In Search of the Perfect Fit

ica1frontSo, we’ve been eating a little differently around here. The Jazzman is on the elliptical every day for 45 minutes or so, and he’s lost pounds—pounds, I tell you! I’ve lost ounces. But there have been enough ounces so far that I’ve had to buy new bras. The new measurement was 2″ smaller in circumference, but (of course!) a larger cup size.

renfrewLast October, my SIL-Equivalent in Columbus showed me a t-shirt she had made in a class at a local fabric store. The pattern is the Renfrew t-shirt from indie pattern designer Sewaholic. I loved Barb’s version. She chose a knit stripe in a nice mid-weight cotton. And she had done a fabulous job with the neckband on the pattern. It looked like she had been sewing this pattern for years, rather than it being her first time. I ordered the pattern and put it on my project list.

One of my goals for 2015 is to break the code on altering patterns to fit my sizable bust measurements. Why is this an issue? Because most sewing patterns are designed for B cups. I am now a Triple-D (or F, in European sizing—I don’t know why American companies switched to D, DD, DDD, and so on. Confusing.). Each cup size increase translates to a 1″ increase in full bust circumference. That means if I choose a pattern for my 36″ high bust measurement, I have to somehow add 4″ to the pattern to get it to fit around me. But in the front only, as my back is the perfect 36″!

iacuniformEver since I got the summer job at Interlochen, I’ve been obsessing about components for my uniform for the summer. See those cute campers in the picture? They’re in blue tucked-in polo shirts. And shorts. Neither of those items have a place in my standard wardrobe. I noticed last summer that faculty and staff tend to find a way to skirt (no pun intended) the requirement. So I’ve been searching for the right shade of blue in a fabric I would like and patterns that will cover my bum and let me feel comfortable while spending my day on a piano bench.

I found a nice blue cotton jersey at Mood and got enough for two t-shirts. I decided to start with Renfrew. I read everything in my personal library of sewing/fitting books on FBA. I googled FBA and Renfrew and found this blog post, which was somewhat helpful. But I felt there should be more hard and fast mathematical rules to it. I wanted it to be a science, not an art. And then I found a video on tissue fitting patterns by my teacher and friend, Marcy Tilton. Here’s the YouTube link.

ica1side2I spent about an hour fiddling with the pattern, tracing it, pinning it, taping it, and cutting it. I dug into my knit scraps and found enough to cut out a front and a back and sew them together. I fiddled with armscye bust darts and adding space and subtracting space. I ended up with a t-shirt body that seemed like it fit me. (Please ignore my cheek in the picture. This was dermatology week, and she froze some old-lady crap off.)

iac1sideThen I cut it out in my blue cotton jersey and set to constructing it. The lightweight cotton jersey had more give than the scraps I had “muslined” the pattern in. So where my muslin had fit me perfectly, the real deal felt rather large. It felt sloppy. I don’t want to look sloppy!! I experimented with making the side seams ½” larger, thus removing another 2″ from the circumference of the garment. I unsewed the darts and moved them up a couple of inches.

Where I thought I was going to be done by 9:00 a.m., it is now 4:00 p.m. Except for my lunch break, I’ve been going nonstop all day. And I have a shirt that fits. It looks almost nothing like the pattern picture, as I omitted the bottom band and the sleeve band and cut it 3″ longer to get the bum-covering length I wanted.

I don’t love it, sd this blue is not really my color. And yet, when I put it with the navy Eileen Fisher stretch crepe slim ankle pant, I do like it. And styled with my new Bernie Mev “Victoria” woven elastic sneakers, well, I’m a happy girl.

I will attempt the Renfrew again—probably more than once, but with a more substantial knit.

And I will continue refining the FBA.

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About Jan

Musician and geek and Juris Doctor; lover of fine art and fine craft; mother and grandmother and significant other and friend. Passionate about sewing.

8 Responses to In Search of the Perfect Fit

  1. Silver Mom says:

    Another member of the “F troop” here, with a resource that may help your bust fitting journey: Shams, who blogs at Communing with Fabric, posted a long article about her bust fitting strategies. It includes (towards the bottom) specific information about knits. Her advice to fit the darts and side seams LAST is golden. Here’s the link.

  2. Jan says:

    Thanks, Silver Mom. I have read Shams’ post in the past and didn’t think to review it again before this project. I follow her blog and spent a morning fabric shopping with her in SF last September. (I’m a lucky girl!) Thank you for the reminder.

  3. Gayle ortiz says:

    You are lookin good, Jan! Fitting, the lifelong pursuit. Just when I think I’ve got it….dang!

    • Jan says:

      Thanks, Gayle. Good thing this was a good learning exercise – Leslie reminded me later in the evening that all my shirts have to have collars. Uh oh. I think this shirt will be great for cooler days when I need to wear a sweater. 🙂

  4. barbara says:

    i hear you. 5’1″ and 36K UK sizing. i find the best fitting dart is the french dart on both woven and knit t-shirts. it pulls in that little bit of drag from the apex diagonally to the same side corner of the hem. if there’s still gaping, i make that last tweak by lifting the front shoulder point. in that last case, you may have to scoop the bodice underarm a bit more on wovens. i make the appropriate small changes on the sleeve. i try not to dart the armscye because it interferes with stripes and other one-way patterns in an obvious way. have you experimented with a front shoulder-to-bust dart?

    it took a while, but it’s worth it to get close-to-a-good-fit for tops. they still always need poking and pinching due to fabric differences, but you’ll have the worst part behind you. instead of in front of you. [my little pun ;)]

    • Jan says:

      Barbara, what great suggestions. I’ll be researching all these and learning so much more. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  5. Carmen says:

    Found your website while looking for images of Vogue 5891. Thanks for pics and comments! Regarding FB fitting: The best source I have found is Pati Palmer’s Fit for Real People. Both the book and the workshops she offers are worth every minute and every penny.

    Look forward to following your continuing adventures 🙂

    • Jan says:

      Thank you, Carmen. I’ll research that – fitting is definitely something I wish to accomplish this year.
      Nice to “meet” you. 🙂

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