Measuring Patterns

Pattern measuring---Click through for full-size image

Before I forget, thanks EVERYONE for your wonderful comments on my blogiversary yesterday. It made for a completely warm and fuzzy day (in between wrangling children, appointments, and driving clear across town six times… and mine is not a small town :P)

One of the most interesting things I learned asking my mom about home-sewing in her youth was that the rise of the muslin is a comparatively recent event. I’m sure fine couturiers have always been making them, but when my mom was learning to sew, they were considered a waste of time and—worse—fabric.

Sew and Save by Madeleine Hunt (published 1953) seems to agree—I don’t think there’s a single mention of making a test garment in the entire book, despite a lot of emphasis on fit (and minimizing figure flaws, can’t have our flaws showing, ladies, πŸ˜‰ ). Instead, they measured.

And measured and measured and measured.

The book has twelve full pages dedicated to measuring patterns, going over every common type of pattern at the time—princess seams, kimono sleeves, gored skirts, sleeves. I’m too lazy to scan them all right now, so I’m just including the ones that are relevant to me right

Pattern measuring---Princess Seam; click through for full size image

now, as I sit here trying to fit Built by Wendy’s “Fitted Jacket” pattern to me: Measuring an armhole princess seam. Sorry for the poor look of the scans, the browser (or at least, the one I use) does a craptacular job of shrinking B&W scans. If you click through for the full-size version they look fine.

So I should probably back up a bit. I want to use Wendy’s “Fitted Jacket Pattern” as the basis for my Springy Coat, which it is more-or-less perfect for, but I’ve never made any of Wendy’s patterns before. Stage one, of course, is picking my size.

So, scanning through her sizing chart, I settled on XS. I know, smokin’ the crack. But the bust and hip measurements were both right. Shoulder and waist measurements are in the small-to-medium range (typical for me).

Built By Wendy Fitted Jacket pattern pieces

What I SHOULD have done was take out my handy-dandy tape measure and follow Madeleine Hunt’s advice (made extra-easy by the fact that the Wendy patterns don’t have seam-allowances.) It would have revealed to me that the 33″ bust and 26″ waist on the pattern chart is the actual size of the pattern pieces. As in, without wearing ease.

So, yeah, the pattern’s a mite small. I will throw up the initial muslin shots for your amusement. The top of the front is the only place where it closes. The rest varies from a wee bit too small to way too small (like 3″ too small at the waist).

Jacket bodice muslin, front view

The upper bust actually looks about right. Below there it gets… well, snug.

Muslin---side view

On the up side, the length of the armscye and the level of the waist (areas I often have to modify) feel about right. I’m a bit torn on the shoulders—I have a feeling they should be about 1.5cm wider, so that the seam falls about where the end of the seam-allowance is. I like where the princess seam falls, though.

Muslin---back view

The back fits fairly well, even with minimal swayback wrinkling (this won’t be an issue in my coat, but I imagine if I get this fitted I’ll want to use the pattern for other things, too. You may have noticed I have a thing for princess seams? The side-seam does tug to the back a little bit, although not much. I didn’t clip the seam-allowances at the underarm, which is contributing to the diagonal wrinkling on the side panels, as is my tugging on the front.

I now have two options, of course—start again with, say, a size S, or just grade up the pattern as traced. Since I’m happy with the lengths in this one, I’m tempted to just grade up–adding a slice of width to the CF and CB pieces could easily give me most of the width I need, both around and at the shoulders, and reducing the taper of the princess seams below the bust (equivalent of narrowing the dart there) can give me the rest. Also pulling out the big tissue sheets to trace is annoying.

So next step—sleeves. The sleeves as drafted are really slim, one piece with a symmetrical sleeve cap. I’d prefer an asymmetrical cap (I’m borderline on needing a forward shoulder adjustment) and a two piece. I’m torn on the slimness—I like the look and have pretty scrawny arms, but this is going to be a lined jacket, too. And yes, I have compared them to the sleeve I used for my winter coat (which is pretty darn slim) and it’s about 2″ narrower around.

… time to get measuring. πŸ˜‰

In Me-Made March news,

I wore my fluttery cowl again, but it spent most of the day buried under the Kimono Lady Grey (boo hoo). It’s warm enough that I don’t really have an excuse for the wool pants, except that I wanted to make sure they got an airing this month.




Filed under Sewing

13 responses to “Measuring Patterns

  1. I don’t know… I tend to use gross fabric that no one in their right mind would actually sew with for muslins, it’s a better method for more timid types or for testing out a “new” pattern brand I think. Measuring works well, but I think it helps to already know your fit issues and how you usually fix the pattern.

    Happy Blogoversary! (A little late. I like your blog.)

    • You’re absolutely right, of course. πŸ™‚ but I think measuring is a good way to get in the right ballpark, especially with a new pattern company. Maybe I just need to buy more truly hideous fabrics, though. πŸ˜‰

      Thank you! I like yours too.

  2. My grandmother told me there was no need for me to make a muslin, just measure, measure, measure! She has the utmost confidence in that technique, but I don’t know if I can do it. I’ve been meaning to get together with her and see how she does it. I showed her something I was working on and she said I used such tiny stitches. “Baste first, then use tiny stitches!”

  3. I hate muslins, but I love your pants and your boots!
    I’m not that bitter, I guess =)

  4. CGCouture

    I’ll confess that muslin fabric ended up making my hobby too expensive, so I opted to start basting the pieces together instead. That’s nice for two reasons 1) I can see how the garment will fit in advance and 2) I can see how the darn thing goes together while I still have the big stitches that are easy to rip out!

    Happy blogoversary! I don’t think I told you that yesterday. 😳

  5. I never made a muslin until a few months ago… and even now only if I have to… I’m not so good when it comes to patience and then I’m not so good at throwing them away…

  6. The more I read & learn (as a beginner such as I) about sewing, the more & more I think that measuring everything is the way forward for checking the patterns before attempting my toiles/muslins, it’s gonna save a lotta more hassle furtehr down the line LOL!

    Re: a two-piece sleeve pattern I’ve got a great set of instructions that’ll I’ll email to you when I get home from work (they’re on my laptop at home) πŸ™‚

  7. I don’t like to make true muslins- meaning actual muslin fabric and that you throw it away when you are done. I like to use crappy fabric from my stash that I like for one reason or another. That way if the muslin works out, I’ll wear it and if it doesn’t it’s no big deal.

  8. I rarely make muslins for myself., as I use the flat pattern measurement technique. And 1″ side seam allowances. so I guess I fall into the “measure, measure, measure” category. When I make a muslin it is to see the style before I cut into the real fabric. which turns out to be totally worth it sometimes, saving me from wasting some nice fabric.

  9. Lois

    Thrift stores have fabric that I have bought for very little and used for muslins. I want to actually see how it fits before I do it. I didn’t know about muslins until blogs apeared!

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  11. Christina

    I learned it the same way! IΒ΄m 21 but my former sewing teacher is in her mid-60Β΄s. I think this method gives you a basic idea if the finished garment is going to fit you, but it will not be useful when you are a narrow, short back (just to name an example).

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