I just love jackets – they are so versatile! They go with everything; jeans, skirts, business pants… To look your best, it helps if your clothes fit properly. Jacket Fitting Techniques taught by Pam Howard aims at teaching you how to perfectly fit a multi-panelled jacket through a muslin fit process for either yourself, your friends or a client.
Lesson 1 – Meet Pam Howard
Like most Craftsy courses, Pam gives a brief introduction of who she is and how she started sewing – often in relation to the course material being taught. In this case, Pam explains how she would custom fit clients once, only for them to ask for a replica of the jacket. It was at this stage she started to use muslin fittings.
This class uses McCalls 6172 classic blazer, which is available in three lengths. You will learn how to fit others and yourself.
This part of the lesson is quite short, just showing how Pam selects the patterns that she sews. Generally that involves looking at the model’s picture on the front of pattern envelopes, and breaking down the pattern into design parts by viewing the line drawings on the back.
Generally the more seams that are on a garment the more areas you will have for adjusting fit.
For this class you will need to know your own measurements, or those of your client’s/friend’s. Your course material has a handy little graph for you to record these details. Pam will walk you through how to take the measurements (using a mannequin).
Lesson 2 – Preparing the Pattern Pieces
Looking At The Pattern
This class is centred around the McCalls 6172 classic blazer pattern. Pam walks you through the pattern pieces that you will need in order to achieve the perfect fit; you won’t need to use every pattern piece that comes in the envelope.
Preparing The Pattern
As Pam mentioned in an earlier lesson, you will alter the pattern from using a fish-eye dart to a princess seam so that you have more fitting options. Pam takes you step-by-step through the process of making the alterations for both the front and back pattern pieces.
Lengthening The Pattern
If you are familiar with basic alterations, then this step would probably be fairly familiar. If not, Pam covers it quite clearly.
Pam suggests a medium weight 100% cotton woven muslin. You can purchase knit muslin, but you should only use a knit when the pattern is designed for appropriately for it. I love working with muslin as I don’t have to prewash it – just use it straight off the bolt!
Most professionals suggest that you should make your muslin test fit garment with a fabric weight similar to that of your final fashion fabric. So if you are planning to use a much heavier – or lighter – fashion fabric then consider adjusting the muslin fabric weight appropriately.
Pam covers how to tell if your muslin fabric is on grain, however doesn’t show you any fixes if it isn’t.
Lesson 3 – Transferring the Pattern onto Muslin
Laying the Pattern onto the Muslin and Cutting Out the Muslin
Most of the pattern pieces have already been lain out by this lesson, however Pam reinforces the importance of aligning the grain line appropriately to the selvage.
Marking the Muslin
Pam uses carbon paper to transfer markings onto the muslin. Transfer all markings onto the muslin. This class doesn’t require you to transfer the stitching lines onto the muslin, however many people like the visible stitching lines as a reference. This is useful if you expect to increase seam width’s in a particular area compared to the default pattern.
The rest of the lesson involves remarking all the carbon marks in pen, to clearly identify all design and functional markings.
Lesson 4 – Assembling the Muslin
Laying Out The Pieces
Pam shows you how the pattern pieces join together in a couple pre-sewn examples. She also explains why a 1″ seam allowance has been used rather than the traditional 5/8″ seams; to allow fabric to be let out a bit in tighter areas.
Sewing the Muslin
Traditionally you sew the fabric with right sides together, however since we want our seam allowances to be visible – for easier adjusting – you should baste wrong sides together. Remember to sew at the appropriate seam allowance!
The upper sleeve with have excess material compared to the under sleeve, essentially forcing the sleeves to be eased in such a way that the material will bend at the elbow. Pam walks you through how to perfectly sew the difference in ease. Next you will need to ease the sleeve so that it has a nice rounded shape at the shoulder.
Lesson 5 – The Drape-Fitting Process
Checking the Fit
It’s absolutely vital to close the jacket before starting the fit process; last thing you need is to go to all that effort to not be able to button up.
The first things you should check for as soon as the jacket is closed are:
- Is the centre back going vertically down the back?
- Is the centre front going vertically down the front?
- Are the shoulder seams sitting in the right places?
- Are the side seams centred on the body?
Did you know that shoulder pads are actually designed to sit on a specific shoulder? A shoulder pad will have one slightly thicker side; this is the side that should sit to the front of the body.
Fitting the Back
Make small incremental changes evenly across the garment – i.e. the left back and the right back.
Fitting the Side
The same general process is done for the side seams as the back. Pam points out that you need to pay attention to the overall silhouette and not just the body fit.
Fitting the Front
Depending upon the shape and size of your bust you may need to remove excess material at the bust. These changes may affect the lapel, but do not fear as Pam shows you the process.
Fitting the Shoulders
Having sloped shoulders is a very common issue; we spend so much time sitting at desks now-a-days that most people’s shoulders slope forward. Luckily it’s very easy to alter for this problem.
Lesson 6 – Rebasting the Muslin
This lesson is en essence checking the fit to make sure you are happy with it. It can be hard to move about with pins in a jacket, so by basting the new fitting you can move around and determine whether it fits well – after all the clothing we wear is designed to be moved in…
Sewing Your Changes
Unlike other instructors who prefer to mark out the changes – such as Paul Gallo in Fashion Draping: Dress Making Basics (read my review of the class) – Pam goes straight back to the sewing machine and baste the changes by sewing directly from pin to pin. She starts at the shoulder and then moves from the back to the front.
Marking the Sleeve
It’s very common for the shoulders to be too long on a design – especially if you’re petite. Pam shows you how to mark your new armhole for better fit.
Lesson 7 – Fitting the Sleeve
Remarking the Shoulder Notches
If you are following Pam’s instructions, you would have added excess material to the shoulders. To test the fit of the sleeve you will need to remove this excess material. If you struggle telling which sleeve belongs to the left or right arm, Pam gives you some valuable pointers.
Pinning in the Sleeve
Sleeves are one of those places that are difficult to pin and sew correctly – I struggle with getting them to look perfect almost every single time. If you changed the stitching lines of your shoulders, it’s important to remember to match the correct seam allowances on both the sleeve and the shoulder.
Setting the Sleeve
Baste your sleeve in place as per a standard installation.
Pam checks for puckers, as well as whether the stitches fell on the desired placement.
Back to the Dress Form
Now this part was quite interesting; Pam compares the difference of altering the princess seam versus altering the sleeve cap itself for fit. Whilst the results look quite similar, there could be paramount difference when it comes to comfort and wearability. Not to mention it gives you two options for fitting a sleeve.
Lesson 8 – Fitting Yourself
This lesson is a godsend, at least for me. I don’t have a sewing buddy (I miss you mum!), so being able to see tips on how to fit myself was so very much appreciated.
Fitting the Front
Start by pinning the centre front closed. Check the roll lines for your collar and lapel.
Fitting the Back
Since you won’t be able to see your centre back – at least not very easily – you should evenly pin on both sides of the centre fold to help ensure a more accurate fit. If you can, use two floor length mirrors; looking over your shoulder will cause your body to twist and will change how the jacket will appear in the mirror behind you.
Fitting the Sides
Just like on the mannequin, pin excess material on the sides. To check the silhouette you should fold the seams flat.
Making Length Adjustments
Pam almost always needs to remove some length between her shoulder blades. She shows you how to do this without effecting the pattern design. When checking the length remember that you might not have pinned your hem, so it will probably be 1 to 2 inches shorter when finished.
Re-examining the Fit
Get out your heels ladies and strut your stuff. Ok maybe not quite yet, but this process will involve you twisting and turning and moving about to make sure the jacket is comfortable and looks fine.
Determining Sleeve Length
Generally you don’t want your sleeve length to be the same length of your jacket; it makes your hip look larger. Sleeve length is a bit of a personal preference; it can range from being short enough to show your jewellery or to the standard length of your wrist – right where your hand starts to bend. Move your arms around enough to check that the sleeve length is comfortable.
Lesson 9 – The New Pattern
If you haven’t already done so, turn up and pin all your hems.
Remove your shoulder pads. Unpin your hem since we know the seam allowance is accurate.
Remove your under collar since in most cases you won’t need to change anything here either. If you made any changes at the top near the neck back you may need to reflect those changes in your collar, however.
Using a different marker colour than your original markings – just for ease of reference – draw over your new seam lines (i.e. where your new basting stitches are). Remember that both sides of the seam lines are different pattern pieces, so you have to mark both!
Marking the Sleeve
Marking the sleeve is a bit more complicated than the rest of the garment. First you have to mark your armhole, before unpinning. Then mark any areas that were previously covered by the sleeve, including the shoulder.
Deconstructing the Muslin
Remove all the basting stitches and press your muslin pattern pieces flat.
When it comes to muslin pieces that have been cut on the bias, it’s actually suggested that you use the paper pattern as reference when cutting fashion fabric. Why? The bias fabric can actually stretch and distort over time, risking the accuracy of the fashion fabric – of course this won’t happen when you use the tissue paper.
You will need to mark the appropriate seams onto your muslin. The standard is 5/8″, however feel free to use what you are comfortable with – just remember to use that when you are sewing!
Adding a Lining Pleat
The more fitted your jacket is, the more important it will be to have a lining pleat; if your jacket is too tight you won’t be able to move naturally in it and risk pulling stitches or ripping the material. It’s so simple to add a lining pleat that I am honestly surprised that it isn’t a feature in more jacket patterns.
Finishing the Pattern
Mark your pattern pieces clearly with the pattern model number, the size and so forth. You can hang them over a clothes hanger and pin them together for easier storage.
- Metric Conversion Chart, which comes with all Craftsy sewing classes.
- Measurements, Supplies and Resources PDF, which helps you track your measurements, the supplies you will need to complete the class and other helpful resources.
- McCalls 6172 Sewing Pattern.
Pam speaks in a lovely slow, clear manner which is just so relaxing! If you are nervous about fitting a jacket, her soothing nature would be of great benefit to you.
Lesson 8 is a godsend; I don’t have a sewing buddy that can help me fit patterns to myself. Thank you so much Pam for bearing your soul to us, it makes the class so much more worth it.
If you are like me, you probably don’t want to fit yourself in front of others. Unlike Pam I don’t look so dignified; I wiggle and twist in ways that probably look hilarious to onlookers.
I found it a bit redundant to pin my hems in lesson 9. I feel like we should pin the hems completely in lesson 8 when we check the length.
My one disappointment was that we didn’t transfer the changes from the muslin back to a paper pattern.
Jacket Fitting Techniques has a lot to teach, but I also find it surprising that after watching the steps most of them feel almost like common sense. I do a fair bit of custom fitting however, so perhaps I am just speaking from experience.
One thing that I love about Pam’s teaching style is that even a beginner can follow along without too much trouble; understanding each step and adjusting to suit them. She speaks in a clear and calm manner that takes away any frustrations and instead makes the whole process such a nice, simple and calming hobby. After all hobbies should be exciting, and no one wants to be frustrated and angry with them.
If you are an intermediate sewer and just starting to learn how to custom fit and alter your own clothing, this is a great class for you to start with. The complexity of adjusting the pattern to a princess seam jacket, as well as dealing with all those panels and pattern pieces, is a great way to earn you confidence for your own self-guided projects. The content isn’t dumbed down for you to achieve success but struggle on your own, rather it is designed in such a way that you can take those new skills and apply them else where – even if it’s not a jacket that you are fitting.
For expert sewers I think it depends on how confident you are at custom fitting and alterations. The class is easy to follow along if you are after the pointers, and honestly who will object to a perfectly fitting – and flattering – jacket? You can it as a sloper and adjust to design your own jackets or coats.