The Bodice Sloper Saga: Craftsy and Muslins


So in my last post I went through drafting a bodice sloper and now I want to show you how I’ve been altering it to get the fit right. Are you ready for unflattering muslin pictures? You know you are!

First thing first, I bought a Craftsy course called Sew the Perfect Fit. This is an excellent video course for those of you that haven’t tried it. Lynda Maynard uses three models with various different fitting issues and she shows how to manipulate a muslin to get the right shape before taking you through applying these changes to the paper pattern.  The class comes with dress pattern Vogue #8766, which Lynda uses for all her fitting. I was told it could take 5 weeks to arrive in the post to the UK, but it actually arrived in about a week; they even sent me both size ranges because I ordered the wrong one and they didn’t charge me any extra!

Edit: Since posting this I have become an affiliate of Craftsy and have included affiliate links on this page. The views in this post remain my own, but clicking on these links will help support my blog.

I haven’t tried out the vogue dress yet, but Lynda’s happy to help you out with any other patterns you’ve got on the go so this is where my bodice sloper muslins come in! She has been extremely helpful, usually replies within a day and her advice has been bang on so far. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to have another go at a sloper without having someone on hand who could help me fix the fitting issues.

So, I took my bodice sloper and added grain lines (both horizontal and vertical) and a 2cm seam allowance so that I had a bit of fabric I could take out of the seams if necessary. I then cut out my muslin pieces and transferred grain lines and stitch lines and stay stitched the neckline. Next, I set my machine to a basting stitch and sewed up the bodice, leaving the back open so I could get into it. As you can see, it covered up all the important parts and did up at the back, which is always nice :)

This is the first time I’ve invested time in making a proper muslin rather than a quick mock-up in the lining material to check the fit and I’m really enjoying it. It’s like a little laboratory that I can chop into and draw on and pin and tuck as much as I like without ruining any of my precious fashion fabric. Although letting my boyfriend help out did result in rather more graffiti on my back than I’d bargained for. Fitting a bodice on your own is definitely do-able, but I would say it’s a lot easier if you can sweet-talk a friend into helping you out.


Unfortunately, as with all sewing projects, there are some fitting issues here! Lucky that I’d anticipated this with the Craftsy course, eh? One problem I ALWAYS seem to have is gaping at the front of the armhole, does anyone else get that? It never seems to be mentioned as a common fitting complaint. You can also see that the shoulders seams are way too long and the drag lines from the bust suggested an FBA was called for. For muslin number two I’ve made the following alterations to the paper pattern:

  • Take the fabric from the front of the armhole and transfer it to the front darts using the tip of the dart as the hinge point
  • Full bust adjustment of 1cm
  • Shortened the shoulder seam (already drawn on in the picture above)
  • Shortened the darts by 3 cm because they’re right on my apex in muslin 1.


If you’re wondering about the ribbon, it’s to mark my waist. I managed to go out half the day still wearing that ribbon under my dress the other day… Oops!

Muslin 2 fitted a lot better at the top, the armholes (I just had this spell-checked to ‘assholes’ :-/) had less gaping and sat on my shoulder point. There was some bagginess between the bust and waist, so I tried cutting the fabric above the breasts and pulling it down, but this made it even worse, so I sent off some more photos to Lynda. She suggested that I put the length back into the darts and then pull down the fabric again and see if it worked better. So for muslin 2.2 I changed these:

  • Added the 3cm back onto the darts
  • Inserted about 3cm of fabric above the gap

As always, Lynda was completely right, this looks miles better! I’m going to make these changes on the paper pattern and sew up a third muslin, which I’ll show you in a post very soon!

Have you made a bodice sloper? What issues did you have? Have you tried this method of cutting and manipulating the muslin before? It’s not something I knew about before, but it makes so much sense!

The Bodice Sloper Saga: Pattern Drafting

Bodice Drafting 2

The past couple of weeks I have been learning about fit and slopers. I’ve tried to draft a bodice sloper from a book before, but it was a complete disaster and didn’t remotely fit. This time, I was armed with a much more comprehensive set of measurements and instructions from Madalynne’s front and back bodice sloper tutorials.

Bodice Drafting 2

First thing first, I abandoned all my old measurements. I drew dots on important parts like my shoulder tip with washable felt tip pen, which made the measurements a lot more accurate. Madalynne’s tutorial also has a much longer set of measurements than I’ve ever seen a book tell you to take, which made me feel like this sloper really would be more suited to my body shape. Plus she has some really helpful photos with the measurements superimposed on them so I could see exactly where to measure from (I suspect I used some guesswork last time I attempted this).

I like to use brown paper for pattern drafting – it’s durable, cheap, comes on a roll and I just like the aesthetic. Armed with my paper, pencils, a ruler, a compass, and Madalynne’s clear instructions and diagrams, I got to work carefully putting down every line. I also had my measuring tape on hand because Madalynne’s instructions are all in inches, whereas my ruler is in centimetres, so Brits should make sure they have an inch ruler or a conversion calculator to hand! Or be better at mental arithmetic than me…

Beware that in the back bodice instructions, the text mentions line CB erroneously a couple of times, but it didn’t cause me a big problem and I could see what to do – the only times I did go wrong were entirely my own fault for not paying attention! Probably best not to do this when you’re tired because there are a lot of numbers and letters flying around.

Back Sloper 1Here’s a sneak peak of the finished back bodice pattern. The front one has now been altered quite a lot, so I’ll save that for my post about the muslins and alterations – I’m on muslin number three at the moment.

As an impatient seamstress I thought I wouldn’t enjoy making a sloper and to be honest it’s something I’ve been putting off (who wants to wait when they could have a pretty dress NOW?!), but actually I’m really loving it! I can’t wait to get sewing some tops and dresses from the pattern, knowing that they will finally fit perfectly as well. If you’re a bit maths inclined like me you will LOVE pattern drafting. I’ve finally found a way to be creative and nerdy all at the same time! Have you made a bodice sloper? Any tips?

4 Tips For Pattern Drafting with a Compass

Pattern Drafting with a Compass

Today I want to talk about using a compass. I don’t mean the magnetic thing that helps you point north, I mean the pointy one you used to carve your name into the desk during maths class (or someone else’s name if you’re smart). Pretty sure mine hasn’t seen the light of day since I left school, but this weekend it was just the thing I wanted while I was pattern drafting. Compass1

I don’t have one of those big fancy rulers with the squares on and I needed to get  perpendicular lines, which a compass does perfectly. For those of you who weren’t paying attention at school, I’m going to outline some of the useful things that you can do with a compass that I found came in really handy for pattern drafting.

Perpendicular lines

To get a perfectly perpendicular line, first draw a little mark on your original line where you want your new line to cross. Place the point of your compass on the mark and open the compass up – it doesn’t matter how much, but somewhere in the middle is easier than a very small or large distance, which are likely to cause the pen to slip. Draw an arc through your line on one side. Compass2Now, keeping the compass open exactly the same amount, pivot around the point and draw an arc on the other side of the line. I like to then go back and check the compass is still the length of the first arc. You could also just draw a circle, this is my way of keeping the guidelines minimal. Compass3Now take the compass off the paper and open it a little more. Again, it doesn’t matter how much as long as you keep it consistent. Put the point of the compass at the point where one of your arcs crossed the blue line and draw another arc above your mark. Compass4

Repeat this with the other side, making sure the compass stays open the same amount. This line should cross through the one you just marked.Compass5The point where the lines cross will be perfectly perpendicular to your original line at the point you marked, so draw a line between the cross and the mark and admire your right angle!Compass6

45 Degree Angle

Now we can do exactly the same thing to get a 45 degree angle, which I’ve shown in green. First, set the compass to an arbitrary length , put the point at the centre where the blue lines cross and draw an arc that intersects both the horizontal and vertical lines.Compass7Now, place the compass point at one of the points where the green line meets the blue and draw an arc between the two blue lines. This time it doesn’t matter if you open it up more, it will work fine staying at the same length. Compass8Repeat this step with the other green-blue intersection, keeping the compass open the same amount and you should have made a cross. Compass9Draw a line between the green cross and the crossing point of the blue lines and you have a perfect 45 degree angle. The camera angle I’ve used makes this look a bit off unfortunately, but it did look pretty perfect, I promise!Compass15For a longer perpendicular (or 45 degree line) I would sometimes do 2 crosses different lengths away from the line to give me another guide. Because it doesn’t matter which distance the compass is set at you can do this as much as you like and every cross will be perpendicular as long as you use the same length for the left and right arcs of each cross.

Specific Distance Between a Point and a Line

Sometimes a pattern drafting step will require you to measure a certain distance from a point to a line. This can be done by moving a ruler around until you’ve got the right distance, but a compass does it so much more quickly and accurately! Just set your compass at the desired length on a ruler…Compass11

…then place the compass point on your point and draw an arc that intersects your line. The point where they meet is the point you’re looking for. Eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that it could intersect at two points, but in most cases it will be obvious which one you need. Compass12

Adding Seam Allowances

One last thing I found a compass really handy for is adding seam allowances once you’ve finished pattern drafting. Set your compass to the desired seam allowance – here I’ve used the standard 1.5 cm – and move along the pattern piece marking small arcs all the way along the pattern piece. Once you’ve gone all the way round, join them all up and you have a perfectly added seam allowance. Woo!

Compass13At the corners you’ll need to extend your lines a bit to meet at a point because the compass would give a curved corner, which isn’t what you want. Compass14

So there you go! Do I have some compass converts? For the drafting itself I found that using a soft pencil for the lines and a harder pencil in the compass for the guidelines worked well, making the guidelines fainter and the main pattern lines more prominent.