Gosh I love sewing. I cannot imagine life without it. It infiltrates everything I am and do. It has derailed my corporate career, even! (No great loss to either side, that)
I get a huge kick out of meeting people interested in learning to sew, whether they are still trying to work out how to operate the sewing machine, or are up to drafting and adjusting patterns. If I can pass on some skills, or pick some up, I'm a happy person!
There is one aspect of the sewing/blogging community however that concerns me. It's the assumption that learning technical skills as if by rote, is the way to go. It's been on my mind for a while, and then a recent post or two on Gertie's Blog really brought it home to me. Gertie has made a perfectly sensible call on adjusting the muslin for her latest make, and is sharing the process. But reading the comments, the confusion seems to be rife. Much of it seems to be based upon adhering to 'rules' out of books about drafting patterns.
Patterns, schmatterns. They are 2 dimensional bits of paper or whatever, and their primary purpose is to make cutting out the fabric simpler- they provide a secondary role only in fitting. IMHO.
Making all of one's adjustments to the pattern, as is often taught in books and courses, is so counter intuitive to the learning process. I feel strongly that the natural way to learn is to try things on, tweak and play and see what works. If you're going to make a muslin anyway, why not make it do most of the work?
Here are my tips on how to take a bunch of the analysis paralysis out of fitting, and free up some of that intelligent solution finding we sewists have in abundance! I'm using as an example a fitted bodice with sleeves, but the principles apply to any garment.
1. Check the pattern (if it's a bought one) for ease. Measure the bust and hips (most patterns have a spot on the centre front panel) Actually, I'm not going to explain it here because Gertie did an excellent post explaining it here!
2. Cut out a muslin (toile/mock up, call it what you will) and draw all the darts, dots etc onto it with an easy to see pen. Forget about facings, you don't face a muslin using this method. You can even. trim off the seam allowances on the neckline, to see how it will lie in the finished piece, if you like
3. Baste it together by hand - this I cannot stress enough. Baste in any darts. Join bodices at side seams and princess seams (if appropriate), but just pin the centre back and shoulder seams. DO NOT ADD SLEEVES. (I'm using caps because these points are ones that are often not noticed!)
4. Put any ease or gathers into the sleeve head, and sew one only sleeve up on the machine with a long stitch. DO NOT ADD TO BODICE. Am I making sense? You are building the separate components of your bodice, using easy to remove stitching, and leaving off finishing details like facings and bindings.
5. Now, try it on INSIDE OUT. This means that you can easily get at the seams to repin them, rip the stitching out and slide them sideways a bit, that kind of thing. This freedom is essential for getting the most out of a muslin. The pinned shoulder thing is because one of the most common adjustments I have found is the shoulder seam, and this makes it super easy to do anything you have to do.(I can't tell you in a blogpost how to know what to do here, but this is where the learning about fitting happens!)
6. If your dress has sleeves, pull the single muslin sleeve on and pin it into the armscye in just a couple of places. All you want to know is, is it wide enough, deep enough etc. and whether to adjust the armscye.
7. Now, use your pen to write on, mark etc all the adjustments. Then you can quickly press the whole thing, flatten it out and transfer the adjustments to the pattern.
Look I know this is a bit "It's all very well!," but if you are a careful musliner and struggling to get the adjustments you need into the flat pattern, do try this. It frees up your mind to use the knowledge that you have, and put it into a practical context!
Lastly, a good tip for saving time is to baste the muslin sleeve into the bodice of the actual dress and check for fit. Then you can adjust the sleeve pattern if needed. Saves making another muslin when extensive adjustments needed to be made to the first muslin.
Well, there you go. Next time I get my hands on a muslin, I'll get some pics. I just didn't want to wait until then to get this info out there!