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Date Posted: 17:49:55 08/14/03 Thu
Alterations for custom fit--I have received many inquiries about how I make these changes. So--since it is a very lengthy post
-By using the Irish Threads pattern, you will not have to scratch thy head and wonder how do I make this thing fit. Pat has done a wonderful job on the pattern and it is very easy to alter.
Some supplies to make the alteration process easier: clear see thru ruler marked in grids--usually clear with red or blue lines--available in most quilt or art supply stores--this is not a rotary ruler--it is very thin and the pencil tip can ride easily against the ruler without adding fractions/mm to the pattern being drawn. Mechanical lead pencil with very thin lead--or a pencil with a very sharp point. I also have what is called a flexible curve that you can purchase in any art store that carries any sort of drafting supplies. It is made of a flexible plastic that can be bent to mimic perfectly any curve and makes drawing bust curves a snap. I do not use pattern tissue or paper--I purchase drawing paper on a roll at a blueprint shop. It is thicker than pattern paper but much lighter than heavy poster paper and will take the heat from an iron (so one can use it to make transfers as well.) That is basically what I use.
When making a totally custom piece, I take more than the one measurement. I take a measurement around the waist, bust, underarm to waist, back from neck to waist.
If the measurements come up something like the following:
Bust 31 inches
Waist 25 inches
Underarm to waist 7 inches
Back neck to waist 14 inches.
Sleeve: measure from shoulder dimple to hem edge--then add 1.25 inches for upper and lower seams.
I then pick the pattern size that will most closely go with the bust size. I don't even worry about the skirt at this time as it is all straight lines and no need to take that on at this time.
Using the pattern from Irish Threads as your master--pick the pattern that most closely fits the bust. Waist is a very easy adjustment. Draw off all pattern pieces and make sure that you mark all the length/shorten lines. These are the most valuable pieces of marks you need for pattern adjustments.
Here comes the adjustments now---With the above measurements, the pattern piece may be for a 32 inch bust--then you need to subtract the 31 from the 32 and you will come up with 1 inch. Most people make the mistake of just adding to the side seam--this does not work as you have 4 pattern pieces and need to adjust each accordingly. Divide the 1 inch by 4 pattern pieces and you will come up with .25 inch (1/4) that needs to be added to each pattern piece. What you then do is divide the 1/4 inch by half and you come up with 1/8 inch that you will add to each side of each pattern piece. Sounds complicated--but it isn't. If you needed to make the pattern smaller, it is the same formula--only instead of adding the amounts to each pattern piece side--you subtract instead.
Bodice length--from the back neck to waist--measure the pattern--take into account that the pattern piece has 2 seam allowances of 5/8 of an inch at the top and bottom--so when measuring the pattern from top to waist--mark the seam line at the neck and the seam line at the waist and measure. The entire back may measure from top to bottom 14 inches, but when you subtract the seam on both top and bottom, the true measurement is only 13 3/4 inches. Your client has a length measurement of 15 inches--you need to subtract the 13 3/4 from 15 inches to come up with your amount of adjustment that needs to be made--1 1/4 inches needs to be added to The pattern. I take a piece of paper and draw 2 parallel lines 1 1/4 inches apart. Slash the pattern on the lengthen shorten line and tape the upper part to the top of the line and line up the lower edge with the bottom line and voila--you have the added length. The reason you subtract all seam allowances before making the length adjustment--your body measurement does not allow for seam allowances. The underarm measurement is used at this point for reference only. Make the same adjustment to all pattern pieces.
Sloped shoulder is quite often encountered in custom sewing--not just dance dresses--but also in real life. This is by and far one of the easier adjustments to make. If I notice that a client has a considerable down slope in the shoulder, I will take the following measurement and adjust the pattern. I take a straight ruler and hold it on her shoulder and then measure the amount of drop with another ruler--normal is about 1/2 inch. Just hold the ruler horizontally from the center back neck across the top of the shoulder and then with another ruler, measure the amount of drop to the shoulder dimple (same area that you measure for sleeve length). Note this number. For the purposes of an alteration we are going to set this number at 1.5 inches. Severely rounded shoulder. At the pattern, lay the first ruler horizontally from the back neck across the top of the pattern to the shoulder--horizontally like you did on the body. With the second ruler, measure the drop--make sure you measure down to the seam line of the pattern--not the cutting line-- and make a mark. Draw the new seam line and then draw the new cutting line. You will see a marked difference in the angle. Once again, you make the adjustment to center front and center back pattern pieces. If the shoulder is straighter than normal--almost blocky--you will do the pattern in the exact same way only you will raise the shoulder slope instead of lowering it. Sleeves are easy--draw the pattern piece from your master and again--mark the lengthen and shorten lines--add or subtract at this line only. The reason that lengthen shorten lines are placed on patterns in certain areas is to keep the line of the pattern.
Once I have these adjustments made. I make a mock up--I don't use muslin, I usually use a fabric called weavers cloth--the reason I use it -- it is heavier and will drape in about the same fashion as the stabilized silks, lycra, and gabardine will. Some folks skip this part as one of the steps--but for a custom fit it is vital.
If the client is within driving distance (reasonable) I have them come to my home and then I make any needed adjustments to the fit of the muslin. If there is too much fabric in the upper chest, I pin out the excess. I will then slash the pattern in the appropriate spots and tape out excess. This part comes from trial and error. If the client lives outside of a reasonable driving distance, I sent the muslin to them and ask that they make sure it fits properly. If they don't have a clue, I have them go to an alterations shop and I include instructions on how it should fit and have the alterations person make sure it is pin fitted properly. When both the client and I are satisfied with the fit, I then use the muslin as my pattern so to speak. It has worked for me every time and to tell the truth--the largest share of the dresses I have made are all from out of area.
I hope this has helped and that you can visualize how these things are done. It was all greek to me until I took a fitting class from an expert. I took this class long before I got into doing custom work. The $50 fitting class has paid for itself in spades. The person I took the class from has been a guest on many of the sewing shows and her technique is easy and works like a charm. Necia
-Necia, My dd is slender with VERY wide shoulders. Should I still base sizing on bust measurement and just widen the shoulders? If so, do you have any tricks up your sleeve for that?
--The easiest way that I know of is to cut an L shape from the center of the armseye straight across to about where the center of the shoulder seam would be. You then cut up towards the shoulder seam to within 1/2 inch of the cutting line. This will allow you to swing the piece out and add inches to just the back piece. Make sure you keep your master as you will need to redraw the shape of the back of the armseye. You do not want to make the shoulder seam itself wider--you just want to add space to the shoulder area. When you play with it you will see what I mean. If you are near a Barnes and Noble or a library, a great referance book is Fitting by Sandra Betzina. She has several ways of doing this and it would probably be written in better terms. --Necia
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