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Episode 123

Re-run: Find Your Fit

This re-run episode is packed with tips for finding the best fit for your clothes. You'll learn how to treat your measurements like data, diagnose a good fit, and track your fitting adjustments so you can make them quickly and easily.

Podcast Transcript

Sarai
I’m Sarai.

Haley
And I’m Haley.

Sarai
And this is Seamwork Radio.

Hi everyone. Haley and I are taking a break for the holidays, and while we’re gone, we’re re-sharing our Sewing by Design series from earlier this year. This series was really popular, and a lot of people have found it helpful for building a framework around their sewing so they can get more out of it. Today’s episode is the fourth step in the process and it’s all about finding your fit, which is a big reason many of us sew in the first place.

I hope you enjoy hearing it, whether it’s for the first time or as a refresher on the whole concept of creating a sewing practice that makes you happy. Enjoy the episode and we’ll be back after the series is over later this month.

Welcome back to Seamwork Radio. So today we’re talking about how to find a fit that’s right for you. And this is part of our series on Sewing by Design, which is our framework to help you sew. And we’re going to cover why fitting is a challenge for most people, how to diagnose your fit in a systematic way, the two types of adjustments that you need to learn, and how tracking and finding your fit can make the whole process so much easier. So that’s what we’re talking about today.

And we have an icebreaker today from Julie Von Knit, and she wants to know about what our sewing accomplishment or biggest learn from this past year is. So what do you think, Haley? What’s your biggest accomplishment or learn from this past year?

Haley
Well, if I’m thinking in terms of projects, the thing that I sewed this year that I’m most proud of is I sewed the Larkin bomber jacket for my husband, Eric, and it just turned out so good.

Sarai
It did look really good.

Haley
It’s really good. And I think it was also because I found the perfect ribbing, and just like, everything came together so perfectly, the perfect remnant for the lining. It just was, like, all of the stars aligned so that I could make a really awesome bomber jacket. And it wasn’t like anything that I felt was out of my skill range or anything, but I still feel really proud of it. It has lots of good little bells and whistles, like the lining and the welt pockets and all the ribbing, and every time I look at it, it makes me very proud. And he doesn’t wear it enough, which I think is incredibly rude.

Sarai
Yeah, that’s the downside to making something for your partner or family member—if they don’t wear it enough.

Haley
I should have done a full bust adjustment on that and then made it for myself. This is like, bull. What about you, Sarai? What is your biggest sewing accomplishment?

Sarai
I don’t know if I have a big sewing accomplishment, honestly, for the last year, but I do have some learnings. I feel like in the last year, I’ve talked a lot about moving and how that was a big theme in my life in 2021. And what I really learned about sewing in particular is how important it is for me to have a space that feels kind of like a sanctuary from my daily life, just a creative space that I can work in and do my sewing or whatever other creative stuff I want to do in. I hadn’t had that in a really long time. Maybe like 15 years ago, I did have a space for it, but it’s been a long time. And just setting up that space exactly the way I want, getting all my tools exactly the way I want, having it feel like a space I can come to and have fun and just be on my own doing my thing is so refreshing and rewarding. I’m so excited about it. And I guess I knew that that was a good thing. Everybody likes having a space to work in and enough space to spread out what they’re sewing, but what a big impact it’s made on my life and my creativity, I think, has been a big lesson.

So it’s been really fun. I like setting up my space. It’s been really fun.

Haley
I want to see it. I haven’t seen it yet.

Sarai
Well, it’s not really done. You could see a little bit. You can see my cutting table and stuff, but I’m in my office right now. And this had been a sewing room for the person who owned the house before. And so she was more into quilting. And she had a whole wall, which is behind me right now, that is covered and felt so it can be used as a pin board. And this weekend, I printed out a whole bunch of pictures to make a mood board. And I’m going to put them up probably this weekend and have this huge wall that’s just dedicated to having a mood board, which is going to be so fun. So I’m really excited about that.

Haley
That’s so exciting. I’m going to be participating in Design Your Wardrobe this time, and I’m excited to make a new mood board to kind of direct my next batch of makes. It’s so inspiring.

Sarai
Yeah, me too. That’s going to be fun. So that was a fun icebreaker. And if you have an icebreaker for a future episode, we actually have a thread now on the community where you can post them. So if you’re a Seamwork member, you can go to seamwork.com/go/icebreakers and let us know what questions you’d like us to answer to start off a future episode.

And we’re going to get into the topic for today. So for the last few weeks, we’ve been sharing our Sewing by Design framework for thinking about your sewing journey and what that might look like. And last week we covered Design Your Wardrobe, which we just mentioned, which is the process of actually designing what you want to sew and planning for that.

And then this week we’re talking about the next part of our framework, which is find your fit. And I just want to remind everybody this isn’t necessarily a linear process. These are more components that go into your sewing journey. It’s not necessarily in the order in which you might approach these. It really depends on you as an individual. But finding your fit is one of the things that a lot of people both struggle with and are really motivated by when it comes to sewing.

It’s one of the main reasons I think people learn to sew. Not everybody, but for a lot of people. But it’s also hard. It’s a challenge and it’s a motivation at the same time. And I think what makes it so hard is what we think of as the individuality issue, which is that everyone’s body is different and that is what makes it hard. And that might seem obvious, but when it comes to clothing, we’re so used to just going into a store, choosing our size, buying something off the rack, maybe it fits, maybe it doesn’t quite fit, maybe it’s good enough.

With sewing, you really have the opportunity to custom tailor your clothing to your body, which creates a lot of options but also a lot of problems to solve and that can be daunting sometimes. So figuring out those components about what makes you unique is a big part of the challenge when it comes to fit.

So Haley, what are your consistent fit challenges? What are the things that you see over and over again in your sewing?

Haley
Oh, yeah, well, I think that my challenges all kind of come from a place of that—I’m like a fairly petite person with small bones, but I’m like, very curvy. I have to build a lot of extra shaping or room in various areas like my bust and my hip and bum and—my thighs are my number one fitting challenge, to be totally honest. So that’s always a challenge for me. And then on top of that, I’m short, so I don’t have as much like vertical length to make all of those changes. So I have to make a dramatic change from bust to waist in a very short span. And doing that can have its challenges. But I’ve like, learned over the years how to make it work. And I’ve also been doing it for long enough that I look at a flat pattern and I know like, okay, this is, like, straight away the changes that I’m going to be going to need to make or if I need to make a muslin at all, sometimes I can skip it, you know, that kind of thing.

Sarai
Yes, I think you get to that point eventually when you’ve done it enough. And that’s part of the beauty of this process we’re talking about today. When it comes to finding your fit, that individual fit that is right for you, is it becomes easier over time because you recognize more quickly what changes you might need to make for your particular body.

Haley
Yeah, absolutely. What about you, Sarai? What are your consistent fit challenges?

Sarai
Well, my biggest one is that I’m very short-waisted. I have scoliosis, so that means that there’s pretty short distance between the end of my rib cage and the top of my hip, and that makes fitting a little bit more challenging. I often have to make those length adjustments. I also have a fairly large bust for my size. So again, it’s kind of similar to what you were saying, Haley, just making those changes in that short span. Height wise, I face that too, a little bit, but mainly it’s being short waisted. I also have fairly broad shoulders, and thighs are also another issue for me because I do a lot of weight lifting. So I have fairly bulky, muscular thighs, which, it’s not like they’re particularly large, but muscle just is very dense. You can’t squish it as much. So that’s something that I find that with ready to wear, like jeans and things like that, it’s very hard to find jeans that fit me well. So those are the things that I notice quite often. But the biggest thing is definitely the length of my torso. Also with the scoliosis, my ribcage flares out a bit.

So I have kind of a prominent rib cage. And sometimes, depending on what you’re making, that can have effect. If you’re making something that’s very tight around the waist or tight around the torso, that can be an issue too. So those are the kinds of things that I am used to seeing.

I think the other thing that makes fit a challenge for people is just that bodies change over time. So that’s another thing is you might find a fit that works for you or find the kinds of changes that you need to make consistently, but it might not be the same after a few years. It might evolve as your body changes. And so that’s very normal and that’s very—a natural part of the process, but it is something that adds an extra challenge if you’ve had a pregnancy or if you’ve had any kind of weight change. There’s all kinds of things that happen as we get older that we have to accommodate. So just another variable.

But today, Haley is going to give us a blueprint for thinking about fit. So this is the part of the Sewing by Design framework that will help you to address these challenges in your sewing and find the fit that’s right for you, which is maybe a big reason that you sew in the first place.

So you want to tell us about that, Haley?

Haley
Yeah, totally. So this kind of framework is something that is based off of our Learn to Fit with Confidence class, which we’ll link in the show notes. But whether you take the class or not, you can really kind of benefit from having a framework or a way of thinking about fitting in the process of fitting.

So, like everything, it all starts off with mindset. And I think this is a really challenging mindset to master. Because not only are we having to be kind to ourselves as we learn a new skill which requires a certain amount of self grace, we also have to be kind to ourselves as we get to know our bodies in maybe a more intimate way than you’ve ever gotten to know your body before.

And I think that this can be really triggering and scary for people. But if fitting is a journey that you want to embark upon, I just encourage people to think about their measurements and think about all of the information that you’re getting from your measurements with the idea that it’s data. When you’re thinking about fit issues, the issue is not your body. And the issue is not necessarily the pattern, because the pattern could be—is drafted off of some kind of data that’s based off of typical measurements in lots of ways.

But there’s a lot of variation from typical. You know, typical is an average and a lot of us are outliers in that. So I think even though we talk about fit issues as, like, “issues” using quotation marks, the issue isn’t your body. It’s that the two aren’t fitting together and you’re going to do some really cool math and pattern manipulation to make them speak to one another a little bit better.

And it’s also this really fun exercise of self love to create things that you feel amazing in. Because when your clothes fit you really well, you don’t think about your clothes when you’re wearing them. You’re not like adjusting them all of the time. And you can feel more truly present in your body and in yourself. So it’s this act of self love. I love it.

Sarai
Yes. I think that over the years, it’s been a big shift for me in how I think about my body due to sewing is that it’s something that I can approach with more neutrality, I think, than before I started sewing when I was young. And some of that is just getting older, I’m sure. But, you know, things like the fact that I have scoliosis, like that was something that I was very self conscious about when I was young. I felt like a freak and an outlier because I had these differences in my body. And sewing has really helped me to see that it’s just one way my body is different. Everybody’s body is different in various ways. Very few people are going to fit into that very top of the bell curve that clothing is designed for. So it’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s just normal. It’s normal to be different.

Haley
And this is a mindset that takes a lot of practice. And so don’t make it one more thing to beat yourself up about if you can’t quite get it right away. Just keep on bringing yourself back to this place of, you know, these are the numbers or the data. And by honoring that data and working with it, then you get to create this beautiful object for yourself.
So that’s my whole thing on mindset with fitting. So it all starts there then once we get our heads right, we can move more into the process. And I think that dealing with fit in the same way you would deal with most sewing skills, by having a method, is the way that you’re going to have the most success with it. So that means finding a process that works for you. In the next few kind of bullet points, I’m going to outline what I find works for me in teaching sewing and fitting, what I think works for a lot of people. But there’s so many different schools of thought on fitting out there, and maybe you’re a tissue fitting person. You ride or die for that, I think kind of like, finding your method and leaning really hard into that.

Buy a book, take a class, and just really go hard on your method. I think it gets really confusing and overwhelming if you try to take too much from too many different kind of menus, if you will.

Sarai
Yes, that’s true.

Haley
So in the way that I like to teach fit, in the way I like to approach fit, is to start by making a muslin. You’re not going to know a whole lot beyond measurements and what size works from the size chart until you make a muslin. If you want a lot of information, that’s the best place to turn. And making a muslin allows us to analyze the fit in a deeper way. But muslins are kind of polarizing for people. They take a lot of time, and so I think it’s a step that people are eager to skip when possible. Sarai, do you have a what’s your relationship with muslins?

Sarai
That’s a good question. I feel like with muslins, it really depends on the garment that I’m making. So I’ve been sewing for a really, really long time and sort of, what we’re talking about with just noticing pretty much immediately what kind of fit changes you might need to make. Along with that, I can sort of see whether something’s going to need a muslin to know whether it’s going to fit me or not. And there are certain things that I will pretty much always make a muslin for. Pants are one of them. I mean, unless it’s like an elastic waist, you know, pajama pant type thing, then that’s probably going to fit fine. But if it’s not a loose fitting pair of elastic waist pants, I will definitely make a muslin for pants, because pants in particular just have a lot of stuff going on. So that’s something that I’ll always do. More fitted garments generally take a muslin, and a muslin could even be a partial muslin. It could just be the bodice, for example. Just a quick mock up, see how it looks, see what adjustments need to be made. Doesn’t have to be a big deal.

I’ll occasionally do like a wearable muslin, which, if you’re not familiar with that term, is just kind of a practice garment that maybe you can wear if it turns out right. And if it doesn’t, no harm, no foul, you don’t have to keep it. So I’ll do that occasionally. It’s nice if you’re making something and maybe you can use it for loungewear or find some other use for it. I’ll do that sometimes. Most of my sewing I would say is pretty simple garments that don’t require a muslin. But when I’m making those special garments that are going to require a little bit more fitting or that I’m going to put a lot more work into, then I’ll take the time. Because if you’re already putting a lot of work into it and a lot of thought into it, then why not take the time and make it just the way you want to make it?

Haley
Yeah, totally. You think about like a jacket, for instance, that you project is going to take you 18 hours to sew. Why would you not spend the extra 2 hours to make a muslin and make your pattern adjustments? It feels a little different sometimes if you’re like, I’m making a T-shirt that is going to take me an hour to make. And as a forgiving fit, maybe it isn’t worth it in that case. But I recommend to people that when they’re starting out on their fitting journey that you should be making more muslins than you’re not making muslins— make sense? Most of your projects you should just make it a habit to make muslins for, not because you necessarily need to or that you don’t trust the fit, but because you’re going to learn a lot from observing the changes you need to make. And I’m going to get a little bit more into that tracking phase a little bit later. But finding your fit always starts with making a muslin and from there you can diagnose your fit.

And I like to tell people that, kind of like, if you’ve ever taken a drawing class, they always tell you to draw what you see, like not what your brain thinks you see. To draw what you see. It’s the same with fitting. You need to fit what you see. And the way that you fit what you see is by reading the wrinkles.

There’s two types of wrinkles. There’s tight wrinkles which show pulling and strain in a garment. And then there’s loose wrinkles which show that there’s an excess of room in a garment. And the direction that those wrinkles are pointing tells us where we need more or less room.

And that kind of leads us into the two core categories of adjustments, which are length and width adjustments. Length, in which you are adding length to a garment across the entirety of it. And that doesn’t mean just like, oh, making the skirt longer. It’s all about the location where you’re adding that width. So maybe the fullest part of your bum is a little bit higher than the pattern intends for. And so you need to shorten the length between the waist and your full hip, things like that. Same goes for width, reducing the width in specific locations. And we do that by reading the wrinkles.

And then the second kind of adjustments are fullness adjustments. These are indicated by like diagonal wrinkles and they tell us that you need more or less fullness in a specific location, so that could be in the bust. If you have a lot of tight diagonal wrinkles pointing to your bust, then that tells me that you need more fullness in the bust. You may not need width all over, but you need a little bit of fullness in the bust area. Once you learn to read these wrinkles and know what they mean, it can be a lot easier to make the adjustments that you need to make.

Sarai
There’s a couple things, I think, with wrinkles. One thing that people sometimes get hung up on when they’re first learning this is the wrinkles that are part of a fitting issue and the wrinkles that just come from movement and normal wear and recognizing the difference between those. I think that’s something that sometimes people struggle with, because if you jet your hip out or you lean to one side, you’re going to get wrinkles in your clothing. And wrinkles are not necessarily, you can’t prevent all wrinkles in your clothing. That’s not possible. So it’s just something to keep in mind if you’re looking for those wrinkles, that you’re not trying to eliminate every single wrinkle as you wear the garment. You’re just looking for those things that indicate some kind of strain or some kind of looseness that causes this when you’re just kind of standing there.

Haley
Yeah. Something that I see as a common misstep when people are first learning about fitting is, I think that people get into this mindset of like, demonizing all wrinkles and they remove ease to eliminate wrinkles. And I think that this can result in garments that you don’t want to wear because they’re uncomfortable. Maybe you’ve eliminated all of the wrinkles that are present, but your pants may be completely painted on and feel super uncomfortable to wear. And some fabrics are going to be more prone to wrinkles than other fabrics are going to be.

So it’s better to start diving more into the fitting part of your journey after you’ve laid that foundation and after you’ve built your practice a little bit, because you have a lot more knowledge under your belt to build on. You have a little bit more knowledge of fabric. Your eye is a little bit more trained to what different pattern pieces look like and are supposed to look like, what you like and what you don’t like. And so you have a lot of knowledge to build on that’s going to be really helpful because you can’t think of fit as this kind of like insular thing.

It’s affected by so many other aspects like fabric and movement and having a basic understanding will really help you there.

Sarai
Yeah, I think the cut of the garment, too, is also another factor, that you get a little bit more experience with as you dive more into sewing. For example, if you’re sewing something that’s very loose fitting and maybe has a drop shoulder, so it’s not a super fitted shoulder. If you look at garments or patterns where the shoulder seam is like way down on your deltoid muscle, not at the top, that’s a drop shoulder. Then you’re going to get wrinkles because it’s just not as fitted. It’s intended to be loose and therefore you’re going to get some bagginess and that’s just how it’s supposed to look. Whereas if you have a very fitted set-in sleeve, then you’re going to get a lot more opportunity to fit it to your body.

So that’s another thing that I think can throw people for a loop a little bit when they’re first learning about fit—and that comes back to kind of demonizing all wrinkles. It’s not necessary to eliminate every single wrinkle.

Haley
Yeah, I’ve helped a lot of people through various fit dilemmas and something that I see people do a lot is that they will want to make a garment that’s intended to be oversized. So I’m going to use like the Bo top as an example and they’ll say, “oh, well, the armhole is really like tight and high on me, but I measured a size eight, but I cut a zero because I didn’t want it to be that fitted.” So I think the more that you interact with patterns and use different types of patterns, you can start to learn things like understanding design, ease and different cuts and all of that stuff and how it all comes together. And it’s not always quite as simple as just, like, making everything smaller.

Sarai
Right, yeah. I think our fit guides help a lot with that because they explain the intended fit and if it’s supposed to be loose fitting or if it’s supposed to be more fitted to your body.

Haley
Yeah, totally.

Once you make your muslin, you diagnose your fit, and you make those pattern adjustments, one of the most important things I think, is to track those changes or have some kind of method that you’re tracking them. We have a fit journal. It’s a free downloadable, we’ll link it in the show notes, which I find is really helpful for tracking changes.

And the reason you want to track your changes is because, in the long term, it’s going to help you to find your fit. The goal is to discover those kinds of tweaks that you know that you’re always going to make. Sarai and I were talking about them in the beginning of the episode. We both always have to account for full thighs or a short waist, and by knowing these things about ourselves, we can identify the changes that we want to make before we even get to the muslin phase. And this is going to help you to have more confidence in fitting and really understand your body’s specific needs when it comes to wrapping your three dimensional body in two dimensional fabric in an artful way.

Sarai
Yes, I think that’s so helpful. Especially when you’re just starting out, or even when you’re not starting out, even when you’ve been sewing for a number of years and you’re really trying to hone in on fitting. I think being able to look back and see what changes that you made, or maybe if you didn’t make changes, what you wish you had changed, or what didn’t quite work out the way you wanted to. And to notice that over time, it’s such a helpful tool, is so powerful because you can really see, you can learn from your past endeavors and make those changes in the future. And then the learning just builds and builds and builds with each project.

Haley
Yeah, I like our Fit Journal because it kind of walks you through this process that I just outlined and also gives you a place to document those kinds of likes and wishes about your garment so that you can reflect in the long term. So it kind of like, encapsulates this entire framework in a neat and tidy little fit journal. But you can also do it on your notes app on your phone or an Evernote or whatever method of documentation that works for you. But really tracking those changes, it can be helpful because next time you make a pair of pants, you can go back and look at the last three pairs of pants you made and the adjustments you made. You could even do some cross referencing of measurements, measuring the rise on the pants that you made versus the rise on the pants that you’re going to make and make some decisions before you get into the muslin phase. Because the closer you can get your first draft, the closer your final garment is going to be.

Sarai
Yeah, that’s a really good point. So I’m going to recap what we talked about today because we got through a lot. So we started by talking about mindset. And the mindset that we would like you to approach fitting with is that you need to be gentle with yourself and recognize that your body is just providing you with data, in terms of measurements.

The measurements are not there to give you a tool to judge your body by, they’re there to give you a tool by which to create clothing that fits your body and that can really be an act of self love and self care. So begin with that mindset.

And then the second part is recognizing how fit works and to find the methodical way that you want to approach fit. We’re going to share the steps that we think work the best kind of within our method. So first is to make your muslin, which is going to help you to analyze the fit to begin with. Then you want to diagnose the wrinkles. So once you’ve made your muslin, you’re looking for the wrinkles that indicate a problem with fit. And then you make pattern adjustments.

And there’s only two kinds of pattern adjustments you really need to learn about. One is length or width adjustments, which are really the same thing, just different directions. And then the other one is fullness adjustments, and Haley covers these in our How To Fit With Confidence class. If you’re a Seamwork member, she goes through all of this.

Next, you want to track your changes over time, and if you want to do that, you can download our Fit Journal for free, and we’ll put a link in the show notes to that, and that will help you to find your fit. And that’s kind of the final goal of this whole process, which is to find those few tweaks that you can just have and know how to do very easily and kind of always have in your back pocket when you need them.

So that’s the fitting process that we recommend is part of our Sewing by Design framework. And I think it will really help you to approach fitting in a way that is systematic and not as intimidating. Because I think one of the things that is really intimidating about fit is just starting from scratch every single time that you make a project and thinking about all the millions of things that you could change about it.And which one do I need? And if I change this, I’m just going to change that. And having those few things that you know you often need to do goes 90% of the way towards getting the fit that you want in the end.

So if you want to get that Fit Journal again, we’ll put a link to show notes. We’ll also put a link to the How to Fit With Confidence class, which Haley teaches and which goes over all of this. And if you liked this episode, please leave us a review. We would really appreciate it—on Apple podcasts or Spotify or wherever you listen to this podcast. We would love it.

We have one today we want to share from Lola Jet. She said “good stories and genuine conversation and interviews,” but then she has a little bit of critique for us. She says “could do with less use of like, and sometimes it’s hard to listen to because of that.” We do say, like, a lot. Haley and I are both from Southern California. If you guys didn’t pick up on that. So that is our verbal tick of choice.

Haley
Yeah, you know, sorry.

Sarai
But thank you for the review. We will take that into consideration as much as we can, for sure, and we would super appreciate if you leave us a review. We would love to hear from you, and we may read it on a future show. So, with that, we’re going to sign off for today. I’m Sarai.

Haley
And I’m Haley.

Sarai
And this is Seamwork Radio.

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