I have been searching for the perfect nursing sundress, as I live in a tropical country that is hot and humid (the feels like temperature was recently 46C). I’m also picky as I wanted it to be a woven dress with straps that will cover a bra and not too tightly fitted but also not a sack. Nursing clothes are often lumped in with maternity and frequently patterns are made for knit fabric so the pickings were slim.
After another fruitless session of browsing through patterns and Instagram posts, I remembered that I already own the something that might be an option with some modifications — the Truly Victorian (TV) Chemise and Drawers (TV102).
Now, I’ve owned this pattern for so long, that what I have is still the hand-drawn drafting on paper (and it uses a different sizing system than the current version) but I did confirm with the designer that although it’s gone through a few redrafts (and is now available as a PDF) that it is substantially the same and I didn’t need to get the new version.
A few things to know about TV patterns — as they are based on historical garments, they are usually drafted for a higher and smaller armhole than modern patterns and the chemise is made to be tightened with a drawstring so you can wear it both on and off the shoulder underneath a corset. This is important for how I’m altering it.
Sizing wise, I used my high bust (HB) measurement as my starting point. My HB is ~29” (73.5 cm) and the M (as the sizing on my copy goes) is 30” for full bust (FB). My full bust (FB) is almost 35” (88.5 cm) with a very significant asymmetry due to nursing; this leaves me with an almost 6” difference between high and full bust.
I am someone who needs to use their straight HB measurement to decide on a size to ensure it matches my frame. Many people find that HB+2” works better (see previous Sew Busty posts).
Before I even get to the full bust alterations (FBA) needed, I need to take some of the width out of the back because I don’t want the dress falling off while nursing and I have a very narrow back width. (This comes up on nearly every pattern and also up the last time I made the chemise and other TV patterns). After measuring myself and the pattern, I reduced the width at center back by 1”; although I thought I might need another 1/2” taken out; I can just add a seam to center back if needed.
I also traced off the pattern and graded it from M under the arms to L from the notch to the hem so it’s not form fitting at my hips, as I am slightly pear-shaped. I wanted to keep it slightly A-line rather than clingy.
The front is where we get to the tricky part of alterations as I have a very high set bust and apex; the bottom of my bust is almost in-line with the top of my armpit.
Traditional FBAs don’t give need the extra room where I need it as they assume the extra space is needed lower, so I often need what another Busty Sewing community member calls a “high FBA” — which involves drawing a line through my apex point horizontally, cutting off the pattern and hinging to the armscythe and then spreading. This gives the room where I need it.
In this case I made a 2 1/4” FBA for a total of 4.5” which is less than the ~6” difference between my FB and HB but this pattern already has a lot of extra ease.
I then trued and redrew the armhole and center front. The straps are also now set in further so I don’t have to do a separate narrow shoulder adjustment. The center front is now wider and “too big” but this is where the ease I will need to pull down to nurse will come from.
Finishing the chemise is also another place I needed to make small changes. The pattern originally calls for you to overlock and then apply lace with ribbon over the top. I have decided to do a partial self lining to finish (down to the notch) which means I need to add the 1/2” seam allowance for the lining to the neckline. In order to snug up the front neckline, I will run ribbon through the a topstitched channel at the neckline and out eyelet holes at CF. I am not adding to the armholes as they are good as is. I am also adding pockets to the side seams and marked the pattern for that and am using a pocket piece from a different pattern. I plan to use this method of bag lining the facing to avoid stitch lines from running over each other.
All of my preplanning paid off with very minor changes. I ended up having to take out 1” of each side of the back with a pleat as it was too wide still when I moved my arms. The front is slightly too low which is perfect as that will eventually be gathered to allow for nursing.
I did have issues with the bag lining. Even though I stay-stitched my fabric, it must have stretched as the facing and fashion fabric weren’t lining up perfectly and I ended up having to fudge the results. The straps were also really too narrow to bag line properly and some of the fashion fabric layer is distorted — but this dress has a gathered neckline which hides the distortion unless you are very close.
I also ended up adding in faux tie straps (from this free pattern and tutorial) which serve two purposes: to hold bra straps and to add detail at the shoulders.
The gathering of the neckline is done by way of a drawstring that is secured to the strap at the shoulder and comes out of an eyelet on the facing.
A trick I came across recently for hemming a dress or shirt that has a curve is to run along the edge with a serger with the differential feed turned all the way up. This slightly gathers the edge and lets you turn and hem easily without it getting wonky. I tried it out and it worked very well! I didn’t get any puckers or weird spots in the hem.
Finally, everything was serged to finish as this was a very shred-y fabric.
Final Dress Thoughts:
This was a successful experiment and I already have ideas for making more dresses. Finding woven nursing dresses that don’t require zippers or other hardware to nurse in is difficult. It’s even more difficult when you need to have bra coverage and are busty. Altering the Truly Victorian pattern also meant that I started out with a base that already has a smaller armhole – key to preventing gapping when I have a high-set bust and narrow shoulders. I tried some things that were less than successful (the bag lining for the narrow straps) but was able to work around that to have a wearable dress.
Sea_born_abound has been sewing for over 30 year, originally learning when she was a child from her mother and grandmother. She started taking it up seriously as a hobby and relaxation tool as a young adult when nothing fit properly.
Fit books seem to think that people with large busts/projected chests top out at a garment sewing DD. (Remember that bra cups aren’t the same as your garment sewing cup size! Learn more about determining your garment sewing cup size here!)
Well, as a current garment sewing K cup (11″ difference between high and full bust), I call bullshit.
Giant full bust adjustments can look so different from what you see on normal FBA tutorials. That’s why I’ve started this series on GIANT FBAs.
I’m here to show you what it looks like when you need to add more than 4″ to your bust/projected chest — without adding to your waist!
When I saw this dress from Baltic Born (knowing it would never fit my bust correctly), I was inspired to make something similar for my upcoming maternity photos. In comes the Roseclair!
I wanted a faux wrap, surplice neckline and a gathered skirt that would accommodate my growing tummy without being only usable for maternity.
So this is not only a FBA tutorial, but also a Roseclair hack — I’ll give a quick run down of how I took the wrap style and turned it into this surplice + gathered skirt.
It’s worth noting that while I’m demonstrating this giant FBA for woven bodices on the Roseclair, this alteration is 100% do-able on other woven, darted bodices. The steps will essentially be the same. (Struggling with an FBA? Post on the Sew Busty Facebook group or reach out to me!)
Getting prepared for your FBA
Choosing a base size
As usual, you need to start with your high bust measurement, measured braless.
I will repeat this every time I write about performing FBAs: You need to measure your high bust without a bra on because you want to capture as little breast tissue in this measurement as possible. This is because you’re not really trying to measure your high bust, as it’ll measure in the garment (when you’ll probably be wearing a bra). You’re really trying to measure your skeletal frame; high bust is just acting as a proxy for this.
Lucky for me, the Cashmerette Roseclair lists the high bust measurement on the size chart. I measure about 35″ at the high bust, which puts me at a size 10 for my base size.
If your pattern does not include a high bust measurement, choosing your base size will require a bit of math. It will also require you to know what garment cup size the pattern is drafted for. Most garment patterns are drafted for a garment B cup — a 2″ difference between high and full bust — so if yours doesn’t specify, this is a semi-safe assumption. That said, it’s worth taking a peek at the Busty Pattern Database to double check that the designer doesn’t draft for a larger cup size.
If this pattern was drafted for a garment B cup — again, 2″ between high and full bust — I’d add 2″ to my high bust measurement for a total of 37″. I would then use this to choose size based on the full bust line. (We’re adding 2″ because we’re assuming that the high bust the pattern is drafted for is 2″ smaller than the full bust measurement.)
For example, on the Tilly and the Buttons Lyra Dress — which does not have high bust listed and is drafted for a garment B cup — I’d need between a 4 and a 5 based on my high bust + 2″ measurement of 37″. Again, this is assuming that the high bust of the size 4 is 34″ (36-2) and the size 5 is 36″ (38-2), while my high bust is 35″. Since I’d be between sizes, I’d probably look at the finished garment measurements to decide which size to go with — size 4 if the pattern appears to include more ease, and size 5 if the pattern doesn’t include much ease.
For a woven bodice, you just need to do some subtraction.
Take your full bust/projected chest measurement (in my case, 46″) and subtract from that the full bust measurement given on the pattern size chart. That’s it.
For me, that means: My bust: 46″ – Drafted bust: 40.5″ (the full bust measurement for the 10 G/H cup) = 5.5″
I needed to add 5.5″ total. (However, I rounded up to adding 6″ since pregnancy/postpartum boobs are unpredictable, so I’ll be showing a 6″ FBA.)
Going back to the Lyra for reference to a pattern that doesn’t include high bust, if I were making a size 4, I’d do 46 – 36 = 10, and know I’d need to add 10″ total.
You’ll need to divide this total by two to figure out how much to add on each side:
5.5″/2 = 2.25″ per side (but, again, I’m rounding up to 3″ to give myself some extra ease).
Doing the FBA
Finding your apex
I happen to know from making Cashmerette patterns in the past that the apex is pretty much spot on for me, so I didn’t bother moving the apex. However, if you’re using a pattern by a designer you’ve never sewn before, it’s a good idea to double check apex placement before performing your FBA.
I like to get the apex placement mostly correct before doing an FBA, and then fine tune after, since the FBA can move the apex slightly.
There are a couple ways to do this on a woven bodice:
You can hold the tissue pattern up to your torso, marking roughly where the tissue skims over the “peak” of your bust/projected chest.
You can use your bodice sloper to compare and mark the apex.
You can use a well-fitting pattern to compare and mark the apex.
With your apex in roughly the right place, we need to make some markings:
Line A: from the bottom of your pattern to the apex, parallel with the grain line
Line B: from the middle of the bust dart to your apex
Line C: from about 2/3 up your armscye to your apex
Line D: perpendicular to the grain line, across the bottom of the pattern (I just used the lengthen/shorten line — this needs to be all the way across the pattern)
Line E: from your apex to roughly halfway through your shoulder
As I mentioned in the Giant Knit FBA Tutorial, many FBA tutorials will tell you to put Line C lower on the armscye. This doesn’t work very well for larger FBAs, as it causes too much armscye distortion.
Mark your seam allowances at Lines C and E. This will be super important later.
Cutting the Lines
Let’s start snipping! But first, stick a piece of tape at the apex and the seam allowances on Line C and E.
You’re going to start at the bottom of Line A and cut to the apex, then from the apex along Line C to — but not through — the armscye seam allowance. Then snip the seam allowance from the opposite direction, leaving a pivot point at the seam allowance.
Then you’ll cut up from the apex along Line E to — but, again not through — the shoulder seam allowance. Then snip the seam allowance from the other direction, again creating a pivot point at the seam allowance.
Finally, cut from the side along Line B to but not through the apex, making a pivot point at the apex.
The fun part: adding room at the bust/projected chest!
At this point, I tape down the center front side of my pattern along Line A onto another piece of pattern paper. I then draw a line however many inches from Line A on the extra paper (in this case, 3″ since I’m adding a total of 6″ — 3″ per side).
This line allows me to line up the side seam side of Line A with, which is the next step.
Pull the side seam side (here, the left of the photo) down and out to match that side of Line A with the line you just drew.
As you’re doing this, evaluate how much space you’d like to add along Line E — which is essentially the high bust — versus how much you’d like to add at Line C. I prefer to add as little at Line E as I can without distorting the armcye. You can see the options in this slideshow:
Deciding how much to add at Line E versus Line C is really about knowing your body. If you have a fuller high bust, adding more at Line E might work great for you! I do not, so I try to aim for a balance between inches added at high bust and limiting armscye distortion.
Once you have everything where you want it, go ahead and tape everything down, just being sure not to tape along Line A below Line D.
Now we need to level the bottom of the bodice. On most FBAs, this is going to involve lowering the center front side of Line A to match the side seam side. But, you may notice that at a certain point, the pendulum begins to swing back, and you may end up with a longer bodice at the center front than at the side seam. This is what happened to me!
Honestly, this has never happened to me before, so I’m not really speaking with authority here. But I went ahead and took a leap of faith and cut along Line D from the side seam to Line A, moving that down to be level with the bottom of my bodice at the center front. I recommend you do the same — it seems to have worked!
You may actually need to add even more length, because the “pendulum has swung.” Really, this only had me adding about 3/8″, which seemed like … not a lot. But I decided to go ahead and muslin this, especially knowing that I really wanted this dress to fit at the underbust rather than the true waist. Depending on your bust height, you may want to go ahead and add a bit more length at the center front before you muslin.
Now, this does make my side seam a tiny bit longer, but I also know I’m going to adjust my armscye down a bit in a later step, so that will solve that side seam issue.
splitting the dart
Now we need to deal with the GIANT dart we’ve created. I’m going to start by drawing in what would be my new dart, just so you can see how ridiculous it is.
First, I marked the center of the dart. Then, I draw the center line of my new dart — the dart I’m actually going to split — all the way to the apex. Along this line, 2.5″ toward the side seam from the apex, I mark the vanishing point.
The vanishing point is what prevents darts from being too pointy. For those of us with larger busts, our vanishing points need to be further from the bust. Here’s the chart of what I recommended for vanishing points in my Giant Knit FBA Tutorial:
I+ garment cup
9″+ (22.85 cm+) full/high bust difference
2.5″ (6.35 cm)
G-H garment cup
7-8″ (17.8-20.3 cm) full/high bust difference
2″ (5 cm)
DD/E-F garment cup
5-6″ (12.7-15.2 cm) full/high bust difference
1.5″ (3.8 cm)
D garment cup or smaller
4″ or less (10.2 cm) full/high bust difference
1″ (2.5 cm)
I then connect this vanishing point to the dart ends — the original dart ends. This gives me my new dart, which I’ve marked in the final picture of this slideshow in a dashed sharpie line:
If it’s not clear, this dart is HUGE. I measured the full dart, and it was 7.5″ wide. That’s not going to work.
I want to split this into two, roughly equally-wide side darts. To do this, I’m first going to draw a line from my apex to the side seam where I want my second dart to lay.
Next, cut along the center line of the new dart (the one that I had outlined in dashed sharpie), to but not through the apex. Also cut along the line for the new dart that I just drew, again to but not through the apex. This will create a pivot point at the apex:
Putting extra pattern paper behind my new dart (where you can see hardwood in the picture above), I’m going to pivot upward until my darts are roughly equal width — that is, until the width between my original dart legs is roughly equal to the amount I can see the new pattern paper.
Tape this down, and find the center of the new dart, drawing a line from the apex to the center:
Along this line, mark your vanishing point, using the chart above to select how far from your apex your vanishing point should be (again, I chose 2.5″).
You’ll similarly need to mark the center of the original dart (which is now quite a bit smaller!), draw the center line, and mark the vanishing point, using the same method.
Finally, connect this vanishing point to the dart ends. For the original dart, your dart ends are the same dart ends as on the original pattern. For the new dart, the dart ends are where you see the new pattern paper.
Here are my finished side darts, marked in solid sharpie:
Reducing the Waist (That Is, Creating Waist Darts!)
On a lot of FBA tutorials, you’ll see a recommendation to remove the amount you’ve added to the waist from the side seam. The problem is, that really just doesn’t work well when we’re adding as much as we’re adding here.
Removing 3″ from the side seam would have me end up with a wild-looking, angled side seam. And while that works fairly well in knits, as you saw in the Giant Knit FBA Tutorial, it doesn’t work so well in wovens.
You have a couple options instead. One, you can remove a small amount, say an inch, from the side seam, and take the rest in waist darts. Two, you can take it all in waist darts (what I chose to do, and what I’ll choose here). Three, you can take a small amount from the side seam, a small amount from center front (assuming you don’t need to cut on the fold), and the rest in waist darts.
Especially because I intend this dress to fit at the underbust/empire waist — meaning I have less room from bust to underbust to remove width at the waist — I chose to take all the extra width using waist darts.
The first step to this is to measure how much total width in waist darts you’ll need. Measure from one dart leg to the other, including the inches you added during the FBA. Mine was about 4-5/8″.
Now that you know the total width you need to remove using waist darts, divide that amount in two and mark that amount on either side of Line A (which should still be a line parallel to the grain line, running down from your apex). For me, I marked 2-10/16″ on either side of Line A.
Now, connect those points to the apex, drawing a triangle:
You’ll now cut that triangle out:
I want to split this GIANT waist dart into three darts, so I’m going to start by making some markings by the apex.
Perpendicular to each line of the cut-out triangle, draw a line 1″ down from the apex, .5″ outward. Then, connect the end of this line to the apex, like so:
Now draw from these triangles all the way down to the bottom of your pattern, parallel to the lines of the cut-out triangle:
Cut along these lines to but not through the apex, creating a pivot point at the apex. Place extra paper behind the opening you’ve created:
Now situate these strips of paper so that the space between them is roughly equal. These will mark your three waist darts.
Find the center point of each dart and draw a line to the apex.
Mark your vanishing point. The vanishing point does not need to be as far from the apex on a waist dart as it does on a bust dart. I marked mine 1.5″ from the apex:
Finally, mark your finished waist darts by connecting your dart legs to the vanishing points.
Truing the Darts
Now for my favorite part! We’re going to fold the pattern up along the darts, using washi tape to hold it in place (because washi tape is super easy to remove without ripping the paper), and cut along the side seam and waist seam lines.
I also love to take this opportunity to hold the pattern up to my body to see if it seems like it’ll fit. In this case, it looked pretty good.
Smoothing the armscye
Once you’ve trimmed the pattern at the side and waist seams, the last step is to smooth the armscye. As you may recall, I also like to drop the armscye just a tad — essentially as much as I added to the side seam. Just make sure that when you do this, you maintain the same total length of the armscye at the seam allowance so the sleeve will still fit.
Yes, you now have 5 darts per side for the front bodice — that’s 10 bust shaping darts. And yes, it looks batty. But it’s going to work.
Again, cut and sew the pattern as usual. A couple things to note:
You may want to reinforce the side seam, since the upper part is going to be cut on the bias.
The darts may need some finessing, so I highly recommend a muslin. I’m usually not one for muslining, but when you’re adding a full 6″ at the bust, muslins are sort of unavoidable. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen in my stories that I needed to curve my darts a bit.
Other changes I made to hack the roseclair
In addition to doing an FBA, I also had to make a few other changes to hack the Roseclair into a surplice neckline with a gathered skirt (instead of the true wrap it’s designed to be). Essentially, I just lengthened the side of the bodice that would usually be attached to the wrap tie so that it would be long enough to sew into the side seam.
I also had to add a seam allowance to the back bodice and cut it not on the fold so that it can be attached to a zipper.
I then sewed the bodice in a slightly different order:
darts and stay stitching
baste the two front pieces together along the waist, matching the center front
side seams — capturing back bodice and both front bodice pieces
For the skirt, I just drafted a simple gathered skirt by measuring the total waist seam on the front bodice and tripling that, as well as measuring the half waist seam on the back bodice and tripling that. I then measured my chosen length and cut three rectangles — two back skirt rectangles that were my chosen length (27″) by triple the half back waist, and one front skirt rectangle that was my chosen length by triple my total front waist. These pieces got sewn together at the side seams, gathered, then sewn to the finished bodice.
I’m basically in love with this dress. Like, seriously. It fits like a charm. And I’m very excited to make a second, floor-length version for maternity photos!
Here’s a sneak peek at the material I’m planning to use for my maternity photos version … more on that later!
If you told me when I was 17 that in 13 years I would weigh 50 pounds more but post pictures of myself in a bathing suit that I made on Instagram, you would first have to explain what Instagram is, but after that conversation was over, I would be shocked. Like many 17 year olds in the past twenty years, I had distorted eating habits and body dysmorphia. None of this is uncommon. But sewing has given me a new perspective on myself and of my body that has changed drastically since I was 17.
One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is how taking my measurements doesn’t mean anything to me. It is a completely neutral act. Is my under bust measurement 1” bigger than it was the last time I measured? Yes, but all it means is I need to size up. So what? Sometimes it doesn’t even mean that I need to size up! I’m not sure if I am only speaking for myself here, but I feel like sewing has desensitized how I feel about women’s clothing sizes.
We always talk about how your ready-made size does not reflect your sewing pattern size, and while that is fine, we need to recognize that sewing sizes in general are very arbitrary. This is even more apparent when we start using different pattern designers outside the Big 4. I am a size 12 for the True Bias Lander shorts, but I am also an 8 for one of Gertie’s Patreon patterns.
The numbers don’t mean anything, and sewing allows us to understand that these numbers really are almost random, and just tell us which lines to cut out.
I think my husband said it best when I told him I was a size 12 for a pattern and he said, “12 what? There’s no units, that size means nothing.” Leave it to the scientists to put things into perspective.
My final takeaway is that clothes should fit ME, I don’t need to fit into my clothes. Once I realized this, my world changed.
Sewing gives us the power to make something fit exactly how we want it to. We are free to make any adjustments we want to a pattern so it fits us perfectly. That power made me feel amazing, and to this day I am the most confident when I wear clothes that I made that fit me, not wearing something I “fit into”.
Sewing my own clothes (and therapy, as well, can’t forget that) has freed me from this idea that I had to measure to a certain number, or I had to fit into a certain size to be happy. What makes me happy now is creating something that is just for me, no one else, and knowing that I put time and effort into it to make it fit me exactly how I am.
Being pregnant, my boobs have grown 6 inches in the last 6 months — I’ve gone from a garment sewing DD or F cup to a garment sewing K cup. (Remember that bra cups aren’t the same as your garment sewing cup size! Learn more about determining your garment sewing cup size here!)
Even with the ~80 designers on the Busty Pattern Database who draft for larger cup sizes or offer cup options, only one offers a cup option that fits me — Porcelynne’s I/J cup in her tank series is just right.
So full bust adjustments and I have become best friends lately. And not just small, 2-3″ FBAs, but BIG HONKIN FBAs. Even on a DD garment cup size pattern — the largest cup size offered by a substantial number of designers — I need a 6″ full bust adjustment (3″ per side). On a B cup pattern — the size that most designers draft for — I need a 9″ FBA (4.5″ per side).
The trouble? No fitting book or FBA tutorial I’ve seen really gets into what it looks like when you’re adding this much.
Which is annoying because it looks different. It can look a lot different.
So I’m going to start showing you what my FBAs look like when I’m adding 6-9″ to my patterns.
Fitting the Perfect Maternity Tee
This particular FBA was inspired by my search for a perfect maternity tee — partially because I need a lot of new shirts right now, and partially because I’m planning a bodycon style dress for my baby shower, and I needed a base pattern.
Okay, I’m really sorry. But I have bad news. Yes, if the difference between your high and full bust is more than, say, 7″ (17.8 cm), you’re probably going to need to add a dart, even to a knit bodice — especially if you’re hoping for a fitted look.
If you’re okay with the bodice being a more loose fit at the waist, you might be able to get away with rotating the dart out and easing the side seam — a process we’re not going to get into today. But, if you want a fitted look, it will be simply impossible to ease your front and back side seams together after adding so much. (Trust me, I tried. A lot. It doesn’t work.)
That said, I really don’t think the dart is super noticeable, and I promise it’s less noticeable than the armpit wrinkles that result from ill-fitting knit tops. (Tell me if you think the dart is noticeable in this side view!)
Getting prepared for your FBA
Choosing a base size
We’ve talked about this before, but I want you to start with your high bust measurement, braless. (The reason we take this measurement braless is because you’re trying to capture as little breast tissue in it as possible, and bras push breast tissue up!)
If you’re working with a pattern that lists high bust measurements on its size chart, that’s great! The work is done for you! Choose your size based on the one that corresponds with your high bust measurement.
But, if your pattern is like the T&B Agnes, you’ll need to do a little math, which will require you to know what garment cup size the pattern is drafted for. In my case, I reached out to T&B and was told that their maternity patterns are drafted for a D garment cup — 4″ difference between high and full bust. So I knew I needed to add 4″ to my high bust measurement. (If you’re working with a usual pattern with a B cup draft, you’ll add 2″ to your high bust measurement.)
For me the math looked like this: 35″ + 4″ = 39″
This number should then correspond with the bust measurement on the pattern.
On the Maternity Agnes, this put me between a size 4 and 5. Because I wanted a more fitted look, I went with a size 4.
How do I know how much to add? Math time!
On a woven garment, this is easy. If the Maternity Agnes were woven, I’d simply take my full bust measurement minus the full bust measurement for which it is drafted, and that would tell me how much to add. Divide this by two, and you get how much you need to add per side.
For example: My bust: 46″ – Drafted bust: 38″ = 8″ Divided by two (since there are two sides to a front bodice!) — 4″ per side
However, I don’t like to do things this way for knitted/stretch patterns. My reluctance comes from the fact that stretch percentages mean you’re really adding more. For example, if your fabric has a 50% stretch, adding 4″ total is really adding a maximum of 6″, while adding 8″ total is really adding a maximum of 12″ — that’s a 6″ difference in maximum stretch for what’s supposed to be a 4″ difference. This problem is exponential, so the larger your FBA the more skewed things can end up being by simply adding inches like you would with a woven.
So I like to look at percentages. Enter the finished garment measurements.
For the size 4 I’m making, the finished bust measurement is 36.5″. It’s drafted for a 38″ bust. I want to figure out what this is as a percentage, so I’ll take 36.5 divided by 38 to get 96% — meaning this is drafted for 4% negative ease.
Now, I need to figure out what 96% of my full bust is: 46″ times 96% (0.96) = 44.16″. I’m going to go ahead and round that down to 44 to give me a nice even number (and I can confidently do that because I know my knit stretches plenty to cover a .16″ reduction). This is what I need my finished bust measurement to be: 44″.
Next, I’ll need to figure out how many inches that has me adding, so I’ll subtract the pattern’s finished bust measurement from my own needed finished bust measurement: 44″ minus 36.5″ = 7.5″. This shows me I need a total of a 7.5″ FBA, so 3.25″ per side.
Now that you’ve done your math, you can get working with your pattern! Here’s what my pattern looked like before I made any changes:
You’ll notice there’s no apex marked on this pattern. No worries! We’re going to find our own apex.
Put on a top that’s made from a fabric with a similar stretch percentage. Using washi tape, mark where your bust is fullest — this is sometimes the nipple, but not always. Look for the “peak” of your “mountain.”
Now, take off this top and fold it at center front. Lay the folded top under the front bodice pattern, matching the shoulder seam and center front (being mindful that seam allowances mean your pattern should slightly overhang the shirt).
You can see my washi tape through the pattern paper. This is where I’m going to mark my apex.
Preparing the pattern
Now that we’ve marked the apex, we’re going to cut the pattern at the waistline. On the Agnes, the waistline (or, in this case since it’s a maternity pattern, the empire waist) happens to be at the lengthen/shorten line, but this may not always be the case. Cut the pattern at the narrowest part and put the bottom of the pattern aside. We’ll come back to it later. (If you’re working with a bodice pattern that ends at the waist, great! No need to cut at this step.)
Now, we need to make some markings. First, draw a vertical line, parallel with your grain line, from the bottom of your pattern to the apex. We’ll call this Line A.
Now, draw a second line from your apex to about 1/3 of the way down the armscye. We’ll call this Line B.
Some tutorials will tell you to put this mark lower on the armscye. While this works for those who need to add fewer inches, for larger FBAs, putting this line low on the armscye causes too much armscye distortion, so higher is better.
Important: At Line B, mark your seam allowance. This will be very important at a later step.
Third, you need to draw a line from your apex to the side seam. This is Line C.
You can really put this anywhere along your side seam that you’d like, but keep in mind that where you place it on the side seam will essentially end up being the top of your bust dart. I like to make mine slightly angle upward, but only slightly. If I wanted a fully horizontal dart, I’d need to make this perpendicular to my grain line.
Finally, mark a Line D perpendicular to Line A about an inch above your waistline.
Cutting the Lines
Now it’s time to start cutting! But, before we do, do yourself a favor and stick a piece of scotch tape on your apex and on the seam allowance mark at the armscye.
Okay, now, starting from the bottom of the bodice, cut upward through Line A to the apex, then from the apex through Line B — stopping at the seam allowance mark. From the opposite side, starting from the armscye, cut through Line B, again stopping at the seam allowance mark.
Your pattern should be hanging on by a thread of paper at the seam allowance mark, allowing you to pivot at this point.
Now, starting at the side seam, cut through Line C, cutting to but not through the apex — creating another pivot point where the paper is holding on by a thread.
Your pattern will look like this:
Now it’s time to add some inches! I like to tape down the center front side of my pattern (on this pattern, the right side of the picture) along Line A onto another piece of pattern paper. I then draw a line however many inches from Line A on the extra pattern paper:
This line gives me something to line up the side seam side of Line A with, which is the next step.
Pulling the side seam side (here, the left of the photo) down and out to match that side of Line A with the line you just drew.
Note: You’ll see I’m only adding 3.5″ here, though earlier I said I needed a 7.5″ FBA, so 3.75″ per side. Well, that was a mistake. But since the pattern uses fabric with at least 50% stretch, I decided to just rock a bit more negative ease and not worry about it.
Evaluating Armscye Distortion
So this is what my FBA would look like. If I was adding fewer inches, I’d tape it down and call this my new pattern, essentially. But I’m adding a lot of inches, so I need to evaluate something first: How much did my armscye get distorted?
Depending on the pattern, the armscye distortion might be minimal and totally okay! In this case, tape everything down and use this as your pattern!
But, as you can see here, I got a lot of armscye distortion. It’s basically a J pattern, and I know that’s going to be super uncomfortable. But there’s a solution!
Doing the Y FBA
We’re going to add one more line. Draw a line from the apex to the middle of the shoulder seam — usually there’s a notch here, and if so, use that! This will be Line E.
Just like with Line B, you need to mark the seam allowance on Line E.
Now, cut from the apex along Line E to but not through the seam allowance mark. Then cut from the top of the shoulder along Line E to but not through the seam allowance mark, creating a pivot point with a thread of paper at the seam allowance.
Again, spread down and out to match the side seam side of Line A with the marker you created earlier to show how many inches you’re adding.
At this point, you need to decide how much of the added inches you want coming from the armscye versus the shoulder/high bust area. In the above slides, you can see how you can manipulate where things lay to have more of the added inches be along Line B or along Line E.
This is all about knowing your body. Adding more to Line E — like in the second picture — prevents more armscye distortion, but adds more width at the high bust/chest. Adding more to Line B — like in the third picture — creates more armscye distortion, but doesn’t add as much at the high bust/chest. Or you can choose something like the first picture, with roughly equal amounts distributed between Line B and Line E.
I don’t like to have too much added at the upper bust for my body, so I lean toward adding more to Line B than Line E — adding just enough to line E to avoid significant armscye distortion. I went with something like the third picture.
Once you have everything where you want it, go ahead and tape everything down, just being sure not to tape along Line A below Line D.
Now we need to bring the center front down to the level of the side bodice. Extend Line A on the center front side down to be even with your new waistline from the side seam side, and draw a horizontal guideline at the same level as your new waistline on the side seam side.
Now, cut along Line D, completely detaching that bottom piece. Tape this down along the guidelines you just created, like so:
This is what we have so far, and we’re pretty much there!
Smoothing the armscye
Now we need to smooth out the armscye. You can do this by eye (which is honestly what I usually do), or break out your French curve to do it *technically* correct.
At this point, I like to drop my armscye just *a tiny bit* — like 1/4 to 3/8″ — making sure the armscye remains the same total length by measuring where I’ve dropped it.
Drawing your new dart
You now need to draw your new dart. Start by measuring the opening of the triangle you’ve created, and marking the center point.
Now, draw a line from this center mark on the dart to the apex. You’ll see here I moved my apex a bit. This was an experiment, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Just use the apex you marked — since the dot has been divided, choose the one on the center front part of your pattern.
Now, mark a spot along this center dart line some inches from your apex. The number of inches depends on the size of your bust. Here’s what I’d recommend as a starting place:
I+ garment cup
9″+ (22.85 cm+) full/high bust difference
2.5″ (6.35 cm)
G-H garment cup
7-8″ (17.8-20.3 cm) full/high bust difference
2″ (5 cm)
DD/E-F garment cup
5-6″ (12.7-15.2 cm) full/high bust difference
1.5″ (3.8 cm)
D garment cup or smaller
4″ or less (10.2 cm) full/high bust difference
1″ (2.5 cm)
So I made my mark 2.5″ back from the apex. This will be my vanishing point, or where the dart will actually end. You usually don’t want the dart ending too close to your apex, because this will make your bust look verrrrry pointy. (If pointy is the look you’re going for, then make your vanishing point closer to your apex!)
Now, you’re just going to connect this vanishing point to your dart legs. This is your finished dart!
Note: Do you need to split your dart? I answer this question visually. My dart was about 6″ long and 3-5/8″ wide, and, looking at it, I thought it would sew up fine. If your dart looks really wide, you may want to split it into two darts. This post goes over the how-to on splitting darts.
Truing the Side seam
We now must true our side seam. To do this, fold your dart as if it was being sewn. I prefer to have my dart go upward rather than pressing it down, as most instructions indicate. I find this makes a smoother line for larger busts. (Thanks to Cashmerette for the tip several years ago!)
You can either fold your dart up or down. It’s up to you.
I like to tape this shut using washi tape, so it stays closed while I deal with my side seam, but using a tape that won’t rip the paper when I remove it.
Use your French curve or eyeball a slightly curved line, connecting the armscye to the lower side seam.
You’ll see that I had a big jump from the upper to lower side seam. Since you can always remove but can’t add, I chose to go with the outer side seam — so the placement of the lower side seam. It’s worth noting, however, that I ended up skimming about 3/8″ off this spot when I sewed my muslin, so I probably could have/should have gone with the smaller of the lines — where the side seam is on the upper part.
Truing your waist
As you may recall, you’ve added inches (in my case, 3.5″) to your bust level down — including your waist. Well, if the waist was the correct size on the original pattern and you want the bodice to be fitted at the waist, this isn’t going to work. We need to reduce the waist.
On a woven, this would be easier. I’d recommend taking a bit from the side seam and adding a waist dart or two.
But here, I didn’t want to add a waist dart. This is a tee shirt after all! So it’s going to have to all come from the side seam.
To do this, mark along the waistline 3.5″ (or however many inches you added in your FBA) inward from the side seam. Draw an S curve, starting at your bust height and ending at your waist marker, like this:
You can do this with a French curve or by eye. I started with my French curve and ended by eye, which is why my line is so ugly 😂
I also had a bit of an extra challenge because I was making this with an empire waist rather than a natural waist, so that gave me less space to gradually skim off the side seam than you’d have using a natural waist. If you’re using a natural waist, this line shouldn’t look quite so angular.
Now, to finish truing the dart, cut along this line:
Open your dart back up, and you’ll see your finished side seam!
Reconnecting with lower pattern
Now our last step is to reconnect our upper pattern with our lower pattern!
Essentially, you just need to match your lower pattern to your upper at the side seam and center front.
At this point, I also do a bit more truing of the side seam and cut it out:
Yay! All done! Here’s my finished pattern piece:
Now cut and sew the pattern as usual. If you have an extreme angled side seam like me, it might be worth reinforcing the side seam at that point with some seam tape or elastic, just to add some strength since the force of the fabric is a bit wonky there.
I feel pretty awesome about this pattern! I can’t wait to sew up my baby shower dress 🙂
It’s always super fun to see how one pattern sews up for people with very different body types, so I’m excited to show you another collaboration between me and Camilla (she_sew_fabulous on Insta)!
Just like last time, when we made the Love Notions Sunday Romper, Camilla and I chose one pattern — one that comes with a two bust options — and each made it up to see how it works on our bodies! This time, we chose the Chalk & Notch Fringe Dress. This pattern comes with both a B cup and a D cup draft. (Remember that garment sewing cups are not the same as bra cups! Check out this post to learn more!)
I was excited to try this pattern because I’ve heard it works great on pregnant bodies, but will also work postpartum, including while nursing thanks to the button front!
I currently describe my body type as HUGE boobs, big pregnancy belly, and medium-size hips. (My current measurements are high bust: 35″; full bust: 46″; underbust: 32″; waist (lol preggo belly!): 39″; hips: 40″.) Camilla, on the other hand, describes herself as “a Mediterranean gal with big hips and small boobs.”
For me, I chose to make view A, which has the nursing-friendly button front — while Camilla made a view B. I used a fun cotton poplin from Mood.
I started with a size 10 with the D cup draft, going based on my high bust. The size 10D accounts for a 39″ bust, with 3″ of positive ease for a finished bust measurement of 42″. I was obviously going to need a full bust adjustment.
The full bust adjustment
Based on measurements, a 7″ FBA would keep the ease consistent. I thought about reducing the positive ease at the bust and doing a smaller FBA, but ultimately ruled out that plan when I thought about the fact that my milk hasn’t come in, and I’d like to wear this dress for nursing. So a BIG HUGE SEVEN INCH full bust adjustment it was (3.5″ or 8.9 cm on each side).
I’m not going to do a full FBA tutorial here, because it really was just a straight forward woven FBA with a dart split, but I’ll include the instagram stories I did on this FBA just to give you a peek at my process:
If you look closely, you’ll see that I also moved the bust point down by about 1″ while doing the FBA. Note that the FBA actually lowered the bust point by about 1.5″ and to the side by about 1.25″, but, when I held the tissue to myself, I could see that my bust point was in line with the original bust point, just about 1″ lower. When I reoriented the darts, I just oriented them toward my bust point. There’s a more technically correct way of doing this, which involves cutting the darts and moving them up, but because of how wide my darts are and how close they were to the armscye, I decided to “cheat” a little.
(If you notice in these pictures that the darts look a smidge high, that’s because I’m wearing a different bra than the one I altered in … c’est la vie!)
I had to split both my bust and waist darts, because they were looking GIANT.
Also of note is that my FBA added 3-3/8″ length to the bodice at center front. This is important for my belly alteration:
Hacking for pregnancy
My next alteration was to tweak the pattern for my current shape. That is, I didn’t want the waist hitting at my belly, but instead at my underbust. I measured from shoulder point to underbust on my body and on the pattern, and found that I needed to shorten the pattern about 1.75″ from it’s new, post-FBA length for it to hit at the empire waist.
So I chopped it at the lengthen/shorten line. Because you can always take away, but not add, I decided to only shorten by 1.5″.
Now, I had added 3.375″ with the FBA then removed 1.5″, so I needed to lengthen my button placket and front facing by 1-7/8″ (the difference between 3.375-1.5).
I also shortened my back by 1.5″ along the lengthen/shorten line.
Solving other giant boob-related problems
If you follow me, you probably know I’m usually #teamnotoile, meaning I rarely make muslins. Most of the time, I’ll use my bodice sloper to make flat pattern alterations, and I’m frankly not obsessed with perfect fit when I can more easily obtain good enough fit with less work.
Buuuuut, in this case, since I had added a honkin’ 7″ to the bust and chopped 1.5″ off the full bodice, I decided I needed to make a muslin of the bodice. It was a good thing.
I was absolutely chuffed at the fit. Loved it. Needed a skirt to weigh it down, but goodness the darts were pretty perfect!
Until I realized something. I had to put it on like a button-down shirt, one arm and then the other. If I pinned it together at the waist, I couldn’t get it on. Not over my bust, nor over my belly.
You see, this pattern is intended to be pulled on. The finished waist at a size 10D is 35″ — just enough to eek over the 39″ bust it was drafted for. But I had added 7″ to that, and a 35″ waist wasn’t going to eek over my 46″ of bust.
So I had to pivot. I ended up removing the waist darts on both front and back (trust me, I’m mourning this too! love those darts!), and decided to elasticate the waist instead.
The pattern & fit
This was my first Chalk & Notch pattern, and I WILL BE BACK. The pattern went together SO BEAUTIFULLY. I often have problems with facings not quite matching, and that wasn’t an issue here at all. The whole thing was just so well drafted, and I think it would have been an easier sew if I had opted for view B, which has simpler sleeves and no buttons.
Honestly, I’m excited to sew this up again with the waist darts (what can I say?! I just love darts!) once either my boobs have settled back to pre-pregnancy size, when I would have needed just a 1.5″ FBA, or when I have the energy to add a zipper.
I love the button front on this pattern, and that there’s no gaping! I also love that this will allow me to nurse in this dress when the time comes.
Also, the sleeves. I wasn’t actually sure I was going to love the sleeves, but they’ve really grown on me. I used vintage buttons throughout, and I just love the little pop of pearlescent that they give my shoudlers.
The best thing about this dress, though? THE POCKETS, obviously.
As you can see, I did add a waist tie for just a bit more waist definition, because the elastic wasn’t quite defining my waist as much as I’d like. Again, can’t wait to make this again with darts. But here it is without the waist tie, for those wondering:
Hello! It’s Camilla here (also known as @she_sew_fabulous). If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know how much I love making dresses. I don’t make them as often anymore as I now have hundreds of them, so I was delighted for the opportunity to make one for the purpose of this blog. It’s always a delight to work with Lindsie, so I approached this project with a big smile on my face and was eager to get started.
When Lindsie and I discussed what pattern to make, we wanted to ensure it was a pattern that would work for both of our body shapes, so we opted for the Chalk and Notch ‘Fringe Dress’.
My body measurements are bust 38 inches, waist 33 inches and hip 40 inches, so I decided to make a size 14 as I hate it when dresses are tight. I love a bit of wiggle room and the option to accessorise with a belt if I want a dress to be more cinched, or billowy if it’s hot and I want to keep cool, so I have both here.
This is the first Chalk and Notch pattern I’ve made and I must say that I really enjoyed doing it : the instructions are really clear and the final product lovely : check out that asymmetric hemline – love!! I opted to make the button free version as I had just finished the quite complex Eden raincoat by Tilly and the Buttons and couldn’t deal with the added stress of buttonholes – I wanted something simple! And can I just take a moment to gag over this fabric : I picked it up from a destash page on Instagram and it’s so lovely, it just makes the pattern wonderfully summery and reminds me of the dresses I used to buy from Oasis when I was in my twenties that always made me feel chic and fabulous.
Last time that Lindsie and I made a ‘one pattern on two bodies’ garment, it was the Love Notions Sunday Romper, and at that time I was going through a bit of a downer about my size. I’ve put on weight over the last two years, like many of us and I was feeling a bit rubbish about it last summer. Fast forward to this year and I’m actually really happy with my size. Yes, I still have the extra roll here and there that I could do without, but it doesn’t detract from the way I feel about myself. One thing I love about the sewing community is the constant exposure to different body shapes, which has, over time, made me far more accepting about my shape. When I wear a dress like this, I feel gorgeous : it’s light and summery and dare I say it, looks like it cost a lot of money to buy ready made; so all those things considered, I’m not worried about the extra lumps and bumps here and there because I feel great.
I highly recommend this pattern to any level of sewist as it’s really simple and comes together quite quickly. Furthermore, it’s really versatile : you can make it casual, you can make it fancy, you can dress it up, you can dress it down. It’s great for any occasion and I foresee myself getting a lot of wear out of this one.
Thanks for the opportunity to make this lovely pattern Lindsie, I really enjoyed this project and I foresee many more Fringe Dresses (probably with some hacks included) making their way into my wardrobe in the future!
Hello Sew Busty! I am LC Courtney and I’m here to guest post and chronicle my modifications on the Petite Stitchery Colby bralette. I am outside the size range for the largest cup — a 5 inch difference — as I have a 6.5 inch difference between my upper and full bust. My best fitting RTW bra is the Elomi Matilda in 38 H. My chest tissue is full on bottom, shallow on top, and gravitates into my armpit area if left unsupported.
Hopefully I can share something that you can find useful in your own bra making adventure!
Before we get too far, I am by no means a bra sewing extraordinaire. I have plenty of education in trial and error though. I’ve dabbled in sewing for a little over a decade and have dyscalculia. If you are searching for a post with super technical math formulas I am not your person.
Onto the good stuff. My first version of the Colby turned out beautifully but after wearing it for some amount of time, the band tended to migrate up under my bust and the top of the band sat near the bottom of my chest tissue. The strap seam was pulling too far forward as well.
The fix seamed (ha!) easy enough. It was fairly evident that I needed more material at the bottom of the bra. Using a soft tape, I determined that the seam migrated up about 2 inches up from where it needed to actually sit. Because we know in sewing that you can always cut off more but not really add it back, I added the entire 2 inches to the bottom of the Colby pattern pieces, knowing I might need to cut a little off later.
A little paper, some tracing skills, and a Sharpie gave way for a more generous pattern.
Like my original version, I chose double brushed poly for both my main and lining fabric.
On this one, I added a layer of mesh in the side cup portion to encourage my breasts to stay closer to the front of my chest and not migrate toward my armpit. I’m happy with the extra support this choice provided. When I make another, Colby I will add the mesh to the back pieces as well.
*Quick tip- a glue stick can be your friend here. Glue your mesh to your desired pattern pieces and treat it as one.
If there is one takeaway I can give you for this pattern it is- DO NOT SKIP THE CLEAR ELASTIC, I repeat … DO NOT SKIP THE CLEAR ELASTIC (silicone elastin if you want to Google search and purchase some for your sewing stash).
I prefer the elastin over the thicker swimsuit elastic you can buy. I put clear elastic into every single seam with the exception of the neckline & where I joined the bottom band prior to folding it over.
You won’t stretch the elastic while you are sewing, but are using it to really reinforce the seams. I have a Brother serger and there is a little hole in the presser foot you can feed the elastic into and it really makes adding it a breeze. If you don’t have a Brother, I believe there are similar feet you can order for the same purpose. You’ll get a much sturdier finished garment using the clear elastic.
I missed taking a fit photo here, but when I sewed up the bralette layers, it was pretty clear I should have considered the vertical stretch a little more and only added about 1.5 inches to the pattern pieces. I cut off .5 all the way across the bottom. This ended up changing the depth of the V on the back but I’ll chalk this up to a happy accident because I’m really pleased with the back.
A couple of other design/construction details ahead: I opted to add a small flutter sleeve in lieu of burrito rolling and having un-frilly armsyces. I also used my sewing machine instead of serger for the neckline only. It was easier to keep the V detail crisp(ish) on my sewing machine. I love my serger but crisp points isn’t something it excels at.
Without any more of my chatter, here is the finished product:
I’m looking forward to making a few more Colbys over the summer in various materials and possibly one in swim. If you have a go at your own Colby, I’d love to see! Please tag me on socials. LC Courtney on Facebook & @lccourtneyy on Instagram.
Thank you to Lindsie and the Sew Busty Community for having me here. Happy sewing!
LC Courtney (she/her) is a desert dwelling sewist. She enjoys sewing knits and listening to podcasts.You can find her on Instagram @lccourtneyy.
Ever since I became pregnant, there’s been a shift in my sewing. For one, I’m getting a lot less sewing done, unfortunately (working on it!). For two, I’m having to focus less on patterns with cup options, and more on patterns that will serve my changing body.
This means out with the underwire bras (which I’m still salty about! I miss them 😭) and in with the stretchy bralettes. (With a healthy dose of baby powder to prevent between-boob yeast infections, because that’s a thing, y’all.)
I’ve been struggling to find a nursing bra pattern that comes in my size. The ever-popular Lotus Bralette from LilypaDesigns, which has a built-in nursing option, is a smidge too-small for my current 14″ full bust to underbust difference. And while Lilypad’s Lanai Wireless bra, which also has a nursing option, comes in my size, I’m reluctant to work out a non-stretchy bra pattern right now. (The last time I tried to make a non-stretchy bra, it fit one week and then didn’t fit the next, which was SO FRUSTRATING! Growing boobs are HARD.)
So when Yawning Mama, a fairly new pattern brand, did a call for testers of their new set of bralette patterns, including both a nursing AND a pumping bra (which might be the first pumping bra pattern on the market!), I jumped at the opportunity.
Oh! The Options!
This bra pattern comes with so many options. For those who are breast/chestfeeding, the Nursing Mama Bra (yeah, I don’t love the gendered language either), the Cross-Front Bra, and the Pumping Mama Bra are all boob-access friendly. The Nursing Mama and Pumping Mama bras have options for side slings or full slings, giving the maker options based on your individual preferences.
Both the breast/chestfeeding bras and the non-nursing bras can be made into a camisole (including maternity option!), tankini, or tunic using the cami add-on pack.
Let’s Talk About Sizing
Alright, now let’s talk about sizing. When I first saw the size chart, I was unconvinced that this pattern would work for me, and I bet some of you are similarly skeptical.
My current underbust is 32.5″ (82.5 cm) and my current full bust is 46″ (116.8 cm). So, based on this size chart, my underbust is a size small. But the biggest cup size for a small — the green cup — is only for a 43.5″ (110.5 cm) full bust, a full 2.5″ (6.4 cm) smaller than my full bust measurement. So I asked “uhhhh, hey, sooooo how will this fit me?”
The designer, Danielle, was super helpful. She instructed me to choose the small size for the back and underbust, but to choose the medium green cups — if I wanted it to fit snugly — or the large green cups — if I wanted some more room to grow. Since my milk has yet to come in, I chose to use the large green cups.
My First Toile
For my first go at this bra, I used some cotton spandex that Yawning Mama had sent for tests (shout out to designers who provide materials for testers!). The only pattern change I made was to make an omega adjustment to the dart, making the dart 1″ wider at the bottom.
It … did not work.
I mean, it wasn’t horrible, but this bra had almost no support, and the darts were about an inch too far to each side for the placement of my apex. The side seams are also about 1″ too far back.
This bra works pretty well as a sleep bra (which apparently I need to get acquainted with before baby comes, since I usually sleep braless!), but not so much for day-to-day wear.
But I could tell that this bra was promising, we just weren’t quite there.
So I prepared to make some changes:
Move the darts inward by 1″ by removing 2″ from center front fold
Use activewear nylon spandex for more support
Use 1″ elastic at band instead of 1/4″ elastic for more underbust support
Keep the 1″ enlargement of darts
Making It Work for a Busty Body
Now, I’ll quickly note that all of these changes are ones I’d strongly suggest for the small band, large cup among us, and for even the large band, large cup busty folks, I’d highly suggest using a fabric with a firmer stretch and more recovery and using 1″ elastic at the band.
Made as-directed, this bra really isn’t appropriate for busty folks who seek lots of support for a day-to-day bra. If you’re into lots of comfort and just want something to keep your twins from flailing around, by all means, make this bra as instructed — some people prefer that kind of fit! But if, like me, you want a bra that holds you up, make these changes.
Because the pattern doesn’t have larger cups drafted for a small band, for example, I wasn’t super surprised to find that the darts were in entirely the wrong place, since the large green cups likely anticipated my breasts would be wider rather than projected.
This goes back to the issue of breast shape that we see in underwire bra making — we all know that I’m narrow-rooted and projected, and that most bra patterns anticipate my breasts being much wider than they are. But, in a simple bralette like this, it’s not a change that’s drastically hard to make.
This one fits so much better. It’s supportive, though not as supportive as an underwire bra (or probably even as my Porcelynne sports bras), but this may have more to do with the fact that I sized up instead of down in the cup to account for more growth down the line.
Overall, I definitely plan to make more of this pattern. I’ve been mostly wearing Molke bras since becoming pregnant, so I’m also curious to try the Cross-Front bra from this pattern set.
I also love the full sling option, and I think I’ll also give a go at adding this sling to a Porcelynne Jackie bra pattern, since that pattern seems to lend just a smidge more support.
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Well, here I am on the up turn of a long and dreadful lack of inspiration. Have you ever just felt,…. blah?
Lacking motivation, deprioritizing the things that make you happy?
That is the head space I have been living in for months, and it simply felt like it had no end in sight. So, how do you get out of this perpetual state? I find most of the time I must fake it. Find even the smallest sliver of joy and run with it. The way I most often do this is to start small. Find a very simple but beautiful pattern and just make something. It’s a start.
Often when I force myself to start with a small project it can reinvigorate me and create that spark. We all just need a little spark sometimes, right?
To see if I could bring my joy back, I decided I would make one dress. Seemed simple enough, baby steps. Let me tell you it worked!
I chose the Arum Dress Pattern from Deer and Doe. This dress has called to me for some time. There is something to be said for a classic piece with a flattering silhouette. The Arum Dress is a woven pattern that features a dolman sleeve, back princess seams and two different length options. I find that dolman style patterns flatter those that are larger up top. After reviewing the measurement chart, I was surprised to find that I measured a straight size 44. No adjustments needed. I find this to be a rare occurrence for me as a 32 G.
To hone in on what I was trying to accomplish I made it exactly the way it was intended.
For my first Arum I used the Wine Paths print rayon that I picked up from Phee Fabrics. It has a nice stripe pattern that I knew would flatter my figure. I chose to position the stripes so they would run vertical on my finished piece. I knew this would also alleviate some frustration in the stripe matching process. My choices paid off, it was perfect!
After making the first dress I thought, could this be made in bases outside of the recommendations?
This thought led me down a positive path and it made me want to test my theory.
This time I made the dress in a wonderful Art Gallery Lemon print cotton spandex blend. I knew choosing this fabric would pose some challenges, particularly because this pattern has a neck facing instead of bands. It made me wonder, should I convert the neck facing to a more traditional knit band?
After some thought I knew it was not the look that I wanted, I really wanted the same clean look as my previous dress. I figured it couldn’t hurt to do the facing exactly as I had done before, what’s there to lose? For this I needed patience and oh, so many pins. To my disbelief it came together like butter.
My confidence now restored and gears turning I pondered, can I make it work in rayon spandex too? My third dress was a rayon spandex rib knit, in a bright sunny yellow. I knew this fabric choice was risky as it has an abundance of movement but again, I pushed through. Sticking to a very similar process as the dress prior. Pinning and pinning some more. I really had no faith this would work, but it worked again.
With my sewjo now fully intact, I decided to make just one more.
For the last dress I went with a more muted but classic choice, using a lovely lightweight denim, a fabric closer to the original recommendations. Knowing I had previously put myself to the test with more finicky fabrics this one came together smoother than I imagined. From beginning to end, it only took 1 hour! It was exactly what I needed to come full circle.
Now fully invigorated, I can’t help but feel inspiration all around me.
Taking a small step approach works! It can work for something as complex as depression, all the way down to simpler day to day frustrations. You can take something simple and turn it into a wealth of inspiration. I know starting something at all can seem too big a task at times, but it is these simple actions that create momentum. Baby steps start us down the path to finding ourselves. Simply knowing that hobbies can be the outlet you need to find your joy and bring back that spark is sometimes all it takes!
Happy sewing and may your sewjo be forever in your favor!
Kerri is a sewist with about 5 years of experience. She is a mom of 3, a lover of fashion and all things vintage. She puts her heart and soul into everything she does and that is why she is so in love sewing: She can make things that are uniquely her! Find all of Kerri’s makes on Instagram @sewsewwonderful
If you’ve followed me for a while, you probably know I LOVE a good jumpsuit. I know a lot of people are anti-jumpsuit because they have to get naked to go to the bathroom or whatever, but, to be completely honest, IDGAF. I love them. They’re ultimate comfort.
So, when I found out I was pregnant, I immediately knew I needed to make myself a maternity jumpsuit. Onto a pattern search!
I checked all my normal busty-friendly designers: Designer Stitch, Itch to Stitch, Cashmerette. None of them had a maternity jumpsuit (or really many maternity patterns at all! Cashmerette has a few, but they don’t yet come in her smaller size band, which is where my upper bust falls). I went through the Busty Pattern Database hoping for a good option, and, alas, didn’t find one.
So I got desperate and I went to etsy: “maternity jumpsuit pattern.” And I found this:
Butterick 6226. Maternity jumpsuit of my dreams.
I immediately ordered the pattern. The only problem? I’d have to do an FBA. And, not just a simple, darted FBA. A gathered bodice FBA.
Thank goodness I had done this before, because the results were amazing! I love this jumpsuit.
Gathered Bodice FBA Tutorial
Let’s get started, shall we?
choosing a base size
Just like with other full bust adjustments, the first step is to figure out what base size you’ll be making. Choose based on your high bust + 2″ as the “bust” measurement on the chart. I’ve talked about this before, but most FBA tutorials will have you choose based on your high bust substituted for the size chart’s “bust” measurement. I’m honestly not sure why tutorials teach this way, as this instruction fails to consider that almost all patterns are drafted such that the high bust is 2″ smaller than the full bust.
Thus, if the high bust measurement is not offered on a pattern, you must add 2″ to your high bust measurement, and choose the size with a bust measurement that most closely corresponds to this HB+2. My high bust measurement is about 35″, so I need a size with a bust measurement that is around 37″. According to the size chart on the Butterick 6226, that put me at a size 16.
Now, let’s take a quick moment to talk about Big 4 pattern sizing and why I ultimately chose a 14 even though the boob math put me in a 16: After reading reviews of this pattern and chatting with some folks on Instagram who had made this pattern before, the feedback was unanimous: This pattern runs big. That wasn’t a surprise; almost all Big 4 (Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, and Vogue) run big. Most people I talked to said they got the best fit by choosing two sizes down from what they measured. Since 14 was the smallest size I had, though, I decided to go for it. (After making, I can confirm I probably could have made a 12, had I had the pattern for it.)
Okay, back to the FBA.
Doing some full bust adjustment math
Now, to start our FBA, we must do a little math. Butterick, like most pattern companies, drafts its patterns for a 2″ full bust to upper bust difference. My full bust is currently 45.5″, and my high bust is 35″ — meaning I have a 10.5″ difference. I need to subtract 2 from 10.5, for a total of 8.5. This means, in theory, I should have done a 8.5″ full bust adjustment, adding 4.25″ on each side. If you are working with a woven pattern, this is absolutely what you should do.
But this jumpsuit is a knit garment with a lot of ease, so I decided to do a few more steps.
First, I looked at the finished garment measurements. At a size 14, the finished bust measurement of 43.5″, so it’s drafted with an intended 7″ of positive ease (since the 14 is intended for busts of 36″). My chosen fabric also has 30% comfortable stretch (meaning not stretching it to it’s absolute limits), so—if I made the pattern as-is—I would have ended up with a possible 56.5″, after stretch.
As those of you who follow me on instagram know, I thought about being lazy and just making the pattern as-is. I asked you all. And you all very wisely told me to do the damn FBA.
But I didn’t necessarily want the full 7″ of positive ease, so I decided to do a smaller FBA than the basic [my full bust minus high bust] – 2″ equation was telling me. So I settled on doing a 5″ FBA—adding 2.5″ on each side. This would result in a finished, unstretched bust measurement of 48.5″—so 2″ of positive ease. This also meant that, if my boobs keep growing (please NO!), the garment could comfortably stretch to 63″.
Alright. Let’s do the thing. Add 2.5″ on each side.
Marking the pivot points
The apex was conveniently marked on the Butterick 6226!
(If, on your pattern, the apex is not marked, you’ll need to find its approximate location. The pattern may indicate bust-to-bust measurement, which can be divided in two and measured from the center front to find the horizontal alignment of the apex. Similarly, some patterns will list a shoulder point to bust measurement, which can then be measured from the shoulder point on the pattern to find where the apex lands vertically. Find where these points intersect, and you have your apex! If your pattern doesn’t list any of this, just make your best guess as to the apex location.)
You’re then going to draw two lines, seen in my photo in red: one vertically down from the apex to the waist, and one diagonally from the apex to the armpit, about 1/3 of the way up. We will call the vertical line “line A” and the diagonal line “line B.”
The next step is to draw two horizontal lines: What we’ll call “Line C” will go from the apex horizontally to the side seam. What we will call “Line D” will go horizontally from Line A to the center front. Don’t worry too much about exact placement of Line D — it’s really not important. Just needs to be somewhere from Line A to center front.
Cutting your pivot lines
Now, we’re going to begin snipping. Cut along Line A and Line B to the seam allowance. Snip carefully on Line B at the seam allowance to allow it to hinge—cutting to, but not through the seam allowance line.
adding Room for large breasts
Place your pattern on another sheet of paper, and tape down the right side of your hinge. Now, measure from the right side of Line A to however many inches you need to add — in my case, 2.5″. Draw a line on the scrap paper to mark this measurement. We’ll call this “Line E.”
Now you’re going to cut through Line C. Hinge the left side of Line A to meet Line E. Tape this down for now, but with the recognition that you’re going to have to close Line C in a few steps.
Truing the length
Next, you’re going to cut along Line D. I like to draw a straight line down from the right side of Line A so I know where I’m going to reconnect this cut off piece in the next step.
Tape down the piece you just cut off below Line D to your pattern, keeping it in line with the right side of Line A:
Then, we’re going to untape Line C. I know, taking tape off is a bitch, but I find it less fiddly than not taping down Line C in the earlier step. Up to you, I suppose.
You’re going to close Line C, creating a weird, contorted looking pattern piece. It’s all okay. I promise.
We’re nearly done! Your next step is to draw a curve to close off the bottom of your pattern piece. You can see my curved line in red, below. You can use a French curve to do this, but I honestly just freehanded.
Cut out your pattern, and voila! You have a newly-FBA’d pattern.
The only further change you’re going to have to make is that the gathering line — marked on my pattern piece as a purple dashed line — will need to follow the line of the bottom of your pattern piece, curve and all.
Dealing with the Waist
Usually, when we do large FBAs, we have to redraw the side seam or add a waist dart to prevent from adding room at the waist. But, with a gathered bodice, the extra room you added at the waist is going to be dealt with when you gather the waistline. You’re just going to have more gathers than someone with a smaller bust would.
Sewing the B6226 — General Thoughts
I’m glad y’all talked me out of being lazy and into doing a full bust adjustment! The jumpsuit feels like it fits well, with a bit of room to grow in the bust when my milk starts coming in.
The jumpsuit definitely feels a bit roomy through the shoulders, waist and hips, and I certainly could have sized down to a 12 if I had owned that size in the pattern. But it’s comfy even in the 14, so I’m not too worried about it.
There’s definitely plenty of room for my belly to grow. In fact, there’s so much room at the front crotch that things look a bit strange seated. This is really common in maternity wear, even store bought, so I’m not concerned. It just means my belly has plenty of room as it expands.