The best way to make commercially bought sewing patterns fit you


Have you struggled getting clothes to fit well from commerically bought patterns?

Is your bra size larger than a B cup?

Well, this is for you! Commercially bought patterns from most American companies are generally designed for a B cup, so if your bust is bigger than that, it won’t fit. Traditionally patterns advise that you make for the fullest part of the body, sound familiar? If i follow that principle then I have to cut a massive size which fits over my bust, but is huge around the neck and shoulders.

One word of warning- Commercially bought sewing pattern sizes are not the same size as ready to wear clothes. If you wear a size 12 on the high street, that is not the size you need in a pattern

Enter the Palmer Pletsch system…. These guys have been fitting patterns for Vogue, Butterick and Macalls for over 40 years between them. They have come up with a very effective system for making patterns fit well. They have some great books and DVD’s which were written some time ago, so the images are dated, but the system works, just get over the dated images!

fit for real people

There are so many different body types-that translates into many different pattern alterations. The most common one is called a full bust adjustment or FBA. This blog isn’t a tutorial on the specifics, just a general guide to getting started.

Cut out for your frame size, not your “Lumpy” bits, this means measuring your chest above the bust and cutting to that size, not the fuller bust size

First stage- Tissue fit your pattern. This means trying it on, all pinned together as if it’s a garment. Focus on the back before you look at the front. In this case the back was narrow , so after 1st tissue fitting it was unpinned and the back was altered with a narrow back adjustment( a small fold in the tissue)

pattern fitting in the tissue 1

Second stage- re-fit the tissue once the back has been adjusted, and look at wether or not the front is sitting in the middle. In this case it didn’t, and  needed a full bust adjustment of around an inch and a quarter.

fitting the front of a sewing pattern


Third stage- Do the adjustments needed to your pattern, this one needed a full bust adjustment, which looks like the pic below

Full Bust adjustment to a pattern

Fourth stage- Pin the cut out pieces together in the fabric with the seams facing out. Try on and fine tune your fit.

another fabric fitting

fabric fitting blue dress










Final stage- Mark up onto the wrong side of the garment any alterations from the fitting stage. then make up your garment. I always re-fit before finishing the facings and hems, so i can ensure it’s perfect without unpicking!

blue dress front finishedfinished  blue dress back












So that’s a little introduction to the Palmer Pletsch system. We use this principle at our Shift dress class, so if it seems baffling, then you can always come along and be shown in person…

Happy Stitching, CL:)

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