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Full Bust Adjustment Guide | Gathered Bodice FBA

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.

Have questions about this full bust adjustment tutorial for large busts? Drop a comment below or or ask on the Sew Busty Facebook group or subreddit.

Life Update: I’M PREGNANT

If you follow @sewbusty on Instagram, you already know this news, but I’m finally pregnant!

The last time I posted here, I was struggling with depression, anxiety, and infertility. I was honestly just unable to do anything that I used to find fun, including working on Sew Busty. So it sat. For months. (I’m sorry!)

And then I got pregnant. This helped a lot with my mental health struggles, because I think a lot of that traced back to infertility. But then came morning sickness.

I was so sick. SO SICK.

That list of projects I was planning to do for the end of 2021? Not a single one happened. (Good thing I knocked on wood?)

Blogging certainly didn’t happen. Honestly, my primary hobby was taking 3-hour long baths, because being submerged in water was basically the only place I felt semi-normal.

My doctor started me on reglan, a prescription often used for chemo patients to help them keep food down. It worked for about, I dunno, three weeks. I posted on Instagram so excited that I was feeling better and might be able to start up with Sew Busty again.

And then the nausea started sneaking back in, despite the reglan. At first, it was just a background feeling of minor nausea, like when car sickness starts. And then it grew. And then I started vomiting every 2 hours again. I couldn’t even keep water down. And this was after taking reglan. This was about a month ago.

I called my doctor, and she switched me to zofran, which is the magic pill du jour. I feel so much better on zofran. I’m able to live pretty normally right now. I hope it keeps working and doesn’t stop like the reglan did!

The last few weeks, after starting zofran, I was traveling for work and unable to give any time to Sew Busty.

But now I’m 19 weeks pregnant (almost halfway!), feeling human again, not feeling depressed or anxious, and I think I’m finally able to get back to Sew Busty.

I’m not going to make promises, because if there’s one thing the past ~6 months has taught me, it’s that you never really know what’s going to happen. I have to put my mental and physical health first, so if the zofran stops working or I slip back into a depression, I’ll probably disappear again.

But, for now, I’m ready to be here.

Here are the things I have planned coming up (again, knock on wood!):

  • Review on Laela Jeyne’s Cosette Blouse (one of the last things I made … all the way back in October!)
  • Some maternity makes, including patterns that aren’t strictly maternity, but can be used that way
  • Community blogs (let me know if you want to write one by writing me at lindsie@sewbusty.com!)

Busty Pattern Review | Jackie Sports Bra from Porcelynne

As you may have read yesterday, my sewjo has been at a serious low, along with my mental health. But when Jennifer from Porcelynne — the QUEEN of busty bra patterns — announced she was coming out with a new sports bra pattern, I HAD TO TRY.

Jennifer was kind enough to give me a sneak peek at this pattern — which just launched Sunday — in exchange for me sharing my honest feedback with you all!

This pattern is 25% off through Friday (when all Porcelynne patterns will be 25% off for Black Friday!). On Monday, Porcelynne will include a free tankini add-on pattern with purchase of any sports bra pattern — including Jackie, Christina, and Laurel!

The Jackie Sports Bra comes with multiple options: a zip front closure, a hook and eye front closure, or a pull-over option. Better yet, Jackie is fully interchangeable with Porcelynne’s Christina and Laurel patterns, so you can opt to use Laurel’s hook and eye back closure with Jackie’s front, or do Christina’s racerback with Jackie’s front.

Jennifer’s patterns are amazing because most of them, including the go up to an N cup for bands 28-52, making her range one of the most (if not the most) size inclusive on the market. (I say “most of them” because things are just a bit more confusing when it comes to the Eve modular wired bra pattern, which you can read about here.)

Needless to say, I’m a big fan. In my opinion, everything Jennifer touches is gold.

Because I needed an easy project, I chose to go with the pullover option. I definitely am eager to try the front zip, and will certainly make a point of tackling that option in the future, but I didn’t have the spoons for it this time around.

The front closure option is cool, but my absolute favorite part about the Jackie is the straps! These straps — made with cut & sew foam covered by fabric, and made adjustable in a very clever way — are sooooo comfy.

The pullover option went together fairly quickly. Remember, I’m a sloooowwww sewist, so don’t take my hours as an indication, but this bra probably took me 7 hours? For a first time with the pattern, that’s on the short side for me.

Since I was literally wearing my Christina while I made my Jackie, I decided to go for the same size I had made my Christina, even though my boobs have grown a bit since I made Christina: 30J. Back when I made my Christina, a 30J was already sizing down in the band and cup for a compression fit. Now that my boobs have gained another 1.5″, I probably should have gone up to a 30K for a compression fit, or a 32L for an encapsulation fit.

Let’s talk about support: This bra isn’t quite as supportive as my Christina, which is my go-to sports bra. But that’s probably more because of my fabric choice than anything else. While I lined this with the same 200 gsm black wicking fabric that I used for my Christina, the outer fabric isn’t quite so heavy.

For the outer fabric, I used a combo of the same black wicking fabric for the center front and side back panels, a 195 gsm mustard swim for the side front and back panels, and a polka dot swim fabric for the inner front panels. I’m not sure what the weight on the dot fabric is, but I’d be willing to bet it’s slightly lower than the mustard fabric. On my Christina, I cut the main on the grain and the lining on the cross grain; on my Jackie, I cut everything on the grain.

This pattern is designed for 200-320 gsm+, so I was at the verrrry minimum weight called for by the pattern for my lining, and just under that for my outer, and I’m near the top of the cup size range, so it’s really no surprise that the support isn’t as good as my Christina.

And it’s not that the support is bad. I did a forearm stand in this and felt totally secure. It just doesn’t quite pass the jumping jack test.

I continue to stand by my assessment that Porcelynne is the best company for large-cupped bra patterns, and I can’t wait to see what Jennifer comes up with next.

SEE MORE JACKIES! As part of the launch of the Jackie Sports Bra pattern, Porcelynne is hosting a blog tour. Tomorrow’s post will be on Girls in Uniform, who is posting a second Jackie make (use Chrome’s translate feature if you don’t read Dutch!). Other Jackie makes include:


Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Using the affiliate links in Sew Busty posts is a great way to support the costs of running Sew Busty, as when you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me pay for the hosting, domain, design, and other costs associated with administering this site. All opinions remain my own.

I’ve Been Away: Mental health, life, and my sewjo + end of year sewing plans (knock on wood)

Sewing is something I love. But only when I’m feeling good.

Content warning: mental health, infertility, and family loss discussed in this post.

If you follow Sew Busty on Instagram, you may already know that I’ve been struggling with my mental (and physical) health lately. I’ve been experiencing depression, brought on by the death of my grandma, a tumultuous and frustrating fertility journey, and considering the possibility of a career change. All of this happened at the same time, and as someone who thrives on plans and stability, it was just too much change (or even potential change) for me to handle at once.

I lost my sewjo.

But I didn’t just lose my sewjo. I also lost my will to dance — another thing I normally enjoy doing. (I attended my first dance class in four months yesterday.) I lost my interest in cooking — and I love cooking so much that in 2019-20, I took online classes to become certified in plant-based culinary arts. Basically, I lost my energy to do anything other than get through work every day, throw together a quick dinner, and settle in for some TV, all the while distracted by obsessive thoughts about what my life might look like in 6 months, a year, five years.

Struggling to define my career

The job situation was especially hard, I think. If you know me, you know I love what I do. So much of my identity is tied up in my work. My job is in exactly the field I sought to join when I went to grad school, and I use my graduate degrees (and the knowledge I gained through my thesis research) every day.

So when I was recruited for another job — in the same field, at another organization I love — while it was a great honor and an exciting prospect, the thought of leaving my current organization was exhaustingly frightening. I spent 8 weeks grueling over the decision, second guessing myself at every juncture. I can’t even explain how stressful this was, because I struggle to find words to identify why I found it so taxing. I was crying about it almost daily for 8 weeks, though, if that gives you an indication.

And when I ultimately decided to stay at my current organization (with a promotion that included my absolute dream job description), it upset some people whom I respect, and that was incredibly tough. At this point, I’m LOVING my new role, and I’m so glad I decided to stay where I am. I’m at peace with people being upset with me.

Making babies is hard (and expensive)

And then there’s this fertility journey. Let me tell you something: Women’s healthcare fucking sucks.

The doctors basically have no idea why, but my husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for about a year now to no avail. I’m 29, so age isn’t a factor, and by all accounts, this shouldn’t be this hard.

You know, you spend your whole life trying to avoid pregnancy because they tell you in middle school health class how easy it is to get pregnant. And then you end up in my situation, finally trying to get pregnant, and you have to go to the doctor twice a week for even a hope.

Skip the next three paragraphs (gray background) if you don’t want the nitty-gritty details. The way a uterus-having person’s cycle is supposed to work is this: You have your period. Near the end/just after your period, your estrogen starts rising, ultimately surging. During this time, you grow follicles that will eventually release an egg (or two, in the case of fraternal twins). Your estrogen surge tells your body to then produce luteal hormone (LH), which then surges. This LH surge tells your body to release the egg. This happens, usually, on day 12-15 of your cycle. The LH surge also tells your body to produce progesterone, which aids in implantation and prevents your body from having a period too early.

Some of this happens for me. I have a period, my estrogen rises, and I have an LH surge and ovulation — albeit a bit late, at day 18. But the progesterone doesn’t happen. I get a mini progesterone rise — enough for the doctors to confirm that I am, in fact, ovulating — but not enough to aid implantation or to stave off my period. My period comes ~8 days after I ovulate, which is not enough time for implantation to occur, since implantation takes 8-12 days after ovulation. This short period between ovulation and menstrual cycle is referred to as luteal phase defect.

The thing is, if one’s body is capable of producing estrogen (which mine clearly is), apparently it’s also capable of producing progesterone. I don’t understand the mechanics of that, but this is what my endocrinologist tells me. So the theory for a while was that my body wasn’t recognizing the LH surge and thus wasn’t producing progesterone the way it should have. This was an exciting theory, because it was the beginnings of a diagnosis. But then I had a uterine biopsy (which, yes, almost made me pass out from the pain) that showed that my body does actually react to LH, so we’re really not sure what the hell is going on.

I took a pause while writing this to answer a call from my pharmacy telling me the drug my doctor thinks might help is not covered by insurance. Which brings me to the other part of the baby-making struggle: It’s flipping expensive.

I’m spending something like $1000-1500/month on medical care right now. I’m so thankful that for that promotion and raise I just got, because it’s honestly all going to the fertility clinic.

Slowly starting to feel normal

A couple weeks ago, I got to visit my best friend in Seattle for about a week. It was exactly what I needed. We didn’t do much sightseeing, but instead just spent time relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

After that trip, I’m feeling much better. Not 100%, but much better. Well enough to make a bra last weekend, to have another pattern printed and ready to cut, and to have taken a dance class yesterday. I’m starting to feel like me again.

I made the new Porcelynne Jackie sports bra last weekend (stay tuned for a review on the pattern tomorrow!), and this was my first sewing project in a while. It felt good to make a pattern that went together easily. And now I have plans for some more complicated projects. In the next month or so, I’m hoping to make:

Now I just need y’all’s good vibes to make it happen. With luck (and a little bit of self care and therapy), I’ll be on my way back to producing more regular content for Sew Busty again. ❤

Community Blog | How to: Seated Measurements for All Types of Bottoms (i.e., for wheelchair users) with Lolie

Hello, Lolie here (@lolieya on IG)! I am here today to show you my process to get measurements for panties that fit well for the permanent seated position, meaning for wheelchair users — but anyone that sits is welcome! You could use this tutorial for any kind of bottoms, but we’ll be focusing on underwear. I’ve been a full-time wheelchair user for 4 years now and getting panties/pants/bottoms that fit have been close to impossible. Let me guide you as to why and show you some solutions I’ve found.

Bottoms are complicated to fit for wheelchair users because we traditionally fit bottoms standing up. Every single book, tutorials, YouTube videos and blog posts on fitting seems to approach it that way. But since wheelchair users are not standing upright … it’s not useful for our fitting purposes. If each time someone would present a fitting problem with a picture, it were shown seated too, that would help to identify which existing technique would be best to improve the fit of the pattern. The same problem shown standing or seated will just not look the same, so it’s hard to draw parallels between them without being shown what it looks like.

The final result

Also, fitting bottoms for the seated position isn’t easy. We’re creating a different shape altogether, so we need, for example, to add shaping at the knee, elongate the rise in the back, shorten it in the front, elongate the inseam (pants will ride up), add shaping to the side seam at the hip level … The trickiest part, in my opinion, being to remove the shaped excess where the legs meet the torso at a 90 degree angle.

But for now, we’ll focus on the top part with panties. We’ll of course need appropriate crotch depth, crotch rise measurements, waist and hips and waist to hips, taken seated. Taking seated measurements is also good for anyone to ensure that, when choosing a size in a close fitting garment, you’ll end up with enough room to sit comfortably. 

In 2016, just before I had to start using my wheelchair all day long, I had just drafted a panties block for myself, and they fitted very well. I loved them and made a ton. They were medium-high rise, bikini style (low cut on the legs), really regular panties just like I personally like them. This pattern was literally drafted for me.

However, when I tried them again recently, they didn’t fit at all anymore. I had lots of excess fabric in the front (they went higher than my rib cage) and they were short in the back. Also, even if my measurements  were very similar, my body shape had changed a bit because of the year I spent in a hospital bed. My abdominal muscles were making themselves scarce, which tends to make the belly protrude. So, I had to go back to the drawing board on a quest for a comfortable pair of panties pattern once again!

Let me show you both patterns on top of each other so you have an idea of the difference. It’s impressive. It was drafted for the same person, with the same weight, the only difference is being seated vs standing.

The pattern on the bottom is the new one and the one in two pieces, off-white, is the old one.

At first, I thought I’d just get my lingerie pattern drafting book and make another pattern with my new measurements. But it didn’t work because I didn’t know how to properly measure myself while seated. I was at an impasse, as I searched the internet on how to take those measurements, and couldn’t find much (hence why I’m writing this).

Eventually, I came across Apostrophe Patterns and their MyFit Underwear pattern generator. It generates a pattern based on a number of personal measurements you input in the system. Once you purchase a pattern, you can generate as many variations as you desire, so I thought it was a safe bet. The pattern has many options, and thorough instructions. There is also a maternity option which would make it simple to tilt the waist forward, but most of the time these options offered will cover the belly and make a bigger waistband, which is not what we want, so I preferred to go with only measurements.

To take the measurements, you will need two strings/piece of lingerie elastic long enough to go around you, scotch tape (any kind), a wooden stool, a mirror, two rulers or one ruler and something very thin and straight.

First, for the crotch depth:

  1. Sit on a flat and hard surface, preferably a stool, to see all around easily, or adapt to your needs.
  2. Put a string (light blue) around your waist, in exactly the same place where you want your waistband to hit, and tape in place (orange). It’s very important to be as precise as possible about this.
  3. Your waist placement doesn’t have to be parallel to the floor, if that’s your preference.
  4. Take a big ruler and place it between your thighs, one end perfectly flat on the stool.
  5. Take the other ruler (or any straight object) and place it at the same height as of your waist string and perpendicular to the first ruler. Mark where they cross. This is your front crotch depth measurement. 
  6. Do the exact same but in the back, asking for help if needed so the rulers stay at a 90 degree angle to each other.

Tip: you can use a clip to mark where the rulers intersect so it’s easier to read.

The administrators on Apostrophe Patterns page suggested adding 1,5cm (0.5″) to the back rise and subtracting 3,5cm (1.5″) from the front depth, so I suggest the same to you. This method gave me great results.

Example:

Let’s say I have identified a front crotch depth of 21,5cm (8.5″) and a back depth of 21cm (8.25″): 

Front: 21,5 – 3,5 = 18 cm (8.5 – 1.5 = 7″)

Back: 21 + 1,5 = 22,5 (8.25 + 0.5 = 8.75″)

For the rise, stay in the same position. You will need to use a flexible tape measure. 

  1. Put the flexible tape (light beige) between your legs, as shown in the picture.
  2. For this measure, it’s useful to have at least three clips (hot pink) and string or elastic (light blue) on your chosen waist placement, well taped in place (orange).
  3. Clip one end of the tape measure onto the string.
  4. Put another clip on the tape measure where you want your inseam to be (the seam from hem to hem inside of the legs).
  5. Finally, clip the tape with a third clip on the waist string in the back, making sure you don’t tug on anything in the process. It’s supposed to be snug but not tight. Adjust if necessary by looking in the mirror.
  6. Once done, take the tape measure off while keeping the clips in place and note the measurements. Don’t mix up the front and back!

Now, our last step is to take our hip, waist and waist-to-hip measurements seated. 

For the waist, just take the measure on top of the blue string, while seated. It doesn’t matter if your waistline is tilted for this. I have no pictures as it’s pretty self explanatory.

For the hips, it is not complicated. 

  1. If possible, stand up and wrap the tape measure (light beige) around your hips, parallel to floor, making sure it’s in the widest part of your bum/hips. Tape it or hold it in place. 
  2. Just note that it will probably not be parallel anymore once you sit down and that’s ok.
  3. Sit down and let the tape expand around you to take the measurement. 

Tip: If you’re not able to stand, alternatively you can roll over in your bed, have someone tape the flexible tape measure on the widest part of your bum, transfer like usual, make sure the tape is still well placed and measure around yourself.

Waist-to-hip measurement

  1. Measure from your waist string to where your hip line (the tape measure) ended up on the side. 

Those are the measurements that I would start with and add in a pattern generator or use for pattern drafting instructions. Then, make a toile of your new pattern and adjust if necessary. Our bodies come in many different shapes, so there might still be some things to fit even if it was made to your own measurements. 

If you want to use an existing pattern, choose a your size according to the numbers you found, but know that it wasn’t drafted for someone sitting so there will be lots of other things to adjust. But with these and knowledge in pattern alterations, you can certainly do it. Trousers would be much more difficult than panties to adapt though.

About the MyFit Underwear pattern generator, if centimetres are not your jam, there’s the option to use both centimetres or inches in the pattern generator, so no need to worry! I usually use inches, except when I do pattern drafting. I find centimetres easier to calculate and more precise. 

And there you have it! Now, you only have to draft your underwear block using your preferred method or use a pattern generator system and toile your comfortable masterpiece!

Apostrophe Pattern offered me a 15% discount on their patterns for anyone reading this blog post and wanting to try their formula out! This is not an affiliate link, just a discount I asked for you guys because I want you all to be able to feel fabulous in your clothes, no matter your physical needs!

Discount code: SEATED15 

Come follow me on instagram @lolieya for more info on fitting for the seated position and all my creative endeavours! Thanks Sew Busty for having me 💗

Lolie (he/her) sews because she likes wearing comfortable, cute clothes and cute clothes that fit are a rarity for wheelchair users like her. Wearing garments that she feels good in is a way to care for herself, feel empowered and relax through stressful medical stuff and, just, life. You can find Lolie on Instagram @lolieya.

Community Blog | Planning a capsule wardrobe – aka thinking about sewing even when you aren’t sewing with Laura

I think we have all been there, we have a stack of patterns and a cupboard full of fabrics and so many plans for things to make with them. When our precious sewing time finally comes around after work is done for the day, and the house is clean, and the family are fed, and the kids are in bed, and we are paralysed by indecision.  What do we want to work on? We end up spending half of the precious allotted time just deciding which project to start.

This is why I take a pre-planned capsule wardrobe approach to my sewing. Hi, my name is Laura and I make plans. All the time, in every aspect of my life. I even plan in spontaneity! 

Why does capsule planning work for me?

I love sewing, in particular, having control over the way I dress. But left to my own devices I would have 900 pairs of jeans and nothing else in my wardrobe. They are my favourite thing to make but we all know that a pair of jeans is not an appropriate outfit on it’s own. There are also occasions when jeans might not be my first pick to wear, for example when the temperature outside is above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). So I need to make some other things too.

By planning a capsule collection, I can make sure I have pieces in my wardrobe that will definitely go together and can be worn interchangeably. I wear almost exclusively separates anyway because that is my personal comfort zone, so having tops and bottoms and toppers (think jackets, cardigans, overshirts etc.) that work together takes all the guess work out of getting dressed.

Some of my capsule collections have been designed with a particular activity in mind, such as summer holiday capsule or work wear capsule. Some have just been designed centring around a particular colour or print I want to include in my wardrobe.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

The answer to this is really whatever you make it. There are several established capsule wardrobe templates that you could use. For example:

  • a mini capsule, which I first heard about from Whitney (TomKat Stitchery on youtube)- 3 tops, 2 bottoms and 1 topper.
  • the 3×3 grid capsule – 3 tops, 3 bottoms and 3 toppers
  • the perfect 10 – 4 tops, 2 bottoms, a dress, a sweater and 2 layering pieces (jacket or cardigan).

If all of those feel like a lot to start with you could start with one bottom piece (trousers or a skirt) and two tops that will go with it. This is a capsule wardrobe in its most simple form.

For some people thinking more than one project ahead is too much, so what about a rolling wardrobe model? Start with one wardrobe piece, for example a dress in a print you love. The next thing you make will go with that item, for example a cropped jacket in a complimentary colour. The next item will go with the 2nd item but doesn’t necessarily go with the first, so in this example maybe a skirt in the same fabric as your jacket? and so on…. This method allows you to work spontaneously but will still mean you have a cohesive closet to pull from with items that go together. (If this interests you check out this pattern review thread where they are looking at this concept.)

Top tips for planning your capsule wardrobe

  1. Plan around existing pieces in your wardrobe – Do you have an item in your wardrobe that you love but it doesn’t get much wear because you don’t have much that really goes with it? Why not make it some friends? Remember that not everything in your capsule has to be me made. Why not buy a really great classic skirt and make three tops to go with it?
  2. Think about what you love wearing – maybe you need another one of that item in rotation? This might be a good jumping off point for planning a capsule.
  3. Plan around a theme – workwear, loungewear, formal wear, all wovens / knits, activewear, work to weekend, holiday wardrobe (etc. etc. you get the idea). No matter what your life looks like there is a capsule for you.
  4. If you are including prints choose one multicoloured print as a starting point, then pull in co-ordinating colours. Personally, I do not feel that comfortable with print mixing so I usually go for prints on the tops in my capsules and plains on the bottoms and toppers. That way I know everything will work together. BUT if you love print mixing then go for it! Just try and keep everything in a cohesive colour scheme.
  5. What comes first the pattern or the fabric? – I have done capsules both ways and both work so it really depends on your process and what you want to achieve with the capsule. Personally, I find I buy more new stuff if I start with patterns because I won’t often have the perfect fabric in the perfect colour in my stash. If I start with fabrics, I can usually find a suitable pattern that I already own.
  6. Know your neutrals and incorporate them into your capsule – this will help you make pieces that fit into your wardrobe as a whole. Remember that neutrals don’t have to be black brown, white, grey etc. Hot pink and neon green can also be neutrals, they are just colours you return to over and over. Mine are currently olive green, brown, ivory and navy
  7. Consider accessories – If you knit or crochet or do some other fibre art why not consider hats, shawls, gloves etc for your capsule. Shoes, bags and jewelry also change the way an outfit can look. Think simple white tee for a day at the beach but put on a statement necklace for an evening out.
  8. Step back – once you have an initial plan step back and look at it with an evaluating eye. Does this look like something you will actually reach for? If not, why not? Does the overall collection look too wild/ colourful/ boring etc? If you don’t like the way certain styles look together, make sure you aren’t including them. The example I always use for myself is cropped tops with low rise trousers. Your examples might be different. It is about understanding your own style preferences and honouring them.
  9. Plan in a spontaneous make – If you are the type of person who thrives on falling in love with something and just diving right in, but you also want to try your hand at capsule sewing, why not plan in some spontaneity? There is nothing that says because you have planned these 6 or 9 items that you must make them one after the other. Maybe make one thing from your planned list and then allow yourself to choose a project at random. Then go back to your planned list.

Capsule wardrobes for busty sewists

When Lindsey from Sew Busty asked me if I would write a community blog post about capsule wardrobe planning one of the questions she asked me was “how does being busty effect your wardrobe planning?” I have thought a lot about this in the weeks since I agreed to write this post. For me I am always aiming for items that I will wear and love. So perhaps the real question here is “how does being busty effect what you wear?” The answer is, it does affect it but not in the way you might think.

We have always been told that busty people should wear V necks and wrap dresses because less fabric on the chest will make you look smaller. In contrast I might be considered a modest dresser (for personal comfort reasons rather than religious ones). I choose high necklines because I have never felt particularly comfortable showing cleavage and like to be able to move naturally without worrying about showing more than I want to.

As a result, I don’t think my capsules are constrained by what will “suit” my body shape but more by my own personal style rules. Understanding your own comfort levels when it comes to clothing is key to creating a capsule collection, or even just individual items, that you will love and wear. Shapes, motifs, colours, silhouette, fibres, substrates and finishing details all feed into this. Sometimes the only way to really understand if something is really right for you is to try it. Experimentation is key and doesn’t stop. What you like and are comfortable with can change for different situations, different times of year, and develop over time. Just because I don’t choose to wear skirts now doesn’t mean I never have or never will.

I hope I have shown you how planning a capsule wardrobe can be exciting and help channel your creativity into core wardrobe pieces that will really earn their keep. If you decide to do your own capsule wardrobe please tag me on Instagram @sewnandshown I would love to see your planning.

Community Blog | Fitting Fancy Fronts: Full Bust Adjustment for Midriff + Princess Seam Top – Tia Dress and Peplum with Karey

Sew Busty has been doing an excellent introductory series on getting started on sewing for big busts, including introduction to doing Full Bust Adjustments (FBAs). While doing my two posts on doing an FBA on a wrap dress or top for Sew Busty, it occurred to me that because being able to do an FBA for various styles of garments is such an essential skill for busty sewers, it would be good for more experienced sewers who want to extend themselves, to do a series of posts on doing FBAs for less common or more challenging styles, for which standard FBAs won’t work.

Also, while Sew Busty has developed an extensive database of designers who provide patterns for a range of cup sizes, only a handful go up to my cup size. While of those that do have larger cup sizes, some only provide them for larger base sizes. In order to have a full choice of styles to sew, I had to develop skills in doing FBAs. Other members of the Sew Busty community are in the same boat, and learning to do a wider variety of FBAs will expand your sewing options.

Figure 1: Finished Tia peplum

This post includes the details of the tutorial for the FBA Laura Nash, Sew Chic Patterns, provided for the vintage inspired LN1312 Tia Dress (Figure 2a) in her Craftsy Class: Sew Vintage: The Flirty Day Dress. This dress has a princess seam bust section, and a separate midriff section attached to a skirt. To save fabric while testing the fit, I hacked the dress into a sleeveless peplum top – Figure 2b). I provide a simple skirt hack for drafting your own peplum below.

While this tutorial was developed specifically for the Tia dress, there are many dresses with similar bodices. The recently released TINAlisa jersey Vicky dress (Figure 2d) does not have the midriff section, but does have the princess seam bust section. This is one of the first designs TINAlisa has released with a large bust front, but the designer, Martina Blasius, also always includes an FBA instructions for the specific design (see Note* below), and all designs include seamlines that make large bust fitting easier.

Before I retired, I had planned to copy a Mix-It-Up hack by one of the Craftsy participants, which combined three of Sew Chic’s designs: the Tia bodice, the Beatrice sleeve and skirt, and the Phantom sleeve cuff (shown in Figure 2c)), but I don’t often have the need for such formal dresses anymore. Many other patterns have midriff panels, which may need to be adjusted if you do an FBA, and the Tia FBA instructions can also be used for any princess seam FBA. I think it is a much simpler adjustment than the one most tutorials provide.

Figure 2: Style examples of princess seam bust with midriff panel: a) Tia dress; b) Tia Midriff; c) Tia, Beatrice, & Phantom mix-up; e) TINAlisa Vicky

SewBusty has tutorials on the two main ways of determining the cup size you need, one is primarily used for sewing clothes, and the other used to be the main way to measure for bra cups, but some pattern companies mix it up, including Cashmerette.

While the Tia pattern doesn’t include cup sizes, the FBA tutorial specific to this style of bodice provides instructions for (sewing cup) A (cup reduction) to DD cup – calculated by subtracting high bust (HB) measurement from full bust (FB) measurement. Cashmerette, on the other hand. uses bra cup sizes.

Figure 3: My cup size(s)

Because the Craftsy class materials didn’t go up to my cup size, Laura of Sew Chic provided details for the adjustments I needed, and information for going up additional cup sizes. Unfortunately, that information was provided in the questions feature on a platform that got closed and sold on. So while the class is still available on the new platform, and the Sew Chic FBA tutorial is also available on their website, the information about doing a bigger FBA is only in my class notes, hence my wanting to share it here. Before making any adjustments to a pattern, follow the steps in Figures 4a) and b), and make changes to traced pattern, not original.

Figure 4: a) trace pattern pieces; and, b) mark every seam allowances (5/8″ for Tia) on each piece. I trace onto non-woven tracing Vilene, which is partly transparent, cheap, strong, flexible, and drapes like fabric, so is excellent for tissue fitting and adjusting the pattern..
*Note: all pattern adjustments are made from sewing lines not from cutting lines, hence the necessity to mark all the seam allowances (SA). It also allows for accurate pinning for tissue fitting.

Figure 5 shows the steps for making the FBA.
a) Mark a line through the bust apex at the point of greatest width on the pattern (a). You will need to adjust actual bust apex, and possibly find tune extension curve in tissue fit and muslin.
b) Spread the Side Front (SF), hinging at the side seam sewing line, and opening in a wedge at the bust apex, as per the amount specified in column 2 in Figure 6. Spread the Centre Front (CF) by the amount specified in column 4 in Figure 6. Note that as cup size increases, so does the amount the CF is spread increases by more than the SF increases per cup size.
c) Extend the curve of the apex on the SF by the amount specified in column 3 in Figure 6.

Figure 5: FBA illustrations

Figure 6 provides the amounts of spread and extending for SF and CF for a woven dress. The instructions for the FBA for the TINAlisa Vicky dress are almost identical, except amount of spread is for knit dress. See Note* below for details.

Figure 6: Bust adjustment guide: amount to spread and extend for each cup size
*Note: the amount the CF is spread/reduced is the same for the A cup, but for C to E the amount the CF is spread increases with each size. There is no B cup on the chart because the pattern was drafted for B cup.


Although the chart does not have any extension on the CF on the seam over the apex, I had to extend my CF apex seam by about the width of the seam allowance. This is just one of the things that tends not to extrapolate smoothly as you go beyond a DD cup. I have my suspicions that this is one of the reasons designers limit their cup sizes to DD because bigger than that creates distinct design and fitting issues. This is just one of the reasons for tissue fitting and making a muslin if you have to adjust for larger cup sizes, as we are getting in the realm of ‘honking great darts’.

Finally, you need to ‘walk’ the apex seamline of the SF along the apex seam of the CF. Threads Magazine has an excellent tutorial, if you don’t know how to do this, including a video. See ‘How to Walk the Seamline’. This ensures the princess seam on SF and CF match. If they are not the same size, adjust how much you spread the CF, then walk again to recheck and mark notches on both pieces.

Before I show you my fitting steps, I want to show you the scale test I did using my scale b-cup and FBA bodices, fitted over scale boobs. I found this test allowed me to distinguish the fitting adjustments that were specific to doing an FBA on this bodice, and additional adjustments due to specificity of my particular body proportions, separately from those due to my cup size.

Figure 7 shows how a facsimile of the Tia bodice (b) (namely princess seam and midriff section) can be obtained from a sloper transformation (a). c) juxtaposes my scale B-cup and FBA boobs, while d) shows the scale ‘Tia’ bodice looks folded over the scale boobs. This order reflects narrative convenience rather than construction order. I actually placed my unmarked B-cup and FBA slopers over the scale boobs in order to mark the UB and above bust seam locations, and then marked up and cut the seam lines.

Figure 7: drafting facsimile of Tia bodice from B-cup and FBA scale bodice slopers
a) bodice cup lines marked on B-cup sloper (left) & FBA sloper (right) b) Side & midriff darts closed, UB and princess seams opened & side darts transferred to them. c) scale B-cup boobs (left), FBA boobs (right) d) cut out B-cup & FBA bodice halves (from b) taped and placed over scale boobs in c).


What I discovered was that, apart from the FBA, adjustments I made to the pattern during tissue fit and muslin were not directly attributable to the FBA. Although some may be common for those needing an FBA. For example, I deliberately kept the apex of the large half scale boob at the same height, in order to minimise the number of variables I changed. But in terms of real boobs, while there are some high sitting large ones, they are more inclined to sit lower than smaller boobs, as gravity works its magic.

So although 7d) shows the height of the midriff the same for both B-cup and large boobs, that is more a product of the test set up design, than based on any reflection of reality.

Figure 8: tissue fit comparing size 8 B-cup bodice with adjusted bodice
a) size 8: back and waist too narrow; FBA bodice, with wide back adjustment & waist graded out
b) B-cup excess back length, UB seam too high on bust; FBA bodice, waist shortened

My tissue fit and muslin confirmed I needed to grade out at waist, do large back adjustment, shorten midriff, and lower bustline, as well as do FBA.

Whereas the midriff on the B-cup and large bust are the same height in 7d) of the half scale model, I had to drastically shorten the midriff as shown in the tissue fit in 8a).

Figure 9: a) fine tuning muslin; b) Front midriff, black size 8, blue adjusted midriff, graded out & shortened c)Tia size chart, with my sizes marked

While I traced size 8 and did an E cup FBA, I also needed to shorten the back and midriff, as I am 5’2”, rather than the 5’6” the Tia pattern is drafted for. My large bust and short stature meant the 1” to 1¼” neckline trim looked too large. A large FBA often means design lines and proportions on a garment no longer work, and need some adjustment. I trialled ¾” and ½” trim on the Sew Chic Facebook group, and I agreed with the consensus that the narrower trim looked better.

Figure 10: a) final dress; b) comparing ½” trim on left with ¾” trim on right

Bonus Peplum hack
Peplums are commonly drafted as a full or half circle, but my square hips don’t really suit either the circle skirt on this dress, or as a peplum. Instead I drafted my peplum from a straight skirt that fit. Folding out the darts and spreading along the hipline.

If you prefer a full peplum you can slash the skirt from hem to waistline and spread the hem more. If a peplum top comes with a more full skirt than you prefer, you can reverse the process, slash from ham to waist, and overlap at the hemline.

Figure 11 slash and spread peplum
a) straight skirt cut at peplum length b) darts folded out, and hem spread c) extra slashes opened out. Reverse to reduce peplum spread.

Note*: TINAlisa Vicky Pattern
TINAlisa patterns are in German and don’t have seam allowances included (common in European patterns), but don’t let that put you off. You can upload the instruction pdf file to this Free Online Translator site (screenshot shown in Figure 12a), which will translate the text to English (or whatever language you prefer) while preserving format and images (Figure 12b). For the large busted, it is easier to do an FBA without seam allowances, as they have to be removed from patterns that include them before you do the FBA anyway.

Figure 12: a) screenshot of document upload box (you may need to scroll down to find it);
b) sample translated document: Vicky FBA instructions

My next blogpost will feature a TINAlisa FBA for a more complex bodice.

Karey Harrison is a feminist philosopher of science and linguistics, environmentalist, retired academic, home baker, sewist, gardener. Karey also wrote the guest blogpost: #AllButtsWelcome: Unmentionables: Crotch Variation in Pantie Fitting. You can catch Karey on instagram @kareylea and see Karey’s academic profile here.

Community Blog | Quick Bust Friendly Sews for Spooky Season with Kerri

It’s that time of year, everyone is in crunch time to make their last Halloween items.  The question always lies, to costume or not to costume.  I myself tend to lean toward making a new costume every year but you can’t always go out in full costume.  For this reason this year I decided to make a few quick tops/dresses to wear for non costumed events.

I chose the Galena Dress from Little Lizard King, The Plantain Top from Deer and Doe, and The Vista Top from George and Ginger.  I chose these 3 designs because they were something a little special.  The Galena and Vista both have fun design elements and the Plantain offers a simple beauty.  Also so important both the Plantain and Galena are free patterns!

To make these spooky I chose fabrics to represent the season.  The Plantain is made with a star embellished black mesh fabric I picked up from The Bra Makery.  The Galena is made from a knit Art Gallery Bat fabric I picked up from Phee Fabrics.  Lastly the Vista I made with a fun forest knit I got from Jumping June Textiles.  These prints could put anyone in the spooky spirit!  Happy Halloween!

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

Community Blog | Vintage Style Tailoring with Carly

Vintage isn’t for everyone. I know this. But somehow or other I have fallen in love with the fashions of the 1930s-1950s, and it makes me really happy to wear these kinds of styles. For those of you who aren’t into my style of vintage, don’t worry – this blog post is really just about making a princess seam tailored suit jacket.

I volunteer at Bletchley Park, which, in case you don’t know, was the base from which the Allied code breakers worked in World War Two. When I’m there, I really like to wear my 1940s style clothes and imagine working there in 1941. I think this is where my desire for a 1940s style suit came from, and since I have long given up looking for true vintage pieces that fit me, I knew I was going to need to design, draft and make it myself. 

For me, that starts with a little biro drawing in my notebook. Nothing fancy, just enough to show the seams and style lines. I knew I wanted princess seams, because I’m not a huge fan of darts on my bust (37” high bust, 41” full bust and very short torso), and also earlier this year I made a cropped version of the Princess Coat from Charm Patterns and I quite liked it. I knew I could use the princess seams from this pattern as a basis, but wanted to change the collar, the length of the jacket overall and the back would need vents to accommodate my butt.


I pulled out my traced pieces from the Princess Coat and laid over my tracing paper, and started tracing the bits I’d keep and changing everything else. I didn’t change the armscye any so I also used the same 2-piece tailored sleeve. I also referred to other patterns I had already drafted to help me with the collar.

Then I made a mock-up/toile/muslin – test version, whatever you call it. The collar was way too big for my liking, so I went and re-drafted it and made a second test garment, which is pictured above. Still having doubts about the collar size, I popped a blouse on with it and suddenly it all seemed to make sense. Now I was happy with it, I finalised all my pattern pieces and drafted the facings. Time to cut into my project fabric! 

I started by making the bound buttonholes on my jacket front. I learned how to do these when I made the Princess Coat earlier in the year and they give a really nice finish to a tailored garment.

Buttonholes complete, it was on to the princess seams. Now I’m sure we all, anyone who sews for people with a large high bust/full bust difference, know exactly what I’m talking about – your side front panel has a huge bulge in it and the centre front is, at best, straight, and at worse, curved in the opposite direction. So when we put these right sides together to sew, it can get tricky, right?? 

This is my side front and centre front for this jacket. I struggled and struggled last year trying to perfect sewing princess seams with this kind of curve. I Googled and Googled and tried and tried and nothing worked. I would get puckers, the raw edges wouldn’t line up, one piece would end up shorter than the other. If you have experienced any (or all!) of these problems, the good news is I finally found a way to do it! Yes, even on that curve.

Now, I can’t really take any credit here because the method I use is the one recommended by Charm Patterns for the Princess Coat. The silly thing is, I figured that if I couldn’t sew a princess seam, I had no business getting the Princess Coat pattern or watching the “how to” video on YouTube. Oh, how wrong I was. I don’t remember how or why but I ended up watching said “sew a retro cropped jacket” video on YouTube. But the technique for princess seams which is explained in this video, in detail, is the answer to your large bust curve princess seam sewing prayers! I mean, go check out that video if you fancy it.

Here’s how: stay stitch your centre front at 1/8” shy of your full seam allowance (so ½” on a garment with a 5/8” seam allowance like this), then clip into that stay stitched seam allowance at ½” intervals, being careful not to snip your stitching. Then lay your side front right side up on the table in front of you, and lay the stay-stitched and clipped centre front down on top of it, right sides together. Match and pin the notches first, and then you will, like magic, be able to match the raw edges of the two pieces with the opposing curves by spreading the clips on the centre front to match the side front. Use as many pins as you need! Then you can just sew the seam like normal at your required seam allowance.

Then you need to notch the seam allowance on the side front piece. Cut out small triangles at ½” intervals, making sure the points of these triangles are between the clips on the other side. You don’t really want your clips and triangles meeting at the seam! Then you can press the seam open, using a tailor’s ham. 

Ta da! Obviously this is going to leave lots of flappy bits of seam allowance, which I think is why people prefer darts, since really princess seamed garments are going to need a lining to cover all this.

With my front and back princess seams sewn, I moved on with the rest of the construction. Shoulder seams, side seams. Collar, facings. It was starting to look like a jacket at this point, and I was excited to sew and set in the sleeves. I used a bias strip of my fabric to ease the sleeve cap (another Charm Patterns trick) and I love how easy it is and how it gives just the right finish for tailored garments.

I could really see the project starting to take shape at this point. Although I will say, it does not look great on the hanger. It took me a while to realise that this is because I’ve just spent all this time sewing a garment with a lot of room in the bust and sadly my coat hangers are less well endowed! Anyway, on to hand catch-stitching the jacket hems. I know not everyone is a fan of hand stitching, but it does have its place in projects like this. 

Time to start over! What?? Well that’s how I feel when I have to start making the lining. I can’t be the only one. I repeated the necessary steps to construct the lining, using the same princess seam sewing technique as on the outer. On the home straight now, I attached the lining to the jacket, and then hand finished the lining hems, the bound buttonhole openings in the front facing, and finally sewed on the buttons. Finished jacket!

I mentioned at the start that I wanted a suit, so here I am wearing the jacket with the matching pencil skirt I made. I love my suit, and am very pleased with how the jacket compares to my original biro drawing. 

Carly is self-taught and has been sewing since 2018. Her favourite thing about sewing is making whatever you want to fit however you want. Carly wears vintage style daily and this has helped to push her to design and sew her own as it is difficult to find true vintage garments for busty bodies.

Community Blog | Your Sewing Level and Why It Doesn’t Matter with Trudy

Spoiler Alert! You start wherever you are and learn what you need to as you develop your practice. Your current skill is irrelevant because no matter what your proficiency, there is always something new to learn or improve on.

I was recently asked during a job interview for a customer service position at an independent pattern company “What is your sewing skill level?” The interview was going quite well up to this point, I had nailed some fairly tough questions about leadership, teamwork and problem solving and I had a good rapport with the panel. This question, however, threw me off partly because I find it irrelevant without sufficient context. The answer I gave was something like … it depends on the scale my skills are being evaluated on. If this scale is dependent on what I’ve learned since I first started sewing 5 years ago compared to now, then I’m pretty advanced, but on the other hand if it evaluates my ability to apply couture techniques, then I probably am not even on the scale. Suffice to say, I didn’t kill the answer, and as interviews often go, it left me feeling like I could have flushed out the idea a bit more thoroughly. 

The better question to ask oneself is not “what am I capable of making with my current skillset”, but instead, “what exactly do I want to make and what skills do I need to learn to be able to make that thing?”

Now, your level of experience obviously matters if a sewing company is going to hire you, but the question was too broad, and a broad answer such as “beginner”, “advanced beginner”, “intermediate” or “advanced” does not provide much insight, and it left me thinking that these labels on sewing patterns similarly do not mean very much without context. I would rather see the breakdown of what skills are used in a particular pattern, what makes it beginner/advanced, is it a set in sleeve, inseam pocket, bias binding finish, sewing with knits, button placket, sleeve placket, darts, hem, invisible zipper, exposed zipper, fly? Or possibly a better categorization would be whether the garment is simple or complex in design describing the amount of details included.

For me however, the better question to ask oneself is not “what am I capable of making with my current skillset?”, but instead “what exactly do I want to make and what skills do I need to learn to be able to make that thing?” I can then refine my swing practice to include those specific skills. Like many things in life, your skill level in sewing depends on your experience level; knowledge comes first and proficiency follows.

My favourite things to sew are the things I can not buy. We all know the struggle is real for the busty bunch with certain categories of clothing; for me this includes bras and button down shirts.  Finding a nice button down that fits the chest AND shoulders  or a well fitting comfortable bra has proven impossible. So I’ve learned to make them. There has always been a learning curve for sure. I’ve made several shirt dresses and they range from having nice crisp collars, like the one to the left on the Closet Core Kalle Shirtdress, to this yellow Deer and Doe Myositosis with a sort of wonky collar, but a nice fitting  bodice.

My bra making journey has only started about 7 months ago, but it has been by far my favourite skill that I’ve developed. I’ve spent a lot of time, energy and money fitting myself, and I don’t regret any of it. The difference between sewing your own clothes and buying off the rack is that you have power over the process, it doesn’t feel like a hopeless search which ends in settling for a fit that is just good enough. When I sew for  myself  I know it’s within my control to define exactly what my expectations are and to continuously improve and refine my skills to execute my personal vision.

Here is the second bra I ever made, its the Pin up Girls Classic.

And here is my best bra to date, the Porcylenne Eve.

I’m eternally grateful for the modern sewing movement which has made the pursuit of and sharing of knowledge readily available. Long story short, your skill level is always in development, just try new things because actually doing things is the only way to learn how to make the things you want to be making. Also, if you’re wondering, I didn’t get the job, my rejection letter said I was a top contender, but they went with someone who had more experience sewing their patterns. Go figure.

Trudy is a retired military pilot now pursuing creativity and garment making while enjoying motherhood.