Let’s Talk About Fit


So I’ve been sewing for a while. A quick glance through the archives will tell you that my style has been predominantly muu muu meets prenatal wear when sewing for myself: comfortable, easy, fairly shapeless, ideal for all-you-can-eat-buffets. I absolutely love my potato sacks, and one of the things I’ve discovered about myself through sewing is that I am not the perfectionist that I thought I was. Thread not matching exactly? Eh. Pocket placement out of alignment? Whatever. Skirt waist doesn’t fit all that well? That’s what belts are for!

But over the years I’ve been quietly collecting books and resources for understanding fit — it’s something that feels daunting and complicated for my spatially challenged mind that barely passed geometry and trig. I’m not planning on whipping up a corset anytime soon (or ever), but my recent toe-dipping into drafting my own patterns made me want to truly understand how to alter patterns to better mold to my body. I’m not looking to create body-skimming outfits; rather, I want to have the know-how to deal with the weird gape that happens between my shoulder and armpit, to once and for all get a handle on doing a proper FBA, etc.

My collection of books on fit is far from complete, and I’m always on the lookout for good ones. The internet is a treasure trove, of course, and I’ve heard that there are some good classes offered through Craftsy and Creative Bug. I have a lot of resources at my fingertips, but I still haven’t plunged into the learning part of the equation, and I think it’s high time.

Below, I’ve listed the resources that I know of by books and online classes – I’m guessing that there are amazing youtube videos out there too. I’m very much a visual learner and love picture-heavy books and videos. And of course, there’s the actual doing and practicing. That’s probably how I learn best, by diving in and through trial and error. If you have any suggestions for gaining mastery of fit, I’d love to hear them and will add them here to make it my go-to resource page for all things fit-related!



Fit for Real People by Pati Palmer & Marta Alto – The cover is quite unfortunate, but this is touted as a classic and is highly rated.

Dress Making for Real Women by Lorna Knight – The illustrations look very clear and understandable in this one.

Perfectly Fitted by Lynne Garner – I’m quite intimidated by the draping method in this book, but I’m eager to learn more. I like that variations to basic patterns are offered (e.g. different sleeve options to add to a top).

Pattern Cutting Made Easy by Gillian Homan – This book isn’t actually specifically about fit, but more about drafting pattern pieces. You do, however, glean some insights into adjusting the patterns in different ways.

The Pattern Making Primer by Jo Barnsfield and Andrew Richards – Claiming to be the “ultimate resource for pattern making”, this book appeals the most visually to me. The clean, simple illustrations with lots of white space and clothing samples that don’t look too dated, I’m excited to devour this one.

The Complete Photo Guide to Clothing Construction by Christine Haynes – This is more of a basic how-to, but the instructions appear to be excellent and the contributor list is impressive (Sarai of Colette Patterns is one of them). It’s a new book that just came out.

Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified by Cal Patch – (Not shown) This is a good introduction to pattern drafting, and I used it for the first time last week. I love it!

The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen – (Not shown) I don’t own this book (yet) but it looks right up my alley with lots of visual instructions!

How to Make Clothes that Fit and Flatter – (Not shown) This was recommended on Coletterie, and might have to become part of my library too!

Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zimmerman  – (Not shown) This one looks promising too!




Craftsy – This is the general link to fitting classes, and listed below are the ones I’m interested in. The classes are on the pricey side ($40 – $50 per class), but you can do a free trial for a limited time.

Sew the Perfect Fit

Custom Fitting: Back, Neck and Shoulders

Fast Track Fitting

Sewing Knits that Fit

Sewing Designer Jeans

Custom Fitting: Waist and Hips


Creative Bug – The offerings are less for sewing on Creative Bug it seems, but the inimitable Liesl has a couple of courses that look good. They have a subscription-based model and also offer an a la carte option. Some free classes too!
Dart Manipulation with Liesl Gibson
Bust Adjustment with Liesl Gibson

Skillshare – There are a couple of garment fitting classes offered through Skillshare at this time and both are taught by former Project Runway contestants. Like the others, a free trial membership lures you in, and the subscription is about $10/month.

Garment Construction: Introduction to Draping with Anya Ayoung Chee

Make Your Own Clothing: Introduction to Garment Construction by Joshua McKinley


Let me know if you know of other (preferably free) excellent resources!






6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Fit

  1. Oh, I love you for that resource page! Sadly, I can not add to it – your list is very comprehensive!! After some research I recently bought the Sarah Veblen book and it is very good, lots of pictures and very detailed. A little intimidating also, but I think the only way to go is to dive right in and make lots of muslins. My dream would be to one day have a bodice pattern block, that is perfectly fitted for me and that I can use to adjust other patterns. Most patterns I have tried fit without too many alterations (hello sack dress!) but my mom just tried on a few of my dresses and they hang/look so much better on her than on me (pretty frustrating as she is 75 and I have clearly not inherited her genes ;-P !) so I really need to work on that sway back/big bootie….
    One blog I have found to be helpful (among so many!) is http://buzzybeesworld.blogspot.de/p/tricks-of-trade.html, she is a designer/patternmaker who shares some of her knowledge.

  2. I think this is my biggest stumbling block for sewing for myself. I actually started sewing more because my daughter is such a string bean that nothing fit properly. I alter patterns for her without a second thought but really, little kids are practically rectangles! 😉 It’s harder for myself where if something isn’t quite right I don’t necessarily even know why. I guess it’s time to be brave and pull out my own fitting book!

    1. I’m the same, Kathryn — sometimes I just don’t know why something I’ve sewn feels off, especially when it’s about proportions. I hope to be able to share more information as I learn more about fit 🙂

  3. What a great list! I know nothing about this entire area so maybe something here will help me get started. I just made my first shirt for myself and it turned out very much like a maternity shirt. I spent the entire day flattening the front down. Frustrating but also made me want to learn more. Only semi-related I saw “Porgy and Bess” this weekend and spent quite a bit of the show examining the costumes, guessing at the design method/construction and fabrics. For some reason I thought you might understand!

    1. Oy, the maternity syndrome so common with handmade clothes. I’m determined to tackle the issue and make my clothes less bun-in-the-oven! And I completely understand and appreciate the intense studying of costumes 🙂 I do it all the time!

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