A lot of people ask me about fitting patterns and altering clothes they’ve already bought, so I’m putting my answers here!

If you’re getting the feeling that my #1 advice is to not buy it in the first place, you’re right!

This isn’t only because prevention is better than cure, but also because:

This means that construction techniques are very different than they were several decades ago. Today we have narrower seam allowances, larger stitches, and low quality fabrics. These features make alterations difficult to execute for most items.

Sewing isn’t taught in schools as widely as it used to be. Fewer people (in the UK at least, where I live) know how to do it well these days. You can learn how to sew, but it takes years of experience to be able to tackle alterations with confidence.

Low wages and overseas manufacturing also makes it difficult to find people who’ll take on alterations.

Choose bespoke or sew your own

My best and honest advice is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You’re much better off making your own clothes or finding a small business that specialises in made to measure. The Emperor’s Old Clothes, Grey Milk, and Molby the Label are good places to start. If you see somethiing you like in the shops, online, or on Pinterest, curate some inspiration and go from there.

Going for made to measure means you won’t be sucked into mind games of sunk costs and loss aversion. The time and effort you put into getting a RTW item altered – with no serious guarantee you’ll like it – doesn’t make sense. Why not just order exactly what you want AND have it fit you perfectly?

You have to decide for yourself what’s worth more – or what will cost you more: the value of investing in bespoke or the effort of getting clothes altered. Or, learning to sew your own clothes and buying sewing patterns.

Another thing they don’t tell you: Patterns NEVER fit straight out of the envelope

I spend a lot of time writing blog posts about pattern fitting and alterations! This goes for knitting patterns and sewing patterns. But before I get into that, you might have heard the sewing community talk about making toiles or pretest garments to check the fit. I’ll tell you more about that next.

Natalie Warner

I design size inclusive knitting patterns for clothes makers who want their garments to fit well. Clothes should serve you, not the other way around. You alter clothes to fit you, not alter yourself to fit the clothes. This is at the heart of everything I do.

I also teach other people how to design knitwear and am currently creating a comprehensive, year-long knitwear design course, covering everything from illustration to pattern grading.

If you’re enjoying my content, you can get more by reading my blog, which features several articles on garment fitting, alterations, knitwear design and sewing pattern reviews, following me on Instagram or Pinterest @natalieinstitches, or signing up to my newsletter.