In fact I am so frustrated that I am forced to eat my son’s easter basket candy to alleviate some of the negative feelings I am experiencing at this moment. 

So fresh off the euphoria of my recent border print dress and basking in the glow of Thor’s urbanized camp shirt, I thought I had this sewing thing in the bag!  I was getting all proud of myself and a little cocky to boot.

Well folks, I have plummeted down to earth.  My wax wings melted.  I am confounded with this mysterious ritual of which you more experienced sewists speak of with such nonchalance and ease, PATTERN ALTERATIONS. You all bandy about terms like “lengthen the bodice”, “slash and spread”, and “FBAs” like they’re just slicing up a pie and serving it.  Well, I’m here to tell you I am absolutely gob-smacked and mystified. 

I have come to the reluctant conclusion that I am not “an out of the envelope” kind of gal.  Not because I am being difficult and think I”m special.  No, no, no!  I’m just a little lumpy and when you’re lumpy like me, you need to adjust for the occasional lump.  I’ve started to work out more lately, but let’s be honest here — we all know how long it takes to lose weight.  I want to sew now.  I want to wear clothes now.  I have to figure out this whole fitting and adjusting the pattern thing.  PRONTO.

I was going to cut out my good fabric tonight.  But what am I doing instead?  I am spending hours searching the interwebs for tutorials.  Oh, I’ve found tons of tutorials, but none of them answer my specific questions.  Liesl has a great one, but her tute didn’t quite address my particular problem.  I asked my question on and got a quick response and link to this very dress and the very change I want to make from Michelle, but of course, I still have questions.  As a matter of fact, I am hoping she’ll answer my questions real soon.   😉

Ok, I just got off the phone with Thea.  She talked me off the roof.  Oh and Michelle replied to me again at PatternReview, so I am done ranting this evening.  It’s late and I have to get to bed now.  It took me 3 hours to find what I needed to know (don’t worry, I will share later), and now I have to put it aside for another evening. 

Tomorrow is another day. 

I bid you happy pattern alterations.


20 responses to “FRUSTRATED!!!

  1. Welcome to the world of misfits ….. lol !!
    Where we don’t all conform to the B-cup, standard measurements that the commercial patterns are drafted from.
    I’m not exactly adept at adjusting patterns really well but I’m not quite a beginner either. To know how to adjust for them before cutting your fabric will result in much less mucking around, tearing out of hair, swearing, throwing things and so on!!
    I’m finding out that it’s good to know these things, you will be a better sewer in the end than someone who can easily fit into a standard size pattern with no adjustments. I’m sure it will help with designing things too, as you won’t be scared of cutting and pasting things back together. Another thing I’m finding out is that Hot Patterns seem to fit my body shape better than the Big 4. So shop around, try some of the lesser known designers.
    Above all, enjoy the process. 😉 Hard to sometimes I know!

  2. I feel your pain!! I wonder if there is anyone out there who can just sew it up and get that perfect fit?? I also think that as we sew more, we get more picky about how well it fits. Think of this as a sign of growth!

  3. The thing about pattern alterations and fitting is that there is no pronto. It is a process. You have to go through the process to learn how to do something…and even us experienced sewists have bumps in the sewing road where we have to stop, process, learn something new and then move on.

    That’s the thing about fitting…it is a constantly moving target and you have to always make adjustments!

    You will be okay…just keep the faith and know that for every disappointment there will be an amazing triumph!

  4. Anyone who bandies about terms like “slash and spread”, “lengthen the bodice” and “FBA” like they are slicing up pie has been right were you are now. Trust me. I recommend Nancy Zeiman’s “Pattern Fitting with Confidence” (or the older version – “Fitting Finesse”). This book presents the”Pivot and Slide” technique, a very simple method of pattern alteration. Don’t give up. Remember, you sew because it’s FUN!

  5. Hang in there – I think we all have our frustrating sewing days. Over the weekend when I was wrestling with the welt pocket problem I was seriously questioning why I sew and beating myself up about not being good enough at it. It all worked out in the end, like it always does, but as someone above commented, it is a process.

  6. Morning I love reading your posts I get it in my email every time you make a post. But I feel your pain, and I have a solution for you.
    You will find step-by-step fitting help and videos at and you will have your answers really quickly, at the moment we have a fitting group who sews one item per month, They get assistance from the time they choose the pattern. I look forward to see you on the forum, at the moment all the help and video’s are totally free 🙂 Enjoy and start to have a happy sewing day 🙂 Take care Patricia

  7. I feel your pain. Learning at home on your own, even with the help of Internet tutorials and sewing buddies, can bey extremely frustrating. You just know that if a real human being was on hand to show you, it would all be so much easier. ‘Oh, that’s how you do it…’

  8. I am staring down having to do my first broad back adjustment really soon, and not looking forward to it. I feel you.

  9. Oh, honey, we ALL need pattern adjustments – even stick figure girls. Get the “Fit for Real People” book. It’s got helpful illustrations of the elusive adjustments you seek; it’s easy to follow for “doing” and “visual” learners. It totally changed my sewing life. It’ll make a difference for you, too.

  10. Seriously, I can relate. I just tried an FBA for the first time yesterday and I can’t say it was exactly a success. I was so spitting mad (wasted a gorgeous sunny day on a project that yielded a) no garment and b) no secrets of the universe to make every woven pattern fit despite large breasts). Very, very frustrated. And wondering how I’ll ever solve this. Note: I did use FFRP – and the DVD called Full Bust. And I worked with a friend (my husband) to help me get all the measurements. I mean, I followed the rules! 🙂

  11. Hang in there hun! I’m learning this too, and it IS very frustrating, but if we keep plugging along, eventually it will get easier. 🙂 Have you tried Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina? Or that pattern alteration book by Nancy Zeiman? Those are both pretty helpful.

  12. Sewista Fashionista

    So many others have given great advice. I make a practice muslin, and when things are too hairy I turn it inside out so I can mark the actual seam.

    Taking in a seam – you just pin it. I take a permanent marker and mark where I want my take-in to start and end. Then I do it on the practice muslin and try on again. That part you probably got.

    But then there is fitting stuff in places where there are no seams. The thing about pinching out excess fabric – you must do it but I used to overfit because I did not know to release it down below. I wish I knew what this technique is called. I use it all the time and it has been the biggest thing I have learned on getting a well-fitting garment. Someone showed me once on fitting a t-shirt. If you can get someone to show you once, even on youtube, then you will have it forever. Basically you pinch out, slash, spread but it takes a demo, at least for me, to get it.

    I used a Peggy Sagers video to help me learn fitting a practice muslin and then transfering those changes to the paper.

  13. Your post hit home… I am also coming down from a euphoric high over my reversible dress. Last night I began working on the amazing fit S2700 pant pattern and was butthead befuddled over the instructions and ended up going to bed. I can say that it was an early night and feel well rested this morning.

  14. Great post to read even for a non-sewer like me!

  15. Hah! I could have written this post last week! I, too, have realized that I need to alter almost everything, and not only because I am 5’10”! I recently made this same dress with some old stretch fabric that was so ugly that I was going to throw it away. Instead, I decided to “practice” on it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really adjust anything because I didn’t have enough fabric, but went ahead and made it as the pattern suggested. The bodice is (no surprise) quite short – fits well on my 9 year old! I recently bought the Fit for Real People book and hope that (once I read it!), something miraculous will happen and I will be able to adjust any pattern – a girl can dream?! I did pin the pattern on myself before I cut, so I knew I would be short on fabric… I know that people make muslins, but I hate the idea (of buying it, making it, and then making it again!), so I just have to figure out how to adjust the pattern paper on myself before I cut.

  16. San Antonio Sue

    1) Join ASG, and find a neighborhood group. You can generally bring your garments and questions to any meeting and find help. And you’ll soon find somebody near you who is willing to help. 2) Attend as many ASG conferences as you can. Take all the fitting classes. If you’re really lucky, you’ll stumble onto Cynthia Guffey and your sewing skills will go through the roof! 3) I was also going to suggest some of the same books as above 4) pull out something that fits and compare measurements. 5) Start with a GOOD set of measurements and apply them to the pattern. 6) Make a muslin, get it to fit, and take it apart and use it for a pattern. 7) Practice, girl, practice! Sewing is a skill like any other. You can’t expect to master it overnight. 8) Maintain your sense of humor and enjoy the process. Remember, you learn more from errors than from success. — San Antonio Sue

  17. Hang in there! All that “slash-and-spread” talk only sounds scary. When you learn how to do the pattern alterations you need, you’ll be saying “That’s it? That’s all there is to it?” It’s really not that bad. Don’t let it intimidate you! We’re with you all the way – one day at a time. 🙂

  18. I want to share with you a book that has changed my life: “Customize Your Sewing Patterns for a Perfect Fit”…. it’s written by the folks at G Street Fabrics. Walks you step by step to most all alterations!!! I made my first fitting pattern for a pencil skirt, that fits like a glove on me even though I am curvy, and I am psyched that I will be able to use this over and over again and also to alter any skirt pattern I come across. I had no idea, until I read this book, how to really alter patterns except for shortening. I very much recommend this book. It’s not a new book, but you may be able to find a used copy on Ebay or Amazon. Good luck and don’t give up!

  19. sewingatnight

    I feel your pain. I graduated from sewing bags and such to clothes about two years ago, and had several “successful” knit garments that made me feel like I had cracked it . . . but then I started sewing wovens. Ahem. I have to do a FBA, I have no waist, my shoulders are narrow and a little sloped . . . ahhh. My solution has been to make one basic pattern for each kind of garment–for instance, I’ve used the D cup front on Simplicity 2599, traced it, tweaked it with two or three bedsheet tops, and now it’s a rough sloper that I can use to move more quickly through adjustments on new patterns. I drafted a basic mini using the Cal Patch book as well . . . now I’m on to fine-tuning a t-shirt. It’s taken me a full weekend apiece to generate these basics but then I turned out a new skirt last night with no fitting issues–I cleaned up the darts and facing before I even cut into the fabric–so the long weekend of drawing was well worth it.

  20. Well, I “whipped up” a skirt a while back but it was the third time I made it and so didn’t require any fitting, adjustment, etc. And it was double-knit so no seams needed finishing.

    And I “whipped up” a pair of pants in a day and a half, but again it was the second time I made them and the fabric didn’t ravel so no seam finishing again. And I deliberately chose the same fabric just in a different colour so I knew the fabric would behave the same way the second time and the fitting adjustments I had made would stay “true”.

    The point being that all those people who “whip up” stuff never show you the inside and don’t mention that this is the nth time they made the thing. No matter how fast or slow you are there is an absolute limit on speed.

    If you make that shirt again for Troy in two different fabrics, he will have three very different-looking shirts and the third time you will feel you “whipped it up.” If you make him a couple of pairs of simple track pants in a non-ravel material, you will feel you “whipped them up”.

    If you want to whip something up, choose your fabric and your pattern with care! That’s the secret really.

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