3 ways to fit your dressmaking projects

If want to learn how to make your own clothes, Then you’ll need to learn how to fit!

As with most aspects of sewing, there are many schools of thought and methods of fitting. It’s up to you to decide which is for you, and how much time you’re prepared to invest at the fitting stage. Whatever your process, the best trick for fitting is to “Fit as you sew”. Fitting your clothes at several points in the construction process will save you needless unpicking, and is the single best advantage of sewing your clothes rather than buying them. Always fit before adding a waistband or hemming, as it’s easier to fine tune side seams without them.

Tissue fitting- How to get a good fit when dressmaking- tissue fitting

This is a process whereby you pin the paper pattern pieces together and try it on like a garment. This method is pretty quick, and you can quickly see the outline of a garment straight away. If you realise that the style is not for you, you’ve wasted no money on cloth. Another advantage of tissue fitting is that you can correct fit issues that would be impossible to fix once the cloth had been cut. Tissue fitting can replace the need to make a test garment. The disadvantage of this type of fitting is that the paper doesn’t sit around the body in the same way as cloth. It can also be fiddly to do on your own.

Making a toile or muslin-

How to get a good fit when dressmaking- the muslin techniqueThis involves making up a test garment in an inexpensive fabric that is similar in weight to the fabric you plan to use. Traditionally calico or muslin is used in couture to make these mock ups or Toiles. Many home sewers choose to make a wearable muslin, in a much cheaper fabric so they aren’t wasting time sewing up a test version. If you’re making a new garment in fabric that’s extremely costly, then a toile is an excellent idea! Bridal wear, or complicated garments are also worth making up as a toile. Simple clothes that aren’t very complicated may not require the use of a toile. Once you’ve fitted a toile, the alterations can be transferred over on to your paper pattern.

Pin fitting-

How to fit when dressmaking- the pin fitting technique

This technique is somewhere between the two previous methods, and is a great time saver. Once you have cut out your pieces in the cloth, you pin the seams together as if you were going to sew, and then try it on with the pins in. You can do this inside out, or with the right sides facing out. I often pin fit inside out to save time as the alterations can be marked directly onto the wrong side of the fabric.


NB- Whilst it does help to have a fitting buddy it’s still possible to fit on your own. Try using a full length mirror and a hand held mirror, so you can see what the back looks like. I’ve padded out my mannequin so she can be my fit buddy!

How to fit when dressmaking- a padded mannequin

Need more help? We can show you more tips in person at our Adapting Commercial patterns class held monthly in our fabulous sewing studio

Have you got any fitting tips?


Happy Stitching:)


  • Monica Ingoe

    02.09.2015 at 21:21

    You have to be very brave but this is the best I’ve found. All of the above, then get someone to photograph you. It’s harsh, but it shows you exactly where you need to amend.

  • Linda Wilson

    06.07.2015 at 12:29

    This isn’t exactly a way of fitting, but I always take time to check the illusion!
    Try it on, after every tweak, again and again. Other wise you can loose the amendment! I agree with the above processes, I work in the pinning paper, toiling in calico (I reuse the calico pieces again and again), toiling in reused fabric (so that I can wear the toile) and I use old sheeting (this is one of the best methods). The only fabric I’m not keen on toiling with is muslin, although it’s inexpensive to use I find it weak and it can tear easily.We all want to make something that flatters our shape. Apply the amendments one at a time to the paper pattern pieces, before they get confused. I often write on the fabric! If I amend a pattern I staple the original one and file it away (I may use it in the future) and I date the new pattern pieces, it’s easy to confuse or loose vital pieces of a pattern. Have a checklist. A small amount of centimetres can make a huge difference good or bad. The pattern you use may not be the best shape for you but it can become that. I have one favourite pattern that has changed so much from the original in the tiniest of ways that no one else would notice except for me, but each time I changed it, it improved, until I decide to change it again!