I’m happy to take credit for introducing Chicago area sewists to Sarah Veblen, whom I like to call The Fit Goddess. I did that by organizing two back-to-back fit workshops that Sarah taught for the Chicago Chapter of ASG in April 2012.
Sarah began the workshop with a half-day session in which she lectured about her methods and gave us exercises to familiarize us with using a Design Ruler (some people call it a French curve, but that’s actually a different set of rulers). We need this skill to draw new seamlines with smooth curves once we transfer her pinned alterations to our paper patterns. After that first afternoon, there were two groups who had two full days of workshop each. A few of us were there for the entire time.
Before the workshop, Sarah sent all participants detailed instructions about how to prepare their muslins. Sarah had a list of suggested patterns to use and was happy to consult with participants about their pattern choices. I wanted to make a basic fitting pattern in two separate pieces. I had in my head an image of two-piece dresses from the Sixties that I thought might work well on me. But, I wanted it to have princess lines because I thought that would be more flattering. From an online skirt class with Sarah, I had learned that I need princess seams in both the bodice and the skirt so that there is plenty of three-dimensional space in all the critical areas.
There was time for everyone to get four fittings in the course of two days. Once Sarah pinned changes to the muslin, the participant marked where the pins were, took the muslin apart and transferred the changes to the paper pattern. The next step was to walk the adjoining seams to make sure that they were all the same length and adjust as needed. We also learned how to true our darts. These steps make a huge difference when sewing the final garment and they are essential to making the next muslin that is an accurate reflection of the new pattern.
Things were going very smoothly for everyone else. I got bogged down. Part of the problem was that I was the organizer of the workshop as well as a participant. There’s also my talkative nature that doesn’t serve me well when I should be concentrating on tasks that my brain isn’t naturally wired to perform.
As if that weren’t enough, inspiration struck mid-way through the process. I had prepared a shoulder princess muslin. It occurred to me that if an advantage of princess lines is that they divide the body visually, it stands to reason that a shoulder princess would emphasize the difference between my narrow shoulders and wide hips. I asked whether an armscye princess would be a better choice for me and Sarah agreed. That gave both of us additional work to do.
So, there I was, the world’s slowest sewist taking on additional work and trying to take care of other people at the same time. There were several times during the workshop when my brain refused to process the visual information in front of me. That’s when I learned just how patient and understanding Sarah is. It also was one of many times I was reminded that I’ve made some pretty fabulous friends in the sewing community here in Chicago.
With a lot of help, I came out of the workshop with basic sloper patterns for a two-piece dress or blouse or jacket and skirt. More importantly, I emerged feeling confident I could make clothes that don’t look frumpy.
There was some fine-tuning that followed in online consultations and follow-up fitting sessions with Sarah. And I did more work with Sarah to get a dress pattern and – the ultimate challenge – pants. But that first workshop was the turning point for me. I had been through enough trial and error to know that other methods don’t work for me. This one does.
In the next post, we’ll start looking at garments I’ve made using the slopers as a starting point and how they are constructed.