Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Marfy pattern for my birthday dress - part 2

Based on the comments left for my previous post there is a never ending level of interest in fitting patterns. Which makes sense as I think sewing is a technical skill that improves with practice but fitting is really a mixture of art and science. Concealed zippers, a welt pocket, plaid matching or perfect topstitching are techniques you can repeat and rehearse until you get them just right. But fitting, once you cut out that garment the pieces are fixed and then there is only the seam allowance to play with.

There are a lot of resources to study fitting now, from on-line classes to DVD's, books and tutorials. I have mentioned before that my favorite fitting book is the Palmer and Pletsch Fit for Real People, because they cover pattern alteration from neck to hem and everything in between and then show real life examples. I don't use their method of pinning the pattern tissue together into shape and adjusting but that is just my preference, instead I use more of a flat pattern measure approach. I think of fitting examples whether in a book or on a blog as the word problems the fitting world. Remember those pesky word problems in math class? First you learn the concepts, then you can do the calculation worksheets and then the book would have that page of word problems. How about this sewing example?

Jane has a hip measure of 42.5 with a hip length of 9.5" and the pattern measures 39"with 2" of ease and a hip length of 8". How many inches do you add to each front and back skirt piece, and where, in order to look good and not like a sausage in a casing? 
aaaagh, flashback to school nightmares, right? Without trying to frighten them away I always tell my school age sewing students that sewing is math. Pay attention when they do the sessions on fractions!
Onward with my real life fit example for this Marfy pattern. As a quick review, I am making this pattern which is their F2422 dress, and here is a look at the front pattern pieces.

       Marfy F2422 pattern illustrationMarfy pattern pieces close up3
My first muslin I made up almost as is and I found that the pattern shaping was really boxy. Not much in the way of shaping with the darts or the princess seam. Certainly not at all like the illustration.
I did some adjusting on my pattern pieces and here I can show you side by side the changes. I did trace the pattern pieces and the adjusted pieces on the left are a bit bigger as they have the 3/8 inch seam allowance I added. Adjusting a dress like this is a 2-stage process, I do what I can on the paper pattern and then fine-tune on the muslin.

Marfy pieces alteredMarfy all pattern pieces1
      Adjustments on my paper pattern

  • dress back, added 1.5 inches at hip tapering to zero at waist
  • back, took a small swayback tuck, about 3/8 inch removed. 
  • side upper front piece, slashed and spread horizontally about 1/2 inch, added about 1/2 inch at side seam
  • center front piece, slashed and spread 1/2 inch horizontally to match the side princess piece. added a little at the side waist increasing to about 1.5 inches at the hip. 
Then sewed up the muslin, including the zipper and gave it a try. As frequently happens I ended up removing some of the extra that I added at the side seam but I consider those additions as fit insurance there to play with. 
Here is the finished muslin where I have numbered the adjustments and explain them below. Note I wasn't thinking about it and photographed this on my small dress form so it doesn't fit on this form but I think the adjustments are clear. I sew all muslins in contrasting thread so I can see what the heck I am doing and often change the color for subsequent adjustments which takes only a second but is really helpful at the end. 

Marfy muslin with adjustment notes
  1. Folded out a small dart in the center front line of the band piece because the dress was just a bit too loose there. 1/4" at the top and tapered to zero at the bottom. this was kind of tricky as it created a V in that piece which I had to smooth out later.  still a bit of a V there but it not apparent to the eye.
  2. While I did that adjustment on the princess seam it was now too big across the upper bust. You can see where the numeral 2 is that I shifted the center front piece over about a half inch, tapering to the bust point, but only on the center front piece, not the side princess piece. this gives more curve over the bust. I also had to take out the matching amount on the upper band.
  3. Side seam, I took out about 5/8 inch from the upper back at the side seam (only the back).
  4. Waist shaping, I took in the princess seam (which acts as a waist dart a bit, about 3/8 inch at the most so that reduces the waist a total of 3/4 inch. I also made the princess seam/dart a bit longer, they stopped at an odd point and left some extra over the tummy which was not a good look.
  5. Took in about 3/8 inch on the seam at the hip for a total reduction of 1.5 inches in circumference. Also lengthened the back darts as per the front, and I think I took in the back darts to add more waist shaping.
Oddly enough the one part of this dress that fit perfectly is the length and placement of the shoulder straps and where the armhole hit, which is so odd as most patterns are too long/low for me in this area.
Some other observations on fitting. Small adjustments can make a big difference (resisting the urge to say "duh" here...oh I just did).  Note that in some places I adjusted only one side of the seam, in my mind I call this sliding or shifting, in that I am not taking in the seam but only taking away from one side of the seam, if that makes sense. Also I want to point out that in some cases I added and then took away some or all, but I find it better to have that buffer or fit insurance as it is often called.
After this adjusting on the muslin I made the changes on my paper pattern pieces and then sewed up the dress with only some minor adjustments in the sewing. I was making this dress in a rush before my vacation and so used fabrics I had that would be easy to sew and not give me any trouble. I hope you are not let down by the finished garment :)  Here is a sneak peek.

Marfy close up corner

Thank you to everyone for your happy birthday wishes. I am so late in my blog posting so my birthday has come and gone already ( September, Labor Day weekend - oh the irony according to my mom who was in labor for 48 hours and never lets me forget it :) but I did finish my dress and wore it on vacation in Hawaii. And took pictures. So next post, finished Marfy dress.

Happy late September sewing,  Beth

Here is my SunnyGal garden photo, morning glories, seems there are even more this year tumbling over the fence, such a great color.

morning glories


  1. Oh I didn't realise you have already had your birthday/ finished the dress. Belated wishes. This post is a great insight into achieving good fit! Can't wait to see the finished product.

  2. Oh, I can't wait to see this! Thanks for the long explanation... I will have to re-read them and savor the instructions, this is like a master class. :)

  3. Oh goodness, you TEASE! I'm glad you enjoyed your birthday, and I am glad the dress worked out.
    The peak of the corner seems quite divine, I can't wait for the big reveal.

  4. Now that is GENIUS to sew muslins with contrasting thread and then use different colored thread for later adjustments. GENIUS.
    I have done what you describe--that shifting/sliding thing.
    Your fabric is looking super cute!

  5. I hate it when designs don't match the actual pattern fit. I am currently trying to identify a suitable pattern for a blazer only to find out there's over 4 inch ease on what should be a fitted pattern...oh well. Curious to hear your feedback on Marfy. Happy belated birthday and love the fabric you chose

  6. Happy belated birthday, Beth! Looking forward to your dress photos.

  7. Happy Birthday Beth and thank you for taking us through your fitting steps; fitting is such a challenge! Yes, sewing does seem to include lots of maths - I'm always surprised at how much mental arithmetic I have to do even with my slapdash approach to grading patterns :), and pattern cutting seems to be all about 2D geometry

  8. Thanks for all the details in the fitting journey on this dress. I have muslined on Marfy dress, and also found it very boxy - perhaps they do that on purpose knowing that a good fit is not something "standard". Love your finished version. And a very happy belated birthday, too!