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Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit: Little Adjustments At A Time

I stood in front of the mirror, scissors in one hand and tape in the other. Fitting one of the seven, eight, or nine bras I have made since last summer (I lost count at five), I hacked it up until it lay smooth everywhere. When the bra fit correctly, I took it off and transfered the alterations to the pattern (I put a shirt on in between. I don’t pattern make topless!).

The cross cup seam needed to be reduced, the cup seam/wire line reshaped, and the band at the armhole raised. First, I slashed and closed the cups at several points, reducing the length of the cross cup seam, and after, I reshaped the cup seam. To true things up, I walked the patterns so that the lengths of the seams matched on all corresponding pieces. When it came time to raise the armhole, things got hairy and I started to get confused at what I had done and what I still had to do.

“Too much Maddie. Too many alterations at once.”


In patternmaking for a perfect fit, it is best to change a little at a time and to limit the number of changes. Also, any change over 1/2″ calls for a second thought. Why? Because making a big change at once can alter the shape of the pattern – the pattern can lose its integrity, if that makes sense. Plus, fixing one fit issue can fix another  (i.e. reshaping the neckline can eliminate drag lines that were thought to be caused by an armhole/side seam that was off balance).

Back to my bra fitting. I was confused. Lengths of seam lines were not matching up and things in general weren’t making sense. The cross cup and wire line were fixed and I left it at that and made another bra. I would fix the underarm in the next go.

In pattern making, the tortoise wins the race.



  1. Reply

    Carmen @ Forgotten Fancies

    Oh Maddie you are so clever. I wish I can pattern make and alter patterns like you do. My current project is on hold at the moment because I can’t see a survey properly…

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Pattern problems? Send me an email – maybe I can help.

  2. Reply


    I would be dizzy after trying to make so many alterations. “In pattern making, the tortoise wins the race.” So very true!
    As for my jacket, it’s coming along. It turns out I already had all of the fabrics, interfacing and supplies I needed in my stash so I haven’t had to buy anything for this project *insert happy dace*

    • Reply


      Insert happy dance? Too cute.

  3. Reply


    Excellent post! I also find that when i make a muslin I often makes my changes from the “top down” so to speak (although there are exceptions). Example, I’ll tweak the shoulder seams, then do a SBA, then fix the side seams, etc. Do you have any suggestions for what order to make all the changes?

    • Reply


      So true! I should have included this in the post. Because a garment hangs from the shoulders, fixing errors there (the shoulder) can eliminate fitting errors elsewhere (bodice, armhole, etc).

    • Reply

      Lady ID

      Hmm – I do the bust/waist then hips but fortunately I hardly ever have to do the shoulders. Probably because I am working from my own sloper and those are the areas that change with weight fluctuations.
      So I guess it is top-down

  4. Reply


    great advice! i will remember this when trying to do it all at once!
    B xx


  5. Reply


    Maddie, I really understand. It doesn’t seem to matter what changes I make, I can not get the bridge all the way back. I have a few changes that I’ve made that have worked great! But I’m still working at it.

  6. Reply

    Lady ID

    I have definitely done this and ended up confused. I’ve been learning to work smarter so I do not have to take things apart.

  7. Reply

    Carlee McTavish

    Agreed. It is like a science experiment. If something goes wrong and you have too many variables, you don’t know which variable caused the outcome!!! (Is it obvious I’ve got my teacher hat on this week?)

  8. Reply


    Thanks for this post! Every person who sews should have this statement printed in bold letters and hanged on the most visible place in the sewing room! Unfortunately, we tend to forget it. As our skills improve and what was difficult for us in the past seem very easy now, we skip important steps. I happen to observe the work of a few experienced seamstresses. Their common big mistake was lots of adjustments at a time. Even though the end result looked perfect from technical point of view, shifting lines (CF, CB, side seams etc) in the garment totally distorted it.

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