Ok, so back at the beginning of September, I was naively hopeful that I’d complete my Micro-Mini Wardrobe sewing plans. But alas, for it was not to be. I was motivated and excited to work on all of those pieces, but I vastly underestimated the time it would take to fit new-to-me sewing patterns. Vastly. I’m not sure why. I’ve known for a long time that button-front shirts are the bane of my sewing existence. My track record of attempting to fit the darn things is, to put it mildly, pretty poor.
I started with attempting to fit Butterick 5525; it’s a pattern I’ve wanted to sew for a long time. Unfortunately, the first size I picked (size 14) was way too small. I knew I’d need an FBA and did one preemptively, but I couldn’t even get the collar to close around my neck, so clearly it was not even close to a good starting point. I then over-estimated the size I’d need and went with a 20; this was massively large, but not in a “cute and intentionally oversized” way. It was much more of a “it doesn’t fit well and looks sort of like a potato sack” kind of way. I suppose as an upside, I did get to practice some shirt-making techniques and explore the shirt collar and cuff placket making process before we get to any of the real fabric.
I was a bit dismayed by the fitting results from the Butterick pattern, and rather than tracing off yet another starting point, I thought maybe it would be better to start off with a pattern where I wouldn’t have to make as many adjustments (like massive FBAs) right off the bat. So I decided to try the Cashmerette Harrison shirt pattern. It has a lot of great reviews on Pattern Review, and most people seem to get along well with the Cashmerette patterns. I will say I did not need to make an FBA, which was nice, but I did have a lot of other fitting issues. The shoulders were definitely too long and too low, as well as much too sloped for me. And even though I’d downloaded the full bicep sleeve PDF pattern and used that as a starting point, it was still too tight on me. I hadn’t use the largest size, but it feels way more restrictive than I thought it should. So I went to town making a lot of pattern adjustments to the shoulder and sleeve area based on my first toile. I thought it would be an easy bit of tweaking on the second version, but it really didn’t go well. The shoulder seam is the appropriate length but the back of the arm is now cut much too far in. I still need to make yet another round of adjustments, but it’s a lot of problems around the shoulder and armscye, which could go very wrong very fast. Maybe I need to start off with a smaller size to begin with, but the collar fit seems right, so I don’t know. It’s possible I just don’t match a Cashmerette bodice fit very easily.
To take a break from the frustrations of the top project, I also started work on the trousers I was planning for the mini-wardrobe contest. I knew that I was definitely not the same size I had been the last time I attempted Burda pants, but since my PJ pants pattern still fits I figured I could get away with starting from my usual size and making a few small adjustments. I couldn’t.
I spent the better part of two weeks waffling back and forth between weather it made more sense to attempt to scrap the pattern altogether, try to morph the design details onto a different Burda Plus pants pattern, or just wing it in terms of the massive amount of inches and adjustments I needed around the hip area. It basically led to a lot of pondering and indecision while I tried to figure out how best to deal with my fitting woes on any of my sewing projects, and also led to a quick knit top to avoid the stress of the situation.
At a certain point I busted out all of the pattern fitting books I own to see if I could diagnose some of these issues. In one book it suggested something along the lines of “even when you get bigger, the bone structure of your shoulders doesn’t change shape” which basically helped me consider that for tops I really didn’t need to choose a larger starting size, just needed to consider how best to make the necessary fit adjustments where they were needed. In Burda this seems to hold true; whenever I start with a size 40 top and make generous fit adjustments to the rest of the pattern it seems to work out well. I don’t really have a “usual” size in Butterick patterns though; my starting size has always been very pattern dependent, so I probably just need to test out a few more sizes to find the best starting point.
While looking through the Threads Fitting for Every Figure for more help with my trouser issues, I noticed that they had instructions on how to draft a pants pattern from body measurements. I was feeling a bit lost after looking at a lot of YouTube videos discussing the math of the crotch curve, so I figured that doing a self-drafted pant couldn’t be a worse place to start off from than I already had with my much-too-small Burda draft. So I spent the better part of a weekend self-drafting a design that I then took the better part of a month to actually find the time to test out.
Happily, the pants draft fits really well especially for a first attempt. I’m currently in the phase of trying to add the Burda design features I wanted from the original pattern to the self-drafted pattern that actually fits. I’m still in the middle of this process, and will totally need to do yet another test-fit garment before I’m feeling ready to cut out good fabric, but at least I finally feel like I’m on the right track with at least one sewing project. With a bit of work and a bit of luck, hopefully I’ll have at least one new pair of pants before the end of the month.
In other news, this near-magical success of self-drafting a pants block has made me far more interested in drafting patterns from scratch than I had been before. I had seen a recommendation for Patternmaking for Fashion Design on another blog (I can’t remember where – sorry!) and since it was significantly less expensive than most college textbooks, I thought it would be worth a try. I just got my copy and haven’t followed any of the instructions from this book yet, but I’m hoping that this can help me expand the sewing options available but also have a deeper understanding of pattern drafting and pattern fit.
So after a month of work I don’t have a lot of sewing projects to share or any fun pictures for the blog, but I have at least been doing some sewing, which is good. And with a bit of tenacity, a bit of work, and a bit of luck, hopefully I’ll have some more progress to show soon.