Plaid Top Tutorial: Lesson 2-Make a muslin, fitting and sleevesTuesday, February 21st, 2023
Please note: I am affiliated with Janome as a Janome Artisan and am compensated. However, my reviews are honest and I would say what I say whether affiliated or not. I’ve also chosen to be affiliated with Janome since 2003 (!!!) because their machines are so good and they are so responsive to the interests and needs of their customers.
There’s a LOT of detail in this post, but if you read through you’ll learn why it’s a joy and a wonder when you can find a pattern that works for your body. And once you make any necessary changes, it is fairly easy to use that pattern and make variations on the theme. Somewhere down below I mention taking a WONDERFUL, highly-recommended, can’t say enough good tings about Garment Makers Question Time with Philippa Naylor. I have been sewing over 55 years. Others in the class have never made a garment. Yet we ALL are learning and getting good results! You start out easy with a shift dress, move to a skirt, on up to rain jackets and fancy stuff! I got sidetracked with life last year but can’t wait to get back to it. Her work experience in the garment industry long before she became a quilter is golden.
It’s kinda like prepping a house to paint it–you have to do the yucky sanding and spackling and priming or the paint job won’t turn out well now matter how good the paint and painter. This is the prep work part of a successful garment!
I knew that the sleeve pattern was a problem as soon as I saw that it was cut symmetrically. If you look at a human body from the side, the arm curves to the front. A sleeve needs to do the same, not hang like a plumb line from the shoulder point. The fact that the pattern piece was symmetrical (cut on the fold) meant it could never fit properly. I knew I could modify a sleeve pattern piece from another pattern if the length of the seams matched closely enough to make it work.
I used a technique I learned in GMQT.co.UK that is called “walking the seam.” You measure the length of the SEAM line, not the edge of the pattern piece on, in this case, the armhole opening and the top of the sleeve. Luckily, my pattern piece from a different garment was within 1/4″.
I looked in my collection of patterns–yes, I have patterns going back to the 1970s!–and found one with a sleeve I thought would work. It did!
In the next photo you will see notches and dots. These are standard in the pattern industry. One notch on a sleeve usually means the front of the sleeve, two notches is the back side of the sleeve. Dots are used for various purposes. Sometimes they show where to run gathers from one spot to the next. Other times they indicate where you match up the shoulder seam. That means you can distribute the easing/gathering on the sleeve cap so the sleeve actually FITS and runs around the body in a way that allows you to move your arm. Sorry–but I was just SO frustrated with this pattern. It is, sadly, destined to make new sewers think they can’t do anything right, when the error lies in the pattern!
Flare at the hem, you ask? Why yes…if your sleeve angles out (or pants leg) and gets wider as it goes up, you need to have a hem that does the same. Once you have figured out the correct spot to hem, fold the fabric up on the hemline and trim to match the angle of the seam.
PHEW. So…that’s a lot. Thanks for reading this far–so you get another shot of the finished top, with the infinity scarf on my arm so you can see the top better. Next up: seam finishes, with a couple short videos!
Here are the links to all the posts in this series of lessons, techniques that can be applied to virtually any garment and many home dec projects. Let me know what you’d like to learn and see here on the blog. Cheers and thanks, Sarah
Lesson 1: Choosing a Pattern and Starting Tips
Lesson 2: Making a Muslin, Fitting and Sleeves
Lesson 3: Matching Plaids, Cutting out Your Garment Pieces
Lesson 4: Overcast Seams, just like Serged Seams
Lesson 6: Lapped and Flat-felled Seams
Lesson 7: Hong Kong Finish for Seams
Lesson 8: Lined Patch Pocket Tutorial