Best Books on How to Fit Sewing Patterns

Best Books on How to Fit Sewing Patterns

We provide detailed bodice-fitting instruction in our Learn to Sew and Fit Bodices course, and also at the beginning of our Creative Hinterland pattern making course, both of which feature the Hinterland Dress.

For those who would like to dive more deeply into the topic of fitting sewing patterns on their own, here is a list of our favorite books on the topic:

Best Overall Sewing Books

These books are not fitting-specific, but are great sewing books in general.

  • The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (CGTS), 1976 edition. This is my “sewing textbook” when I’m teaching a beginner, and is a fabulous reference to have when you’re planning the sewing steps needed for your project. The index is extensive, and since it’s a vintage book, the techniques don’t use all kinds of bells and whistles and fancy equipment. The illustrations are spectacular. (There’s a “New Complete Guide”, but the content was reduced, and it has more home decor content, so I prefer the Complete Guide.) New to 2022, the book has been re-published with new content. I don’t own it at the moment, so I can’t speak to how it compares to the 1976 era editions, but it looks to me like it has many of the original illustrations, so it’s probably a practical alternative to a vintage edition!
  • If you find yourself unable to get your hands on this out-of-print but oh-so-wonderful CGTS, I like The Sewing Book, by Alison Smith. While the breadth of content is not as exhaustive as the CGTS, there’s a great glossary and index, and a good variety of closures, finishes, and seam options discussed. If you prefer photos over illustrations when it comes to sewing steps, you might like this book more than the CGTS.

Best Fitting Books

  • Singer’s The Perfect Fit, Singer Sewing Reference Library. Although also dated (it’s from the ‘80s), the photos are really clear and helpful. It’s not exhaustive, but it demonstrates the techniques well, with photos and descriptions.
  • The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, by Sarah Veblen. This book introduces the principles of fitting, and is written for a sewer who is fitting a client. The photos are clear and well explained. Not ALL fitting techniques are covered, but the principles of balance, accuracy, loss and gain are clearly demonstrated.
  • Smart Fitting Solutions, by Kenneth King. Again, not exhaustive in fitting solutions, but the principles of balance, net loss and net gain are very well taught. It’s a good one to read from front to back to gain understanding of the ideas as a whole, and then refer to when you need to. 
  • Fitting and Pattern Alteration, by Elizabeth Liechty, Judith Rasband, and Della Pottberg-Steineckert. This book is a fair bit more costly, but so valuable. Its index of fitting solutions is the most thorough I’ve found. If you’ll be doing a lot of sewing and fitting, this book is worth it. 
  • Ahead of the Curve, by Jenny Rushmore. While written specifically for curvy sewists, this book has a refreshingly modern and body positive tone to the language, and very applicable pattern alterations. Even if you’d not consider yourself a curvy sewist, this is an excellent resource.
  • Fit for Real People, by Alto and Palmer. While covering fitting for bodices and skirts fairly well, the book is fairly dated, and you have to wade through a lot of talk about flattering your body to get to the meat of the book. Some people really love it, so it’s worth requesting from the library to see if it’s for you.

Best Pattern Making Books

And finally, pattern making is closely related to fitting, as we demonstrate in the Creative Hinterland course. These books are excellent.

  • Patternmaking for Fashion Design, by Helen Joseph Armstrong. Well known in college design programs, this book is a little more conversational in tone than Metric Pattern Cutting, and works through drafting basic blocks and many, many design ideas and their pattern manipulations. This book is a great resource due to its variety and explanations, though the instruction is a little sparse at times. It does not cover sewing techniques.
  • Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear, by Winifred Aldrich. Teaching pattern drafting from the first line on the page, this book is not exhaustive in teaching, but has many diagrams showing how to alter the basic blocks to achieve different style features. Yes, it’s also in metric. It does not cover sewing techniques. 
  • The Building Block Dress, by Liesl Gibson. Written as a manual for hacking a child’s dress, this book is a glorious wealth of pattern manipulation ideas. The real beauty of it is the accompanying sewing steps, resolving the need for a lot of research on the construction of your new design. While you may not ever take the child-sized pattern out of the envelope, the book is still a great resource.