McCall’s 6119 Halter Top:Second Practice Muslin of Bodice:It’s Getting Better

What I should have done the first time around.

Tissue fit of McCall's 6119: I went up a cup size and was thankful to see the better coverage as compared to the first muslin.

Actually fit the tissue to the dress form.  Normally I don’t have anything especially customized about my dress form other than height, and that sometimes slips as the screws in this thing are very old.  At one time I had a duct tape dummy but I threw her out when my figure no longer matched.  That must have been why I forgot to try the tissue first. 

This maternity dummy is wearing one of my old bras so it comes the closest to my actual form than any I have had in awhile.  I ended up nipping in a bit at the neckline top, and some at the closure area. 

It’s better.

McCall's 6119 Second practice muslin of bodice: The fit is much better though I will have to lower the bust point just a tad on the final cut.

This is my second practice bodice and I am fairly pleased.  Went up a cup size, made a few alterations and the fit is much better.   During try-on I was a little self-conscious about showing this much of my chest but I keep remembering what the weather is like in August.  It will do for around the house.  I can always slip on a little jacket if I go out.

The next step of course is sewing it up in the fashion fabric.  I am rooting through my stash for the right material and hope to get it cut out today.


Bustin’ Out! Fitting Issues with McCall’s 6119 Halter Top

McCall's 6119 halter top

McCall’s 6119 appeared to be a pattern that would allow my belly to increase through the summer and I might even get some wear out of it next summer when I am no longer pregnant.

I pulled the bodice portion for a practice muslin and quickly sewed it up.

A problem arose.  Just a glance and you get the jist. 

All of you ladies out there who know what happens with pregnancy/nursing nips can imagine my horror when I tried this little number on! Clearly not enough coverage.

I’m bustin’ out!

I don’t dare show you a real-life shot as it was obscene.  Use your imagination about where things are placed on the normal female bosom, then look at the dress form and you begin to see how poor the fit is.

How I ended up with this state of things:

I am one of those women department store lingerie clerks despair of  because I wear the wrong size bra.  Though the skies may fall I go up a band size and down a cup size for comfort.  I know, I know – this approach elicits strong words from fashion advisors, but the band size that matches my rib cage is uncomfortable.  What is a little tight in the morning is excruciating by 4:00 p.m. when my body has naturally retained some water from the days food and liquid intake. 

I have quietly rebelled on this fashion issue and been quite comfortably trussed into my allegedly ill-sized lingerie.  However I should have remembered my approach is not the standard one when I cut this pattern.  My absentmindedness led me astray.   I cut my RTW bra size, not my actual measurement.

Just a heads up – if you are pregnant or nursing, skip the A/B option altogether.   A no brainer, all of you will remind me,  but I forgot.

See how the strap on the photo right is falling off the mannequin shoulder. And notice the gaping neckline at the bra cup top seam. Is a bigger cup size, meaning more fabric, going to take care of those fitting issues which may be inherent in the drafting of the pattern?

Now I am looking at the muslin I see other potential fitting problems. 

  1. Look at how wide apart the straps are and I have a narrow chest.  The one strap in the photo appears to be falling off the mannequin shoulder. Given the angle of the strap can one change the starting point and maintain the shape of the neckline?
  2. Even if I go up a cup size, or two, the material may cover my bosom, but will it be loose and drapey along the top like the practice muslin? 
  3. Will a bit of elastic along the neckline take care of that?

Over the last few days I have been reading what fellow sewist and blogger Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic is going through putting so much energy into fitting what might be a poorly drafted pattern.  I understand her determination as she has expensive fabric on the line.  But I have just invested an old sheet up to this point and I am wondering if it will be a waste of time tinkering with this pattern?  Or worse, I make it up in fashion fabric and still feel exposed and end up pulling on the shirt all day as it may slide around on my shoulders.  Should I abandon it now, or perservere?

Has anyone else made this pattern or one like it?  What was your experience?

Knocking Up a Dress Form

Here is my basic dress form.

Making a Maternity Dress Form

During pregnancy I find my standard dress form unsuitable.  Here is how I created a temporary maternity outfit for my current form.


  • Dress Form
  • Strong Elastic, 1 inch wide or more.
  • A one-piece swimsuit you are willing to cut up and ruin for future use.  One with low-cut legs is best.
  • A brassiere that you won’t miss for the months it is on the dress form

For Stuffing: one or more of the following

  •  Quilt Batting
  • Pillow Stuffing
  • Scraps of material

Step One

Find a bra that has seen better days so you don’t miss it.  Put it on the dress from and begin padding the rib cage area first until it matches your own bra band circumference.  I used strips of quilt bat leftover from earlier quilting projects.

Place bra on form and begin wrapping quilt bat under band area until the measurement matches your own.

Step Two

After you have a good approximation of your bra band circumference you can begin padding the cups.  This is easy.  I used quilt bat here too, but pillow stuffing would have been better.  I just didn’t have any on hand.

After the band is to your liking, stuff the bra. This might make you giggle.

Step Three

Take swimsuit and ruin it!  Cut crotch so you can get the suit over the head of the dress form.  I just slit the crotch.  Situate it nicely on the form and over the stuffed bra.  You may want to use some safety pins to keep the suit in place.

Cut through crotch of swimsuit and slip over the head of the form. I wish my non-pregnant figure looked half as nice as the dress form does at this point.

Step Four

Making practice muslins I have tons of scraps that aren’t beautiful enough for scrap quilts.  I used these to stuff the belly. 

Tons of scraps.


Step Five

When the belly is partly stuffed take a wide piece of strong elastic and pull it tightly under the bra cups creating a rib cage and belly demarcation.  If you don’t the belly stuffing will ooze into the bra area and you won’t get that tight pregnancy belly look.

When the belly is partly stuffed you will need to create a rib cage for the form. I used the elastic from an old belt and cinched it as tightly as possible under the breast cups. Safety pin to secure to swimsuit.

Step Six

Keep on stuffing.  Remember to stuff the butt also.  And the hips if you are gaining there as well. You can get as precise in measurement as you want. I didn’t bother taking a measurement of my waistline at the navel as it will change over the pregnancy.  I just wanted a dress from that approximated my shape and looked midterm pregnant as I will be doing most of my sewing during that period of my pregnancy. 

Remember to stuff the butt and hips to approximate your own. Here the belly is partly stuffed. You can work the stuffing around until it is the basic shape of your pregnant belly. I carry high so my bump is largely above the navel and I can customize the dress form to suit my unique shape.

Step Seven

Stuffing a dress form tends to make everything mushy.  All of you who have ever made a duct tape dummy know that the figure you end up with tends to get smooshed in the boobs to the point where the form is not quite an accurate representation of you.   To counteract this uniboob tendency I strung another strong elastic around the neck between the breast cups and secured it with a safety pin.

Lycra stretched across the brassiere creates a uniboob. To counteract that tendency wrap a length of strong elastic around the neck and then tighten down between the breast cups. Secure with a safety pin.

Step Eight

The completed form.  I left the belly bubble a bit flat as that matches my own.  I am strangely full above the navel and flat under the navel.  I figure I can keep stuffing the form as my pregnancy increases.  Tuck the bottom ends of the suit under all of the stuffing for an easy finish.

Side view of the completed form. If I get much bigger during the last trimester I can just stuff it some more.

Here is the back of the form.  I hope you can see the little safety pins I added to secure the suit to the stuffing. 

Back view of the completed form. You can see at the bottom where I tucked in the excess material.

Not an exact replica of me but good enough to hang an unfinished garment for handwork or hemming.  I was pleased to recyle scraps in its creation and after the pregnancy the form can be easily dismantled.   I am only out a swimsuit that I didn’t wear anyway.

Maternity Pants:Knit Pull-Ons and Leggings:Practice Muslins

They changed my meds!

Sometimes people say this tongue-in-cheek after they have experienced a marked improvement in emotional demeanour and now I understand how that phrase entered the vernacular.  My pregnancy nausea is severe enough and long enough to warrant meds.  The first meds made me a walking zombie.  The doctor changed my meds and it is like I am Rip Van Winkle waking up after a long nap!  My mind and interest in life are plugged back in.  I am so thankful.  I can sew again!

After my long break from sewing I was eager to get cracking and tackle a growing problem: my belly.  My pants keep falling down and I need to devise a solution.  I think knit pants will stretch with me through the months and if they are custom fit maybe the constant pulling will be eliminated.

But first I needed some dirt cheap knit fabric.  Pants often take more than one practice muslin and the fabric stores don’t have that huge selection of $1.00/yard fabric that they used to sell.  I did not want to pay huge sums for practice muslin fabric and that is where a timely article by sewing blogger Erica Bunker of Erica B’s DIY Style came to my aid.  Ms. Bunker ran an article on Walmart as a fabric source which triggered a vague memory.  Sure enough, when I checked out my local store, they had a bottom of the barrel fabric bin of bolts going for $5.00 for 5 yards.  Perfect! 

I bought two 5 yards for $5.00 bolts from Walmart to make the practice muslins.

I selected a grody see-through knit that I only find in cheapo fabric bins, or perversely, as overlays on prom dresses seen at high-end department stores, (which has always caused me to question the cost of such gowns since I feel like I am being conned by the designers into thinking that high prices must mean high quality – but that is an aside.)

Butterick 5539

Cheap fabric in hand I went home and began working on my practice muslins.  I wanted to make knit pull-ons and leggings.  I used Butterick 5539 and the leggings pattern I made earlier using Kwik-Sew’s Swim and Action Wear, a pattern compilation and instruction book by Kerstin Martensson.

The Knit Pull-Ons

I altered the front piece as I would for a prominent belly on the first muslin.

Here is the result.  Looks like the stuff I remember pregnant ladies wearing in the 1980’s; voluminous.  Oh so comfortable, but my ego could not stand looking even larger than I already do.  Back to the drawing board.

Oh so comfortable, but pants with no maternity panel left me feeling like the thigh area was too baggy and made me look pudgier than I already am.

On the next shot I cut a portion out of the front pattern piece, laid it on the fabric fold and using the pivot method, made a larger piece to serve as a maternity panel.

The maternity panel for the leggings. You can see that I cut out a portion from the cut fabric, and then using the pivot method, I took the cut portion, placed it on the center fold and enlarged the panel.

In order to get the crotch depth correct I used the pants sloper I drafted this summer.  I laid that on the pattern pieces and made the necessary alterations.  I also took a flexible curve reading of my belly and checked that against the front pattern piece.

The cloth pattern is the pants sloper I drafted. You can see my high bump on the flexible curve.


The pull-on practice muslin in white. I would have modeled but the fabric was see-through.

The result was a very comfortable pair of pants on the first try!

The Leggings

Kwik Sew Swim and Action Wear by Kerstin Martensson

I reviewed making leggings in an earlier post.   But they were a bit tight.  And short, as Kwik Sew only takes the legs down to capri length.  I lengthened the leg enough to have some folds at the ankle, and I added 3/4 inch to every seam for a little extra room. 

The result: If only my experience fitting non-maternity pants typically went as well!  Again, I had a wearable pair of leggings first try. 

Me in all my rotundness wearing the practice pair of maternity leggings.

The practice muslins complete I am busy sewing up pants in fashion fabric.  I hope to have some to show you in Thursday’s post along with any other practice muslins.

Next Post: Thursday, April 21, 2011:Completed Pants to show and hopefully more practice muslins.

Forward Shoulder Adjustment:Pattern Alteration

The computer was back up and running a few days ago, but alas, having caught the flu, I was not.   I did finish the first two of my spring blouses and completed the practice muslin for another pattern but it was slow going.  I am over the worst of the symptoms but still not too zippy yet. 

In my last post I mentioned showing you the forward shoulder adjustment I did on the camp shirt McCall’s 5052.  For years I have realized that my shoulders are settled forward but I have choosen to ignore that fact in my dress fitting.  Why ignore such a simple thing?

Because as a child I hunched over in a self-protective posture which has given me forward shoulders, and seeing those forward shoulders reminds me of the circumstances that left me feeling like I needed to be self-protective.  Rather than go there I just ignored it when a bodice didn’t fit so well at the shoulder.

But recently I guess some kind of emotionally-healthy-reality check kicked in and told my brain, “Hey, that shirt could be really cute if you would just fix the shoulder.”

I worried that the alteration would be too hard.

Then I remembered that I live in the age of the internet and someone somewhere has deconstructed everything.

Using two tutorials and my typical c’est le vie attitude towards fitting issues I came up with an acceptably easy forward shoulder alteration.

Here are the tutorials:

  1. One from Assorted Notions
  2. And, the other a hint from Gigi on

Contrary to my fears the adjustment was completed rather easily.

Step One: I cut a small wedge out of the front bodice and taped it onto the back bodice.  Then I cut the armscye of the back bodice deeper.  REMEMBER- save that little scrap of armscye you just cut away.  You will use it later.

Here I am cutting away excess from the back bodice armscye. If you look at the shoulder you can see where I taped onto the top of the back shoulder the wedge cut from the front bodice shoulder.

Step Two: I drew a straight line from notch to notch across the sleeve cap.  I cut along that line and moved the sleeve center point a small distance forward.  Whatever amount you take away from the front shoulder seam is the amount you move the sleeve head forward.

Drawing a straight line from notch to notch I cut along that line and moved the sleeve cap forward. You can see how far I moved the head by looking at the straight grain line marking on the tissue. If you have no other line, you will have to mark the original center before cutting and moving the cap forward.

Step Three: I cut the scrap of back bodice armscye in half and laid the halves on my sleeve pattern going from the center to the back notches.  This way I know I am adding to the back sleeve cap just the same amount that I cut from the back bodice armscye.  I taped the tissue slivers down, and then tidied up the edges. 

Hard to see in the photo but the tissue sliver from the back bodice is taped to the back sleeve cap. You can see the two slivers sticking out from each end. I took a marker and trued the curve, then cut away the excess.

Adjustment done and it worked!  The sleeve fits so much more comfortably now that I want to make this adjustment on all of my woven shirts.  Sometimes things we have avoided for years have the easiest of fixes! 🙂

I had to lighten up the photo considerably as the dark color was hard to photograph. Most of the original ill fit was along the back shoulder so I was surprised to see that the forward shoulder adjustment improved the fit of the front shoulder considerably as well.



You can't see but the camera is resting on my head as it was very hard to properly photograph one's own back shoulder. I have lightened it up in Photoshop. Hope the pic is not too grainy to see that the back shoulder area is largely free of excess fabric folds. Whenever I buy a shirt off the rack clearly it has a ton of folds in back as most shirts are not designed with my shoulders in mind. Usually I don't mind a few wrinkles as it makes my garments appear storebought, but the fit is so comfortable with this adjustment that I may do it to all of my woven blouse patterns. My husband even commented that it looked better than storebought.


Next Post: Tuesday, February 22, 2011: Pattern Review: Simplicity 2447

Spring Tees Finished and Why Does Burda Shape Their Sleeve Patterns So Narrow?

The spring tees are finished.  Here they are.  That brings me to ten tees, but two are iffy, which makes the required eight.

Now on to blouses.  The wardrobe list  shows 16 blouses, eight for work, and eight casual.  As a SAHM I am redefining the work category as dressy-casual-out-and-about wear.  And casual is defined as a bit more comfortable, things I would wear at home. 

 Sixteen blouses is a lot but I am going to give it a shot.  I plan to use eight different patterns and make two versions of each.  That should cut down on the time somewhat. And if I see any great sales I am free to fill in the corners with some RTW.

My first is a simple camp shirt.  Here is my practice muslin of a camp shirt using Burda 8673, option A. Often I have issues with Burda sleeves and this time was no different.  I made three sleeve renditions and the results remained so-so.  Three is my typical limit before I scrap a pattern. 

Two very hazy photos of the practice muslin sleeves. Nothing I did made the sleeve any better.

I have had this problem before with Burda sleeves and now I am considering trashing all of my Burda top and jacket patterns as they all seem designed the same way.   I find the fit and design of the torso to be very flattering so I hate to lose the patterns, but I have yet to get a sleeve to fit comfortably.

The sleeve cap does not look wide enough to cover an arm and it is sloped so differently than the armscye.

Can anyone tell me why the sleeve cap is so differently shaped than the armscye of the shirt?  Has anyone else encountered the same problem with Burda?

Is there a correction or should I throw my Burda’s away?

Next Post: Tuesday, February 8, 2011: Working on another camp shirt using a different patternmaker.

Refashioning:Cutting Down a Men’s Polo into a Women’s;Attempt #2

Lately I have been attempting to take RTW tees and polos and cut them down for a better fit.  A few weeks ago I had my first attempt with mixed results.

This is my second attempt.  The results are still mixed.

The original polo before alterations.

The polo began as a men’s XL and as you can see the shirt overwhelms me.

I did take in the shoulder line.  I left the side seams loose since attempt #1 taught me that polo shirt cotton can be somewhat see-through if fitted too closely to the body. Added darts.   I also took off quite a few inches at the hem.

A bit blurry but you can see that it does "fit" after alterations, I just don't like it very much.

I got it to wearable.  I can garden in it.  It is comfortable.  But I stopped any further finessing after that.

I could have taken up the sleeve hem for a more cap-like sleeve but I felt that a small sleeve would look strange with the larger men’s collar and placket.

Actually it is that collar and placket that is making me abandon the whole idea of cutting down a men’s polo.  No matter how well I cut down the shirt I feel that the man-size collar does not flatter my feminine shoulders and neckline.  Even after a dramatic cutback on the hem and a shoulder alteration, I still look like a girl wearing boys’ clothes.

Not the effect I am seeking.

The reason I was using mens’ polos was that plus-size womens’ polos in RTW are often just as oversized.  I thought I might be able to buy mens’ shirts cheaply at the thrift since polos are plentiful in the mens’ section, but there are hardly any in the womens’.   I was reluctant to pay full RTW prices as I am prone to wearing such shirts while doing yard work, etc.

Good try.  Didn’t work out.  My next idea is to find a source of inexpensive womens’ plus-size polos and cut them down instead as they will probably have smaller collars and plackets so at least it will still be a recognizably feminine shirt when I am done. I am going to check out the pattern by Clotidle mentioned by Connie in the last post.

But right now I am taking a break from refashioning as I finish up my spring t-shirts.  Only two more tees to go and I am done with one of my wardrobe categories!

Next Post: Thursday, January 27, 2011: Hopefully an update with photos of how well my spring sewing is going.

Previous Older Entries