Body measurements, fitting, and sewing projects

Hi, way back in September 2014, I organized the first fitting meetup for the Bay Area Sewists. (You can read the meetup description here.) The idea was that we would help each other with fitting, learn about pattern adjustments, and pair up to take our body measurements.

At that meetup, I also did a demo for a small bust adjustment and another member, Ali (pictured below in the geometric top), showed how to do a full bust adjustment. It was a lot of fun.

Bay Area Sewists Fitting Meetup 2014

We’ve had two fitting meetups since then. Last year we were fortunate to have Kathleen, a member with a lot of fitting experience help us out. She works as a technical designer for Old Navy. We kept her really busy! I blogged about that meetup, too and discussed making pattern adjustments.

Before each fitting meetup I printed out this two-page worksheet for body measurements, which I found on Sewing.org‘s website. Anyone who wanted to get their measurements would pair up with someone else. This worksheet has 28 measurements – everything from high bust and bicep to cross back width and crotch depth. The diagram indicates where you’re supposed to measure.

Body measurement worksheet from Sewing.org - 28 measurements

At our most recent fitting meetup this past September, we had assistance from Jennifer Serr, owner of The Sewing Room and founder of Bonjour Teaspoon patterns, and Bay Area Sewists member Dana Taylor, who has done numerous fittings for her five (!) daughters. I asked Jennifer if there was anything missing from the worksheet and she suggested adding these three measurements to the list:

  1. Shoulder point to shoulder point, measuring from the back
  2. Shoulder slope – the amount your shoulder slopes downward. If your shoulders are really square – your shoulder slope will be zero. Jennifer measured mine using two rulers – holding one ruler parallel to the floor with one side at the highest point of my shoulder (near my neck) and using another ruler to measure from my shoulder point to the other ruler. My shoulders are fairly square so my shoulder slope is 1 inch. It’s hard to measure shoulder slope by yourself but Make My Pattern has instructions, which you can find here. (Make My Pattern is a website where you can customize free patterns designed by Joost De Cock. You need to enter your measurements to get a pattern.) You could also take a shirt that fits well in the shoulders, lay it flat and measure the slope, as demonstrated in this YouTube video. (If you want to learn more about shoulder slope, check out this Threads YouTube video: Shoulder Slope 101.)
  3. Inseam – measuring leg from ankle to crotch.

I had all my body measurements (except for the above three) taken in 2014. I knew I needed to get my measurements updated because I’ve gained (ahem) quite a few pounds/kilos since then. I got an even bigger shock when I went for a routine doctor’s visit and was weighed. I’ve gained nearly 20 pounds (9 kilos)! My first reaction was “OMG, I’m fat!”

OK, maybe that seems like an overstatement and not what one is supposed to say in this era of body positivity and acceptance. Well, I’m not thrilled at not being able to wear some of the skirts I’ve made. The extra weight is the result of being more sedentary over the past two years – too much time in front of a computer and too little exercise. It just kinda creeped up on me. Now I have more incentive to cut back on the chocolate and cheese and be more physically active.

Jennifer took my body measurements at the September fitting meetup. This weekend I finally sat down to compare my current measurements with the worksheets. It’s not pretty. I’ve gained about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in the waist and 3/4 inch (~2 cm) in the hips and thighs. Yikes. Of course, I knew my waist was bigger because certain pants (trousers for you U.K. and Aussie folks) no longer fit but I didn’t know all the expanded numbers.

Clearly, I need to get serious about getting in shape but in the meantime, I need to figure out what to do about my wardrobe. Do I let out some seams or just make clothes for my current body? Part of me says, lose the weight and fit back into those now-too-snug clothes. But who knows how long it will take to get back into those garments. Ugh.

For now I’m going to hold off on letting out any seams and focus on making some new garments.

I wanted to have one mock-up completed for our September fitting meetup so I had measured my waist so I could pick the right size to make my first Named Clothing pattern – the Mimosa Culottes. I cut a U.S. size 12 (U.K. 16, Euro 44). These culottes have wide legs so the hips are very generous, which meant I only needed the waist measurement. I brought my mockup of the Mimosa Culottes to this meetup and Jennifer pinned the back to get rid of some drag lines.

Fitting Mimosa Culottes, Named Clothing sewing pattern

When we transferred this change to the pattern piece, we folded it so it was the widest – about 1/4 inch (a little less than 1 cm) – at the center back and then zeroed it out at the side seam.

Mimosa Culottes - Named Clothing - back pattern adjustment

Jennifer also suggested adding a little more ease to the back crotch area by dropping that curve down about 3/8 inch (1 cm). It was a good idea because it was a little snug back there. I also lowered the hem 3/8 inch to compensate for the change in the crotch depth.

Now just to be sure it fits right, I’ll make another muslin. But I’ll just cut a new back and attach it to the front pieces I already have. I sewed this mock-up with a long stitch length so it would be easy to take apart. 😉

I’m also sewing these Vogue Patterns wrap pants (V9191), which don’t have side seams. They are just attached at the inseam and center front and back. The back wraps around and is tied in the front. So no worries about fitting but I added little more to the back side seams to make sure I had enough coverage.

This is the photo from the Vogue website. They look really comfortable don’t they?

V9191 - Vogue Pattern - csews.com

I’m using a hounds tooth knit fabric that doesn’t have much stretch to it so I’m treating it like a woven. I got it on sale at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. However, there are four waist darts in the back and six in the front, which I didn’t notice until I cut the pattern but I decided to go ahead and cut the fabric. I used a shallow zigzag stitch for the darts. I did a few tests using a straight stitch but it really didn’t work with the fabric. I’ve never sewn darts with a zigzag stitch before.

After sewing two darts with a small zigzag (stitch length 1), I realized that I needed to stabilize the fabric so I sewed the rest of the darts using Sulky Tear Easy stabilizer (soft, lightweight tear-away), which I got at Stonemountain for the Tessuti Eva dress pattern.

I had already pinned my darts for the Vogue pants, so I just put a small piece of stabilizer underneath the fabric and sewed the darts.

Sewing darts with tear-away stabilizer

The darts looked very neat when I used the stabilizer. At the dart point, I just sewed off the fabric on to the stabilizer.

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I put the front pattern piece on me and the darts look like this. I haven’t pressed them yet so they aren’t quite laying flat.

Darts sewn - Vogue Patterns - V9191 - wrap pants

Now the Sew House 7 Toaster Sweater is in my queue because it’s a new pattern and because it’s nice and roomy. My extra weight won’t be an issue here. Heheh. There’s a paper and PDF version. I got the paper version at Stonemountain, which carries many indie patterns as you can see here. I’m going to make it using this medium-weight wool double-knit that I got on sale at Stonemountain – pictured behind the pattern. It seems to match Version 2 of the pattern, which was a complete coincidence. I didn’t have the pattern with me when I bought the fabric.

Sew House 7 Toaster Sweater sewing pattern

I’ll measure the pattern pieces and if it seems like there’s enough ease, I might just go ahead and sew it up without making a mock-up.

Also, in my queue is making a 16-panel Shibori skirt from the fabric I indigo dyed. I’ll be using a pattern from the Japanese sewing book Basic Black by Sato Watanabe (Amazon affiliate link here, Tuttle Publishing link here). I made a skirt from that book and it still fits well because it has a lot of ease (blogged here).

For now, I’ll avoid the more fitted patterns and focus on patterns with a lot of ease or have a relaxed style. I want to make things that will look good not matter what my weight is.

What do you sew when you’ve gained or lost a significant amount of weight?

Taking body measurements for fitting sewing patterns

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  1. Vogue 9191 wrap pants - comfortable and easy to make - C Sews - November 28, 2016

    […] be enough. (I got all my measurements at a Bay Area Sewists fitting meetup, which I blogged about here.) However, I’m wearing my highest heels here and they’re still too long. Darn. It could […]

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