Learning to Fit Patterns the Easy Way

This is how I sometimes feel about the whole subject of fit and the clothes we sew:

Fit. Can't even. The McCall Pattern Company blog

Do you ever feel that way too? We could probably spend loads of time and energy talking about fit and the challenges associated with fitting garments, but I know we all agree achieving a perfect fit is the way to looking good in the clothes we make.

That’s why we’re so excited to bring you these three new videos all about fit. In this Learn to Fit video series, Melissa Watson, McCall’s designer and certified sewing instructor, uses the Palmer/Pletsch Tissue Fit method to teach you how to successfully fit your patterns. I’ve watched these videos and I really like how simple Melissa makes tissue-fitting seem. She’s good! Here’s what others have said about the videos:

“They are brilliant, so useful.” verykerryberry
“These videos have changed everything for me.” littlegreenorchids
“Love these videos, [they’ve] just taken my sewing to another level.” juathompson  [quotes from McCall Pattern Company Instagram]

All three videos are here on the McCall Pattern Company YouTube channel. In this video below, Melissa demonstrates how to fit a dress pattern with princess seams. Watch, and let us know how you like this series. Thanks!


Wrap Dress Sewalong news: My co-host Lucinda just posted about sewing knits. Even if you aren’t participating in the sewalong, you’ll want to read her post. And I just uploaded photos of the inside of a DVF wrap dress to our Flickr group; check here.

I still haven’t cut out my sewalong fashion fabric, so don’t worry if you’re just joining us or haven’t started. My goal is to cut out and sew the dress by the end of the weekend. We’ll see how I do. How about you? How’s your wrap dress coming along?


Learn to fit the clothes you sew with this video series from Melissa Watson and McCall's

We’ve been sewing since 1863.

  1. Thanks for the web video on fitting!

    I was pretty disappointed with the post on sewing knits.. No walking foot, no lightning bolt stitch (which many machines have and is worth covering), and no mention of differential tension on the serger? Yikes.

    1. I was also hoping for more in regards to this topic. The last knit wrap dress I made I had a great deal of difficulty with sewing my knit fabric and I was hoping for more guidance and help in this department. I did use a ball point needle and sewed tried both the knit stitch (lighting bolt stitch) on my machine and the straight stitch and still had trouble. I do believe I spent a great deal of time digging out bunches of fabric pushed through the needle plate. Oh well…

      1. I am not sure why the knits tutorials are done by hobby sewers.Vogue Pattern magazines archives have excellent tutorials on sewing knits etc.

      2. Hi Graca! What is your fabric? At what point is your fabric getting stuck in the needle plate?

        1. Hi Meg,

          I bought my fabric years ago when a fabric store in my area was closing down. It is a 100% polyester knit. I bought three colours in a wine, black and mint green. And I have already made a wrap dress in the wine coloured fabric which I had a great deal of trouble sewing. I wrote this description of my troubles last year when I made the dress

          “My initial thought was to work with a ball point needle and the knit stitch on my sewing machine but that plan did not work all that well. Fabric was being pushed down the metal plate and there were moments struggling to release it that I thought the fabric would be damaged. I moved to a micro-fibre needle and again the same problem occurred. I decided to abandon the knit stitch and try a regular straight stitch only to encounter a new problem, skipped stitches. I didn’t know what to do so I gave up and switched sewing machines.

          The older Janome worked well with this fabric. I didn’t return to a knit stitch and opted for a normal straight stitch. The seams are double stitched and serged. Why mess with something that is working?” http://sewessentiallysew.blogspot.ca/2014/04/its-wrap.html

          This problem occurred at the beginning of my stitching if I started too close to the edge and it also happened well into my stitching. I kept my thread long so that I could gently tug at them at the beginning of my stitching. And I recall trying different sewing machine needles during the process.

          If you have any tips, I would greatly appreciate it and would be willing to try any suggestions. I have lots of the knit fabric to play around with. Do you think sewing with a layer of tissue paper or stabilizing the seam with a fusible interfacing might be a solution?

          1. Hi Graca! I would try starting the seam on a piece of tissue paper first. And sewing with tissue under the fabric might be worth a test. But I wouldn’t stabilize the seams with interfacing as that may affect the hand of the fabric too much. I wish I could be of more help but I’ve never had this happen with any of my machines. Curious!

    2. Hi Marg! Do you have a blog? If you’d like to offer an addendum to Lucinda’s post we’ll be happy to link to it. Or, if you think there is a good online source for knit tips that you’ve found helpful, we’d also consider linking to that. Thanks!

    3. Hi Marg! I’m sorry to hear that my post didn’t meet your expectations – my goal was to help out new sewers who have never sewn a knit seam before, and it sounds like you’ve sewn quite a bit with knit fabrics. I mentioned in my post that I haven’t needed a walking foot to sew the knit garments I’ve made in the past seven years, so perhaps it would be great to share your experience?

      There’s also some great books out there I linked to as well for people that want to explore knit sewing in more detail that I wish were around when I was trying to figure out how to sew with knits. Thanks for your feedback, and happy sewing!

    4. I have been sewing knits since the 70s. I’ve made 100s of leotards ans swimsuits and long with custom ook costumes for dancers and baton twirlers. I have never used a walking foot or a lightning bolt stitch. IMO the thing a stretch stitch does is stretch out your fabric by poking too many holes and adding too much thread. A zig zag stitch and loosening the presser foot pressure on your machine will tame most knits, and hold the thread tails when you begin to stitch and use a 9 or 11 ballpoint or stretch needle.

  2. I need a wicker throne in my apartment…anyway, definitely bookmarking these vids for the next time I come up against a tricky fit issue.

  3. Enjoyed the fitting video and looking forward to others.

  4. The fitting videos are helpful. It would be great to see more. Thanks!

  5. I read the tutorial on sewing with knits, but it should more like a jersey or sweatshirt knit. This is not helpful with slippery knits. Do you have any videos or hints on sewing those types of knits? Something that keeps it from getting stuck in plate on my machine? Thank you.

    1. April, at what point is your fabric getting stuck in the machine? At the beginning of a seam?

      1. Yes usually at the beginning of a seam. But sometimes at curves as well.

  6. Thank you for the videos, some things I already knew, yet the ones I didnt will make a difference in my fittings.

  7. Fitting is a struggle for me , these videos will help. Any chance of showing how to fit a skirt?

  8. I enjoyed the fitting video -it looks really useful BUT how are you supposed to tissue fit on yourself if you don’t have a sewing buddy? I tried to tissue fit a top from McCalls 7092 and worked out that the centre back fold was 2″ away from my centre back. When I did the fabric fitting it seemed about right, but once I sewed it together with the sleeves in, it is swimming on me and I think I’ll need to take it in down the centre back to the original measurement! With no one else near me who sews I’m not sure that tissue fitting will work for me.

    1. I am just the same Jen. It’s impossible on you’re own. x

  9. Tissue fitting is great but I sew alone so it’s impossible for me. Im still on the old fashioned method of pinning myself into a garment!

  10. I’ve never had a sewing buddy either, but it’s easy to manage without for most things. Just go and look in your own wardrobe, find something similar to what you are making, and compare the measurements of the pattern pieces with it. I’d always suggest to new sewers that they make sleeveless blouses to start with. Tight sleeves can distort things, it’s usually only the sleeve that needs adjusting, especially if you have arm muscles from gardening, diy or in my case, steering a 12 ton steam roller! (Husbands hobby)

  11. Hi Meg, I met you this past July when my husband and I took a tour of McCall’s. Great tour and I wish I could have had the time to hang out in the archive room and look through the pattern books for my Mom’s (Faye Wine) patterns. I am making a wrap dress also using Vogue 8379 . When I held up the front tissue piece to compare with my body to see if the fit was going to be close (I will be making a muslin) I noticed the pattern bust mark was about 2.5 inches higher than the bust apex on my body. But the armseye looked like it would fit fine and the waist looked like it was where it should be so if I lowered the bust point (by lengthening the pattern) to match my body then the arms eye would be too low as well as the waist. Did you have this issue with the bust point being too high as compared with your niece’s bust apex? I know the sew along has LONG since past, but am just now getting around to being able to sew the wrap dress. Better late than never! I would love any insight you can give.

    1. Hi Tina! Wish I could give you more of an answer here. My niece is blessed with a perfect pattern-size figure, so I didn’t have to make any fit adjustments. (And I am not a fit expert by any means.) Good luck!

      1. Ok, thanks. I will investigate further.

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