Online Patternmaking Classes
by Don McCunn
Upper Torso Sloper Home Page   ►  Week Three

The Initial Fitting and Adjusting the Darts

Fitting gingham fabric to the body is when you establish the exact shape of the darts and seams. It will take at least two or three fittings to get these shapes correct.


During this week the videos show how to do the initial fitting, then transfer the darts shapes to the paper pattern. For beginning sewers I have also included videos showing how to sew the shoulder seams and darts in preparation for the second fitting.

The Initial Fitting Process

During the initial fitting, do one side of the body. The curves of the body are gradual contours, not abrupt angles. If you try to do both sides during this initial fitting, you are more than likely to come up with two different shapes. Then you have to decide which one to believe.

If you are fitting an asymmetrical body, start with the high or larger side during this fitting. You can adjust for the other side in subsequent fittings.

During the initial fit work from the center front and center back toward the side following the sequence below.

  1. Adjust the Shoulder Seam
  2. Fit the Back Darts
  3. Fit the Front Darts (for women)
  4. Adjust the Side Seam
  5. Mark the Neck and Armscye Curves
  6. Mark the Waist

If you are working with a fitting buddy or fitting someone else, you can do all these steps in a single fitting. If you are fitting yourself, I recommend that you stop after the first three steps. You will do the subsequent three steps in Week Four.

When you derive the dart shapes during the fitting, first indicate the point of the dart with two pins indicating the vertical and horizontal position. Once you have established the point of a dart, you can pin the width of the dart at the armscye (armhole) for the upper part of the body and the waist for the lower part of the body. You will adjust the darts when you transfer the marks to the paper pattern during the second part of this week. So don't over work the darts during this initial fitting.

I have separated the videos for this initial fitting depending on whether you are fitting yourself or working with a fitting buddy. I would recommend you take a look at all the videos before you start fitting as each one should give you a different insight into the process.

For example, in the video for fitting a woman's back and in the DIY videos there is an alternate technique to pinning darts and seams. In these videos I show how you can fit the sloper patterns by slashing the fabric, overlap the darts, then tape them in place. If you have a fitting buddy who is not use to working with fabric, this technique does not require the same manual dexterity as pinning.

If you are fitting using the pinning technique, keep in mind that the fabric from a pinned dart is not as stable as a sewn dart. If you are not careful, you may distort one dart while you are pinning another or establishing the side seam.

The step-by-step instructions for the fitting process shown in the videos below are available in How to Make Sewing Patterns on pages 66 through 71, 2nd ed. (pages 57 through 68, 1st ed.). However, you will find the DIY videos provide an approach that is different in some ways.

Fitting a Woman -- Two People

Fitting the Back

Fitting the Front

Finalizing the Fit

Fitting a Man -- Two People

Fitting the Back

Finalizing the Fit

Fitting for a Woman -- Do-It-Yourself

In the first edition my book I talk about using a typewriter ribbon for marking such things as the neck and armscye curves. This product is obviously harder to come by these days. But a useful alternative that has come on the market is the powder for the Chaco Liner distributed by Clover Products. The third video below demonstrates how to use it to mark the point of the lower back dart and the neck curve on a rectangular piece of gingham. You can use this technique to mark the neck, armscye, and waistlines at the appropriate time in the fitting process.

Fitting the Front

Fitting the Back

Optional DIY Markings

Adjusting the Dart Shapes

After the darts have been pinned, the marks can be transferred to the paper pattern. During this process the dart lines can be adjusted to optimize their position.

Adjusting the Darts from a Two Person Fitting

The process for fitting the darts for two people uses pins. The videos below indicate how to transfer these marks to the paper pattern.

Adjusting the Front

Recording the Front

Adjusting the Back  (5:28 minutes)

Adjusting the Darts from a DIY Fitting

For the DIY fitting, the videos show the technique of taping dart shapes. This requires a slightly different approach for transferring the dart marks to the paper pattern.

Adjusting, Part One

Adjusting, Part Two

Sewing the Fitting Shell

The videos below show how to sew the fitting shell for the next fitting.

Sew the Shoulder and Darts

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