FFRP Odyssey: Bodice Part N (as in eNd)

Bloggers who do illustrated tutorials have my full admiration. Because it’s bloody hard to do well!

I started out with the best of intentions to make my FFRP Odyssey a tutorial of sort. But I ran out of patience. Sewing is supposed to be fun. This bodice fitting is turning out to be a chore. So I’m going to wrap this up and park further fidgeting with fitting for the future, when my patience returns. Brace yourself for a long post though.

Hurdle Squared: 1 step forward & 2 steps back

I must admit I haven’t been exactly faithful to FFRP when it comes to the actual alteration. Some of the diagrams just don’t add up to me. So I turned to my Fitting & Pattern Alteration book at times (eg initial back width & high round back alterations), and resorted to smooshing and transfering à la Kenneth King at other times (more back width alteration).


This is the closest I got to what looks like a good fit, in tissue anyway:

So imagine my dismay when the first gingham try-out turns out like this:

It felt a bit too loose around the bust and in the back. Pinning out the looseness I arrived at this:

Hmm, over-fitted. Again.

The bust points are now a little bit too high. This together with the horizontal wrinkles in the lower back make me think I might have pinned out too much length in the front. I had deepen the side bust darts and took a horizontal tuck between bust points to follow what I thought was the contour of my bust. I probably should have made the side bust darts more shallow instead. Just one of those paradoxes of fitting that gets you.

After correcting this mistake and experimented with different back side seam angles and side seam height alignments, I arrived at this:

The slight tug under the bust I think is just due to the curved under-bust darts not being properly clipped to the curves.

The front armscyes look a bit too scooped out. But they feel more comfortable this way, especially when I reach my arms forward and the whole shoulder areas seem to move with my arms, creating those vertical wrinkles next to the armscyes.

There’s an interesting discussion on Pattern Review about this which I can’t seem to find anymore. Someone had claimed that for comfortable arm movement the front armpit to armpit width (at about the notch level) should have zero ease, but the same width in the back should have about 3/4″ ease (or 3/8″ per side). The only problem for me is that when my arms are by my sides, they tilt backward a bit, so extra fabric at the back armscye notches binds. So my armscye now look a bit like a tear drop shape. Weird.

The back I just can’t seem to get right. It doesn’t help that I don’t have a fitting buddy for this hard to reach (and see) area. I ended up shifting the dart points inward closer to my blade apexes, pinning a horizontal tuck between the blades at blade level, vertical tucks at the darts and deeper bottom darts, and horizontal tucks in lower side backs to pin out excess lengths at the back side seam.

By this point, I have so many markings on this gingham that I can’t see what’s what anymore. So I transferred the latest alterations back to the tissues. Then I traced off a copy that removed any extra vertical and horizontal tucks and darts by pivoting and sliding.

After truing things off I made a fresh gingham off the new altered patterns:

Apart from needing to lengthen it slightly all around, I’m declaring it Good Enough for now. Well, good enough for a Hold-Your-Breath Bodice anyway. There really isn’t enough ease to breath easily in this. I’m speculating this won’t be a problem for stretch woven, but will be a problem for standard woven fabrics.

I’ve made one garment too many like this. All the ones based on my old Big Bertha sloper were like this. They really were fit only for a Dummy that doesn’t need to breathe. Or sit. Or move in general.

So the Billion Dollar Question is: Where to add that wearing ease. Seems like I wasn’t the only one asking the question. Someone had already asked on  Pattern Review about where to add ease when creating a sloper. There doesn’t seem to be a straight answer with clear explanation of why. The closest was Don McCunn’s reply “Ease is almost always added to the side seam because that is where the maximum amount of movement occurs as you move in a garment.” So that’s what I intend to try.

Maybe I should also try out Kenneth King’s Moulage class / CD book. Because what I’ve got is essentially a second-skin moulage without all the measuring nightmare. But I still need to learn how to turn the moulage into sloper and blocks.

The scenic route back

Out of curiosity I compared this final (for now) version of the bodice with Vogue 1004 Fitting Shell size 10 and size 8. And guess what, I’m back to a size 8! (I was a size 8 in my twenties. Then I got married and too well fed.)

Here’s the front comparison with a size 8 C-cup.

I needed a bit more width in the bust area and waist, but the bust darts all seem to be the same size as the size 8 C-cup front.

Here’s the back comparison.

Again the dart in the lower half seems to be the same size. Interesting how the width added to the lower front is taken away in the back, resulting in a net gain of zero. But then again I have still have to add a bit more ease.

I did have to make adjustments for rounded upper back,  prominent shoulder blades, forward shoulder joint, and forward head. These along with the bigger cup size all point to one thing: Aging 🙁

But at least my frame is still size 8. All those expensive Designer Vogue Patterns I bought ages ago and cut out to size 8 have not been wasted after all! 🙂

So off I go with more fun summer sewing. I’ll sort out the sleeve fitting when autumn / winter comes again.

FFRP Odyssey: Bodice Part 3

So back to fitting. I started out with all intention to follow FFRP to the T. I ended up with a puddle of fudges. It started well. Sort of.

Here’s my no alteration try out of a size 10:

The back width seems OK at upper back – where the horizontal line is. There’s a bit of gap at the armhole – symptom of “slight rounded back” I presume.

Further down at shoulder-blade / lower armhole level it feels like the paper is cutting into my arm. There’s also excess paper / vertical wrinkles right by the armhole. So I’m assuming that I need to narrow the back there.

B-Cup Front

According to standard pattern instruction I would be a B-cup. So I try a B-cup front first. And as you can see, at the bust level, the pattern CF doesn’t reach my CF. At the chest level it does. So this size 10 pattern should be the right size. You can also see wrinkles radiating from bust to armhole with gap at the armhole – symptom of “fuller bust” supposedly.

D-Cup Front

Here I try a D-cup front, and the pattern CF now reach my CF.

Actually, I have a confession to make. When I first tried on the patterns, I tried B-, C-, and D-cup fronts. And none of them would reach my CF at bust level. My bust point was also lower than the bust points on the patterns.

So I reasoned that maybe the bust fullness was in the wrong place, and I wasn’t going to get the CF to reach until I shifted the bust dart down so that the fullness and bust point is at the right level for my aging bust. And that’s what I did.

But as you can see in this photo, when I tried again with an unaltered D-cup front, it now seems to reach CF OK. Which brings us to a couple of hurdles I encountered:

Hurdle 1: Fitting Order

Does fitting sometimes feel like that Whack-A-Mole game to you? You fix one bit and that throws off another previously OK bit, and so on and so forth. It does for me. So when fitting and pattern-making experts say that fitting order matters, I take notice.

But the problem is, what IS the correct order? Even P/P’s instruction varies from page to page, FFRP book vs McCall 2718 pattern.

  • FFRP p77-80:
    Back width > Bust cup size > Width around waist / middle > High round back > Waist length > Shoulder slope & position
  • FFRP p115:
    Back width > Waist length > Bust width > Waist length
  • M2718:
    1. Tissue:
      Bust cup size > Bust dart position > Very round back
    2. Gingham:
      Bodice length > Waist width > Neck size > Shoulder slope > Shoulder width > Back width > Slightly rounded back / Erect back > Sleeve cap height > Shoulder position

Then there’s Kathleen Fasanella‘s torso fitting analysis in her Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn product Manufacturing. She says you need to get the back neckline right first “because if your basic block doesn’t rest snugly in between [the first thoracic vertebrae – the first bone that doesn’t move with the neck] and the seventh vertebrae above it, you will always have fitting problems.” She says most back neckline is too deep and too wide. She then gives a generic instruction for fitting order:

Center back neck > “move down and forward in the natural direction & slope of the skeleton”

(It’s not a book about fitting per se, so she doesn’t go into great step-by-step details. Her points are mostly about key mistakes that she thinks people are making.)

Add in my initial problem of CF not reaching even in a D-cup until I shifted the bust dart down and I have a ball of confusion on my hand.

In the end I fudged. I started with

Back width (at blade / lower armhole level) > Bust level > High round back > …more fiddling with back… > …fiddling with front…

Hurdle 2: Learning to Read Paper

Tissue doesn’t sit on you like fabric does. Especially if you only have half a bodice on! One minute it’ll look like the pattern reaches where it’s suppose to reach, next minute it has shifted again and now looks like you don’t have enough width / length / whatever!

That’s how I ended up with like gazillion versions of the back, and at least 3 versions of the front.

I haven’t entirely given up just yet. I think some key lessons of tissue fitting is learning how to read the paper, knowing what the limitations are, and knowing when to stop and move on to fabric fitting – either fitting muslin or fitting-as-you-sew with fashion fabric.

P/P has benefit of experience fitting thousands of people. They no doubt know how to read tissue pattern like the back of their hands. Some people may also be naturals and intuitively know how to read tissue pattern. I don’t. But I’m hoping that  it can be learned. I think it will be worth the effort because I really don’t want lots of useless fitting muslins hanging about.

So, once I get the gingham fitting right, I’ll transfer adjustments back to tissue. Then I’ll try on the tissue again so I can see what a properly fitted pattern look like in tissue. I can then learn what fake-symptoms I should ignore because it’s just a problem of paper and half a bodice.

That’s the plan anyway. And you know how plans always work out! 😉

The Fitting Hampster Wheel

Urgh, the Sloper 2011 project is really dragging me down. A couple of weeks into my sewing holiday and I still haven’t made anything. Instead all my energy has gone into trying to perfect a new sloper. The idea is that once I get this basic fitting shell right it’ll open up a whole new world of design. So much for the theory! Here’s what really happened so far…

Draping on Big Bertha

My last sloper was also derived from draping on Big Bertha. But either the draping instruction wasn’t very clear or I’m not very good a following instruction, the fitting lines seemed off. So this time I vowed to keep the bust, back bodice, and skirt fitting lines level with the aid of gridded pattern fleece (a bit like non-woven interfacing, but for pattern drafting & fitting, source long forgotten!).

So far so good. And I discovered a good use for my used needles: They’re great for pinning into Big Bertha / Duct Tape Doubles. Yes, they still gum up. But they’re more sturdy. And the larger, rounder end that fit into the sewing machine also provide a good and less painful grip for pinning into Big Bertha’s thick skin.

So voilà, new bodice sloper!

This time I also tried to keep all other darts as symmetrical as possible to minimize the amount of adjustments needed for future pattern fitting. But see how the left shoulder still slope more than the right? And it wasn’t a simple lowing the shoulder and underarm seams. The armhole actually scoops in more.

As a precaution I decided to try these non-woven fitting shell. And shock horror, it’s not perfect. I can’t remember exactly what happened next – there’s been like 9 fittings since – but anyway, I got it into my head that my right shoulder also slopes and Big Bertha is no longer my faithful twin.

I decided to use the sloping left side for further fitting trials. I think this photo was taken after that though I can’t be sure any more. See how the right side now look about right.

On to gingham fitting shell hell

I followed Connie Crawford’s instruction for drafting a sleeve pattern, then proceeded with the gingham fitting a la Vogue Pattern instruction. And here’s the initial result:

Erm, where did that big horizontal wrinkle on the back come from???!!! And the sleeves, see those dreadful twisted drag lines. Urgh!

I checked my other books and decided the sleeve might have been drafted incorrectly. I didn’t exactly followed Connie’s instruction to the T. She’d have you draft  to standard sizes. But what’s the point of standard size sleeve on custom sized bodice? Anyway, I know my arms are skinnier than standard, so I adapted her instruction for custom larger sizes. But this resulted in a 2″ ease. When I later checked my draping book sleeve drafting instruction, it says the ease should be no more than 1.5″. So that might have been part of the problem. But the twisting…I have no clue.

I decided to remove the sleeve and check the fit again, in case the rogue sleeves were distorting the fit. Still no luck. Back bodice still wrinkled. The bust fitting line isn’t level and there are folds at the side seams. The skirt too had diagonal wrinkles from front high hip to bottom of back buttock. And the hem swings towards the front slightly.

Anyway, tweaks after tweaks later, I finally did away with most of the back wrinkle in fitting 7. But now the whole bodice is hitched up about 1″.

I checked the shoulder slopes and, erm, they’re like the original Big Bertha draped results! I’ve gone the full circle and I was feeling really sorry to have doubted Big Bertha.

So I undid the whole basting, retraced the original draped slopers, rebasted, and voilà…

Huh? The back horizontal wrinkle is back???!!!

By this point I’m feeling a bit like this, but obviously not as cute.And my apartment is a mess
with patternmaking & sewing bits & bobs strewn all over…

Oh, I forgot to mention, in the process Big Bertha has also acquired an arm and me a few cuts  from my boyfriend trying to free my arm from the Duct Tape shell. There’s her arm in the top picture…not that I’ve done anything useful with it since.

Plan B C

In my typical fashion my solution was to order more books! Thanks to a birthday Amazon gift voucher, 3 more fitting books are on their way to me. (Plus 2 on serging.) I’ve finally succumbed to the sewing community’s rave reviews and ordered the Palmer/Pletsch fitting for Real People series.

I also ordered Fitting & Pattern Alteration 2nd edition (far left). I actually have the first edition already (near left). It’s like an encyclopedia of fitting issues. But because it’s mostly drawings, and each fitting problem is shown separately, I still wasn’t able to figure out how to solve my compound fitting problems. The new edition seems to have more photographic illustrations. And some reviewers mentioned clearer explanation on order of fitting. I’m hoping these changes will be enough to help me get off the Fitting Hamster Wheel on to the straight road of finally cracking that fitting shell!

In the meanwhile, I’m going to Plan C: looking for some simpler, less fitted projects to put the joy back into sewing.

What about you? Have you had fitting problems sapped the life out of your sewing? How did you crack it?

A Cozy Retro Detour

So of course as soon as I finished tracing out the pattern for Le Trench London weather turns too cold to wear trench. God has a very wicked sense of humor. I’m now considering putting Le Trench on the back burner and go for a full-on cozy cape or coat.

I got four less precious coat-weight fabrics and also two astronomically expensive cashmere. With my current state of slightly dodgy sewing skill and even worse fitting skill I think the cashmere will be safely tucked away for another year or two. So here are the candidates:

50ish Cape…

I quite like this 50ish cape from  Burda Style 2011-08. I got a rusty colored coating fabric I my Mom gave me which I think would work well. I can just picture this with one of my classic golden brooches. Mmmm…

Unfortunately there’s only 1-7/8 yards of this fabric, so even this short cape would be pushing my luck a bit. But as this fabric is stiff as cardboard, I’m hoping I can skip the facings in self-fabric and instead go for a thick lining fabric instead.

Who knows, I might even be able to squeeze a fabric tie out of it and wear it like in this jacket from vintage sewing pattern. (Picture from Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1950s.  I love that book for retro inspirations!)

Or 60ish Coat?

I also quite like the rather structural shape of Vogue 8548 coat. I like view A’s retro feel, but am not sure about 3/4 sleeves for a coat. I get too cold in the winter to wear shorter sleeves, and long sleeves poking out is going to  ruin the look. You need a pair of elegant, slim-fitting gloves to complete that look. So maybe view B would be better, if more boring.

Fabric-wise, well, there’s brown or brown or brown!

See what I mean about buying more of the same? 😉

OK, they’re slightly different weights. The left one is definitely coat weight. But I have just over 3 yards of this and it seems a waste to use it on this pattern that only needs 2-1/8 yards. The one in the middle I also have just over 3 yards. The one on the right is closest at 2-5/8 yard, but it’s a thinner fabric probably more suitable for a thick jacket. Urgh, decisions decisions decisions?

How would you decide?