13 February 2017

Sewing Zadie: Choosing Your Size and Fitting Your Dress

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Making the Zadie dress? Vanessa here today to talk about how to choose your size and make any alterations you might need to get a beautiful fit.

Just to warn you, this is a loooong post - but you don't have to read it all! The good news is that knit fabrics stretch in places where they need to, so that takes away some of the fitting work for you. However, as our bodies all carry volume in different places and proportions, you may find that you need to make some tweaks to the pattern to get a personalised fit. In which case, skip to the section that you think you need in this post. Whatever you do, definitely read about choosing your size, making a toile and fitting as you sew - these are all essential!

We're going to cover:

  • Choosing your size
  • Making a toile
  • Lengthening the bodice or skirt
  • Shortening the bodice or skirt
  • Shortening the back bodice for a sway back
  • Lengthening the back bodice for a long back
  • Combining pattern sizes - the quick n easy method and the more accurate method
  • Adjusting for a full bust
  • Adjusting for a small bust
  • Making a second toile (after making changes to the paper pattern)
  • Fitting as you sew

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons
Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Choosing your size

The first thing to do is to choose the correct pattern size or sizes for your measurements. Using a tape measure find the circumference of your bust and waist, by which we mean:

  • Bust – the fullest part of your bust, ie. around your nipples
  • Waist – the point at which you bend to the side

This dress is designed to be fitted at the bust and high waist, flaring out at the hips - so don’t worry about your hip size too much. As tempting as it can be, don't hold it too tightly around your body!

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Highlight your measurements in the ‘body measurements’ chart in the instruction booklet. If your measurement falls in between a size (for example, if it's 27in rather than 26in or 28in), it’s safer to choose the larger size. It’s easier to take the dress in if it’s too big than to let it out if it’s too small.

If your bust and waist measurements all fall into one pattern size – fantastic! That’s your size! There’s a key on the pattern sheets that shows the solid or dashed line for your size – that’s the one to follow when you cut out your fabric.

However, if your bust and waist measurements are two different sizes, don’t worry! Every body has different proportions, and the beauty of making your own clothes is that you can mix and match sizes to get a bespoke fit. Take a look at the section on combining pattern sizes below.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Making a toile - or “wearable toile”

Knit fabrics are generally easier to fit than woven materials, as the fabric stretches where needed. That said, our bodies are all different shapes, and one pattern isn't going to fit everyone straight out of the envelope. That's why on fitted patterns, before cutting into your favourite fabric, it's a seriously good idea to make a mock up of your garment - or a "toile" (AKA "muslin") - as a practice run to check for any fitting changes needed.

You don't need to make a toile of the whole Zadie dress as the skirt is flared and therefore is unlikely to need changing. Just make a toile of the bodice, side panels, sleeves and neckband.

Alternatively you can make the entire dress as “wearable toile” – in other words, in an inexpensive-but-not-hideous fabric so that, if it doesn't turn out so well, you haven't wasted precious fabric, but if it turns out nicely, at least you get to wear it!

Whichever kind of toile you make, fit it as you go. Tack (baste) the seams, try it on, and then take them in or out if needed . You can mark new stiching lines with pins and fabric pens as a guide. There’s no need to finish the edges with a zig zag stitch or overlocker. Transfer any changes you make back to the pattern, or note them down and take your next dress in or out by same amount and in the same places.

One more note on toiles - it's important to use a fabric that feels similar to the real fabric you want to use in terms of weight, stretch and recovery (how easily the fabric pings back down to size after stretching). The kind of knit fabric you use can have a huge impact on how your dress fits you - it may fit perfectly in one fabric, and be huge or tight in another fabric.

If you already know what changes you want to make to your pattern before making your toile, or have made a toile and now want to now alter the pattern, read on for adjustments to the paper pattern…

Lengthening or shortening the bodice or skirt

If you think you have a longer or shorter than average torso, legs or overall height, you can add or take away length from the bodice, skirt or both using the lengthen or shorten lines on the pattern pieces.

Take a look at the "nape to waist" measurement for your size in the body measurements chart in the instructions. Drop a tape measure from the nape of your neck (the knobbly bone at the base of the back of your neck) straight down to your waist (parallel to where you bend to the side) to see how much longer or shorter your nape to waist is.

The skirt is designed to finish at the knee, and you can check this against your height by measuring from your nape to your knee (or wherever you would like the hemline to be) and comparing it to the "nape to hem" in the finished measurements chart.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

On a scrap of paper, draw two parallel lines - the distance between them is the amount you want to lengthen the bodice or skirt by.

If you're altering the skirt, draw a vertical line joining the parallel lines at one side. Repeat this so you have two pieces of paper, one each for the following pattern pieces:
  • Front skirt
  • Back skirt
If you're altering the bodice, draw a vertical line joining them in the middle. Repeat this so you have four pieces of paper, one each for the following pattern pieces:

  • Front bodice
  • Side front bodice
  • Side back bodice
  • Back bodice

Lengthening the bodice or skirt

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Extend the grainline on the side front bodice and side back bodice pieces so that it goes past the lengthen or shorten here lines. This will give you something to align the paper with in the next step.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Whether you're lengthening the bodice or the skirt, cut along one of the "lengthen or shorten here" lines on each pattern piece that you need to alter (see the list above). Place a paper strip underneath the separated pieces, aligning the cut edges with the parallel lines, and the vertical line up with the grainline or "place on fold" arrow. Stick them down with tape or a glue stick.

Re-draw the seam lines so they join up with smooth curves, and cut away the excess paper. Be sure to smooth into the original seam line before you get to the pivot point, to keep it in the right place. In the photo above I’ve shown the re-drawn seam lines for a size 4 on two of the four bodice pieces.

Shortening the bodice or skirt

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons
Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Draw a parallel line above the "lengthen or shorten here" lines on each pattern piece that you need to alter (see the list above), the distance between the two lines being how much you want to shorten the pattern by.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Cut along one of the "lengthen or shorten here" lines on each pattern piece you need to alter, and move the bottom piece up to meet the line you drew in the previous step. Tape or stick down.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Re-draw the bust seams with smooth curves and side seams with straight lines. Taper the bust seams into the original line before you get to the pivot point – this will keep it in the right place. The photos above show the re-drawn seam lines for a size 4 on the skirt and bodice.

Adjusting the back bodice for a long or sway back

If you turn to the side whilst wearing your toile and notice that the front empire waist seam is sitting in the right place but the back one is sitting too high or low, you can adjust the back bodice and side back panel pieces so it sits level all the way around. First, measure how much higher or lower the back empire waistline is in relation to the front empire waistline.

Shortening the back bodice for a sway back

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

On the back bodice, draw a parallel line above the "lengthen or shorten here" lines, the distance between them being the amount you measured in the previous step – in this example it is 15mm (5/8in).

On the side back bodice, mark in the stitching lines just above the lengthen or shorten here line on the side and bust seam - the stitching lines are 15mm (5/8in) in from the cutting lines. We're doing this so we're ignoring the seam allowances, and only making the adjustment where it's needed.

On the stitching line of the back bodice seam, measure 15mm (5/8in) – or however much you are removing from the back bodice – up from the lengthen or shorten here line. Draw a line from this point down to where the stitching line at the side seam intersects with the other end of the lengthen or shorten here line.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

On the back bodice, cut along the lengthen or shorten here line and move the bottom piece up to meet the line you drew in the previous step. Tape or stick down.

On the side back panel, cut in one direction from the side seam to the stitching line, and in the other direction from the bodice seam – leaving the piece attached by a small ‘hinge’.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Pivot the top of the pattern piece down until the cut edge lines up with the lengthen or shorten here line. Re-draw the side and bodice seams with straight lines.

Lengthening the back bodice for a long back

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

On the back bodice, cut along one of the lengthen or shorten here lines. Insert a strip of paper with two parallel lines drawn on it, the distance between them being how much you measured in the previous step – in this example it is 15mm (5/8in). Tape or stick down.

On the side back panel, mark in the stitching lines just above the "lengthen or shorten here" line on the side and bust seam, 15mm (5/8in) from the cutting lines. We're doing this so we're ignoring the seam allowances, and only making the adjustment where it's needed.

Cut in one direction from the side seam to the stitching line, and in the other direction from the bodice seam – leaving the piece attached by a small ‘hinge’.

Pivot the top of the pattern piece up and insert a piece of paper underneath. Tape or stick it down so that the bodice seam is opened up by the same amount that you added to the back bodice.

Re-draw the side and bodice seams with straight lines.

Combining pattern sizes

If your measurements don’t match one pattern size – for example, you’re a size 4 at the bust, 3 at the waist – you can mix and match sizes (don't worry about your hip measurement, as the skirt is flared). Make sure you’ve got the length right before you combine pattern sizes, as this will affect the shape of the pieces.

If your bust measurement is particularly larger or smaller than the waist measurement listed for your pattern size, you might want to make a small or full bust adjustment instead of or as well as combining sizes – see below for bust adjustments.

There are a couple of methods you could use to combine pattern sizes:

1) Quick n easy method

The method is super straight-forward, so ideal for you if you're worried about making more in-depth adjustments, or if you just want to make a dress and get on with your life!

Choose your pattern size based on whichever is larger out of your bust or waist. Tack (baste) the side seams of your toile or final dress, try it on, and then take them in or let them out where needed so that they fit to your curves.

This method is definitely simple, but the bodice seams may not end up in an ideal place - so you may prefer the more involved method below...

2) More accurate method

This method is more accurate as you will be grading between sizes across all the bodice pattern pieces. To make this easier to see, I’ve illustrated the seams that need to be adjusted on the drawing below - it's the bodice seams that you need to change, not the raglan sleeve seams or skirt seams.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

On the back bodice and side back panel, draw a straight line between the sizes you are combining on the bodice seam. Finish the line about 15mm (5/8in) above the pivot point so that it stays in the right position.

On the front bodice and side front panel, draw a smooth curved line between the sizes you are combining on the bust seams. Start the line close to the bust notch, and finish the line about 15mm (5/8in) above the the pivot point so that it stays in the right position.

In the illustration above, the red line shows how I've combined a size 3 bust with a size 4 waist. The green line shows combining a size 4 bust with a size 3 waist.

Whichever size you choose for your bust, go with this size for the sleeves and neckband. Whichever size you choose for your waist, go with the same size for your notches, pivot points, skirt and pockets.

Bust adjustments

If your boobs are on the larger side, you may find that the pattern fits your bust but is baggy at the upper chest and shoulders. On the other hand, if they're on the smaller side, you may find that while the full bust fits you, the upper chest and shoulders are too tight. One way to resolve this is to choose a pattern size based on your high bust and then add or subtract room at the full bust - this is known as a full bust adjustment (FBA) or small bust adjustment (SBA).

Fortunately as this pattern has seams instead of darts running over the bust, adding or taking out space in this area isn't too complicated.

How do you know if you need to adjust the bust and, if so, how much by?

Measure your high bust (around your upper chest just under your armpits). Now measure your full bust (around your nipples). Our sewing patterns include a 5cm (2in) difference between the high bust and full bust - if the difference between these measurements on you is significantly more or less than 5cm (2in), a bust adjustment is recommended.

Add 5cm (2in) to your high bust measurement, and choose the pattern size with that bust measurement to do your pattern adjustment on. Compare your high bust + 5cm (2in) to full bust measurement. If your full bust is 2.5cm (1in) bigger than your high bust + 5cm (2in), you’ll do a full bust adjustment and add 2.5cm (1in). If your full bust is 2.5cm (1in) smaller than your high bust + 5cm (2in), you’ll do a small bust adjustment and subtract 2.5cm (1in). Swap these amounts to add or subtract with whatever the difference is between your measurements.

Trace off a copy of your front bodice and side front panel pieces in your size (see above), leaving some extra space if you're making a full bust adjustment, so you can keep the originals intact in case you need to change them later. Trace off the notches and "lengthen or shorten here" lines too.

Adjusting for a full bust

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

On the front bodice and side front bodice pieces, measure from the bust notch outside and away from the bodice seam by one quarter of the amount you want to increase the full bust by (see above). For example, if you want to make the full bust 25mm (1in) bigger, measure 6mm (1/4in). The reason it's one quarter of the measurement is because each of these pieces represents one quarter of the front of the dress.

Mark this point. Re-draw the bodice seam with a curved line that goes around this point and tapers smoothly back into the original cutting line. You want to start and end the line about 15mm (5/8in) before the cutting lines of the front raglan seam and empire seam – this means the stitching lines will stay the same length and everything will still fit together beautifully. In the photo above I've added in the space marked in green.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

You'll also need to add a bit of length to the front bodice to accommodate a fuller bust. This extra length will be tapered into the side seam so that the back bodice stays the same.

Begin by drawing two sets of parallel lines, the distance between them being double the amount you added to each piece above. For example, if you added 6mm (1/4in), the lines should be 12.5mm (1/2in) apart.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Cut along either of the lengthen or shorten here lines marked on the front bodice. Place the paper strip underneath the separated pieces, aligning the cut edges with the parallel lines. Stick them down with tape or a glue stick.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

On the side front panel, mark the stitching line on the side seam and bodice seam, 15mm (5/8in) in from the cutting line, at the "lengthen or shorten here" lines.

Cut along one of the "lengthen or shorten here" lines in one direction from the cutting line to this point, and then from the other direction to this point, leaving the piece intact by a small "hinge".

Place the other paper strip underneath, aligning the bottom cut edge with the parallel lines. Pivot the top piece up so the stitching line at the bodice seam is higher than the "lengthen or shorten here" line by the amount you worked out above - in this example 12.5mm (1/2in). Stick them down with tape or a glue stick.

Re-draw the seam lines so they join up smoothly. Try to smooth into the original seam line before you get to the pivot points, to keep them in the right place.

Adjusting for a small bust

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

On the front bodice and side front bodice pieces, measure from the bust notch towards the inside of the pattern piece by one quarter of the amount you want to increase the full bust by (see above). For example, if you want to make the full bust 25mm (1in) smaller, measure 6mm (1/4in). The reason it's one quarter of the measurement is because each of these pieces represents one quarter of the front of the dress.

Mark this point. Re-draw the bodice seam with a curved line that goes into this point and tapers smoothly back into the original cutting line. You want to start and end the line about 15mm (5/8in) before the cutting lines of the front raglan seam and empire seam – this means the stitching lines will stay the same length and everything will still fit together beautifully. In the photo above I've taken off the space marked in pink.

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

You'll also need to take off a bit of length to the front bodice. This reduction will be tapered into the side seam so that the back bodice stays the same.

On the front bodice, draw a parallel line above the "lengthen or shorten here" line, the distance between the two being double the amount you removed from each piece above. For example, if you removed 6mm (1/4in), the lines should be 12.5mm (1/2in) apart.

On the side front panel, mark the stitching line on the side seam and bodice seam, 15mm (5/8in) in from the cutting line, at the "lengthen or shorten here" lines. Measure up from this point at the bodice seam by the amount you're removing. Draw a line from here to where the stitching line at the side seam intersects with the other end of the "lengthen or shorten here" line (the diagonal line in the left-hand piece above).

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

On the front bodice, cut along the lengthen or shorten here line and move the bottom piece up to meet the line you drew in the previous step. Tape or stick down.

On the side front panel, cut along the diagonal line you just drew in one direction from the side seam to its stitching line, and in the other direction from the bodice seam to the same point, leaving the pieces attached by a small "hinge".

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Pivot the top of the side front panel down until the cut edge lines up with the "lengthen or shorten here" line. Re-draw the side and bodice seams with smooth curves. You might need to stick a little bit of paper on to get a smooth curve.

Making a second toile

Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons
Fitting the Zadie dress - Tilly and the Buttons

Once you’ve made any changes you want to make to the paper pattern, you can make a toile (or a second toile) of just the bodice, side panel, neckband and sleeve pieces. The full skirt shouldn’t need any fitting tweaks! You can speed up the construction of the bodice and sleeves by tacking (basting) the seams together, using a zigzag stitch about 2.5mm wide by 4mm long.

When you’ve got this practice version on, you can see if the raglan, side or bodice seams need to be taken in or let out a little bit, and transfer these changes back to the pattern.

Fitting as you sew

When you come to your ‘real’ project, even if you've already made a toile or made the dress more than once before, it’s always a good idea to tack the side seams before sewing them properly. If you’ve made a knit pattern more than once in different fabrics, you’ve probably already discovered that the kind of fabric you use can have a big impact on the finished fit. Even if your first version fits perfectly, if you sew it again in material that is a little more or a little less stretchy, your finished result could look totally different – and vice versa.

*****

That's enough for today's post! I hope you find this helpful for getting your Zadie dress to fit your unique shape.

Do remember that it's unlikely you'll need to make all of these changes, so please don't feel overwhelmed by the amount of information in this post! I've covered some of the most common fitting issues that different people may have - but fitting is a massive subject so if you want more help take a look at a book such as Knits for Real People: Fitting and Sewing Fashion Knit Fabrics by Susan Neall and Pati Palmer (this is an affiliate link).

It's definitely worth spending some time to get a pattern to fit your unique shape. But on the other hand, sewing is meant to be a pleasure, so don't push it too far. After all, life's too short to stress out about a dress :)

In the next part of the Zadie sewalong, we'll get sewing - hooray!

8 comments:

  1. I need a bag that says "Life's too short to stress out about a dress."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I want to purchase but I don't know how to pay in US dollars.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Tyshieha!

      It's lovely to hear that you'd like to sew Zadie :) you can purchased the pattern directly from our website. Your bank will convert the amount from US dollars into GBP. It's worth double checking with them that they can do this for you, what their conversion rate it, and whether there are any associated fees.

      I hope this is helpful!

      Delete
  3. I just finished my first Zadie and I love it! Got the pivot points perfect which I'm very pleased with. I was wondering if you had any advice on fitting raglan sleeves though, I seem to have a bit of excess fabric in my armpit area. Is there a good adjustment for this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Unknown - Woop!! So glad your first Zadie was a success! If you've got a bit of excess fabric in the armpit area, put your dress on inside out, and ask a friend to pin out the excess fabric, and perhaps sketch where you would like the seam to sit with chalk or a fabric pencil (so it washes out!) You can then transfer this information to your pattern and make up the next one with these amendments made.

      I hope this helps! Happy sewing :)

      Delete
  4. Hi ladies! Re bust adjustments, my high and full measurements are the same. I've not done any adjustments on any other T&TB patterns I've made, and things have fitted me no problem, should i be considering it? I'm minded to just go with the pattern as is and see what happens, but would be interested in your thoughts! Thanks, Emma :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Unknown, you can always do a bit of adjusting to the bust seam after you've sewn it - just pop it on inside out and pin the excess fabric and re-stitch this seam following where you've pinned. Sometimes life is too short for bust adjustments!

      Delete

Feel free to chip in! Please don't comment anonymously though - you can leave your email if you don't have an OpenID. Comments on older posts are moderated for spam so won't show up immediately.