Librarian’s Corner: Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman

14 Jun

Pattern Fitting with Confidence - Zieman

Nancy Zieman is the queen of DIY to me — she’s been teaching people to sew for years… long before many of us Gen X, Y, and Z-ers picked up our grandmother’s bobbins and started sewing our own clothes again. And there’s a reason for that — she’s really good at what she does!

Nancy’s techniques in this book are dead simple — the illustrations are clear, and the captions and instructions are detailed. She teaches the “pivot and slide” method of pattern alteration, and after looking at all of the options, I think this one may be the easiest for a beginner to have success with.

PFwC - Pivot & Slide method

Before you get started with the pivot-and-slide method, you must first find and use a pattern that is correctly fitted to your most difficult to correct-for measurement: the shoulder/neckline area.  Nancy shows you how to find your right size, which isn’t based on your largest measurement (bust), but instead on a proportional right size measurement, which she shows you how to determine.

*Reader note*: do not be tempted to take your own “right size” measurement (which is from arm-crease to arm-crease across the chest). Although it seems like there wouldn’t be any distortion, there is! When I took this measurement on myself, I got 17.5″… when Don took the same measurement (but with me standing normally instead of hunched over trying to take the measurement!) he got 16″ … that’s a big difference! For me, that means I should be using a size 22 pattern, instead of the 24/26 I had been using. No wonder my necklines kept falling off my shoulders!

Once you’ve got your Right Sized pattern, you will modify it to match the rest of your measurements, using the pivot-slide method.

PFwC - Pivot & Slide method for large bust

The essence of the pivot-slide method is that you use the original pattern piece to guide your grading of the larger measurements you need to accommodate with that pattern. First, you cut out the pattern piece you’ll be using and place it on a piece of paper — whatever you choose to replicate your pattern (wax paper, tracing paper, anything you’ve got on hand). Then you take your measurements and compare them to the pattern piece. Where ever your measurements are larger than the pattern piece, you divide by 4 (for a bodice with 4 seams) and then use that number to draw a mark next to the pertinent section of the pattern. Don’t forget to remove seam allowances from your measurement of the pattern piece!  Next, put a pin in the key point on the pattern (Nancy lays these out for you) and spin the pattern until the edge meets that mark. Then trace the outline of the piece along the edge of the pattern to create the new outline for the pattern.

PFwC - Pivot & Slide method for large bust

For example, my bust measurement is 46.5″, so I had been using a 24W pattern and sometimes a 26W if it seemed like a tighter fitting garment. With Nancy’s method, I’ll be using a 22W pattern, which lists the bust as being 44″.  My bust is 2.5″ wider than this, so I’ll need to add 2.5″ to the bustline of the bodice pieces. If the bodice has 4 seams/cut edges, then I’ll divide 2.5 by 4 to get 0.63″ (or about 5/8″), which is the amount I’ll need to measure out from each seam on the bodice to mark the start of the new outline. After tracing the original pattern on the paper, I’ll put a pin through the pattern & paper at the arm hole, then pivot the pattern piece so the edge meets the 5/8″ mark, and then re-draw the edge, tracing the pattern to create the new line. If I also wanted to increase other measurements or make modifications, I could do it in the same manner.

This is the method I think I’ll try first — it seems the simplest to understand and execute, and doesn’t involve any “exploded” patterns, which tend to make me a little nervous, I’ll admit!

Photos help a great deal, and I don’t include enough here for you to get a real sense of all the images in the book.  For you a/v learners out there, Nancy also repeats this lesson in a video on her website… Look for the “Pattern Fitting with Confidence, Part 1” show (for some reason, each episode says “buy this episode” but I was able to watch them for free.)

Final Ratings:

  • Ease of method for beginners:  5 stars
  • Adequate use of images detailing method:      5 stars
  • Logical progression of instructions:    5 stars
  • Limited use of technical jargon:   5 stars
  • OVERALL REVIEW: 5 stars, this book is a winner on all counts!


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Posted by on June 14, 2011 in book review, new skills


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