Fitting a pattern prior to cutting and sewing a garment is one of the most important steps to ensuring a successful garment project. In training to be a Palmer/Pletsch Certified Sewing Instructor, I have learned some great tips for pattern preparation. Preparing a pattern prior to fitting takes a few steps, but makes pattern fitting much easier and more accurate.
Remove the wrinkles from your pattern using a dry iron on medium heat. I prefer to press from the wrong side of the pattern, in case the ink wants to transfer to my iron.
If you are using a multi-size pattern, mark your size line with a colored pencil. It's easy to confuse the different size lines, and inaccurate cutting of these lines may result in unpleasant surprises during fitting and construction. If tracing a pattern, such as from a Burda magazine, it's especially important to make sure you can see which line is the correct one to follow.
Once the pattern is cut, mark the seam allowances and hemlines, so you can pin fit the pattern accurately. Remember to check the seam allowances noted on the pattern - they may not be 5/8". For garments such as pants, you may want to increase the seam allowance on the side seams and waistline to 1" to facilitate fitting the pattern and fabric easier. This may seem excessive, but remember it is much easier to make something smaller than to try to make it larger after cutting!
Are there any curved areas, such as princess seams, crotch seams or armhole seams? If so, you will want to reinforce these areas with small, overlapping pieces of 1/2" tape. Please note the 1/2" size - it is easier to tape around curves with less bulk than a wider tape. Reinforce the pattern "seam" for fitting by taping along the stitching line on the body side of the stitching line - not in the seam allowance! Taping the curves allows you to clip the seam allowance up to the stitching line just as you would in the sewn garment. It also keeps the pattern from tearing in these stress areas; if taped properly, you should be able to gently pull on the curve without the paper tearing. This means you can try on the pattern as you would a garment, allowing you to make the most necessary adjustments prior to cutting your fabric.
I'll discuss further steps in pattern preparation, fitting and alteration in a later posting. I have lots of projects bundled up and waiting to be sewn. That means lots of pattern fittings and alterations, too. Marta Alto says that pattern preparation is easily 1/3 to 1/2 of her total project time. This may seem excessive but preparation is the key to a successful garment.