Improving the fit of my garments topped my list of sewing goals for 2016. When I stumbled across the Palmer/Pletsch website earlier this summer, I impulsively enrolled in their 4-Day Pants Fitting Workshop in Philadelphia. I had read about the tissue-fitting method in the Fit for Real People book series and the concept intrigued me – cut out the tissue, try it on, tweak the fit and then cut your fabric straight away! No need for a muslin. I figured I’d give it the old college try, since I hate making muslins. I also secretly hoped it would embolden me to cut into my pattern tissues. (#teamtracing all the way!)
September soon arrived and I hopped the Bolt Bus to Philadelphia. One thing to note – the workshop claims Philadelphia as home. However, it’s really more Philly-adjacent. Fortunately, it was an easy transfer for a car-less New Yorker. I caught a bus from the 30th St station to King of Prussia. An hour later, the bus dropped me off directly in front of my hotel for the week. Bonus!
I settled in at the DoubleTree hotel. The prices were a bit high for my taste, but you can’t beat the location. It’s across the street from the class venue. If you do end up staying here, avoid the restaurant. The food is no bueno (as in so bad, I ended up sending back several dishes). I highly recommend picking up snacks from the grocery store or hopping the shuttle to the mall food court.
Day 1 – “Fitting is an art, not a science”
Armed with pen, paper and a bag full of sewing gear, I toddled off to Steve’s Sewing Center. The workshop is held in one of back class rooms. It’s wonderfully set up. Everyone has access to tall cutting stations (happy back, happy life) and sewing tables offering plenty of arm room and outlets. I borrowed a machine as I didn’t think my Brother would make the trip in the hold of a charter bus. Good thing too! He’d have been seriously outclassed by the lovely machines the rest of my classmates brought. Color me emerald with a serious case of gadget envy!
We were eight in total – mostly from the East Coast (and one fellow New Yorker!). Morning passed quickly. After introductions finished, our instructor, Pamela Leggett, dove right into the session. She explained how we’d all start with her Pamelas’s Pants Perfected pattern. Later in the session, we could apply what we learned to the patterns we brought with us.
I really enjoyed Pamela’s teaching style. She describes fitting as an art, not a science and we should consider ourselves sculptors as we drape the fabric onto our bodies. Plus, she’s incredibly knowledgeable and answered everyone’s questions with the patience of Job. I learned so much just from the initial discussion.
- Even TNT patterns require some re-fitting – the only time your pants will come out the same is if a) your body never changes, b) you have perfect cutting skills, and c) you use the exact same fabric.
- No droopy crotches – the crotch seam should fit all the way to the body. Somewhat counter intuitively, the closer the fit, the more room for movement.
- Choose your own waistline – you can place the waist-marking elastic anywhere you like and adjust the pattern accordingly.
- Multi-size Patterns are cut to the largest size – If the envelope says a Large is a 12-14, it’s drafted for a 14. Nifty!
Right after lunch, we headed to our work stations to start cutting out our patterns. Pamela measured each of us and had us try on one of her sample sizes to choose our starting point. The nice thing about her pattern is many common adjustments are built in. I really liked how it offered both a narrow and full back option. As a card carrying member of team-junk-in-the-trunk, I loved not having to make a full rear adjustment. In fact, the tissue fit so well, I barely had to make any changes! I just needed to add a little space at the waist and extend the legs by about four inches.
Day 2 – Pattern Adjustments and Fabric Fitting
We spent most of the second day adjusting our paper patterns and basting/fitting the fabric. I didn’t have many changes, so I took copious notes as I watched as she marked up the others.
One of the great things about this workshop are the little extras like the food (oh the food) and lots of bonding. We ate so well all four days. The lunches provided by the caterer were simply scrumptious! She happily accommodated any food allergies / sensitivities without sacrificing taste. While dinners were typically on our own, one evening we stayed late, ordered takeout, and watched a wonderful documentary on the craft of tailoring.
Day 3 – Applying the Finishing Touches
On the third day, we were all finishing up our pants pattern. I feel like mine came out pretty great! They fit perfectly through the crotch area and sit exactly where I wanted along my waist. One thing I would change is the pockets. I added them at the last minute with some obnoxiously bright magenta lining. (#mysecretthrill) I’m not a huge fan of the additional bulk at the hip. The pocket design means they don’t lie flat and splay open at all times. It drives me a bit crazy, then again – wearing pants without pockets is no way to live. *blerg*
Once we’d finished the pants, Pamela showed us how to transfer the changes we made in the fabric fitting to the pattern tissue. She went to each person’s table to assist them with the adjustments. My changes were fairly simple, so I learned more from observing everyone else’s examples.
Day 4 – Graduation Day!
Four days passed in a blink. Sunday morning found each of us working on different projects. Some ladies finished up their first pair of pants, while others were happily fabric fitting their second set. I had brought along Vogue 1464 and Simplicity 1696, so I spent the time tissue fitting with Pamela’s help. I must say I was excited to see only a few adjustments were required to the Vogue pattern – I raised the center back waist and redrafted the back panel so the seam runs down the middle of the leg. (It’s also apparent that my go-go-gadget legs need another few inches in length.) Can’t wait to see how these turn out!
Our final lunch was inhaled as everyone was eager to scurry back to their work stations. All too soon, clean-up time arrived. We gently folded up our projects and packed away our notions. Within the hour, all evidence of our festive times had been erased (*sob*). We said goodbye to Steve’s team and headed off for our graduation dinner just around the corner.
Over dinner, Pamela handed out our graduation certificates along with the cutest little black dress cookie cutter! Towards the end, she asked us each to share one or two “aha” moments we’d had during class. When my turn came around, I mentioned how surprised I was that the tissue-fitting method actually works. I had had serious doubts coming in. Sure it’s not perfect, but it gets me a lot closer than I had been in the past. Secondly, I fell in love with Pamela’s foolproof method of sewing darts – no tracing required. The last dress I whipped up had 14 darts – so this method is a godsend. Woohoo!
Every single one of us mentioned how exited we were to have FINALLY sewn a well-fitting pair of pants. (I wish we’d taken a picture our creations. But, I guess that will have to wait for the next class.)
I had such a wonderful time. What a treat to hang out and sew with like-minded folks! Next year, I hope to take one of the 4-day fit workshops. Maybe I’ll head out to Portland or Seattle – four days on the gorgeous West Coast sounds like fun to me!
Ciao for now 🙂
Have you ever tried the tissue-fitting method? What did you think?
Post Workshop Update (22 November 2016)
At our graduation dinner, Pamela challenged us to create a pair of pants by the end of October. I just knew I would sew at least four pairs and would soon have a closet full of long-legged beauties. Ummm, not so much. My motivation lasted only a week. I managed to cut out a pair of of trousers in glorious red, tropical wool. Sadly, I never made it past the fabric fitting stage. They now sit in my box of UFOs waiting patiently for the day when I pick them up again. *womp womp*2