Librarian’s Corner: Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina

13 Jun

Fast Fit - Betzina

Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina was the first pattern fitting book I bought, about 5 years ago. Yes, there was a 5 year gap in my sewing efforts … partly because I was really busy with grad school and then a new career, and partly because I kept encountering road blocks that seemed to make sewing a greater challenge than I was ready for. One of those things was pattern fitting, and one of the causes, was Fast Fit.

Betzina starts by walking readers through a full body measurement session, and then talks a bit about buying a pattern.  This section contains one of my biggest pet-peeves about this book — there’s a strong emphasis on narrative description, with a distinct lack of bullet points, numbered steps, and illustrations in some of the sections. For example, buried in a paragraph on page 25, she mentions that readers should use their full-bust measurement or high-bust measurement, depending on the pattern company they are buying from, and that McCall’s, Butterick, Simplicity, and Vogue all tend to run large in the upper chest. Rather than being pulled out in a side-bar as a special authors note, this is inside what is a series of paragraphs about fitting and shopping. The problem with the narrative guidebook is that readers must continually re-read the sections to find the steps to follow or points of interest, or they must make copious notes while reading, so they have their own bullets to follow. While the book provides a few quick tips, there’s a significant amount of really essential info buried in paragraphs throughout. I felt like I needed to read this with my trusty red-pen in hand!

The book is laid out with fitting “basics” coming first, which seemed to include a huge number of steps to me. First, you are exhorted to record all your measurements carefully, then buy a pattern based on your bust measurement (ensuring you’ll have to make a lot of fitting changes, if your bust is your largest measurement!), then you take the flat measurements of the pattern out of the envelope. Next, you compare these to the measurements of garments you already own, and then make a fitting shell, and finally a muslin… and this is all before you get to any of the advice about how to alter a bodice to fit a large bust!  I know I was a little (okay, a lot) intimidated by all these steps, but I took them as gospel because I didn’t have anything else to compare it to. After several failed attempts, I decided pattern fitting was too hard to continue… I boxed up my tools, de-stashed (ouch!) and gave up on sewing for years. This is really sad to me now!

After fitting basics, comes the alterations section, which lays out the sequence for alterations, and goes through in “steps” how to start and how to alter multisize patterns. Then it covers how to upsize and how to downsize garments, and how to change the length. I say “steps” in quotes, because these steps are not really the bullet-point like steps you might be expecting… instead, they are really enumerated paragraphs of text. Many of these instructions also make a lot of assumptions about what you know how to do, with nary a nod to any of the previous sections. Basically, the author assumes you will sit down and read through her book, cover to cover, without skimming anything… which I think is unrealistic. For example, on page 51, she says in her sequence for pattern alterations, “Shorten or lengthen the distance between the bottom of the armhole and the shoulder, if necessary. Make the identical alteration in the sleeve cap.” This is nearly greek to me, and there are no references to tell me where in the book to flip to find out more about how exactly to go about doing this. If I flip to the index, I see that shoulder alterations are covered on pages 100-121… so she’s referring to a technique in this section that she hasn’t covered yet. For a beginner, this is *very* confusing.  Another cause for confusion are the images — the book relies on one photo for each described technique — and sometimes this is not enough to help the reader understand what is being illustrated in the image.

On to the bust alteration section…

FF - Large Bust Alteration

The section on bodice alteration is about 30 pages long, with about 6 pages devoted to large bust modifications. Again, the author relies on paragraphs for illustration, rather than images.. For bust modification, you have a total of 2 images, one of which is below. The other image was of the original pattern piece with red lines marking where to cut. In my opinion, this is not enough illustration to show me how to modify these pieces, or how to determine how much spread is desirable.  I dislike that each of these sections has the area of adjustment listed (above “Large Bust”) followed by “The Problem.” I’m sorry, but the problem isn’t with me or my body, it’s with the pattern. I don’t like negative body talk, and that smacks too much of it for me.

FF - Large Bust Alteration

The instructions for how to alter a bodice are as follows — please note that the original instructions have only 5 steps… those below are my interpretation of those 5 steps.

  1. Draw a line from the center of the shoulder to the bust point (1-1.5″ from the end of the dart… heaven help you if your pattern has no darts here!)
  2. Draw a line from the bust point to the bottom of the bodice, staying parallel to the grainline.
  3. Draw 3 more or less (??) evenly spaced diagonal lines from the front armhole to the first line, in the area between the bust point and the shoulder.
  4. Cut the pattern apart along the vertical lines.
  5. Cut the pattern almost to the edge of the diagonal lines, stopping 1/8″ from the armhole cutting line.
  6. Place the pattern pieces on a flat surface over a piece of tissue paper.
  7. Spread the pattern apart 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches at the bust point (how do I figure this out, exactly?)
  8. Spread or close the rest of the pattern as much as necessary to keep the pattern flat (huh?)
  9. If you need it, spread the pattern apart a bit at the waist for a large waist or tummy (umm…how?)
  10. Tape adjusted pattern piece to the tissue paper and smooth out the cutting line at the bottom.

There’s a separate illustration for a princess seam which involves slashing along a horizontal line on the main bodice piece, increasing the length in the middle, and tapering to nothing at the edges. I do not feel like I understand the description well enough to even attempt to explain it here.

Although I attempted this method a few times, I was never successful at executing it, because I always wound up with the paper buckling or bowing out… I couldn’t get it to lay flat, or I wasn’t able to figure out how much spread I needed.  And as anyone who has tried to do the traditional slash method of alteration knows, it’s pretty tough to cut out a flat piece of fabric from a rounded piece of paper! This was always very perplexing to me, and it wasn’t until I picked up another sewing book (see my review for Fitting & Pattern Alteration, coming soon!) that I realized what the problem was! More on that to come!

Final Ratings:

  • Ease of method for beginners:  2 stars, some great basics included, but generally over my head
  • Adequate use of images detailing method:      1 star, really lacking in this area
  • Logical progression of instructions:    1 star, instructions provided before a technique was discussed
  • Limited use of technical jargon:   2 stars, see above
  • OVERALL REVIEW: 2 stars, not a book that will lead beginners to success.

What did you all think of Fast Fit?

1 Comment

Posted by on June 13, 2011 in book review, new skills


One response to “Librarian’s Corner: Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina

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