Today I’m going to give you a peek into Joi Mahon’s fitting book Create the Perfect Fit, Measuring and Pattern Fitting for Real Sewing Solutions. I’ve found the method this book details to nicely expedite the process of adjusting the fit for new sewing patterns.
While Joi does state that a muslin needs to be constructed to determine what final fitting adjustments are needed, her method strongly emphasises making adjustments to the pattern before sewing up a muslin, thereby minimizing the number of muslin iterations needed to get the fit just right. In the introduction she summarizes the book with the statement, “Measure yourself, measure your pattern”.
The book then goes on to describe how to do that in great detail. I appreciate that the chapters are arranged such that they cover the vertical adjustments for a given area before the horizontal adjustments. This saves a huge headache. It’s easy to sew up a muslin and immediately get overwhelmed with not knowing where to start to get it fitting right. But if you think about it, you can’t very well work out what adjustments need to be made to narrow or widen an area if the sections of the garment aren’t falling at the right levels on your body. For example, if you’re short-waisted and you stitch up a muslin for your new shirt pattern without any preliminary adjustments, the waistline on the shirt is likely going to fall well below your actual waist. Then to be able to determine whether the waistline of the shirt needs to be taken in or let out, you will at a minimum need to pin up the length in the middle of the shirt to raise the shirt’s waistline up to the proper level to meet your waist. You may have been able to figure that out all right, or you may have ended up with a headache and a lot of frustration.
This book takes pattern adjustments to the next level by showing that not only do you want to make those vertical adjustments first, but you can make both those and the horizontal adjustments before making your first muslin. At that point your first muslin will likely be close enough to fitting you properly that you’ll only need minor adjustments to get the fit just right.
If you typically need pattern adjustments in the bust area, you may find this book worth the bust fitting section alone. Joi breaks up the bustline measurements into several segments to create a better fit throughout the area. Vertically she covers shoulder-to- apex, bust curve, and underbust to waist.
Horizontally she covers upper chest, full bust, full underbust, apex-to-apex (here’s where you get rid of button placket gaping), and apex to side seam. That seems like a lot, and it is, but each area is addressed individually, so it’s not overwhelming. From going through all these measurements, you’ll learn specifically where you need to make adjustments to get the pattern fitting you, rather than making a general full/small-bust adjustment, then still needing to tweak the fit.
The chapters in Create the Perfect Fit cover the following:
- Chapter 1 – Measuring and Pattern Protocol is a quick introduction to the process, along with the tools you’ll need, most of which you’ll probably already have on hand as a sewist.
- Chapter 2 – Vertical Torso Adjustments
- Chapter 3 – Horizontal Torso Adjustments
- Chapter 4 – Vertical Lower Body Adjustments
- Chapter 5 – Horizontal Lower Body Adjustments
- Chapter 6 – Vertical Arm Adjustments
- Chapter 7 – Horizontal Arm Adjustments
- Chapter 8 – Ease and the Polished Fit provides some basic guidelines for adding fit ease, along with a list of measurement areas that aren’t likely to require any ease.
- Chapter 9 – Garment Application Workbook – All of the adjustments through chapter 7 are demonstrated on a fitting shell pattern, which shows how to closely fit the body without including any style ease to complicate the process. In this chapter Joi discusses how to apply the same strategy to fashion patterns for a variety of garments. While this chapter is both helpful and inspiring, the guidance provided is mainly a high-level checklist of measurement areas to address. No projects are worked through to demonstrate the specifics. With that, someone who hasn’t worked with pattern alterations before may feel a bit abandoned if they try to extrapolate the adjustment instructions for the fitting shell patterns to a fashion pattern with a complex design or a lot of style ease.
- Chapter 10 – Real Bodies, Real Fit contains photos of several different women, including Joi’s 10-year old daughter, wearing the muslins that were created for them by going through the adjustment process with the fitting shell pattern. Each woman illustrates a different figure type. A list of adjustments is noted for each person, along with a brief description of what additional changes were made at the muslin stage.
One thing that isn’t mentioned or shown in the photos that would still be helpful for fitting the muslin is to either draw vertical and horizontal balance lines onto the fabric or use gingham fabric to help ensure that after the adjustments the garment continues to hang level all the way around the body.
Overall I’ve found Joi’s method helpful and hope you have the opportunity to look through Create the Perfect Fit to determine whether it would expand your understanding of garment fitting and provide a useful tool to add to your pattern fitting skills.