As I mentioned on Monday, last week my friend Andrea came to visit, and we drove to Michigan to take a two-day fitting class. This is something we've been wanting to do for a long time, and a couple months ago it all came together.
The class was a Palmer/Pletsch workshop. These workshops are held in four different locations throughout the US, one of which is a town very near to where I grew up in Michigan, and only a 3-hour drive from Chicago. Normally the fitting workshops are four days long, which is quite a time commitment. But we discovered that the teacher in Michigan, Janet Dapson, offered a two-day mini-workshop, AND was willing to set up a special class just for the two of us!
Our class was held in Janet's beautiful fabric and yarn shop, Fabrications. If you ever find yourself in southwestern Michigan, head over to her store! She carries a gorgeous array of fabrics and yarns. Andrea and I both loved how organized her fabric offerings are - fabrics of similar fibers, types and colors are grouped together. She carries some really stunning silks, and we both came away with plenty of goodies. All of Janet's fabrics are higher-end, but her pricing is very reasonable. Another genius perk is that fiber content and care instructions are printed on the receipt for you - no trying to remember how to treat your new fabric!
Attached to the shop is a beautiful and spacious classroom. Although we had to bring our own sewing machines (and of course, notions) everything else is provided for students. There are several long tables for setting up the machines, and three large cutting tables with the surfaces at waist height. There are also three irons and ironing boards. The classroom has plenty of natural light, although the windows are curtained for privacy - necessary because much of the class was spent in our underwear and slips!
Our class ran from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for both days, with about a half hour for lunch. And we were busily at work the entire time! I got so absorbed that I forgot to take a single picture, but now that the class is over I realize that there's no way I could have completed all the work AND taken pictures of what we were doing.
If you've read Fit for Real People, you know that the Palmer/Pletsch method involves tissue fitting. I read the book a couple years ago and refer to it often, but had never tried tissue fitting. I'm happy to say that it wasn't nearly as tedious as I'd always thought it would be. I probably won't do it for every new pattern, but for a very fitted pattern, I won't hesitate to work out the kinks with tissue fitting first, before making a muslin.
After some brief introductions and background, Janet got right to work. The very first thing she did was to take our measurements: just the high bust and full bust! From the high bust measurement, we looked at the standard Big Four sizing chart and chose our size. I fell between the size 10 and 12, and Janet recommended starting out at a size 10. (Andrea's sizing is different of course; she'll be writing up her own class experience, so go check that out on her blog.) For this mini class we were just working on making a bodice sloper.
Once we had an idea of our size, we tried on pre-made bodice muslins made of gingham. Janet had these available in all sizes and cups. She started me out in a size 10/B cup bodice. Fit-wise, it looked a LOT like the things I've been sewing - no surprise there, as this is the size I usually use! It looked OK, but not great.
Then she suggested that I try out a size 8/C cup bodice. Knowing that I have a broad back and broad shoulders, I balked. But I went ahead and put it on - and believe it or not, it looked SO much better! I was astounded! Janet explained that I need the smaller size across the front of my shoulders and upper chest but more room across the back, and that the back is easier to adjust than the front. She also said that in this size, I can consider doing a full bust adjustment, but that depending on the style it may not be necessary.
Once Andrea and I had our sizes as a starting point, it was time to construct our own tissue bodice for fine tuning. Included with the class was the McCall's sloper pattern. We took out the front and back bodice pieces for our size, and then reinforced the neck and armhole openings with tape and clipped into the curves.
From there, the rest of the day was spent trying on the tissue and having Janet pin out adjustments, then making those corrections on the tissue and trying it on again. In the class materials was a list of pattern alterations so that we could make notes on the alterations we each need. I ended up requiring 8 of the 11 bodice alterations:
* more width at waist
* broad back adjustment
* round back - shoulder blade area
* lower bust darts
* broad shoulders
* forward shoulder
* higher, more sloping left shoulder
* sway back
At the end of day one, we were given homework for the following day. We had been instructed to bring along a McCall's shift dress pattern; to get ready for the second day we had to cut out the front and back tissue in our size and reinforce the neck and armholes with tape.
We were both exhausted though and left our homework for the following morning :-) While the class is extremely interesting, it is also intense. At the end of the day I felt I'd hit a wall and just couldn't think any more.
Day two was similar to day one, but this time tissue fitting our sheath dress patterns. Many of my adjustments transferred from my bodice sloper to my sheath pattern, but since the dress has ease that's not present in the sloper, there were some surprises too. Working as efficiently as we could, we managed to get our patterns ready, cut our fabric and baste together our dresses for a final try-on before sewing them together. Even when it was just basted and pinned together in the back, I could tell that this dress with all its adjustments fit me much better than the garments I've been making for the last couple years.
In my next post I'll go over the pattern adjustments I made in detail, and possibly even show you my dress, which I finished today. As I worked on finishing the dress over the last few days, I took lots of pictures of my altered sloper and dress tissues.
I'm so glad that Andrea and I took this class. I had high hopes for it, and they were exceeded. Janet is a lovely person and great teacher; I've already got my eye on a few more of her classes! It was so helpful to have a fitting expert work with me; over the last year or so, I've made some headway into fitting, but I found it can be really difficult to assess one's own body. For me, doing pattern adjustments is the easy part: not knowing which adjustments I need was the thing holding me back! I know this is just the beginning of a long process of honing fit, but at least I feel like I have a solid starting point now.
Have any of you ever taken a class like this? I've taken lots of sewing technique classes in the past, but this was my first fitting class. Have you ever done tissue fitting? Love, or hate?