Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fitting Resources: Palmer/Pletsch FFRP in McCall's Patterns

As a consumer, I have studied many approaches to fitting.  I learned where my body measurements deviate from the standard measurements of RTW clothing.  If it were possible to alter RTW to fit me, I may have stopped there.  I might now be a shopaholic who alters my own clothes.  I love clothes, I love dressing well and I love saving money.                                                                               Alas, one cannot add fabric where none exists.  If the top of a dress fits, the hips are too tight.  Because there is insufficient height in the upper back, tops feel like they are choking me.  And then there are the shoulders.  A store-bought tailored jacket can't be altered for a forward shoulder.  

One of my favorite resources is Palmer /Pletsch Fit For Real People (FFRP).  The book contains a wealth of information and I could read it once a year and learn something new every time.  (I read fitting books the way one might read every Jane Austen novel once a year).  The DVD demonstrates the methods in a clear manner.  I highly recommend both.

Before plunking down any cash for the book or the DVD, you can get a taste of the Palmer /Pletsch approach by using a McCall's pattern from the Palmer /Pletsch series.  These patterns include extra instructions on common fitting adjustments.  Even better, you can easily make the fitting adjustments, because crucial information is printed on the pattern.
In this example,  the pattern pieces display markings for a full bust adjustment or rounded back.  
This is the sleeveless rouched dress with a cowl neckline (M6282) that I sewed recently.
On this overview, adjustments are identified and alteration lines are clearly marked.
There are instructions on how to make the adjustment.
Personally, I need a forward shoulder adjustment, so this is helpful.
There are also tips on working with knit fabrics.
Even just having the location of the waist marked on the pattern is a big help.  That type of landmark helps with alterations that may not be among those included.  This system, like all others, addresses the most common alterations

Feel very lucky if your alterations are common!  
The information is right here for you!

I have a couple warnings about FFRP:
  • Tissue fitting-  you don't have to buy into the whole tissue-fitting-thing in order to benefit from this book.  You may prefer to sew muslins while you are learning how to make pattern alterations.
    • A picture is worth a thousand words.
    • Just looking at the pre-altered pattern on a body "before" and the altered pattern on the body "after" shows the concept.  For example the grainlines must hang straight.
    • Seeing a cut pattern with extra tissue inserted into the enlarged area helps to reinforce that idea that, yes I must change the pattern to fit me.  I don't need to to fit into my clothes, my clothes need to change to fit me.
  • Aesthetics- using this book will not throw you back to 1990.  Nor will it impact your aesthetic. Great fit + your style =  chic.   
    • That picture might be telling a thousand words worth of scary-story.  Ignore, ignore, ignore.
    • You can use a 2011 style pattern, make it current and trendy, using the concepts in FFRP.
    • Age, shape, size & individual challenges are simply where you are.  Embrace it.

There is more in the book - much more.  For example, there is whole chapter devoted to body proportions (Chapter 9 Make a Body Map) and a whole chapter devoted to ease (Chapter 7).

I will continue to learn more about fitting for as long as I sew.  I know now that there is not just one method of fitting that meets every need.  There are many ways to approach the creation of a garment, and I need them all!  It took me longer than I expected to learn about fitting and that's why I write about it here.  

If fitting is easy for you, lovely!  Sew on! 
If fitting is difficult for you, you are not alone.

Finally, now my wardrobe is filling up with clothing that delights me.  I love wearing my clothes and I love saying "I made it!".  People are more interested in it than I would have expected.  I keep telling them, sewing is not like a foreign language - you don't have to be young to learn.  You can start any time.  
You can sew for yourself, too. 

Fabric for a new summer dress is calling to me from the cutting table-

*Happy Sewing*


  1. I own the Fit For Real People Book. My problem is that everything on the models looks extremely dowdy, and although I usually admire your projects, the PP dress was an exception.

    The tissue-fitting idea is time-wasting and wasteful. It's very easy to rip a tissue pattern. I prefer to trace patterns onto Swedish tracing paper and then make a muslin. If one is not too picky, Swedish tracing paper alone might do.

    If I have a minute, I'll try looking at it again, but I think aesthetics and fit are not wholly separate.

  2. I excel at learning foreign languages; sewing, at least sewing well, I have found quite challenging. Part of it (but certainly not all), has been finding a place to work, having the right tools, and finding the time.

    I've taken demanding classes with much younger students who had experience, some of whom were snots. I've dealt with frustration and feeling foolish at times. I've improved because I've worked at it.

    It's possible to learn a number of things as an older adult, but you have to be willing to work in the same disciplined manner you did as a young student when your time was organized for you.

  3. You have some good tips for people who think very literally (an example would be my DH not liking a pattern because it shows a garment in a color I do not wear).

  4. Great post! Happy Sunday!

    (PS - I *bet* the DVDs are helpful. I may have to pick that up.)

  5. FFRP is my *favorite* book on altering patterns. And their DVD on bust alterations is excellent. I did try the tissue fitting process, but did not care for it either.

    One of my favorite techniques for choosing a pattern, is to *cover the head on the model.* In fact, I have a friend who puts those big sticky dots on the model's head, but I just use my hand. Once her head is covered, I can more easily "widen" the body (in my head) to imagine the design on me. :D

  6. It amazes that people will pay fortunes for vintage patterns but somehow think a book like this is outdated. It's an amazing resource. I loved it before I took a workshop with Pati and Marta. That just made it even better. If you can, it's worth the opportunity as well.

  7. Great post. I agree with you - this book is fantastic. I have a lot of sewing books from all eras - so the photos from different decades don't bother me at all. I am looking at the technical illustrations to see the various modifications they suggest, not looking at the specific style. I also use the flat pattern measurement method, so combined with P&P it works out well.

  8. I have used this book since it was first published. I credit it for keeping me sewing fashion instead of turning to quilting. No offense to quilters, it is just that a lot of people I have met through ASG and other places quit sewing because of having to do more fitting and not know how to do it. So they tell me they took up quilting.

    I always refer people to this book. Yeah the styles are out of date now, but the drawings, diagrams, etc. are the important part of the book and how to fit.

    I don't make muslins much; do the tissue fit thing. Most of the time with good success; though there have been bummers. All in all this is a great fitting resource book.

  9. FFRP is one of the best pattern fitting resources out there. Like you, I'll always be learning how to fit my body well:)

  10. I like "The Perfect Fit." It seems to have many of the same suggestions, including the body chart, and, as I recall, the photos present the subjects in a more flattering light.

    The skill of fitting is difficult and essential; that's why it should be presented well and tastefully. I challenge you to find a book on fitting for men that doesn't strive to preserve the dignity of the subjects.

    There are also pattern makers like Kathleen Fasanella who disdain these systems.

  11. I have that book! The Perfect Fit also appears as one of the volumes in the Singer Sewing Reference Library. It covers all the main fitting adjustments with clear photographs and instructions. You are right, there is a section on making a body map, which is indeed similar to what FFRP recommends. It doesn't go into nearly as much detail as FFRP, but it is a solid reference book.
    The copyright date is 1987. It is definitely a different visual experience in that no faces are shown and the models are all thin. I am not sure what to say about that!

  12. Very informative post. Thank you for it.

  13. Great post. I love FFRP and have done the body map. I learnt a lot from that! Like you I am always learning. I am pretty sure I read in FFRP that they prefer muslins too but most people don't want to spend the time. The more you read and see others in the fit process the more you learn. And taking photos sure helps (once we get over looking at

  14. Thank you for this post! I have been working on learning fitting and pattern drafting on an off for about 30 years! A lot of advice/instructions are not relevant to a supersized figure. The geometry is just different. FFRP helps, but their solution to the fitting problems of their largest model was to start with a (was it unisex or man's?) shirt. That isn't how I want to start! P/P should have a whole book on plus-sized fitting, by body type. They could also cover some issues, such as: how do you make a jumper from your fitting shell bodice and skirt if you have had to lengthen the center front of the bodice? Would the only solution be to have a waist seam?

    Thanks again for your post.

    Carol Welch

  15. I have the book too and occassionally use it. It's got some good information and it can open your eyes to look at the pictures of the fitting process they show, even though I never use tissue fitting myself.
    Once I used one of the McCall PP patterns (jeans) and found out that the information on how to change was no longer in the instruction sheets. Quite a few lines in the pattern, but nowhere information how to use them. When I published my review I remember that someone said that information was no longer printed to reduce cost (or something along that line).

  16. I'm a beginner (so I have very little fitting experience so far LOL!). I have the FFRP and Perfect Fit books - both a fun to read and I'm about to us FFRP for a FBA on a top this week (so wish me luck ;) ). Re: plus-size fitting: there is a book I bought (for when I'm good enough to make my MIL some things) called: Sewing for Plus Sizes: Creating Clothes that Fit and Flatter here's the Google preview too. It has chapters on fitting and pattern adjustments for plus-size.

  17. Great post - I have recently added this book to my library after seeing many recommendations through blogland. I like your recomendations for the P/P patterns as well - I'm getting ready to give one of them a go and look forward to learning from it. I have been sewing for several years now and my most successful projects have been fleece pullovers for hubby and pj pants for me and my boys. Things where fit doesn't matter. I also did luck out with one dress which had great fit with no alteration, but lately that hasn't been the case so I have been wanting to explore fitting more and this post is helping me get the nerve up more and more. So thanks for the timely post!


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