Sunday, October 2, 2011

Making a Sloper with McCall's 2718 Fitting Shell

It will be hard for anyone except me to appreciate the beauty of this project! But all of us who love to sew travel the never-ending road in search of the perfect fitting garment. Our weight fluctuates, we age, styles change, we fall in and out of love with our bodies and want to show off or camouflage them accordingly...all of these things come into play when it comes to fit. I've been studying Fit for Real People by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto and think it is the best approach for getting a great fit. I embarked upon the odyssey by purchasing the pattern they recommend to make a fitting shell from McCall's 2718, and followed both the book and the pattern directions to make my fitting shell and construct my sloper.

As they point out, very seldom, if ever, will we wear a garment as close-fitting as the fitting shell. It is virtually like a second skin, with a minimum of ease built in. Based on my upper bust measurement I used a size 12 pattern and modified as needed. The pattern comes with 5 different cup sizes for the bodice from A to DD. I needed the latter. The patterns that we purchase are based on a B cup size. I don't even think I had a B cup at birth...

Aside from grading the waist and hips out, the most significant things I learned from this process were that I need both a wide back adjustment as well as an erect back adjustment. The process is incredibly interesting as adjustments become noticeable based on the wrinkles formed.

The erect back adjustment can be seen as the horizontal tuck above the bodice darts.
Without the tuck a wrinkle formed there...very interesting discovery!

The pattern is first "tissue fitted" which is preparing the pattern with tape and pins and then it is literally "tried on" to see how we vary from the basic pattern size. After making paper adjustments a shell is cut from 1/4" gingham. Further fitting is done on the shell and then markings are transferred back to the paper pattern. This amended paper pattern is your body's "roadmap" and becomes a sloper that can then be compared to any fashion pattern taking the guesswork out of your sewing projects.  

The premise of this exercise is that skirt + bodice = dress. The skirt is easy enough to fit on your own but you will really need to enlist a friends help with the bodice. I didn't require any further alteration to the bodice front other than the cup size. Below is a picture of the bodice back showing the 1/2" broad back adjustment that I will make as well as the marking for the erect back adjustment.

The broad back adjustment is the vertical pleat marked with red dashes. The erect back adjustment is the horizontal red mark at the top of the back dart. It begins as a 1/4" pleat and tapers off to nothing toward the arm.

As Pati and Marta point out, depending on the amount of ease that your planned garment allows, some, none or all of the adjustments on your sloper will be used. Once you have made this ultra-close fitting shell from your sloper, anything with more ease will be a breeze. When complete I intend to bond fusible interfacing to my sloper so I will have a permanent pattern showing how my body differs from the standard patterns of the Big 4. I highly recommend this process as a way to get to know your body's roadmap and have more great fitting garments! 


  1. Thank you for posting this! This is so TIMELY for me. After a failed project for a fitted blazer that turned out to not be fitted at all (amd ruined some really nice fabric) - I just ordered a custom-sized torso sloper pattern for my tall, very pear-shaped body. Can't WAIT to get it and sew a sloper that actually fits me!

    It would be great if you get a chance to do any follow up posts about how to use a sloper pattern to adjust sewing patterns (from the Big 4) in the future.

    Thanks again,

  2. I am getting a good collection of the Palmer Pletsch books, dvd's and even their patterns and really like this method of fitting. I nearly always do a FBA, and a broad back adjustment, I also have to lengthen the body by 1" and then adjust for a sway back too.

    I have just rec'd my copy of their new jeans DVD which is a much longer process and on my to do list.

    Well done on your great fitting sloper.

    p/s my friend in Houston is asking that I join her on one of their sewing courses which I really want to do.

  3. I applaud you as you work through this process. I am too lackadaisical to do this and I KNOW that is a wrong attitude. You already sew gorgeous clothes and this will only make your sewing reach new heights. Wonderful!!

  4. I also posted this on your PR review, but not sure if you saw it: I have a quick question as regards to choosing the pattern size based on the high bust. I assume you correlate your high bust to the closest "bust" measurement on the back of the pattern and not on the finished garment measures (which is how I typically decide which size to cut). If so, in my last dress I should have cut a 12 bodice which seems that it would be too big. Is this also the size I should purchase to make my sloper?

    1. Also I can't seem to find McCall's 2718 anywhere! Three JoAnn's in my area, and not even one copy (of any size) between them. Guess I'll have to scour Ebay

    2. Hi Michelle,

      My main email has been down as the server is in NYC so I wasn't able to see PR's prompt about your message. My monkey business email is Back to your question, you would base your pattern size choice on your upper bust measurement based on the pattern envelope measurements, not the finished garment measurements. The reason I like the across chest measurement is that it is one straight measurement across the chest, not around the upper bust, which in my opinion leaves a lot of question as to where to place the tape.

      The across the chest measurment is based on a size 14 as the base. So, if you measure 14" from armpit crease to armpit crease you would use a size 14 pattern. For every half inch up or down you go to the next size. In my case, I measure 13.5" across so I use a size 12. The basis of this theory is that this neck/shoulder/chest area is the the most difficult to alter therefore, if you can fit that area correctly, you are left with adjustments in areas that are easier to alter. Does this make sense?

      The cross chest measurment is sort of hard to do by yourself. If you can enlist the help of a friend, here is a good way to do it: Shove a magazine under each arm. Have your friend measure across your chest from one armpit crease to the other. Go to the nearest 1/2". That is your starting point to figure from size 14.

      Like I said on your review, if you happen to find yourself being a size 12 I have an extra M2718 that has not been used. You are welcome to have it if you'd just pay the shipping cost.

      I hope this info helps! I seemed to be the only one on PR that would address your concern. While I thought your dress was adorable and could have just said that, it sounded like you were really asking for suggestions so I thought I would offer up mine. Feel free to email me directly at the above address. Happy to answer any questions you may still have.

      Dorcas in Houston


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