Since my last article on the Vogue 8940 pants muslin, I’ve been taking an online course in pants fitting which has been really helpful.
Fun With Fitting: Pants
PatternReview.com was offering its online course “Fun with Fitting: Pants” on sale over the holidays. It’s taught by Sarah Veblen, a fitting expert who is author of the book The Complete Photo Guide To Perfect Fitting (Amazon link). Reader David Coffin suggested it to me, and I’m glad I followed up on it.
What I really like about the class is that it takes a conceptual approach, rather than a “spot this problem, apply canned solution” approach. A big problem I’ve had with fitting is that I invariably wind up with a situation that doesn’t match anything depicted in the reference I’m working from.
In the course, Sarah urges you to watch through all the videos, and read through all the printed material, even for the models and fitting situations that don’t necessarily match yours. Over the course of the fitting examples, she explains the principles behind her fitting assessment and explains why she’s making the correction she’s chosen. The idea is to enable you to visualize the problem and solution in your own head, so you can reason through fitting situations on your own.
Sarah Veblen’s personal philosophy in fitting is that the pattern, whether commercial or self-drafted, is merely a starting point. Your body is “perfect” by definition and the point of the fitting process is to adapt the pattern to your body shape. She generally does three or even four muslins to get pants fit right, and so sets expectations for how much work the fitting process should take.
Veblen provides a framework for analyzing and making fitting adjustments. Her system uses a fitting grid, a series of lines marked on the pattern and muslin. This includes a grainline running up and down the center point of each leg, and horizontal lines (called “HBL” for “horizontal balance line”) running perpendicular to the grain line around the hip region in front and back.
The grid lines act as an aid to let you know how the fabric hangs on the body. If the horizontal lines are out of balance, or the vertical grain lines are bowing outward or inward, that’s a clue there’s a fitting problem which needs to be resolved. When you pin a proposed alteration into the garment, the grid lines give you feedback if the alteration actually fixes the current problem, or creates a new one.
In addition to recognizing and solving fitting issues, the course also covers the basic skills of preparing a muslin, preparing the pattern, transferring markings from the muslin to the pattern, and altering the pattern. It’s a complete course in fitting and pattern alteration.
The printed materials come with a 16-page quick reference guide to the biggest issues in pants fitting and how to resolve them. The reference guide itself is actually a mini tutorial behind the basic principles in pants fitting, mostly having to do with the crotch curve and visualizing how problems with the crotch curve affect the fit of the pant.
Compared with other instructional materials I’ve come across, Veblen’s course is complete and comprehensive. I would say Joyce Murphy’s articles in Threads magazine compare with Veblen in terms of fitting concepts and quality of presentation. But there’s a lot more material in Veblen’s course and it is systematically presented.
You can also ask the instructor questions in the class forum. Veblen will answer only general fitting questions in the forum, but if you go to her website you can purchase online consulting sessions with her where she will provide advice for your specific fitting problem, either via online Skype video or by examining email photos of your muslin. I may follow this path if I decide I need the guidance; it’s nice to have this option available.
All this said, there’s no substitute for learning than actually doing. I prepared a second muslin of my Vogue 8940 pants with the following alterations:
- Scooped out the crotch curve even more than last time.
- Added width to the sides to add back the circumference taken by the crotch curve
- Made a half-inch tuck across front and back to raise the crotch point (shorten the “rise”). This made the pants feel more comfortable when I pinned it out on the first muslin.
- Added a half-inch to the crotch point front and back to compensate for the tuck.
All this produced a pants muslin I wasn’t happy with. The pants were too wide on the side seam, and too baggy in the seat. Plus, the alterations to the crotch curve also straightened the pants back; when walking I could now feel tightness along the center back seam. Adding to the crotch point front and back was also a mistake.
I’m going to spare you the photos of this muslin; instead, I’m going back to the crotch curve I used in my previous blog post, and will make a muslin with that curve plus the tuck to raise the crotch point. I will also make less dramatic additions to the side seam. I’ll report back on that muslin soon.
I can’t say I’m totally in control of my pants fitting skills yet, but I do feel like I’m digesting the material. Veblen recommends attempting a fitting session, then re-watching/re-reading the class materials to get a deeper appreciation of what’s presented. I’ve also recognized that fitting is not completely a theoretical exercise: a big, big challenge is developing the skill to recognize and see fitting problems.
It’s not unlike when I started amateur astronomy. I had to train my eye to see details on planets and in faint galaxies that most people would completely miss. When most people look through my telescope at the planet Mars, they generally see a small terra-cotta colored dot. When I see the same view, I recognize landform markings, polar caps, and sometimes even cloud markings. I’ve learned to train my brain to perceive things it would normally miss, and the exact same principle applies to fitting. This is a point Sarah Veblen makes in her course, and it’s something I’ve discovered I have to develop myself.
I’m pretty pleased with “Fun with Fitting: Pants” so far. Though the production values on PatternReview.com don’t compare with the courses on Craftsy, the content in this course is solid and there’s a lot of material here to digest. I’m glad I purchased it and give it five stars out of five.