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Fitting Questions

1. what book(s) would you recommend for all-around general fitting advice? I am especially interested in books that provide a wide range of problems/solutions and perhaps multiple alteration techniques.Which ones have you turned to the most during your sewing experience?

I'll answer the last question first -- the book I turn to when I have a question is Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong. I learned a lot on fitting when I worked at Couture Fabrics, so I mostly just rely on my hands on experience.

That said, there are some great fitting books out there:
Fit for Every Body, by Palmer Plesch
Fast Fit, by Sandra Betzina
Fitting Finesse, by Nancy Zieman

2. Which method of alteration gives the best result-flat pattern measuring, tissue fitting, pivot and slide, etc.?

They are all good methods, and each has it's place. I use flat pattern measuring, tissue fitting, and slash and spread. I've done a little bit of pivot and slide -- it's more for adding/subtracting at seamlines; I wouldn't use it to do a full-bust adjustment. I don't have any experience in using slopers to adjust patterns, but those who do use that method, love it.

3. Are there any courses that you can recommend that would help with learning how to alter patterns?

If you can, I'd recommend taking a pattern drafting course. You might be able to find one at your local college. You can also try asking at your local fabric shop if they would consider having a fitting class -- perhaps if you could get a few people interested, they would hold one just for you!

4. Knowing that I will need to alter a pattern, which size pattern should I choose for a dress, skirt, and pants when my bust is a size 18 and my waist and/or hips are a size 22/24 depending on the pattern? Should I go with the bust size in a dress and enlarge the pattern for my waist and hips or go with the waist/hips size and then adjust for my bust?

First, let me say that if you want a garment to fit you properly, you are going to have to adjust it, no matter what. Now, choosing your pattern size depends on the garment. You need to choose according to where the garment will hang from, so, for dress, shirt, or blouse, you need to choose a pattern size that will fit you in your neck and shoulders, and then adjust it to fit your bustline. If you are a B cup or so (the standard size for the big four), buy it according to your bust measurement. If you are fuller, buy the size according to your chest measurement (taken under your armpits, over your bustline). For skirts and pants, they must fit you properly at the waistline, as that is where they hang from. You can buy it according to your waist measurement, and adjust from there. Personally, I start with my hip measurement and do pivot and slide to get my fit. Also, let me say here -- for fitted pants and all jackets, I always do a fitting muslin.

5. Are there any videos about pattern alterations?

Honestly, I don't know, but I am sure there are. I believe that Palmer Pletsch have some videos, and Nancy Zieman probably does too.

6. I'm wondering what measurements I need to take to insure my scoop necklines are smooth and do not gap? How would I translate my measurements to the pattern?

In this case, I would be sure you are using a pattern that fits you well in the shoulders and neck, that you have adjusted it to fit your bust, if necessary, and then I would do a fitting muslin, or make up a test garment (nicer than a muslin -- actually wearable if it works). You could try and hold up the pattern tissue to your body, but I think a muslin would be your best bet. If the neckline gaps just a bit, you can ease it into a stay, or cut the facing a bit smaller, and use that as the stay. You could also fold in some darts in the pattern before cutting it out. If it gaps pretty badly, I would think you are using the wrong pattern size.

7. I have an extensive collection of vintage patterns I would love to make up. The problem is that most of them are either too big or too small. What would be a formula or guide to change the size of a pattern up or down sizes. I know I have seen the formula in a book but cannot remember where. Do you know of any books on that subject?

Grading Techniques for Modern Design is an excellent grading book. It's by Jeanne Price and Bernard Zamkoff. It has a chart in it with the amount of grades between sizes. It doesn't have a formula for figuring out the grade, just the chart. I think in general there is a 1-1.5 inch grade between sizes, but it changes somewhere -- something like less of a grade between the smaller sizes, and greater grades as you go bigger. If you are going to grade your patterns up or down, try and find a grading ruler -- it really helps! It looks like this.

I found this site that shows some different fitting problems and pattern alterations: Pattern Alterations

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