Pin-Baste Your Way to a Better Fitting Garment

Wouldn’t it be great if a pattern would fit us exactly without any alterations needed? Sadly, the fact is that each of us has our own special dimensions, and even if by some freakish occurrence our measurements are the same as the pattern, chances are good that won’t guarantee an exact fit.

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Patterns are developed two ways, either based on a fit model or a dress form (which is based on fit model.) And while the final pattern draft that goes into the envelope may be tweaked to have a more universal fit, the fact is that it was based on someone else’s body, not yours.

Pin-basting is a quick way to test a pattern. A well done pin-basting job creates an easily adjustable garment.
  1. That’s why any instruction on garment construction will always recommend making a muslin, which is a sample created from inexpensive fabric to test the pattern. (The shortcut exception to this rule is when you are working with knits, whose fit is much more forgiving than woven fabrics, and which is just one reason among many that I love sewing knits.)

Generally, a muslin is sewn together quickly in a cotton muslin fabric or cheap textile that is similar to the drape of the fashion fabric you’ll be using. The idea is that you put it on a dress form or yourself, and mark and pin or slash where adjustments need to be made.

However, the thing that I don’t like about sewing a muslin is that you can’t undo and adjust the seams easily during fitting. This is why I prefer pin-basting. Pin-basting is an industry technique that I’ve learned in my pattern-making and draping classes for creating a muslin. The garment is literally basted together with straight dressmaking pins. In class, we use a form, and usually just create the right half of the garment. You can do this  as well if you have a dress form that matches your dimensions. If you are fitting on figure, you can either go with a half or full garment, but make sure that you allow for a 1 inch seam allowance at center front and back for the half garment..

The trick to pin-basting is how you secure the pins. They are put in perpendicular or at a slight downward angle to the floor, taking just the tiniest bit of the fabric to secure the seam, as if it were the size of a stitch. There are two reasons why it is critical that you pin in this manner: the first is that the garment will hang much better for fitting adjustment, and the second is that you are much less likely to get pricked while putting the muslin on figure, as 98% of the pin is on the outside the garment. But always put ithe muslin on figure very carefully, so as not to disturb pinning or get poked. Note: You will definitely need a sewing buddy to do the adjusting when you are fitting yourself.

A pin-basted garment will go together much faster than a sewn garment and is much easier to test for fitting. So for those of you who have been dragging your feet on making muslins, you can try this quicker alternative.

For plenty of high-fashion patterns to try out your pin-basting skills, check out the latest issue of BurdaStyle in the Sew Daily Shop.

Do you tend to make a test pattern when you sew a new pattern? I would love to know!

Happy stitching (and pinning)!!

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Fitting & Alterations
Amber

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and SewDaily.com. She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and SewDaily.com. She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

7 thoughts on “Pin-Baste Your Way to a Better Fitting Garment

  1. I’d love to be able to do this but do not have a dress form; what’s more, I would love to find a dress form that is truly adjustable to match my shape. I’d like to hear recommendations from you, Amber, and from others who have had good and not-so-good experience with dress forms! Thanks!

  2. Like 440mkacrafty, I don’t have a dress form. Further, finding a dress form for someone my size is difficult. Some parts of my body measurements correspond to a large dress form (size XL or 22) in commercially prepared clothing. Other parts correspond to medium or (size L or 20) in commercially constructed clothing. I’ve thought about making my own dress form, but I need a buddy for that, and have no friends who currently sew. There are a few of my friends with prior experience in sewing, but I have not been able to interest them in helping with my projects. 🙁

    Making a test garment would be more helpful if I had someone who was willing to work with me to correct the fit of the finished garment. Fortunately for me, I love clothing with a loose fit, so most things I make from unaltered patterns are usable; they just don’t have the customized fit that I crave.

  3. I do have a dress form and I am working on getting it padded out to my actual dimensions but I am trying to come up with a way to do so and still use the dress form for others in the house and for sewing for others at the same time.

    I usually make a muslin, or one in a similar fabric, even with knits before I cut into any special fabric.

  4. I was taught in high school Home Ec. To press the pattern and pin that together for a fitting. Of course, with the paper being very flimsy, great care was taken not to tear it. I haven’t made anything for myself for a long time. But when I do, I’ll certainly use pin basting with muslin. Thank you!

  5. I was taught in high school Home Ec. To press the pattern and pin that together for a fitting. Of course, with the paper being very flimsy, great care was taken not to tear it. I haven’t made anything for myself for a long time. But when I do, I’ll certainly use pin basting with muslin. Thank you!

  6. I was taught in high school Home Ec. To press the pattern and pin that together for a fitting. Of course, with the paper being very flimsy, great care was taken not to tear it. I haven’t made anything for myself for a long time. But when I do, I’ll certainly use pin basting with muslin. Thank you!

  7. Thanks to all for their comments! I too would like to find a sewing buddy to help me make my own dress form using the duct tape or other wrap method – but, alas, have not found such a buddy yet. I’m not giving up as I think a dress form is THE way to go 🙂

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