I’ve been struggling with fitting a muslin, and I asked for some help in a Facebook group. I made a second muslin following someone’s advice and it looks a hot mess! I thought what they said was kind of weird, but I did it anyway because they sounded so confident and they had a cute video that seemed pretty clear to follow. I graded between so many sizes my pattern looked like my grade school teacher had exploded their red pen on it! Now, the muslin is twisting and I can’t figure out how to get rid of these heinous draglines, and to top it all off, the ‘helper’ wants to know how it turned out! The muslin has so many problems I can’t even count, and I can’t post these pictures anywhere. What should I do??
Grading School Dropout
Oh no! My first piece of advice is to always Trust Your Gut. If something doesn’t sound right, ask another sewist you trust, or check a fitting book. Just because someone has glitzy graphics or a cutesy video doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing all the time. Luckily its only a muslin — you can always start over, and go back to what you had before, as frustrating as that is. I’m very sorry you had this experience, I know it can be so dispiriting. Don’t drop out!
In my years working in ready-to-wear, whenever I get stressed about work, or a particularly troublesome style, I always remember at the end of the day, IT’S JUST CLOTHES. We can always work through it and use a little levity while doing so 😉
Now that that’s settled, let’s talk about the Mal-Advisor. It’s certainly appropriate to say something like “Thank you so much! I did try out your suggestions, and I’m still working through my fitting journey with this garment. I’ll show you the finished product when it’s good to go.” Of course, you’re under no obligation to do any of that, and, in fact, depending on how Dorothy Parker you’re feeling, you can certainly say something like “Actually, none of your suggestions worked, but here’s a great fitting book — perhaps you should read it.”
So, the beauty of sewing for yourself is that you get to play around, and make interesting things, and maybe not always follow the rules. Rules are made to be broken, right? Especially in sewing and patternmaking, there are multiple ways to achieve an end result. There’s also an infinite number of factors that can affect your fit, so while one recommendation might work like gangbusters on one project, it may not work at all on another.
That said, be wary of anyone advising you to make corrections that don’t take into account things like trueing your pattern, matching seam lengths, making the adjustments for all the pieces, and shortcuts that seem too good to be true. Especially when you’re doing things like grading between sizes — yes, this can be done, between one or two sizes, but if it’s not done carefully you’ll end up with wayward draglines, ease in the wrong places, and seams that shift forwards/backwards on your body. In that kind of scenario, if you need to go +/- more than three sizes, you’ll save yourself many headaches in the long-run by just doing the proper pattern adjustment instead. (Cashmerette has an excellently exhaustive resource here for all your in-betweening needs).
And a final piece of advice: take the internet with a grain of salt! Unless you are asking for feedback from someone who you know has a good skill set, be prepared to receive some (well-meaning) but potentially incorrect advice. I’m a big proponent of asking for and giving constructive criticism, but it can be hard to weed out nonsense voices online and on Instagram, especially in this particular time of Sunshiney-Everything-Is-Great-All-That-Matters-Is-Making-Optimism. Not saying that’s necessarily bad, but it really opens up places to get poor advice that will set you back, and also make it hard to give feedback if something doesn’t work. This excellent and timely piece by The Sewmelier on Sewing Like Mad just popped up in my feed, you may find it interesting.
How about you, Dear Readers? Have you ever received bad fit advice, or unwarranted criticism? How did you handle it?
How to submit:
Send an explanation of your problem with a short video or set of photos, and your contact information. This can be purely for fit advice, sewing and technique questions, or really, any kind of sewing etiquette! Your submission will be edited into a blog post, so please note that by sending an email, you are granting permission for your video/photos and sewing problem to be shared online. You are helping the community see all-bodied individuals! There is no shame or judgment — the end goal is to help you *make* clothing that feels great and that helps you *feel* the same way while wearing it.
See more here.
Gabby is a technical fashion designer, fit specialist, and prolific googler. She lives in Denver, raises tiny littles, reads, embroiders, makes, experiments, fails, learns, tries again. See her on instagram @ladygrift.
“Shortcuts that seem to good to be true”…big red flag! Adjustments that are often fairly simple on a standard=size industry fit-model, are not the same as adjustments on the rest of us. Age and weight gain/loss create the unique shapes that we all have, and that CHANGE throughout our lives. So while there are some basics of addressing pull lines and drag lines, there’s no “one size fits all” solution. Thank you Gabby for your insight and assistance! Looking forward to seeing what sewists “ask Gabby”!!
Thanks, Janet! Completely agreed- corrections that work for sample size in certain styles and certain fabrics, don’t always translate to fitting custom sewn garments, because every single actual body is so different. And there are always so many things to consider- oftentimes the correction is something singular that will address several issues, but people will try to fit the many symptoms, and not the main illness- and do it before they’ve even made a muslin. But if the answer ever is, “just take a marker and draw a line from one size to another 10 sizes away,” I think it’s safe to say the result will be wonky 😉 Thanks so much for reading!!
Adding what Brooke said on Instagram (@sewbrooke): “only one adjustment at a time!” A single 1/4″ adjustment does a lot more than you might think; and it’s a lot easier to reverse a single adjustment than it is to back out of a narrow shoulder adjustment AND an FBA AND a flat butt adjustment AND and and… just chill. You’re not fast fashion and you don’t wanna be.
Also… relax on the wrinkles obsession! You need ease to move, and some of those wrinkles are necessary so you don’t blow out an unintentional rear view. You’re not Scarlett Johansson sewn into a dress after 2 layers of spanx and saran wrap. It’s amazing you’re sewing your own clothes! How cool is that? A couple wrinkles are nothing in comparison to that.
Such a great call out! It’s why I always try to limit my amount of corrections when I’m fitting to 5 main things- and do it after I make a muslin. If I’ve sewn something similar before and *know* that I’ll have to make similar changes, only then will I adjust the pattern before muslining. Every pattern is different, the balance, the drafting, etc etc- why make changes before you’ve even seen anything?
And, agreed again! Some wrinkles/lines are just wearing ease, and are supposed to be there!
Totally agree there, there is so much bad advice to choose from. I try to give suggestions sometimes, but you know not everyone wants to hear about their shoulder slope or whatever, and that’s perfectly ok. I also wonder about the obsession with wrinkles. People buy a pattern, redraft the entire thing from scratch (sadly often only because of body delusions, not anything they really need) and are only satisfied with a sausage-like casing no matter what the original design was like. Then they complain about the pattern. Sigh.
But hey once in a while you come across someone who just dazzles you, and that makes it all worthwhile 🙄
Ha! It’s so true. I think there’s definitely a misconception that things that fit tightly always fit well. But, this is the type of craft that takes years to perfect- so as long as people are sewing, and are happy, and keep trying, good things can happen, right? Shoulder slopes and bad advice not withstanding 😉
There are always multiple ways to do things, some work, some don’t. What really makes me crazy is when I ask for suggestions on how to fix something and the suggestions are, “Oh, don’t do it, its too hard”, or “I wouldn’t take that on if it was me.” Well I don’t care what your opinion is on whether or not I should do something, I am doing it. I just wanted to know if any one could offer some particular advise. Otherwise – shut up! (Right?)
Agreed! I never understand when people post comments like that. If you don’t agree with the correction, or don’t think the person should try to fix it, there are much better ways to state it- but clearly only if they have a different solution, or the problem really isn’t a problem at all. Otherwise, why even bother? Just to be a bother? 😑
I find when people ask for advice on FB there is a plethora of answers from all levels of advisors, some with almost 0 experience and no knowledge of what a quality garment is and some from the other end of the spectrum, very experienced and educated in the process of sewing, like your first commentor, Janet. How is an inexperienced, mystified sewist to know the difference when cruising youtube or FB? It’s tough. On FB you get so many diverse suggestions that it has to be overwhelming to the newer sewist. I found this phenomena so troubling I did a lot of research and later a blogpost on how to discern a quality tutorial when looking for help. It’s on my blog in the Next Level Sewing Series, #12. ( I don’t monetize, btw). There are very specific ways to see who is giving the quality advice. I do know there are more than two ways to do things in sewing but there are also tried and true methods for fixing specific problems as well so that route is a good place to start.