Thursday, May 19, 2011

Time for my pattern fitting secrets

 I have picked up a handful
of fitting hints I should not keep secret!

Sewing should be FUN. That is why we buy and use Lutterloh.
Why not master some great ways to fit your patterns?

When you think about fitting a garment the first thing to consider is:
"what does everything hang off of?"

Starting at my head my next widest part is my shoulders.
All my dresses and tops hang off my shoulders so
why not get that part of the pattern correct every time with a this tool.

My handy tool is a tracing of my neck and shoulders.
  I had my daughter trace me with a pencil.
It took a couple of tries with a three year old about.

This is the paper tracing.  It was taped to the wall and needs some touch up 

Let's start with getting the shoulder correct.

1) Collect a piece of paper wide enough and long enough to
capture a tracing of your shoulder and neck.

2) Make a straight line down the center of the paper.  We just folded ours in half.

3) Tape the piece of paper on the wall at a level you 
can stand at and easily be traced from
Stand so you are in the middle of the center line.  
Your helpful friend can make sure you are in the center.
4) Have someone trace you by holding the pencil straight up. Start at the neck below your ears, trace all the way down your shoulder and slightly onto your arm.
Repeat for the other side.  
Don't move one more step......

Have your helper put a nice big dot at your neck just as it turns
to your shoulder (where a neckless chain would rest)
and then at the peak of your shoulder.
To find that raise your arm and feel for the space where the shoulder bends.

5) Take down the paper and using a french curve tidy up and smooth out your shape.  You can use a marker for this to make a nice dark outline.  I put my
Shoulder shape on a piece of cardboard.  It gets used over and over again.
Now each time you make a Lutterloh pattern you can lay it over your shoulder shape and see if it fits you properly.  If it doesn't use the fix I show you in the photos below.

This will also help you see if the garment is much too wide
across the shoulder or too narrow.

This is the tidied up shoulder that I traced on cardboard.
I also added a red line to note the lowest I'd want a neck line to go.
Might as well check that while I do the shoulder check. 

I'm going to use a commercial pattern so you can see it on the white cardboard background.  My Lutterloh patterns are all made on White paper.
White on White in photos? I think not.

This is a princess line top I've made before.
We only need the part of the pattern that will hang off our shoulder.

  Fold back any button bands, etc.  We will lay the center line of the pattern on the center line of our shoulder drawing.

Now for the fun.  Lay the pattern on the center line and
match the pattern to the shoulder. 
I never put seam allowances on my Lutterloh patterns.  I add them on the fabric.
This pattern however has 5/8 seam allowances so I have red penciled them so I can avoid using them.  We want to do our measuring on the stitching line.
The pattern is also a multi-size pattern and I am using one of the smaller sizes, so you will see that extra paper.

Here's a nice close look, remember it's a multi-sized pattern so the
paper above the neck mark is the larger sizes not in use.
Hum looks like a lot of fabric I don't need.

I've laid two rulers down. One on the shoulder of the pattern, one on
my shoulder line.  It was over 1 1/2 inches different.
That extra fabric becomes a bubble of fabric above my bust.
It makes my armscye too large also if this was a sleeveless top
I'd have a loose arm hole.

This can work both ways.  
Your shoulder could be higher than your pattern allows
for and you may need to add fabric.

One important note: If I was going to put in a 1 1/2 inch shoulder pad then I should NOT make this change! 
The shoulder pad will take that space. 
Maybe I will put in a low shoulder pad
then make a small adjustment in the shoulder.

Ready to correct this problem?

1) establish two cutting lines
One line horizontal about 2 inches below the armscye.
I use my cutting boards lines to get a nice straight line.
  Just mark it with a pen.

2) Make a 2nd pen line vertical from the shoulder
(about 2 inches or so from the armscye)
To the Horizontal  line you just made

Note: Before I go any further, because I know this pattern
I have pinned out the extra width in the shoulder. 
I will have to add a large bust change but that's another issue. 
This pattern is much too far down my shoulder and would look
like a drop shoulder which it is not. 
If your bodice hits your shoulder where you want it no change need be considered.

3) Here is the piece I marked in two directions and now cut free
from the bodice pattern.
It will help me correct that extra 1 1/2 inch shoulder problem.
It looks shocking to cut up a pattern but we will put it back together soon!

4) Slide your loose piece to the point that it hits your shoulder at it's armscye end.
Click on the photos to see this up close.
Remember I have a seam allowance in the way.
Be sure to match the sewing line to your shoulder with both pieces.

  I now have one pattern piece up high and one down
where it should be on my shoulder.

  (Because I still need to loose some of the width of this shoulder 
I have overlapped the two pieces a little, You may not need this so 
slide the lower piece right next to the higher piece butt them 
together don't overlap them. When using a Lutterloh pattern I use a size that fits better than this commercial pattern does)

5) If this is was a larger amount to remove you would need some spare paper underneath to add to the missing spaces you encounter.  Lay your ruler down on top of the shoulder line you see underneath the pattern.
Now draw a nice  line across the two pieces.
It should connect the highest point with the lowest.

Here is the finished shoulder.  
My top should hang on my shoulder perfectly now!

It's a much better start to have the pattern hanging off the shoulders
correctly before you do anything else. 
If you removed/added some from the neck edge (I didn't) then remove/add 
that amount from your collar.  Don't remove it from the center back, remove
it from the shoulder line.  Photo to follow.  

Because this was a multi-sized pattern I just folded over the pattern pieces.
With your Lutterloh pattern just cut off the un-needed area.

Small adjustments may be needed on the sleeve.
Walk it in the armscye and see if you need to adjust this. 
I'll show sleeve adjustment in my next posting.

Did that hint give you some ideas? 
Well here are some more hints to help make every pattern fit you and your shape.

Let's do some FRENCH CURVE work.

  Yes get that curve out and let's learn how to use it to get the fit we want.
By comparing some of our best fitting garments we can transfer
Our French curve shape to the Lutterloh patterns.

Look at all the places you use the French curve in pattern making. 
Many of these locations can be checked in our favorite
clothes and used on our Lutterloh pattern.

Use the french curve to note your hip shape 

Save your favorite hip shape from your pants or your skirt and use it over and over
Check the curve in your crotch to improve fit.  
CAUTION:  The area without red in the crotch should be mostly straight.

This is where the French curve shines. 
Note your favorite necklines
Check your favorite sleeves 

Check your Cap and curve 
see why you never never like your garments sleeves by comparing the french curve lines with a favorite garment. 

The French curves have numbers all the way around and down the French curve.  These are the numbers we will want to note.
I am using my favorite curve in the photos below.

HIPS:  repeat your hip shape by noting the numbers on the curve that fit your hip shape.

 These are my favorite pants, most of my skirts are gathered
but you can get this shape from a skirt also.
I work from just below the waist band down to just past the widest part of my hip.
REMEMBER: place the French curve on the seam line not the cut edge.

As you can see in this photo my widest part of my hip is only 4 inches
down from my waist.  It hasn't mattered if I was skinny or thick,
it's still just 4 inches.

I used the straight edge of the French curve to show you that you only need to measure the curve area, once your leg is straight it is not a french curve area.
If you need to see where the curve ends just lay a yard stick up the straight of your leg and note where it no longer touches the pant.
Measure from there to the waist.
Slide the French curve up and down until you find the perfect match to the shape.

1) Find an outfit that fits as you like, a skirt or pair of pants work.
Smooth it out on the table, wrong side out is sometimes a better
way to see what the shape of the skirt is. 
Only measure along the stitching line.

2) A French curve will fit any curve but you must move it up and down until it perfectly fits the shape you want to take note of.

3) Write these important fitting numbers on a bright recipe card.
At the waist band bottom what number is on the french curve?
Write it as top #__.
With out moving the french curve note the place were your body
no longer curves but hangs straight.
That would be Bottom #___.

Now when you make a skirt or even a pair of pants you can take your french curve and check that the Lutterloh pattern fits your shape. Match the top number you wrote down to the pattern waist, and the bottom number to where the curve ends. Did your pattern match the French curve?  If not trace around the French curve and use the new shape.
This is a quick easy change to make. 

REMEMBER measure on the stitching line not the cutting line

This little trick works for your neck line also.

  I don't like surprises when I make a neckline.
I don't like it to be too loose, or too low or not look perfect.

Take a couple of necklines you really like and using the french curve
do as you did for your hip.

1. Fold the top or dress in half so you only work with half the neck. 
2. Move the french curve on the neck line until the shoulder seam
and the bottom of the neckline match the french curve. 
You can see the direction I have placed the curve in the photo above.

REMEMBER: you measure the sewing line not any facings or neck finishes.

This is a V neck I really like, it isn't straight but curved a bit.
Because it is a V neck I did not fold the top as the V was clearly the center.
It is also a knit so I washed it first to make sure it wasn't stretched out from wearing it.

3. Note the number at the shoulder seam as Top #___
Note the bottom of the neck as Bottom #___

You can barely see the V in this busy top.
But the numbers are Top 12 2/8   Bottom  22

I have only showed you the hips curve and the neckline. 
You can use this for the armscye and the crotch of your pants.
I will address those in another posting as there are several issues to show you. 
So for now go measure some hips and necks in your favorite outfits.  Write the top number on the curve and the bottom number on a master sheet
and put them to use in your pattern making. 

Hope this improves all the patterns you
make from here on!

Here is where you can get more information on these techniques.
Using the shoulder slant = Threads fitting DVD Series Torso

Using your french curve=Peggy Sagers DVD Success from the start 
This is a great video that will teach you how to compare all your patterns to the clothes you like to wear. If you struggle to understand sleeves this also answers the questions you didn't know you had.  I love this video! 


  1. Ursula from TexasMay 25, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Hi Fonnell,

    I had my daughter trace my shoulder slope as soon as I read this post! And great post by the way! :)

    Anyhow, I have learned that I do need to shorten the armhole depth by no less than an inch because otherwise it is too long from my shoulder point to my underarm.

    I've read on patternreview that others also shorten the armhole depth so I'm assuming it's a normal thing to do. I am 5'4 1/2" tall.

    I am getting my dressform set up next week so that I may adjust my back area as well. I believe I need some shoulder darts for a little roundness in my upper back. Then I wish to sew more Lutterloh because they are just so well drafted.


  2. Wonderful! dressforms are so fun. There are many good web sites for information on getting them to match our shape.

    Yes lots of people are changing the shoulder slant. For far too long we just let that make those upper areas puff and crease. It is so much better to get it correct at the beginning.

    keep us posted as you work on patterns

  3. Thanks for posting these hints, especially the one for the shoulders. I have so much trouble with this area, so I am going to put this one into practice immediately - or this weekend which is when I will probably have time! Thanks again, Suzanne

  4. just follow step by step contact me with any questions

  5. Just found your blog. I've had the system since the 1980's but never used it! I just wasn't able to adjust for me. Thank you for showing how to do this. I think I wil try the waistcoat today.
    Brenda in the Boro Uk

  6. let us know how your waistcoat turns out. Make sure it fits smoothly and close to your body, no baggie anything. This may mean some changes, now is the best time to correct things before you start on the more complex patterns.

  7. I couldn't find the waistcoat pattern for me but I have cut one out for DH and it looks like it will fit ally well. Iwasn't too confident about putting in the dart but will look at the video again to get more clRity on that.
    Brenda in the Boro

  8. If you look on the right sidebar of our blog you will see a New Zealand site mentioned under "Lutterloh web sites you should check out". If you go to this site you can request a sample pattern for the fitting vest along with a paper copy of the enlarging scale. This should be enough to get anyone started.

  9. Eventually,I emailed the NZ site as I could not get the contact to work. I got the waistcoat pattern from them and I have drawn it out. I now need to try a muslin. Will let you know how it comes out. I have some fabric left from a skirt and would like to use it to match up. Thanks so much for your help. Brenda in the Boro UK

  10. Hi Ann, I have made up the waistcoat. I used lining to make a muslin and the only alteration I made was to put in a centre back seam. I was able to use this to fit into my sway back. The fit is really good. My hips are very wide in relation to my upper body so it's great to get such a good fit.
    Thanks also for all the great info on the site.
    Best wishes
    Brenda in the Boro UK

  11. now take note of where any darts may hit....This is a good time to mark the spot that you would like all darts to stop coming from the bottom and the side bust.

    Check the angle of the shoulder as in our posting above. Does that match your tracing? leaving no bubble of fabric at the arm?

    I ask these questions because we get so quick to feel comfortable if we even get close to having something fit...

    Also your snugness? If so adding a fraction at each seam along the hip will give you some movement.

    Remember this is your master pattern for all the Lutterloh patterns to come. You have taken the biggest step. Compare any changes you made on the vest to every pattern you make and make a note of the size you drew for the vest as that is the size you will start with on most patterns (yes some patterns require bigger and smaller size choices but you need this base to work from).

    sorry for the American "Vest" references he he

  12. Hi Fonnell, thanks so much for your comments. I put the "waistcoat" on this morning and showed my DH and he agrees that it's a great fit. The shoulder slope seems fine and the hips are just great. It really shows off my slim waist(relatively) and I can't wait to wear it but we are having unseasonally hot weather so it will have to be next week when the weather is due to cool off to normal.
    I want to use a simple jacket pattern for my next Lutterloh project but want to make some knit tops first. I have a Brensan pattern for these though.
    Best wishes
    Brenda in the Boro UK

  13. wonderful...Now read our posting (on the right bar are all the links) on using your vest pattern as a sloper if you wish...It makes life so much easier. And we had a sew along and one group worked on knits you will need to learn some of the issues for knits before starting on the tops.

    It's warm here also but not for much longer.....

  14. Brenda,

    So glad to hear your waistcoat was a success! It sounds like you're definitely on the right track. I too would suggest you read the posting on knits as Fonnell suggested. There's a whole bunch of good information there.

  15. Hi Ann
    I've been going through all the posts and there's some really good info there. I've been getting to grips with my janome cover lock machine and its great for hems but the latest Threads magazine has a good article on using the machine both utilitarian and decorative. So much to sew and so little time.
    I went to a textile exhibition today by train and took my bicycle and then rode the 20 miles home across the stunning North York moors in the most fantastic sunshine we've had all year. Thanks again. Brenda in the Boro UK

  16. Hello Ladies,
    Thank you for the wealth of information stored on this website. I first looked into this system 20 years ago. I think I made a couple pieces successfully but honestly I don't remember that far back. I have no idea what happened to the stuff I bought then.

    I would like to start using this system now because I am not able to get the right fit from over the counter patterns. I am plus sized and since I was pregnant my body shape changed. I looked at the two measuring tapes and the XXL tape is really different than the regular one. Can it only be used with the patterns that come in the plus sized kit? I would like to be able to adjust the regular patterns to fit me. I Don't know if I can get one set or if I need both the regular kit and the plus sized.

    My main question is do you know how the plus sized tape measure works?

  17. This question comes up from time to time. The Blue XXL tape goes only with the XXL book. The other tape goes with the books and also there is a full size supplement I recommend. We prefer a nicely fitted style meant for larger folks. The XXL book seems to be lacking in style and just large outfits. I think most people would be happy with the regular tape. There is a symbol for full sized designs in the regular books also so look for those.

    And to remind all of those with padding NO PATTERN can know where your padding is so you must make paper patterns and fit those paper patterns before deciding to cut your fashion fabric. Read the nooks and crannies of our blog.....You'll find helpful hints all over the posting.

    Enjoy your renewed interest in sewing from Lutterloh

  18. Dear Fonnell, I am learning so much from you. I have just prepared my first vest front and something odd happened. Is there a way I could send you an e-mail with photos to ask a question? Thank you so much.

  19. sure....send me an note here with your e-mail address. I will not post it and I will e-mail you my e-mail..

    I love solving problems from photos!
    take them at the side seam...back and front...and where ever you are concerned.

  20. I am new to this method of pattern making. The one thing I am confused about is how to make changes to accomodate various figure variations like rounded upper back or sloping shoulders. Can anyone help me understand how to make these alterations to a Lutterloh pattern?

  21. Please read our postings listed on the right bar and see if you find the helps you need. We have a wealth of good ideas, photos and clothes we have made.

    We are due for some more sewing but life and making a living gets in our path too often.

    Good luck with this fun pattern making system. Learn to paper fit and make the vest for perfect fitting of all patterns. If you didn't get the vest pattern with your system we have listed sites that have it on the right bar.


  22. As Fonnell mentioned the answer you seek may very well already be in one of our past postings. If not, a good pattern fitting book should be in your future. The Lutterloh system does not address specific fitting issues like sloping shoulders, rounded back, fuller thighs or rounded tummies and such.

    The patterns, as drawn, will get you closer than you've ever come to the right "size" for your figure. However there are usually fitting adjustments that still need to be tweaked. The good thing is that once you determine these adjustments then you can use them for every pattern in the Lutterloh system.

  23. My sister and I each recently ordered our Lutterloh systems. She lives in another city and we are both excited to use the system! Thank you so much for the information about fitting! I haven't sewn in about 20 years and just recently inherited an old Singer. I didn't make the "sloper" but jumped right in with a dress. Unfortunately, my machine has some major issues, so I am about to order a new one! I love the idea of fitting my patterns. I am thinking about making a dress form from duct tape as seen online. Any ideas about that?

  24. Kat,
    I made my dress form from brown packing tape. It is 10 years old and doing fine! I've heard some not so positive things about using duct tape. I can pin into mine and that is very helpful.

    There are many web sites for how to make dress forms, go on a search. However there is nothing as helpful as a sloper that fits and a tri-pod and camera for taking photos of you in your outfit. Just study the photos to see fitting issues. Works!

    How did your dress turn out? May we post photos?

  25. My dress form is made of brown paper tape too! It's only a few years old but I find it very handy. Since my most common fitting issues are usually in the bust area I find the personal shaped dummy extremely helpful. My only problem with mine is that since it took so long to wrap it I started to get tired and must have slouched a little. This kind of exaggerated my sway back and made the waist measurement a little thick. Overall, the fit is still fine as long as the garment is not super fitted. I always do a final fitting on my own body anyway. Let us know how yours works out. We're here if you have questions as you get further into the Lutterloh system.

  26. Love love love your blog. so helpful. i purchased this system 8 years ago and due to lifestyle issues (to put it simply!) I had never used it.
    I attended a second workshop recently when the New Zealand team, Sonja and Andree were in Perth West Australia, and since then, I have lived, breathed and eaten Lutterloh. i LOOOOOOOVE it. i am 62 years old and for the first time in my life am making clothes that FIT. i have 3 vests and one pair of pants that fit like a second skin, after having given up dressmaking 40 years ago due to fit issues (well endowed in the top area.) Later, I will post regarding the issues I had with the three items I have made but in the mean time, keep up the good work.

  27. Now, regarding the vest, it fits perfectly and I love your sugestion of using it as a sloper.

    My problem that i experienced on all three vests is that the lining always turned out too small and as a result i had to let them hang loosely (separately) I figure the solution is to put the pleat in the back as i have seen on a lining a jacket tutorial, and also cut the lining 1" longer. any thoughts?

    1. Alice, I'd need to see some photos of your vest. The lining should have worked out. A vest doesn't have sleeve as a coat or jacket does. The need for the back pleat etc is to allow you to move your arms etc. You can e-mail me, just give me your e-mail in a message and I'll send it to you and not post your message with the e-mail.

    2. Alice, could it be that the lining fabric you used for your vest is more firmly woven than your fashion fabric? This would cause less "give" in the lining and cause it to feel too tight. You do need to be sure that the seam allowances you add on the lining pieces are at least as much as the fashion fabric too.

  28. Now for the issue with the pants
    I extended the shorts pattern based on a pair that I loved. Perfect.
    The shorts appeared to have hugh easing, so I inserted a fold of 1" (taking out 2" both front and back and this is perfect.
    My issues are construction issues.
    I followed the instructions from Sonja in new Zealand and found that in doing so, the teeth on the zip were exposed, did I misunderstand the instructions?
    Can you point me to a tutorial for a jeans (fly) zip insertion.
    Secondly, there are no 'pocket extensions' on the shorts pattern and since i didn't think of them until it was too late, I followed Sonjas instructions for adding 'inseam' pockets and found this to be a total failure as they gaped so much I had to remove them. I am trying to set up a blog on blogger myself, but am not yet adding photos.
    Can I add photos to my comment on your blog?
    Did I mention that i love your blog?????

  29. Hello everyone,
    Seems like this would be a good place to post this question:

    I have 'no shoulders' = they slope away like the ones in the above diagram. My way of fixing this is to use small shoulder pads the foam kind. i feel they improve my appearance, giving me a squarer shoulder and clothes hang better from them.

    However my daughter (30yo) hates me in them. on this past weekend I also had negative comments from 2 other women that they weren't flattering - one said they were dating me and the other said didn't look good because you could see them through my knitted sweater (jumper as we call them in Australia!)
    I do feel strongly that they improve me but I don't want to be just stubborn and holding on to my own opinion if I am wrong. What do u think.
    BTW, i think it is so marvellous that we can share from all parts of the globe. As I write this, I am propped up in bed, it's raining outside and I'm contemplating getting up and fantasizing about what i will sew with lutterloh today. What a life!
    My problem is i fantasize too much and leave too little time for sewing!

    1. May I suggest a combination of putting a little slope into your pattern to match your shoulder add
      add a thin shoulder pad to square you off a tiny bit, the fleece ones are kinder.

      You are correct we look better without those deep slopes (those are my shoulders above)compromise.

      Always cover your shoulder pads with fabric, keeps them hidden better. Put them in correctly and remove them for laundering.

  30. You can e-mail me photos per my instructions above.

    As for your sewing needs, Sonja is wonderful, I've taken classes from her long ago.

    Nothing can beat a good sewing book, we have listed several in our postings. You just need a book that covers a little of everything. I like the readers digest "Complete Guide to Sewing"
    I like it because it has drawings instead of photos (can't really see enough in a photo mostly) and if I go to zippers it shows many different ways to do a zipper, seems to me you want a covered pants zipper style.

    You want to do a fly front zipper or a lapped front zipper is fine, and was used a lot on women's pants in the 60's and 70's.

    I also extend all my pockets to my front zipper, it gives me some firmness for my tummy and keeps my pockets from moving around. If you are doing inseam pockets just add your seam allowance.

    I hope your next move will be to get a good sewing book, you'll be so glad you did!

    Thank you for your compliments, Lutterloh has been my passion for years! So nice to have a way to share it with so many!

  31. Wow.....this is Awesome! I started sewing my own clothes in college when I finally realized that most commercial clothes didn't fit because of my back-waist measurement of 13 inches (I'm 6 feet tall but all leg, lol). I can't wait to try these tips too!!

  32. Hi,

    What is the relation ship between waist and bust?
    My waist is non existent and about the same size as my bust (3 children, 60 years old, love cooking, oh well..)
    If I new the relationship as in: say waist is about ⅔ of bust measurement I would know to increase my bust measurement by ⅓ to get the correct waist for a pattern?

  33. Hello, sorry the Lutterloh patterns don't work quite that way. Since each person has a unique figure the Lutterloh patterns start with measurements which are closest to typically our largest areas. A large waist adjustment would be a separate alteration altogether. If you check our links on the right side there is one titled "Our favorite sewing reference books". At the end of that post should be a list of some of our favorite sewing books that should lead you to a pattern adjustment for a large waist.

    As tempting as it is to try to fix more than one area with one alteration this is rarely possible. The nice thing about Lutterloh is once you get your alterations worked out on your fitting vest you can make the same alterations on all future patterns.

  34. Dutch....we don't design these patterns and perhaps the golden rule is used exactly to make the different measurements by the Lutterloh company. The beauty of Lutterloh is you don't have to have any other measurements besides the bust and waist. Make your vest and you will adjust the distance from underarm to waist, you will see if you need a large bust adjustment, etc. Try paper fitting first it will help you see a lot of what is working for you and what isn't. It has worked for so many of us!