TNT Trench Odyssey: Part 2c Tissue Fitting #2

And you thought ‘tomorrow’ would never come! Lesson of the day: Don’t promise what you can’t keep! Now without further ado…

First alterations:

I thought I better not attempt too much at a time. I’m not familiar enough with fitting to know how one change might affect the fit in other areas. So I’m trying to work through the order recommended – though I vaguely remember some inconsistencies in different sections of the FFRP book.  I read somewhere else that tops hang from the shoulder, so fitting needs to start with shoulder, neck & upper back. That’s what I’ve done first.

  1. Rounded Upper Back adjustment:
    Added 3/8″ at CB 1″ below neckline, tapering to nothing at armscye.
  2. Sloping & Forward Shoulder adjustments:
    Remove 1/2″ from front
    (B = -1/4″ SS + 1/4″ FS = 0, F = -1/4″ SS + -1/4″ FS = -1/2″)

Tissue Fitting #2:



  • CB neck now reaches the base of my neck.
  • Shoulder seam at armscye side now aligns with the middle of my arm joint.

Adjustments still needed:

  1. Shoulder seam at neck side still seems too far to the back => Forward Shoulder type adjustment on the neck edge?
  2. Neckline at CF is right at the base of my neck. For a jacket that I might want to button-up (by adding extra button & button-hole to the lapel edge like in my RTW version) this might make the front neckline feel a bit too tight / high. Might just lower the whole front along neckline & CF.
  3. Shoulder is slightly too narrow => Wide Shoulder Adjustment.
  4. CF at bust level still doesn’t meet my CF => Full Bust Adjustment.
  5. CB swing slightly below mid-back & side seam swings to the front => Sway Back Adjustment.
  6. CB waist is 3/4″ too low & CF waist about 1/4″ too high, assuming FFRP is right that standard waist seam should be at the bottom of your waist elastic (belt in my case). Hem is also higher in the front than back. Part of this may be due to sway back issue. But it may also be due to the FBA needed? I know I am slightly short-waisted, but I think I will do the FBA first before deciding how much to shorten the bodice by and where.

Now the FBA. I’m a bit confused about which type of FBA to do.

Jackets For Real People illustrates two types of FBA in Chapter 8: A dart-based FBA and a princess FBA. The dart-based FBA is done on a jacket with a side front panel and there’s a note on p42 saying “this is not a princess style. The front has a side panel and is altered like any darted front.”

How do you tell if a jacket is a “side panel” jacket rather than a princess line jacket? The bust apex on M5525 size 8 is like 1-1/4″ to the front (rather than on the princess line) and the side front panel isn’t very curved at the bust level. So is this a true princess seam or is this a “side panel” scenario? So my options are…

Option 1: Do a dart-based FBA on the front panel. This will end up with a small dart on the front panel only. The result would look a bit like Vogue Patterns 1233 – a dress that looks a little bit like a trench which I bought as a back up pattern for trenches.


Option 2: Do a princess FBA on the side front panel. I’m worried that there’ll be a bit of bagginess on either sides of my girls due to the deeper bust shaping that’s 1-1/4″ to the sides of my girls.


Which FBA would you do? And am I mad enough to try both?

TNT Trench Odyssey: Part 2b Tissue Fitting #1

OK, let’s get serious now. Let’s talk about fitting. And let’s get one thing straight: I hate making Muslin muslins. You know, the type that goes to the landfill afterward. I know it’s sometimes unavoidable. But what’s left of my green conscious won’t allow it for every single garment.

So I’m giving Palmer / Pletsch’s Fit For Real People tissue fitting + fit as you sew technique a proper go. If I can make it work – learn to read the tissues, learn to mentally prepare for fabrics behaving differently – then at least I’ll end up with wearable muslins.

A word of warning before I get started. This is like the 2nd time I’ve tried this technique. So I’m no expert. I’m just sharing my experience so we can learn together. And if you’re already expert at this, please share your wisdom!

Tissue Fitting #1: unaltered bodice

As instructed I pinned the tissue pieces together without any alteration and check the back width first.

I’m using size 8, which is officially two sizes too small for my current measurement. But I was once size 8, and I’m working with the hypothesis that I’d get better results using this with FBA & other girth adjustments where needed.

  • Size 8 back seems wide enough.
  • CB seems surprisingly straight. I normally get bunching at lower back / waist, so I was expecting CB to be too long so swinging to the side at the bottom. There is a slight swinging, but not as much as I’d expect.
  • CB waist is too low though.
  • CB neck is also lower than base of my neck. But I’m not sure if I should alter this. How do you tell if the neckline is meant to be lower? Some McCall / Vogue patterns indicate lowered back neckline on the back pattern. This one doesn’t. But at least a couple of pattern-making books I have mention lowering the back neckline slightly for jackets & coats.

As the back width is wide enough, I’m OK to check the front width.

  • Finished bust is suppose to be 36″, which would already give me a 2″ ease. But CF at bust doesn’t come to my CF without pulling & creating drag lines. I measure about 1″ difference. Also, as this will be worn over other clothing, I reckon I’d need more bust ease anyway. This trench is suppose to be semi-fitted, which supposedly should have 3-5″ ease. I’ll aim for 4″ & maybe sew a wider SA if it seems too loose at fabric fitting stage.
  • 1-fitting_1s-2Armhole seems a little bit big at the shoulder seam & also to far to the back. From previous sloper fitting attempts I know I have slopping shoulders & forward shoulder (too much computer work). So definitely need adjustments here. Rest of the armhole looks OK to me considering that this is a jacket – ie need bigger armhole to fit over other garments.
  • From the side you can see the bust point is too high up and too much to the side.
  • Forgot to check if the side seam is straight. Oops.

First alterations I’m going to make:

  1. Rounded upper back adjustment
  2. Sloping & Forward Shoulder adjustments

Results tomorrow!

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! 😉

FFRP Odyssey: Bodice Part 2

Pattern Preparation continued…

Tissue paper being rather fragile, I decided to take a few precautions and get the pinned tissue pattern to lie as flat as possible before I try it on.

Initially I folded back all the clipped curved edges – neckline and armhole. This also helped me see better when evaluating the fit, especially as gift wrap tissue paper isn’t as translucent as the Big4 pattern paper.

Actually, I ended up cut these critters off altogether since they were flapping about getting in the way. They’re not particularly useful during tissue fitting anyway as the sleeve isn’t pinned to the bodice. I also found that it was easier to add new sheet of tissue if I needed to extend upward and outward. Taping clipped curve seam allowance back together was more effort and less accurate. When I’m ready to move on to muslin fitting or fit as you sew, I can always add the seam allowance back  then. Or use Hollie’s Seam Allowance Guide like all the Burda sewers do.

Next I creased all the dart lines before pinning the darts together. Once the darts have been pinned, I open them up and finger press to ensure they spread out as much as possible. This is so that I can get a more accurate gauge of width & length without having to pull the tissue too much while trying it on.

Here’s what the pinned tissue pattern looks like:

Fitting Preparation:

Tissue fitting yourself is never going to be easy. Especially if your eyesight’s going and going like me. So I had to use some visual aids. I folded an Uniqlo camisole in half lengthwise, matched the side seams, then pinned small safety pins along the CF & CB folded edge to make it easier to see CF & CB. When I put it on I then use my finger to check that these lines align with my spine and CF. I used a chain to establish the neck line and 1/2″ elastic for the waist line.

Next, the all important shoulder. Now this is where it gets clear as mud. My knowledge of anatomy is as good as most people’s knowledge of world geography! Where exactly is the shoulder point?

Books and articles mention it as if it’s obvious. It’s not. My shoulder curves. There isn’t a hard angle that’s obviously the shoulder point. Instruction to find the “pivot point”, or “end of a flat bone”, or “top of a fitted, set-in sleeve cap”, or “dent when you lift your arm at right angle to the side of your body” were all of no use.

The whole joint moves – there is no one point of pivot. And what flat bone – they all feel rounded to me. Using RTW as guide is like asking bankers to set the Libor Rate – they all quote what suits them, how do you know which one is correct. And the dent, which dent – I got two!!!???  }:-

In the end I put a dot on both. Just in case. And this is what I end up with:

From the front you can see the yellow dot seems a bit too far in while the end red dot seems to be too far out. I’m inclined to go with the yellow dot. I don’t want sleeves that look like men’s suit jackets. I still feel self-conscious about the width of my shoulder, even if I’m officially no longer an inverted triangle.

BTW my other half would later claim that the shoulder point is in fact in between these two dents – ie between the yellow and the outer red dot.

What do you think? Am I fitting with the wrong goal post? What’s your experience of fitting the shoulder area?

Next time on the FFRP Odyssey…

Following the fit evaluation trail. (Or is that trial?) For now, time for zzzzzzzzz…..again.