quite enough room at the bust for me, and the princess seams still run between my boobs and the side seam.

Next back: 

My first observation is that I need to press this really well to see what's from where I was sitting while I was trying to figure out the self timer on the camera and what's an issue. This fabric is really light weight and creases like crazy evidently. 

The shoulder width remains a problem as does the width across my high back above the armpits. I can see lines from my shoulders running down to my waist, and still the huge wads of fabric in the underarm area. 

Next right side view: 

Again, I can see way too much fabric at the rear princess seam from the armhole down to the waist. That interesting fold from the waist area towards the center back is something I don't think I saw before. This armhole doesn't look nearly as bad now that it's been pulled up on my body. There are folds from the bust point towards the waist also, but it appears the pulling up has been eliminated at the center front.

Left side: 

As I anticipated, the armhole on this side is larger than the other and it is more apparent that the shoulder needs to be pulled up a bit. Same folds from bust to waist and armhole princess seam in back to waist. 

Overall, I'm quite pleased that just pulling that back neckline seam in did so much positive work on fitting. 

Next up, I'm going to work on those shoulders and try to get them even, the right depth, and the right width. 

More later! 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Beginning the analysis

For this part of my analysis, I’m going to be using Sarah Veblen’s “The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting.” It gives horizontal and vertical balance lines and has lots of pictures to help explain the problems. I'll be using my gingham as a balance line, and the squares are 1/4" so I'll be able to kind of judge how much I need to adjust with that. 

Per page 22:
Vertical folds of fabric indicate there is too much circumference.

Horizontal fold of fabric indicates there is too much length

The front picture and my thoughts: 

The neckline is too wide.
The shoulders are too wide.
There are drag lines from the bust to the waist.
A classic armhole princess seam should run across the bust point. These seams are out to the side of my bust.
You can’t see it on this photo, but the armholes are way too big for me.

The sides, two pictures & then what I see: 

Side Analysis

The second photo shows how big the gap is between my arm and the armhole. It may be pulled a little bit to one side as it isn't as apparent on one as the other.

The neck is too low on my body.

The armhole seam is huge leaving great gobs of fabric above my waist and around the side and side back of my body.

You can see the wrinkles from the bust to the waist area, and that may be from the too large side back also.

The front is pulling up to suggest there needs to be more length along the front princess seams.

The back photo and my thoughts: 

I never knew I looked like a football player from the back!
Starting at the top, the neck is just wrong. Too wide, too low.

The shoulders are too wide, probably because of the neck width.

The back across the shoulders all the way down to my arm pits is too wide giving giant flaps of fabric that run across the back of my arms and into the armpits and sides. 

I think the folds along the waist line princess seams will be corrected with pulling up the whole top by a couple of inches at the shoulders.

The entire length is too long for my body.

So after this first analysis I will make a change or two. I do know that frequently altering one item will impact multiple others. So I'm going to start at the top. I was going to do the shoulder seams first, but looking at these photos, it is apparent to me that the neckline needs to be adjusted first as it is causing problems all the way down and out from there. So that will be the first thing I do.  I will take about 1/2" out of the center back seam from the neck line tapering down to about where my "dowager's hump" begins or where my shoulder blades end and see what happens from there. 

I will take photos after each adjustment and share them, so hopefully it will be encouraging to see the changes that are wrought and how each one affects the balance of the shirt. This will be a process, and although I don't want it to be a long process, I want it right when I'm finished. 

Once I've adjusted the neckline, I need to shorten the shoulder seams and pull it up and see what that does for the rest of the problems. I know I’m going to have to move the front princess seams in to follow my contours, and cut the upper back smaller to fit my torso and my follow my arm-torso connection. More pictures soon!

Please feel free to share and and all observations and any and all suggestions. 

Thanks for checking in!

Monday, April 28, 2014

New Beginnings.

New Beginnings


I realized this morning that I had posted the back picture of the blouse but neglected the front. Here is the correction for that error:


It’s a pretty basic sleeveless woven blouse with shoulder princess seams both front and back; one view with a Mandarin style collar and another with a wider collar that flares out effectively making a lapel.  

I have realized at my age and size, I find woven cotton and linen to be the only acceptable fabrics to wear during the really hot months. In general, even natural fiber fabrics in knits just aren’t nearly as comfortable for me.
I've been wanting a woven pattern that will fit my current shape and size and look decent under a jacket or light weight over-blouse for wearing for work in the warmer months. I believe this is the perfect one. It is similar to a linen blouse I purchased several years ago and have practically worn out despite being "not my" color and not fitting really well.

After measuring myself, and prior to any alterations being made, much to my chagrin, I traced the size 2X. I am just trying to accept that it is what it is. I could make a smaller pattern and just keep increasing everywhere, but in reality it just won’t work.  

First thing I noticed is that typical of most Kwik Sew patterns, the seam allowances are only ¼” wide. I love that width for knits, but for woven fabrics, it may be a bit too narrow for me. I am going for a process here so I have left them this size for now. That may change down the line after everything is put together.

I went ahead and measured all the places I need on the pattern, marking on the tissue what the widths of each piece are and totaling them for the full amount of pattern width at bust, waist, and hip, plus marking bust points, shoulder width, etc. Thank you Jo Ann for that suggestion! It appears at first glance that the pattern will be large enough in circumference with enough ease at all the proper areas despite my measurements not being exactly the same as the pattern.
It's a given that I will need to narrow the shoulder width and do a fairly significant sway back adjustment, those were done before anything else. I removed an inch in shoulder width on both the front and the back.
I have about a dozen or so fitting books ranging from Sarah Veblen to Judith Rasband to Palmer and Pletsch and an original old Vogue fitting book, as well as Threads CDs and everything in between. My favorite method which works well for me is to cut, pivot and redraw. I'm including a picture of the front and back just in case you're not familiar with this method.


 Hopefully you can get an idea of my process. I draw a line from the shoulder and the armscye and meet them about mid bodice. Then I slash along the lines, going to BUT NOT THROUGH the center mark. I  pivot the flap up the appropriate amount, adding paper to the wedge created in the armscye, and adding paper to the shoulder seam to true it up to the original seam so it goes straight across.
For the sway back adjustment, I do something similar, but not exactly the same. Since this pattern has back princess seams, I drew in the seam allowances, pinned the pieces in place, and at the waistline drew a line from the center front to the side seam.
I have a significant adjustment to do, so I measured up 11/2" from the original line at the center back, and drew another line meeting the first line at the side back. With the princess seams, you do have to do a little moving back and forth to get the lines across both pieces unless you're more brilliant than I am and folded those seam allowances out of the way and used some way to hold them together. Prior to the next step, use the same measurements across the bottom of both pieces. So you are adding at the hem line what you took out at the waistline.
On the center back piece, you will cut across the lines and tape them into place so the lines match up. On the side back, slash across the seam from the joining line at center back piece to but not through the side seam. Pivot the center back up the 11/2" and tape in place. Then you will need to make sure your hem line is correct.
Your pattern pieces may appear odd until you get used to this adjustment and see how brilliantly it adjusts for that "wedge" in the center of your back where your RTW blouses always hang up.
Depending on your pattern, and the size of your adjustment, you may need to straighten and true the center back seam a bit. You can see a gentle curve from the upper back to the waist and out to the hip again on mine.

After the initial adjustments, I cut out the fronts, side fronts, backs and side backs. I’m not bothering with facings or collars for this initial muslin. I’ll be posting pictures here, so if you’re offended by a lot of skin and flab showing, you may want to avert your eyes. Because I generally don’t get into full makeup and hairdo on the weekends if  I’m sewing I will also try to crop them so that doesn’t scare anyone.

I used the ¼” seam allowances and sewed everything together. One of my processes is to have my wonderful and ever patient husband taking pictures and helping to pin out the areas that are in need of changing.  

First set of photos aka ah, the horror of it all:

Tomorrow I'll begin the analysis of these photos and what I see needs to be done initially.
I know immediately that the right and left armscyes are quite different. But... I also know one shoulder slopes more than the other, and of course one boob is bigger than the other. It will be interesting to see if I can make this work using one front for both, or if I will have to do right and left pattern pieces to get everything nice and even.
I'll leave you with your own musings about fit and fashion!
More later!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Confessions of a Plus Sized, Older, Type A, Overachiever

Well, good day everyone. I'm trying to make some changes in my actions and my reactions to things, and to that end, I think a confession is in order.

I pulled a quote out of a book I'm currently reading that really struck a chord in me. It says "We must always explore the root cause of our actions--to cling to our ignorance is to return to the mud."

Yes, I'm one of those. From where I'm sitting, I can see several quotes that are pinned up to remind me of things...

#1 "If you want to achieve goals you never have before, you simply have to start doing things you've never done before."  Steven Covey

#2 "Endlessly strive for what you would like to do, but also learn to love what must be done."

3. My real bugaboo... "When you don't exercise, your muscles let out a steady trickle of chemicals that tell every cell to decay day after day after day."

4. "Positive"

5. "Imagine"

6. "Something wonderful is about to happen."

7. "Choice!"

All of those things surround my desk every single day. And due to a lot of things, I am a 67 year old, 90 pound overweight plus size woman who WANTS to have perfectly fitting, classically elegant clothing. To that end, most of you know, I've been making almost all of my clothing for the last 15 or so years. I have the pants to the point where I am quite comfortable with the fit. My Pamela's Perfect tee shirt is pretty close to what I want, although after Jo Ann's input I will be increasing the sleeve cap a bit. Woven blouses, and jackets, not so much.

If you've been following me, you know I started a "quick tailored jacket" back around the middle of  March. It was going along quite well until I put the sleeves in on March 25. At that time everything came to a screeching halt. It looked horrible and I couldn't figure out why. It was my TNT jacket pattern that I'd made a few times already. I knew the fit wasn't perfect, but I thought it was good as it could get on my current body. But now a new issue had arisen that I hadn't noticed before.

Well, I reached out to a wonderful friend for some advice. She gave me great information on that problem, and also pointed out multiple other items that needed to be changed in the jacket for the fit to be right.

Here's the list:
1.     Narrow shoulder width by ½ to ¾”
2.     Widen should depth by extending the back shoulder ½” and overlapping the front shoulder ¼” inch at neckline tapering to nothing at the sleeve cap. True neckline.
3.     FBA
4.     Rounded upper back adjustment
5.     Add ½” up from underarm seam in the armscye, true seams.
6.     Widen bicep.
7.     Increase sleeve cap depth by about 1 ½ to 2”.
8.     Make sure sleeve cap seam is about ½” longer on both the front and the back than the armscye seam.
9.     Sway back adjustment, additional 1”, being sure to add back in that 1” at hem line. True seams.
10.  Add 1” above bust at front seam tapering to zero at side seam.
11. Add 1” at waistline front seam tapering to zero at side seam.
12.   Reduce underarm seam if it is too loose.
13.  True up front and back seams, trimming side seams as necessary.

Since I had the jacket basically completed except for hems, buttons and buttonholes, there was no way to go back and do all of those adjustments. In my disillusionment, I thought if I fixed the sleeves I would be okay with the jacket.

Fast forward a month. I'm still procrastinating about the sleeves. I know I need to narrow the shoulder some more, but if I do so, the sleeve cap will once again be too short. Lots more procrastination. Yesterday I finally talk myself into putting the sleeves in and finishing it off. Sleeves in. Hems in. Final press of the sleeves.

Try on again. NOT GOOD. I am totally unhappy with this jacket and KNOW that I will never wear it. I decide in all good conscience to give it to Goodwill so someone who is tiny can make a lovely silk twill something with a beautiful silk charmeuse lining.

That jacket that put a screeching halt to my SWAP is (not quite but soon) no longer on my mind, or on my radar, and is in the box for Goodwill. I am moving on.

BUT... Jo Ann also gave me some great advice on fitting. I am now measuring everything. My front half, my back half, where my boobs sit on my chest wall, how far apart the bust point is from my center front, where my waist falls, and where my hips fall. Front width at the bust, waist, hip, and Back widths at the same spots. I now know that I need to measure the pattern everywhere before I start doing anything else. And write down the measurements so I don't forget what was what and where I was in my process when I got interrupted and stopped to do something else. And to use gingham for my muslins so I can be sure not only my vertical grainlines are straight, but also that my horizontal grainlines are straight.

I knew about the gingham from a long time ago when I was working with Don McCunn of How to Make Sewing Patterns fame, but got lazy and quit doing it when my body changed again for the umpty umpt time.

For now, I will be using some commercial patterns and making adjustments, doing a gingham muslin first, making the changes to the pattern, doing a second muslin to check that out ad infinitum until I get the fit right. I'm really tired of wasting my beautiful collection of fabrics by making things that don't fit. Woven gingham is the best choice for me to use and is certainly cost effective in the long run.

So right now, I am beginning again. My first task is to come up with a sleeveless woven blouse that will work under jackets for work, and alone around the house as we get into our summer weather.

My next post will be my new Kwik Sew 3865 View B. Starting at the beginning. With comments, observations, and probably more than a few pictures! 

Thanks for listening!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I've been blogging but it's all been in my head!

Nothing has reached the paper as yet.

It's been an interesting month to say the least. First we had THE illness. What I thought would be a minor cold turned out to be possibly the worst cold I've ever had in my life. I was down every day with fevers and chills and achiness. It really took a lot out of me. At the same time, my doctors have begun messing with my thyroid dosage again, and that always makes for a fun time. They decided it was too high, so cut to the next lower dosage, and that dropped it so my thyroid hormone level was about 1/3 of my normal. So now we're experimenting trying to get it right again. It's take this amount for 6 weeks, get tested, take another amount for 6 weeks, get tested, etc. until they get it right.

In them meantime, I've been doing some sewing when I can. The cream silk jacket was done using the Nancy Zieman Speed Tailoring book and video. It's an OOP Simplicity, #4273, that has been altered extensively. The cream silk twill is from old stash. Have no idea where or when I bought it, so it's obviously well aged! Silk charmeuse lining fabric is from Sawyer Brooke, purchased in January of 2012 . First thing was to attach fusible tricot to all front pieces, the hems, the upper back, the collar and undercollar. Then in the roll line and the undercollar roll line, a heavier fusible interfacing was used.

I used Pam Erny's Fashion Sewing Supply Pro-Tricot Deluxe as my first layer, and Pro-Weft Supreme for my second layer. I have used her interfacings for years and years and wouldn't use anything else.

The sewing progressed as per normal, with several side steps along the way. I finally had it at almost complete around the 23rd of March. At that point in time, I tried it on and felt like I had hit disaster. The sleeves were all wrong, hung wonky, and I knew I would never wear it like that. I couldn't figure out why, and needed help.

I reached out to a wonderful blog world friend for help. I can do multiple things, but figuring out fitting problems on myself is always difficult for me. I just didn't know why it looked like this and/or how to fix it. I do have super large upper arms, a family trait that all my sibs and I deal with. As a small child my mother used to just cut the binding of puffy sleeves of my dresses at the underarm seam so I'd have enough room to move! But I had already altered the sleeves so I had enough width, and I was stumped.

My friend came through like a champ, and I heard something I'd never heard before in my life. My wonderful sewing guru indicated I needed more height in the sleeve cap. In 40+ years of sewing, I'd NEVER heard anyone say you need more sleeve cap height. So her recommendation was to slash the sleeve and put a piece of gingham into the slash, pinning until all the grainlines, both horizontal and vertical were accurate and the sleeve hung properly. She also indicated I need to take width out of the shoulder area, and several things that will be taking place in future versions of this jacket. Keeping in mind that I had barely enough fabric to cut one more sleeve, we're talking maybe an inch extra, I did as she suggested. What a surprise!

It became almost perfect! I do have other "issues" with the jacket that need to be addressed in future versions, but by adding the sleeve height, that solves the most visible and noticeable issue. Today I hope to get my sleeves installed properly and then I can move on! Before I make my next jacket, I'll follow suggestions and do a proper muslin out of gingham so all the issues that have arisen will be addressed in my next jacket.

I haven't liked to make jackets for a long time because they always look "off." The multiple suggestions I have been given for tweaks to the pattern will make such a difference in the look and the fit, you may be seeing a lot of new jackets coming from this sewing room over the next year.

A big thank you once again to my sewing guru, who can name herself if she chooses. She's awesome and generous and brilliant!

More later, hopefully more frequently, and by the way, Happy Easter to all!