Fitting With A Sloper

As I explained here when I was  sewing NL6213, my usual approach to fitting new patterns is a lot of comparing between my fitted block/sloper and the new pattern. However I was intrigued with Karen Howland’s use of the sloper for fitting as described in the Threads article here . I know I’ve read about that method before in several places and always meant to try it out but when I can fit by making a tuck at the waist (BWL) and adding a dart at the shoulder (NSA) why go to all the effort required by Howland’s method?.  As I understand it, the steps  Howland uses are

  • The Pattern is traced
  • The Sloper is traced
  • Darts in the sloper are rotated to mimic how they are incorporated into the Pattern
  • Sloper is slashed and spread or folded to align with pattern along
    • Center Front/Back
    • Side Seams
    • Armscye
  • Pattern is slashed/folded so that sloper is returned to its pre-slash/spread/fold dimensions
  • Pattern is trimmed and ready for use.

It reads like lots of work. Work I don’t want to do but am considering because it’s become difficult to fit garments. Between a few injuries and normal aging, well-fitting is  just not as simple as when I was younger.  Plus while I might be able to avoid further injuries, the alternative to aging is ?what again?  So I know without question that I will continue to need fitting and pattern alterations.  I’d love it, if despite all the work I just outlined, if this really is the simple easy answer:  (1) fit the sloper (2) fit the pattern to the sloper.

I decided now is as good a time as any to explore Karen’s sloper fitting method. It will be a quick needed break from intensive One Pattern Many Looks: Blouses Craftsy Course.  I’m loving this course. I’m approaching it as if I were taking a college level course some place. I watch the lesson, do a sample(s) write-up a summary (blog). I’m learning lots but could use a short break.  First thing I did was look through my patterns.  I want to use a pattern I haven’t already fit. I mean why go to this effort if I’ve already got a working pattern?  I do want to keep to simplified shapes similar to what is demonstrated. This is unfamiliar territory. I want to explore and understand the basic concept before taking on a Herculean task. Crawl before walking. Walk before running. That kind of process.

Here’s a possibility:

Just purchased this year thinking about Autumn which is … right around the corner. Uh wait. Trace the sloper. Eliminate back and front waist darts. Rotate bust dart to neckline. Spread a little and make tucks. Add a little to back hem and curve it. Why on earth would I complicate that by tracing the pattern, slashing, folding , taping. I mean why make it difficult?

Ah here’s one:

Classic styling by  Kiwk Sew.  I still use this pattern and it must be 20 years old.  Needs to be updated for my aging figure. Wait a sec. The yoke was not created by separating the front into two pieces.  It’s an applique. Button band? Already on my sloper.  All the darts? On the Sloper.  The only real difference is the collar and neckline.Heck it would be simpler to trace my sloper. Put the tracing over the pattern and trace the neckline from the pattern. Maybe use a different color of ink so I can tell which line to use. Then trace the applique yoke and the collar. Nope. Not going to trace, slash tape etc etc when I can quickly copy a few details and be sewing.

Oh look at this pretty I always wanted to make this blouse but never got around to it:

Hold it. Trace the sloper. Rotate the bust dart to the neckline. Copy neckline from pattern. Trace ruffles. Done.. This doesn’t to be complicated by the yada yada yada

I nixed a number of patterns for similar reasons. To use Karen’s method you must have a fitted sloper and then the darts are rotated or moved to the same location they would be in the pattern. So many of my “unfit” patterns didn’t need much more than that. It didn’t make sense to copy all the pattern pieces, slash, spread, fold and tape when the differences were resolved by a simple change. Why add so much more time to the fitting process?  I nixed patterns with extended shoulders/cap sleeves because I haven’t completed that Lesson of my Craftsy Course.  I’m not 100% sure how to handle them and don’t want to make this exercise harder than it needs to be.  I nixed yokes because once the yoke is separated all that’s needed is adding seam allowances. Again, why do all the slashing yada yada when the transformation is complete with a slash or two?  I considered but decided not-this-time princess and dolmen styles. I want to get my feet wet not jump into the deep end. I’m cautious person. I like to proceed logically.

I ended up choosing a pattern for which  I’ve made 4 different muslins but couldn’t fit, Loes Hinse 1011 the Rochelle Top:

I traced a size Medium based on my bust measurement.  I traced my knit sloper with sleeve.   I know Loes says this pattern can be used with drapey rayons but I’ve decided just to accept that there’s something different about me. Her Madagascar frustrated me until the day I said “this would fit if I used a knit.”  I used a knit. It fit perfectly. That’s the same feeling I’ve gotten with the Rochelle from comparing the shapes and checking ease; oh and making 4 muslins. So I’m using my knit sloper and an ITY knit fabric.

I used a Blue Sharpie to trace the pattern. Red to trace my sloper.  Green will be the combination for a  new and hopefully fitting pattern.  Neither my knit sloper nor the pattern have a lot of landmarks.  Working with the back, I located the waist by placing a ruler across the pattern and finding the place where it is the narrowest.  Fortunately, I marked the waist on my sloper. All I needed to do was extend the waist notch across the pattern and then draw two hash marks for realigning later. There were no darts to rotate on my sloper. I know that some ease is allowed along the side seam of my sloper. I did not attempt to remove that and put it anywhere else. From previously  working with the Rochelle, I think the shoulder dart and waist darts were moved to the center back. I’m keeping this in mind, but not making any changes which I think Karen encourages you to do.   A quick glance at the pattern told me what I expected, the pattern was longer than my sloper.  I expected that because I always need to shorten the back waist length.  I split my sloper along the extended waist line.  Aligned the upper part of the back with the pattern choosing the armscye and center back as guide posts.  My sloper doesn’t have a center back  seam whereas the Rochelle as a 3/8″ and the aforementioned shaping. I had to think about it, but I’m satisfied that my sloper was properly positioned over the upper back. I placed the lower half of the sloper into position by aligning the hash marks made before it was cut in two pieces.

First thing I did was fold the pattern tissue so that the two halves of my back met at the waist line.

I opted to keep the shaping of the Rochelle along the center back but I trimmed the seam allowance to 1/4″ because that’s what my serger likes to make. I kept the shoulder and armscye of the sloper. These were difficult-to-achieve critical-fit areas. Karen recommends slashing either or both the sloper and pattern  to force alignment. My shoulder was higher than the tissue. Splitting the pattern tissue seemed unneeded. I achieved the same end result when  I used my rotary cutter and trimmed the pattern to my sloper’s lines.  I did change the neck and shoulder length.  I think the Rochelle is a boat neck.  I like boat necks but I”ve learned that too wide a neckline falls off my body.  Her neckline was 2″ wider and 1″ deeper than my sloper.  Hoping  to at least create a hint of Loes styling, I made the sloper and final neckline 1.5″ wider and 1/2″ deeper than my sloper.  I used my sloper’s side seam because I need the room for my rear end.  Once all my green lines were made, I trimmed both tissues (copy of sloper and copy of pattern) just inside the green line.  That removed the green lines completely and avoids inadvertently adding additional ease or changing the shape of my sloper.

I repeated the same process for the front:

and three-quarter sleeve.

Will it work?



3 thoughts on “Fitting With A Sloper

  1. Thank you for these details and pictures. I read the article and was having a hard time wrapping my head around it- I’ve just returned to sewing after 30 years hiatus. It looks very interesting.


    1. Lora
      Thank you. I’m still wrapping my head around this concept. I may be making it harder than it is. I’m glad if anything I wrote or any pics I shared helps you.


  2. Very interesting blog. Thanks for the link to the original article! This will be a fun process to observe. I hope we find this has a happy ending and the Rochelle works for you!!



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