In a Facebook discussion about pattern fit, I mentioned slopers to my niece. Her response? “What the heck are slopers?”
Slopers are form fitting patterns used to create style patterns. Um, huh? OK. so when you typically want to sew a garment, you use a pattern. You can buy a commercial pattern from pattern companies such as Simplicity or McCall’s or Marfy. Those commercial patterns have been sized to fit a “typical” size person. Except everyone’s body is shaped a little different, so what often happens is the pattern size doesn’t quite fit – which was the problem my niece was experiencing. The other option for design is to drape – basically create the pattern from nothing by draping fabric on a dress form – and then create a flat pattern from that.
A sloper is a pattern that is custom fit to you… it is not meant to be a pattern for an actual garment, but is instead used to fit style garments. It is best to have three slopers: a bodice (which includes sleeves), a skirt and pants. With these three basic slopers, you can easily fit any commercial pattern or use as a base for draped designs.
I *could* reinvent the wheel here – and I would very much like to do a video episode about slopers, but there are some very good resources available from industry experts and I will start by linking to them:
Threads Magazine – The Merits of a Basic Fitting Pattern: This is a great article that covers what a sloper is, and how to use your sloper to adjust a commercial pattern to better fit you.
Nancy Zieman’s Videos. Look for Pattern Fitting with Confidence 1 and 2. Although this does not use a sloper, Nancy demonstrates the pivot technique for adjusting a commercial pattern for better fit.
Creating a set of slopers requires measurements and math. I am not very good at math. No, let me restate that: I am horrible at math. And, yes, slopers and garment fitting in general requires some basic math and geometry skills. (Maybe I should write a book called Basic Math for Sewing). Follow the adage: “measure twice, cut once” to help the pattern fit just right.
Measure your body at the following areas using a soft measuring tape (and a friend!) to guide you in determining size:
- Armpits – I call this the armpit measurement because you measure above your bust from armpit to armpit. Its also called high bust; Nancy Zieman says that this measurement matches up with size in 1/2″ increments where 14″ is a size 14 pattern “true fit” – step up or down in 1/2″ increments to get your size – for example, a size 12 is 13 1/2″ 10 is 13″ 16 is 14 1/2″ 18 is 15″ and so on…
- Bust – measure around the fullest part of the bust
- Waist – measure at your natural waist, not necessarily where you tend to wear waistbands. Your natural waist is where your body bends when you bend to the side
- Hip – measure around the fullest part of your hips
- Back – measure from the base of your neck (from the spinal bone that sticks out the most) to your natural waist
- Arm – measure from your shoulder bone (where your arm pivots from your shoulder) to your wrist
- Leg Inseam – measure from the crotch (top part of the inside of your thigh) to your ankle
Use these measurements when buying commercial patterns! Do not rely on the “size” such as size 10, size 16, so on…