What with the holidays and the root canals and the laziness, I haven’t had time for actual sewing lately so I have embarked on a little bit of sewing geek-out research. Namely, Misses’ Fitting Shell geek-out research.

Each major pattern company has a fitting shell —

V1004 Vogue Misses’ Fitting Shell


McCall’s M2718 Misses’ Fitting Shell



Butterick B5746 Misses’ Fitting Shell


…the boilerplate dress from which all of their patterns are designed. The fitting shell is like Bisquick. Maybe you end up making biscuits, maybe an impossible apple pie, but you open the same box and start with the same powder as step one. The pattern people make everything, from the designer patterns to the 1-Hour quickies, by building upon that basic design.

There is a theory, which Mrs. Bishop supports, that it is worthwhile to make up this basic dress in checked gingham and note all of the changes you had to make to it for the dress to fit you perfectly. Then you will automatically make all of those changes to any and all subsequent patterns by that company in that size.

So if you like extra eggy pancakes, you will always add one extra egg if the mix is basic Bisquick. Banana pancakes, blueberry pancakes, cinnamon apple pecan stuffed pancakes — it doesn’t matter because Bisquick always needs one extra egg.

icelandic pancakes

You can’t assume the same thing about Trader Joe’s, though. So that requires another fitting shell. So the question was:

Is Trader Joe’s pancake mix actually Bisquick packaged in a different box?

No this is not Bisquick, but you know what I mean. Stay with me here.

Butterick, McCall’s, and Vogue all used to be separate pattern companies, but now they are all one huge sewing pattern conglomerate with different branding. But many sewers feel strongly about those brands — Butterick patterns are unfitted, McCalls have weird armscye issues, Vogue offers the best fit. But if they are all really using the same Misses’ fitting shell to design from, then my assumptions are probably wrong.

So I waited for a big pattern sale and bought all three patterns. And now I know for sure — Butterick and Vogue are using the same basic pattern. I am going to assume that McCall’s is too, but the pattern they sell for fitting is different. That’s because it was designed by Palmer/Pletsch as a tool to really master fitting, and includes basic patterns for shirts, dresses, etc. too.  I don’t believe McCall’s is designing from the Palmer/Pletsch pattern but I am not nearly invested enough in this project to test the theory.

So if I make either fitting shell and fit it perfectly, I can make those changes and perfect the fit of any Butterick, Vogue, or McCall pattern.

So why wouldn’t I just go ahead and do this super clever thing? Because I have read many comments on the interwebs from frustrated sewers who get bogged down trying to fit shells, and I am worried that I will make it up, kill myself fitting it, and then won’t really find it that useful in fitting my patterns because of design ease.

Now I have to decide whether to go back and make the gingham fitting shell or move forward with the three piece ensemble. Mrs. Bishop has never given me a choice before and I don’t like it. I am paralyzed by indecision.

Of course this is no time to make a fitting shell since I have been playing this dangerous game of fantasy eating. You know, when you eat everything in sight at Thanksgiving and don’t gain 2o pounds immediately? So then you think “Hey! I’m somehow outside the rules that apply to mere mortals. I can eat whatever I want and somehow the calories aren’t sticking to me. I’m like Highlander for ladies!!! I am going to eat this tub of icing now.”

So what do you think? Anybody out there swear by fitting shells? Or conversely, anybody think they are a colossal waste of time? Let’s here about it in the comments!