This is where the neatest and some other prep steps begin to pay off.
Now you have your selection of fabric(s) and pattern(s) home and you’re ready to start.
Measurements: You can’t go any further without some good measurements. They can vary, but the standard ones you need are shoulder, bust, waist, front-bust-waist is nice as is back-waist, skirt and floor length, upper hip and lower hip widths and finally sleeve length. These are a must, and others you can add will be helpful, but these are the ones that you need first.
Next is Muslin: To muslin or not to muslin. Here’s my rule of thumb. If I’m dealing with a completely new design of a pattern (usually something like an Issey Miyake or a very unusual cut), I might try a tissue fit on my mannequin to get the gist of how the pattern goes together. If I’m still not getting it, hands down, do a muslin. This also pertains to fit. If I understand how the pattern goes together, but not sure how I want to fit and can’t tell on a tissue fit on the mannequin, do a muslin.
Basically the rule is that if you are in the least bit uncomfy with something going on with the pattern construction, assembly or fit, do a muslin. It not only will save you a lot of grief, you’re going to learn some invaluable techniques along the way. And in case you think I don’t do muslins, the check your doubt at the door – I do them all the time. They are a must with my clients, and this is always the way I start out. So don’t think you can skip this step or that you’re pro enough to skip it. Even the pros do muslins on a regular basis.
If the pattern is a TNT or something that is standard and I want to check one or two details, I may not worry about a muslin, and do a simple tissue fit on my mannequin. A tissue fit is pinning the pattern tissue together and then fitting it on the mannequin to check major measurement points: bust, shoulder, center front and center back.
Next is fabric prep. One sure way to test any fabric is with your “good” iron place a strip (at least 12″ long) on your ironing board measure it out clearly and as exact as possible, and steam the heck out of it. if it moves at all and shrinks up, measure it and make note of it. This means the whole fabric piece must be “sponged” or steamed to prep it before cutting. This is for wools that can not and should not be washed (unless you are felting the wool).
Other fabric prep would be to wash the fabric if you are at all unsure about shrinkage or any sort of warping of the fabric that may occur while you are assembling the garment. There is nothing worse that cutting out the whole piece only to have it shrink on you while you are applying interfacing. So make sure that your fabric is stable and not going to shrink on you. If it’s cotton or linen or silk, wash it. Silk hardly ever shrinks unless there’s an unusual treatment on the fabric.
Next is your pattern alterations: use this time to get used to making your standard alterations whether they be hip, waist, FBA, anything that you may need. These will become more familiar and easier the more often you use them.
Fitting: A short word here about fitting. Although you’ve already started this process you will be repeating your fittings over and over during the assembly steps. The first is the tissue fit and then muslin if you’re doing one, but definitely with the garment as you’re progressing with the assembling. Make sure that you are fitting the garment with as much of the finished parts/accessories/notions as possible; i.e. shoulder pads, heavy notions such as buttons, fabric or hem weights (you can even pin in the metal chain weight on your Chanel jacket during fittings to get a read on the length of the jacket when finished.)
If you have a mannequin, use it. Remember to build in ease for your body, and it will not replace your own body, it just is an aid. You might see something funny in the back and to get a better view, you can put it on your mannequin and fit you better and easier this way.
I’ll talk more about fitting in future steps, but this is where it starts.