Encounters with McCalls' quixotic definition of acceptable ease

Well, let me say upfront that I am one unhappy sewist.
Over the last week, I've been working on a muslin for McCalls 6441:

I have spent hours of my life I will never get back, and it's been a waste of time as far as I can tell.
The problem:  that chestnut, the unusual definition of ease adopted by the Big 4 pattern companies.

Pictures tell a story, here are two that say it all.
I'm pinching out a good six inches there are at the waist. Ridiculous.

And the back is completely out of control.
And this is the muslin for what is described as a "close fitting" jacket. Sorry, but I find this completely unacceptable.
I am the first to admit that I am no expert when it comes to fitting. But I am not a beginner either. I don't think this is the result of a mistake I've made.
For info, I traced a 14 at the bust according to my high bust measurement, then graded out to an 18 at waist and hip. (I did an FBA.)My measurements at waist and hip place me between 16 and 18, so I went up to 18, expecting to have to deal with some excess. But this is ludicrous.
The thing is, I checked my measurements against McCalls alleged finished pattern measurements. They are completely and utterly wrong. For example, McCalls has the finished pattern measurement at the waist as 92, which would give me 12 cm of ease at the waist. Instead, I have ended up with a  finished waist measurement of 105!!!! Similarly, the hip: McCalls alleged finished pattern measurement: 119cm. What I found: 126cm! Gah!
The irony is that this is one of McCalls Palmer/Pletsch fitting patterns.
So now I am trying to decide whether to try and wrestle this muslin into submission, or start the whole thing again, and maybe cut a 14 all over. I don't know. I'll have to go and measure the pattern pieces myself, because McCalls seems unable to do this. Seriously, if I had found a similar jacket in a indie line, I would be sewing that. I never seem to have issues of excessive ease in indie patterns. And I trawled through my back issues of Burda. Plenty of jackets there, but all a bit too tricksy for my level of jacket making. I need to work up to them.
I was hoping to crack on to cutting out the jacket this weekend. Instead I'll be playing mind games with the McCalls designers instead. Not happy.
As ever, any words of wisdom from the sewing community would be most welcome. In any case, this ranty post has helped me blow off some steam.
I'm sure I'll get there at some point. But I'm also sure I'll never open a McCalls catalogue again.


  1. This is why I have given up on mccalls. People seem to deal with it by cutting a smaller size. But that requires an irritating level of guesswork and muslin making. If the pattern is cheap I can see the point, but and since they seldom cost less than 10 dollars here, even on sale, I prefer to spend my money on better patterns. But, since you've made a start on this one, I think it would be worth seeing it through using the flat pattern measurements rather than the alleged ones provided. Style Arc do have some nice jackets - check out the janet and Lori - but not with a front zip like this one. Good luck!

  2. Thank you! "an irritating level of guesswork and muslin making" - yes, exactly. This ease thing makes getting a good fit much more difficult than it could be. I bought this pattern on sale, and if I had paid full freight the annoyance would be much greater. I considered Style Arc, but as this would only be my second lined jacket, I need some hand holding for the construction process, which Style Arc definitely does not do.

  3. Paola it looks like you need a 14 through the shoulders and maybe a graduation to 16 at the hips..or turn the muslin inside out and get someone to pin it then use those measurements against the flat pattern pieces.
    BTW The amount of height that McCalls used to put in their jacket sleeve heads used to annoy me greatly but they seem to have toned that down a bit.
    Also did you know they now have a blog? Maybe you could ask questions regarding the fit there and say 'What the fit McCalls!"

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Valerie. I've decided to leave this jacket for a day so I can cool down. I might take your suggestion and try it out tomorrow.
      Yes, the sleeve. I haven't gotten to the sleeve yet, but I've noted the suspiciously high sleeve heads already, and am fully expecting more drama there.
      Thanks for letting me know about the McCalls blog. I've been thinking about contacting them somehow to get their take on this whole fit thing, or at least to let them know of my displeasure!

  4. How frustrating, I would start with my measurements and add how much ease you like e.g. a jacket that you like the fit of, measure it and see how it compares to the McCalls one. 7cm ease is about what I work for a coat but I like my garments a bit closer fitting. Once you get these numbers work out what size you should be, it could be quite interesting, using your HB measurement so you get the shoulders right.

    1. Great advice, Sharon. I don't have a similar fitting jacket in my wardrobe at the moment, the closest thing I have is a Burda fitted blouse, but I reckon I could make an educated guess at acceptable ease from that.

  5. Oh No! You so don't want to know that there was a magical fitting class at Tessutis' (melb) today & one of the attendees flew in from Tas ;)
    I can't keep track of the ease inbuilt in each of the companies and second the 'give McCalls a contact' suggestion. I've been looking for a similar pattern & will now give this one a wide berth - can you use the instructions for this with the fit of the StyleArc one?
    Perhaps now is the perfect time for one of the experienced seamstresses to give us all a tutorial on converting a button closure to an exposed zip in a lined jacket - please? ;)

    1. Aargh! You are killing me - a fitting class, that is what I need! Or at least someone who knows how to translate McCalls patterns to something wearable!
      I've shot McCalls an email, and will report back on the reply!
      I've checked out the StyleArc jacket patterns, but they are just not what I had in mind for my ensemble. I'm starting to think about starting everything over from scratch.

  6. So sorry to hear of your fitting frustrations with McCalls Paola. Maybe it would be better to just move onto another pattern company. I have found Style Arc patterns to be a great fit for me, but I guess that won't be the case for everyone. It's certainly nice to find a pattern company that fits with little alteration required.

  7. I've been seriously thinking about changing over to Style Arc too - I am a straight 12 in their measurements, and they don't carry this excessive ease thing either. I have my mind set on a zip-front jacket, and haven't found anything in their range. The other drawback is that the last time I ordered Style Arc, it took 2 weeks to get to me, time I just don't have, given my self-imposed sewing schedule. I think I'll persevere with McCalls for the moment. Sigh

  8. I've found the amount of ease provided in many commercial patterns to be ridiculous as well, but I recommend double-checking the seam allowances described on the tissue or in the pattern -- the Palmer/Pletsch and other "fitting-focused" patterns often include 1" seam allowances (especially on vertical seams) to enable various fitting solutions, without heavily advertising the wider-than-usual allowances for those who may only skim the instructions. Over 8 seams, the difference between the standard (expected) 5/8" allowance and the "fitting" 1" allowance could easily add 6" to the garment.

    1. Since writing this post I've plugged away at this jacket, and will post again soon. I know Palmer/Pletsch advocate the 1" SA, so I went back to the pattern to check the seam allowances in case I missed something - in this case, no. normal 5/8"allowances.

    2. Well, that just makes the sizing even weirder! Good luck making it work for you!!


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