Week 3: Fitting the Toile

Not wishing to sound too school ma’am-y, but I do hope you all have managed to draft your Basic Blocks, move the Dart across as well as add seam allowance to your Basic Block, cut from Calico and stitch up to form the Toile. Lovely! But now comes probably the most challenging part of creating your own Patterns… fitting!

Hopefully the majority of you will have a chum to assist you with this. If not you absolutely have to stand in front of a mirror whilst fitting yourself, so you can see the effect of any and all adjustments made.

The next step is to fit the Toile, and transfer the new fitting lines to the Paper Pattern accurately. This will mean that you now have a Basic Block which is your size… and fits!

You will need to put the Toile on, and pin up the front. Do not simply pin the front closed- you will need to pin along the Seam Allowance you added so as to have consistency when transferring to the Paper Pattern.  I had hoped to have some pictures of my class for this bit but it was far too hectic!! I also think, upon reflection, that the following will be more helpful… I always find illustrations clearer! Following the below beautiful Vintage illustrations and guidelines, slowly fit your Toile always remembering that it should not be too tight nor too loose- you have to allow room to move and breathe!

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Left: The Bodice Block as it will look when first put on. Right: The most common place for Darts above and below the Bust, and a great place to start when Fitting however; I will try to move these Darts to a more flattering place if possible. Please see further illustrations below. 

Some tips if you are fitting yourself:

  1. Fit whilst wearing the Toile inside out… in this way all seams will be easily adjustable and identifiable.
  2. Work on a section at a time. Look at your shoulder seam- is it lying flat? then, move to your neckline- is it too tight to your neck for comfort? If so, draw where you think it should be, remove the Toile and cut it away then put the Toile back on, pin and check. Next move to the Front- do you need darts? Pinch the fabric and pin in place to see how it looks. Continue slowly in this fashion and you shouldn’t encounter too many issues.
  3. When looking at your back, you will be unable to pin this in with any accuracy if working alone. I look in the mirror, pinch in the fabric and take an estimated guess at how much that may be, then I remove the Toile and pin properly the put it back on and check if I was correct!
  4. The Bust Point will signify the positioning of the Front Darts however; when looking at the back there is no obvious place to locate them. Winifred, on your Basic Block, has used a dotted line to suggest where they should be placed and you would be wise to follow her guidance. You will need to decide when and where to finish the Dart using your own judgement of the shape of your figure.
  5. If you are intending to do this more often it would be wise to invest in a Dress Form. There’s a brilliant Tutorial for making your own here.
  6. Please view the making up and fitting of a Toile as seriously as you would making the final garment. If you haven’t followed your Seam Allowances, Grainlines or other details correctly the Toile will always fit differently from your pattern.
  7. Balance Marks play a big part in the correct fitting of a garment, and the first thing to watch for is that they are correctly placed. You Balance Marks are the Bust Line, Waist Line and Hip Line which should run at the same level about your body, parallel to the floor. The Center Front and Center Back are also Balance Marks which should lie at a 90 Degree angle from the floor. This also ensures the Grainline isn’t off doing something odd causing the garment to twist.
  8. If you find the Toile is too small pin in pieces of Calico to make up for the short fall, then add on the same amount to the Paper Pattern later.

Some of the commonest fit issues are:

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Left: Sloping shoulders, adjust the Shoulder Seam to eliminate diagonal wrinkles between neck and underarm. Unpick the seam, smooth the fabric up gently until the wrinkles are taken up and pin at the correct line. Middle: If the Back is sagging, ensure the garment is properly adjusted at the waistline then smooth fabric up from the Waistline. Pin a Tuck across the Back to determine exactly how much excess length there is. Pin the tuck in place, alter the arm hole if necessary and remember to carry the adjustment over to the Paper Pattern. Right: To correct sagging as illustrated (commonly associated with a fuller Bust), place a Dart at the side seam. 

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Above: Placing Darts at the Neck Line to fit the Upper Back. 

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Left: Dart placement on the Bust. Right: alternative, and more attractive Dart placement on the Bust. 

All illustrations are from my wonderful collection of Vintage Sewing Books, and I highly recommend all of them. Uniquely they have a vast amount of Fitting advice- as Patterns were not as prevalent as they are today and Women often either made their own or adapted them- as well as information on creating and adjusting flat Commercial Patterns.

Once you are happy with the Fit of your Toile, remove it and transfer the new markings to the flat Basic Bodice Block. To do this, remove all pins and give it a light iron then, using the Balance Points Winifred has given you, measure each new fitting point and transfer. There is a wonderful tutorial on how to do this from Custom Style here and another from So Sew Easy here.

There are further resources for this stage of Pattern Making including a wonderful article by Burda, Some words of advice on transferring the markings from fitting your Toile to the Paper Pattern here, some fitting advice from Madyline here and Your Wardrobe Unlock’d have some amusing and very practical advice (albeit from a more Historical perspective) here. I have also just found a great photographic tutorial on the above here,

Finally, the below video tutorial from YouTube is enormously useful, and will take you through simple fitting, and transferring those fitting marks to your Paper Pattern in a straight forward, quick and practical way.

I do hope you find the above usable, it really is a very tricky thing finding the right fit, especially if you have also made the Pattern. Remember to look at the fabric- oftentimes it is ‘telling’ you when to place darts and fitting lines.

Remember to comment on this weeks Pattern Making Musings to win fabric and notions to make Colette’s Sorbetto Top. Also, if you are just joining us find out what this is all about here and don’t forget for some helpful advice buy a Laura After Midnight Zine!!

Happy patterning!

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