From Box to Beautiful

Two weeks ago I shared this post about a baggy muslin jacket I was making for a regular client. Well, she came yesterday for her fitting and decided that the jungle fabric would be best used on cushions for patio furniture but it is interesting to see what alterations were made to her muslin.

Some of you commented that you also had made versions of other baggy boxy jackets and never went further so I have photos of what worked yesterday. You remember how the lines that were drawn horizontally across the lower section were rising up in the front and back and how the front and back centers flared out away from the body of my duct tape dummy?


On a real live body the front still rides up, the biceps are tight and we added shoulder pads because we add them to all her clothes for balance. Drag lines point to the seam line with the button. It is screaming, “Release me!” So let’s get some scissors and do just that…just don’t cut what is underneath!3-front-altered

4-front-alteredAdding a 2 inch section of gingham shows what we needed to make lines straight and drag lines disappear. Of course, this causes other problems but nice ones as we have to pin out the side seams to reduce bulk. At this point the added section will narrow down to nothing at the armhole like a wedge but that may change later. Let’s check out the back…


2-back-altered Now her shoulder seams are allowed to slide forward and sit where they belong instead of pulling toward the back. This new section also allows the 2 crossed over back piece to lay flatter and closer to the body without making a “rooster butt”.

The final photo is what happens to the sleeve…it is tight and restricts her movement. I slash that puppy vertically to see what we need there and pin in the new section of gingham.

side-before  2-side-altered  3-side-altered

That inch piece can be left there and altered on the paper pattern or it can be transferred to the wedge sections on the front and back to make for a more even addition on paper.

Once I get to that stage of backtracking next time it will be clearer as to where the best place for it will be. Custom fitting is so much fun as it makes it so apparent so fast as to where you need to add and subtract and then working back to the paper it can change a little more to be cleaner. But you can see in the last photo that the original horizontal lines are now parallel with the floor and the side seams are hanging straight down and the center front and back fabric are hugging the body. For now all is sweetness and light and my client plans a fabric shopping spree in Portland this weekend to search for the perfect fabric for her new jacket…that lucky girl!

Before I leave you to attend to my peas and beans that have emerged from the ground this week on Day 8 I thought you would like to hear some customer comments and emails I got this week. Below are the actual emails:

I am writing to ask how much it would cost to replace a zipper in a skirt?  The skirt is red felted wool (I think) and the zipper is the hidden-type. The other issue is that we are driving into your area for an event that runs Sunday-Wednesday, and were hoping to have it done on Monday… so I am not sure if that is realistic, or what your schedule this week but I figure it is worth a shot to ask.

Hello Jeannie,
I would charge $16 for labor and you would have to bring the invisible zipper replacement (From JoAnn’s Fabrics) in that color as I have mainly darker colors. It can be done for you in a day, no problem.

Thank you for your quick response!  We will think about it on the drive down, but my guess is that we will pass… it was a thrift store find for $2 so we will see what we can do.But if we decide otherwise, you’ll get a call.
They never did call, thankfully.


A mother of a bride called me to ask 3 things before she would make an appointment:

Do you own a cat as MOST seamstresses own cats?…Really? No I don’t own one as I sew bridal gowns.

How long have you been sewing for clients?…40 years

Are you any good?…Maybe you might want to read the 11 reviews on Google to help you make up your mind as my clients seem to think so.

Next time paper pattern show and tell and comparing Vogue pattern sizing for different bust cup sizes…how exciting, no? Thanks for dropping by! Welcome to all the new followers from Rhonda’s blog!


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37 Responses to From Box to Beautiful

  1. eumoronorio says:

    Can you come to my house with scissors and pink gingham?? That is so hard to do for myself. Le Sigh…As for your client’s jacket, it has a lovely drape now. And shopping! That is always the best part of the project for me. Fabric has so much potential!

    • mrsmole says:

      I’ve never been to Brazil but it sure would be a great trip and time for fitting muslins…which I love! Once you figure out your particular slash and spread amount, you just do it on all muslins and eventually save time and do it on the paper first. I have been adding 1/2 to all my pattern backs for a round back for 30 years and a swayback for just as long. Draw horizontal lines on your muslin fabric, take a photo, slash, spread, attach gingham, and photo again until the lines are straight. Then pin out what you don’t want.

      • eumoronorio says:

        Tempting fact: It only takes me 5 minutes to walk from my apartment to the beach. Of course its winter now, but when its cold in the northern hemisphere I’m working on my tan =D as for the rest, thanks for the tips. I’ll keep working on it!

  2. Tia Dia says:

    Whee!! I love picture posts of alterations like this. Thanks for posting all the details! And I’m very glad the linen will be used for outdoor cushions….. lol

  3. Cindie says:

    What a great photo step by step on that jacket (pattern that I own and have not sewn) – I can see when I get ready to sew it I’ll make a muslin and invite a friend over to help me. Eventually I’d love to make it in my own handwoven fabric.

    • mrsmole says:

      You will learn so much about your body with a friend helping pin you up. Invite her to bring one along as well! Handwovens are just so special…are you the weaver?

  4. While I’m kind of happy that your client passed on the jungle print for this ( ! ), it is so interesting to see how you fit a pattern! That’s something I’m still perfecting – and have a long way to go! Thankfully, my daughter is a fabulous size 2 model, so I have a bunch of leeway in the fit department as she looks terrific in most anything she wears 🙂 My biggest challenge is coming up with a way to remember the changes I’ve made! Right now I have a couple muslins all marked up that I use for reference, but there has to be a better way than that!

    Thanks, as usual, for an interesting post!

    • mrsmole says:

      Take photos of everything and write it down like you had clients instead of just the two of you. After a while you will see a pattern of corrections and then just do them all the time and you will stay away from shapes that are just not you or too darn much trouble to fix…that was the designer’s job and she just let you down.

  5. Alethia says:

    Why do people think that their thrift store finds justify a thrift store pricing for labor? !!! That gets to me everytime, ugh!!! I don’t care if you paid a penny or a grand, the labor is the same…SAME PRICE!!!
    I had a client call me up…she was referred by another client. She had a scheduled appt. with my former employers, but she wanted to see, before she went to them “if I would be cheaper to have what she wanted copied/custom made…I want to look really good, not out do the bride…I’m short and round (her words)”. I held my tongue and set the appt. I said “Self, let her see for herself if she can afford me.” She came, brought me three dresses to be copied….I gave her my price and her eyes got so big. She says, “That much”? Then, I told her that was just for my labor, she would have to purchase the fabric and notions…. She called her husband and told him. Now, granted, you can’t always judge a book by its cover, but she could barely walk, I had to help her get to my door. She and her husband pulled up in a very dated car, which looked like it was on it’s last legs. And, her dress code was just the same. She “looked” like she had no money. Needless to say, she said, “Well, the wedding is in July, I need to wear the dress before you can copy it, so I have time….” I gave her her deadline and sent her on her way.
    Do you actually think that she is going to return???

  6. mrsmole says:

    Oh Alethia, you have to pray that woman chooses the cheaper gals over you…who needs that bag of trouble? Thrift store clothes are exactly that…cheap for a reason. I got in another skirt, long rayon bias cut that had had the knit lining cut out and the girl had paid $2 and wanted it re-lined so she went to JoAnn’s and they sold her acetate bridal satin taffeta fabric, stiff as a board. She didn’t want to pay $16 for labor so I said what she needed was a half slip (remember those) that she could use as a lining and with other things for that same price. I made it from rayon Ambiance lining fabric ($6), nice and soft in a nude color, elastic at the top and lace edging on the hem and she was pleased.

  7. Monique says:

    “Are you any good?” Oh, boy, now THAT’S some question! I sympathize. 🙂
    Thanks for showing the alterations. Very useful to see!
    $16 does not sound like much if a nice garment is “completed” and therefore restored to glory, so I immediately think “why waste your money on trash in the first place?”. In Dutch there is a saying “everything is worth what you pay for it” = pay little, and it’s probably not worth much. Cheap thrift garments are not cheap for nothing, right?

    • mrsmole says:

      I always tell my clients whether they are buying from an outlet store or a thrift store- There is a reason that garment was there…think about it before you buy! Dutch sayings have wisdom for sure!

  8. Bunny says:

    Brilliant work fitting the pattern. I love watching your thought process with these fit alterations.

    A half slip, what on earth could that be? ;0

  9. mrsmole says:

    Oh Bunny, it was funny when I mentioned a half slip to the girl and she said her grandmother died and left her a drawer full of them but she didn’t know what to do with them…times change and the next generation is left confused…so sad…ha ha

  10. BeaJay says:

    That muslin is coming along nicely – can’t wait to see the end result. Those emails are hilarious – for us the “audience”. For you it must be like pulling your eyes out of their sockets…. Do you have cats… are you any good??? That is surely one client no one needs.

    • mrsmole says:

      Actually BeaJay, I would pin fit muslins and alter paper patterns all day every day if I could. It is the engineer/architect inside me that loves that process. My client says she will be my model for upcoming pattern fitting projects so you will see her more often being the guinea pig. I am blessed with some great clients who actually become best friends. The only time I want to pull my eyes out is when a bride and her mother argue over whether a bustle should be over or under and they want to see it pinned both ways over and over while I am watching the clock…now I take photos of each version and send them to their email and tell them…have a look at home and decide when you come back for the second fitting.

      • Monique says:

        I just purchased the Craftsy class “Sew the perfect fit” and so “get” what you mean about the engineer/architect! Loving it, especially the feeling that the great mysteries of the world are being explained. 😉 Have a nice Sunday!

      • mrsmole says:

        I love Linda Maynard!!!! I have her books and CD’s and she comes the closest to how my brain works for fitting. If I ever get more time I will finish that class too! So happy for you!

  11. Kai Jones says:

    I am so pleased with this post, because I have been thinking of making up this jacket. I made the pants and like them very much, but I could tell my torso with large bust and protuberant abdomen would not look good in that square, unshaped top. Now I know that I can fix it (maybe not the exact same fixes), and I have the courage to try because yours worked.

    • mrsmole says:

      Get out your scissors and start the party! Gingham is great behind the slash because you can pin it really straight on one edge with the little squares and let it spread to where it needs to be on the other and measure it. I use 1/4 inch gingham (never pre-washed).

  12. Sewbussted says:

    Your comments bring back so many memories from when I did wedding gowns. People never cease to amaze me, sadly.

  13. prttynpnk says:

    I wish you had a cat- then you could have told that lady to ask it if you were any good. Did she think her charming candor would make you feel comfortable enough to say otherwise? If she becomes a client, I will mail you some cat hair for the dress hem. I’d hate for her to feel like she’s missing something.

  14. mrsmole says:

    She brought her daughter around for the fitting and estimate. I told her my price and she balked at the fee…”why so much?” she asked…well it will require almost 5 hours of sewing, I answered. Then I showed her the list I make for each client and told her that I would give her this list of what has to be done and she could take it to any seamstress in town for a better price…she decided I should do the job. Then 2 days later she called to say she had another seamstress that told her she could shorten the heavily embroidered dress without adding a petticoat as I suggested. I said no problem and she could come get the dress which had been already altered about 80% of what she wanted and the rest basted and ready for try-on…pay me and take it to the other lady who was too busy 2 days earlier…they came and decided they would stay with me to finish it. Cat hair? I don’t have cat hair but all the neighborhood cats use our gardens as their toilet…that might count, Anne?

  15. Andrea says:

    This is a great lesson in fitting! I’m thankful for all the detailed photos. I just don’t get how people quibble over prices. Seems like so many want their clothes purchased and repaired or altered for next to nothing. I wonder how they would value their time?

  16. Excellent fitting! And have you decided against the darts for some shaping?

    • mrsmole says:

      Hi Lena, I would have made some if she needed them but once the slashing and spreading was done the front and back just swung back into the body and I was able to pin out the excess from the side seams so in a way they became my transferred darts. Since she has abandoned the heavy fabric idea I think this pattern may work out well for her. Since I have a little crazy side I suggested that she think about using 2 fabrics/colors for the top and bottom sections to highlight her narrow shoulders and minimize her hips with a darker color so I am excited to see what she purchases on her trip. Love your blog tutorials…I learn so much there:

  17. Shel says:

    Wow, this is very inspiring! I thank your client for consenting to be a model. It’s great to see a more unique figure in these problem solving posts than a svelte twenty-something. Okay, granted they may have some issues too, but it’s nice to see something turn out nicely for someone closer to my own age.
    I also have the Lynda Maynard class and while the method is more hands on that I’ve tried before, it’s very awesome. Some things just have to be done on a body ( or in my case a dress form that reflects me).

  18. Rachel says:

    Hi there, I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog. This is the first post of yours that I have read and it was really interesting. Fitting is an unknown quantity to me, but I love reading how other people do it – perhaps if I keep reading I might be inspired to take the plunge myself one day! Thanks

    • mrsmole says:

      Welcome Rachel, you have such fun styles on your blog and so many interesting places to visit! My 8 years in the UK were a real learning curve for this girl from So Cal transplanted to Liverpool. I hope you can get a few tips from reading my posts in the challenges section or just enjoy all the comments sweet people leave for me.

  19. Susie says:

    I love your blog…I was transfixed by your stories of the people you have the “pleasure” of meeting! Reminds me how we can take the everyday items of our lives for granted. Once you have sewn regularly, that changes. Keep the stories coming! The fitting narratives are great, too.

  20. Oh! I’m looking forward to your Vogue pattern post. I learn so much from you.

    P.S. I love Lynda Maynard too and have taken her classes.

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