Fun with Fit Part 4: marking up and sewing the toile.

Hello everyone, welcome to part four of fun with fit, this week we are actually going to be working with some fabric at last! We need to begin by transferring all our markings onto our calico and cutting it out. It is very important that we transfer all of our darts and seam lines and our bust, waist and hip lines onto our fabric pattern pieces as we will need these marked up on our fabric as a reference points for any adjustments we make to the toile when it is on the body. We are also going to add some additional lines which run parallel to our centre front and centre back lines and at a right angle to them. These new lines will be crucial in helping us assess the fit of our toiles. Below you can see my calico front bodice pattern pieces marked up, the main lines are all in grey and the new lines are in bright pink. The paler pink triangles are showing that the lines are at right angles from one another.

Bodice fronts


I would suggest marking up these new lines in a contrasting colour yourself so they are easily distinguishable from the other pattern markings. Don’t worry too much about their exact position just make sure you have a couple going vertical and a couple going horizontal on all your pattern pieces. Once the toile is on the body these lines should not be distorted but should still be straight and running horizontal or vertical, if they are being distorted it will show us that those areas of our fitting shell are not fitting us.

In the images below you can see my other calico pattern pieces marked up.

Bodice back s

skirt back

Once you have completed these you need to construct your toile. To do this use a nice long straight stitch on your machine- my preference is about size 3.5. This means your seams are nice and easy to unpick as we work through any adjustments that are necessary. We are not sewing our sleeves on at this stage as we want to get the armscyes looking right first.

Sew the pattern pieces together at centre front and back, instead of leaving the centre back open (where the zip would normally go on this pattern) we are going to leave the left side seam from hip up for this stage of fitting as it is easier to pin it closed correctly here if you are working alone. When we come to add sleeves we will have to adapt this approach slightly but we will cover that then. When pinning the side seam together on the body fold the front seam allowance back along the stitching line and then pin this on top of the back as i have captured in the photo below. This will mean that your side seams are perfectly aligned but that you don’t have a big flap of seam allowance sticking out the side and distracting your fit assessment.
pinned side seam
There are construction instructions included in your pattern that you can refer to but keep the above approaches we are taking in mind before following them all.

At the neckline and armscyes it is very important to make snips in the seam allowances before trying the toile on. This will allow these curves to sit properly against the body, without doing this it will be impossible to determine how the toile is fitting us in these areas. Snip to but not through the stitching line markings as below:
snipping armscyes

snipped armscye

You will also want to cut the stitches at the centre front neck for a short distance so that you don’t distort your neckline trying to wrangle your head through the high neckline. You can easily pin this closed once on the body.
made up toile- snipped neck

Once you are done try on your toile/muslin and start analysing how it looks on your body. To do this begin by working through the following list:

* Are my bust, waist and hip lines at the correct level on my body?

* Are my bust points where they should be?

* Are my side seams positioned correctly on my body, exactly mid way between my front and back and running in a nice vertical line all the way down?

* Are the new lines I drew in lying in nice straight vertical and horizontal lines or are they being distorted?

* Is my neckline sitting nicely or is it gaping or are there any visible drag lines?

* Is there enough room for my bust or are there any drag lines in this area? Is there too much room here and pools of excess fabric?

* Are there any drag lines across my upper chest? Or is there excess fabric here?

* Are there any diagonal drag lines between my outer shoulder and my bust point? Or is there any excess fabric in this area?

* Are the shoulder seam in the correct position- exactly mid way between my font and back?

* Which of the three shoulder seams is sitting in the most appropriate for my shoulder width (where my shoulder just ends and becomes my arm)?

* Where is my armscye sitting? Is the marked stitching line where I would want a sleeve to attach? (It should be no more than 2.5cm or 1″ below your underarm.) Use a clear ruler under your arm to assess this. An armscye that sits too low is a disaster for fitting so don’t skip this step.

* Are there any drag lines or is there excess fabric around my tummy or hips, front or back?

Once you have visually looked over your toile assess the amount of movement you have available in it:

* sit down and cross your legs

* reach for something in front of you- does your back bodice have enough room in for you to do this without your back shoulder emerging too much from your armscye.

* Reach up as if you are getting something from the top shelf, do your armscyes dig in?

* Wander/ dance around. Would you want to wear this fit all day?

All of the ‘fitting your shell’ information included in your Butterick pattern instructions is fantastic. Really read through it all and familiarise yourself with the fit illustrations it includes. Look for the same tell tale signs on your own toile.

Before beginning to make any adjustments write a comprehensive list of anything you have discovered from the checklist above and really compare it to all the drawings in the instructions. Try to really see where the fitting issues are coming from.

Next time I will show you my toile on me so you can compare how yours is fitting. I will also start the process of working through some adjustments with you.

Thanks for reading!

5 responses to “Fun with Fit Part 4: marking up and sewing the toile.”

  1. Hello Amy – thank you so very much for this series. I drafted my own skirt shell from the Winifred Aldrich book as my first two attempts from a standard pattern were disastrous (size 10 retail is NOT size 10 in a pattern!!!) but I have yet to attempt a bodice so you have come to my rescue! My Butterick fitting shell is due to arrive today and I am looking forward to an evening of measuring & cutting out! Thanks again

  2. Thank you very much for in depth information on fitting. It is so kind of you to share the information and have learned a lot from you.

  3. Please can you advise how best to transfer the markings from the pattern to the calico? After years of trying to make things that never quite fit properly, I have high hopes now and I am following your instructions to the letter. Many thanks for such clear and detailed instructions.

  4. I just wanted to say THANK YOU so much for all this information! This has been an incredible wealth of knowledge and has explained so many things to me that were a mystery and already helped in so many ways! I am sure I will be referring to these in the future again and again until I have it all down. I am always happy to see pattern drafting/alterations posts so thank you, it’s great to learn from someone who knows what they are doing.

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