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.

Community Blog | Star Struck Dress for Bust Support with Nicole

Anyone who has connected with me on my sewing journey knows that I absolutely love unique pieces and that my most used patterns come from George + Ginger. The first time I ever browsed their collections, I was blown away. It was a mix of excitement over how each piece was so different, overwhelm at how intricate all the little details were, and sheer terror at the idea of trying to jam my top half into these risque pieces. Would I be able to manage it? Would there be enough support? Or would I end up with way more chest exposed than planned?

The Star Struck was no exception. Stunning, unique, and with enough straps that I had hope for rigging it up to be supportive. I dove in and made my first one. It turned out to be ALMOST everything I had ever dreamed… Except for the supportive bit. Even after taking it in quite a bit, I was still left feeling like my bust was trying to meet my knees. Not quite what I had envisioned.

When I was given the opportunity to work with a beautiful Halloween panel I just knew it was destined to be another Star Struck. Do you ever get those prints that are just screaming at you? This panel was so loud and so perfect that I just knew I needed to give this pattern another go, and this time I was going to hack it to be everything I wanted.

I started out by taking the front bodice piece and the front waistband piece and lining up the center edge. I overlapped them by ⅜” and traced the pieces this way onto another sheet of paper, blending the right edge from bodice corner to waistband corner. I cut this out, traced it to create a second piece, and then overlapped both pieces to create one solid bodice.

Check it out:

This left me with two options. You can cut your fabric exactly as this piece looks, or you can omit the notch in the center, cutting straight across to make one solid bodice piece. Since I was using a panel I chose to cut straight across. Doing things this way also gives an opportunity to play with different fabric bases. My panel was bamboo spandex. My lining was cotton spandex, to give the bodice a bit more structure and support. You can also add power mesh or power net between the lining and the main to give even more support!

From there, it’s just a matter of lining up your straps. Instead of binding on the inside edge, the center straps meet at the center of the bodice and they end up a bit shorter. 

All in all, I will definitely be making myself more of these using this hack! It’s been the most requested sew I’ve made so far!

Nicole got back into sewing after her young daughter couldn’t find clothes that paired her unique style with her off-beat interests. In the process, she realized she could finally make clothes that fit her own body shape and started hacking every pattern in sight!

Community Blog | Sewing for Augmented Breasts with Hazel

I’d like to start off by giving a little history on my personal story, mostly because breast augmentation is pretty stigmatized (unless for post mastectomy reconstruction) and I want to give some background on why I made the decision to have breast augmentation, and how it has affected my relationship with my breasts, my body, and my sewing practice.

I remember laying on the grass in the back yard when I was 15, daydreaming, my hands cradling the back of my head, while my parents chatted with a visiting neighbour. Someone shocked me out of my daydream by saying “Hazel, are your boobs two different sizes?” I was, quite understandably, mortified, and ran into the house. You see, I already knew that my breasts didn’t match, but I didn’t know that it was noticeable to other people. Later that same summer, I was on the bus and two older boys behind me were loudly discussing what kind of boobs I had. One said he thought they’d be small and perky. The other said he thought they were round and full. They were both correct. I felt violated.

Fast forward 15+ years, and two breastfed babies later; the asymmetry was even worse. My left breast was quite comfortably a DD cup or maybe an E, while the right was swimming in an A cup. Obviously I couldn’t find a bra that fit. If I wore a bra that fit the larger breast, when I leaned over you could see all of my smaller breast clear as day. If I wore a bra that fit the smaller breast, the larger one was spilling out of the too-small cup making all kinds of bulges. Underwires hurt. It was literally impossible to find a bra that fit, and even sports bras didn’t fit correctly. I tried making a frankenbra out of two bras that did fit. I bought two different sizes, cut them down the middle and stitched them together. While technically it did fit, it didn’t fit well and it fell apart after a few wears.

All of this led me to trying to figure out how to resolve the problem. If I were in this position now, in 2021, I’d have learned how to make my own bras, because there’s a large online bra making community and supplies are relatively easy to find(more on that later). In 2007, however, that was not the case. I tried supplements and creams that promised to grow breast tissue (it didn’t). Exercises (they don’t work). Different types of bras (they don’t make commercial bras for bodies like mine). Nothing worked. Finally, I spoke with my doctor to ask about having a reduction on the larger side, who said that this degree of asymmetry is actually not “normal” but unfortunately corrective surgery would not be covered by insurance. He sent me home with a diagnosis of anisomastia, but no solutions. I met with a plastic surgeon at the urging of a friend of mine, and was told that the larger breast was too small for a reduction, but I would be a good candidate for augmentation.

This opened up a whole different set of thoughts for me. I was so used to small cup sizes and clothing that didn’t fit because the smaller breast didn’t fill it out. I was an experienced sewist, but had very little experience with fitting, so didn’t consider doing full bust and small bust adjustments as options for a better fit. I also had two small children, and didn’t have time to sew for myself. It seemed that augmentation was the only option I had, since having children had made the asymmetry worse (the larger breast grew and stayed that size, while the smaller one shrank back to its “gumdrop under a tarp” proportions after I was done nursing).

I got my augmentation surgery in 2008, with the implants placed under the pectoral muscle. I had almost immediate regrets. I still couldn’t find bras that fit, and my breasts were larger than I had expected. The surgeon explained that he would have to put implants in both breasts, or they’d look and feel obviously different. There was no way they could make them 100% symmetrical, but the result after surgery was beasts that were closer to the same size, however they didn’t behave like natural breasts do. Newly augmented breasts look WEIRD. They stick out at weird angles, and feel tight and swollen for weeks (they eventually soften and settle down). Every mammogram I will have is a diagnostic mammogram, because of the implants. Thanks to my larger breasts, I didn’t fit into ready-to-wear sizing, so I was living in tshirts and ribbed tank tops. Yes, my boobs looked glorious, but I was still difficult to fit. They got in the way when doing yoga, and men (including my spouse) stopped talking to my face. I had no upper body strength due to cutting the pectoral muscles to place the implants. They were numb for a year, and I have 4” long scars in the inframammary fold where the implants were inserted.

And yet, while the results of my surgery were not quite what I expected, after the initial buyer’s remorse, I was happier with my new breasts than I had been with my severe asymmetry. 

Breasts are complicated organs. No two are exactly alike. They come in all shapes and sizes, sometimes on the same body, like in my case. I’ve recently learned that breast tissue that is significantly uneven has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, and I have a first degree relative who had to have a mastectomy a few years ago (which also puts me at higher risk for breast cancer). I’ve had four mammograms in the past three years, in part to establish a baseline and also because the scar tissue that is created by the insertion of implants can look concerning on a mammogram. I’ve had two ultrasounds on my breasts. There haven’t been any changes since my first mammogram, fortunately. 

All that having been said, this is about sewing! Learning to sew for my new body has been a journey. I was used to everything pretty much fitting ok out of the envelope, but not anymore! Now my breasts were a good two to three sizes larger than the rest of me, and grading between sizes just wasn’t going to work. Darts were in the wrong place, and they were too long and too shallow. Shirts were too short at the front, and dress waistlines pulled up. I had to learn to do full bust adjustments when I wasn’t used to having to do any fitting adjustments at all. Of course, the first project I did an FBA on was my wedding dress for my second marriage (he appreciates my boobs but talks to my face).

That first FBA made me want to quit sewing. I’d never done one before, and chose a bodice with an asymmetrical neckline because we wanted a retro vibe for the wedding (Butterick 6582 with a full gathered skirt with added pockets, of course). I must have done a dozen muslins to get the bodice right. I relied heavily on the Adjust the Bust class on Craftsy, as well as the Curvy Sewing Collective blog for tutorials. It was a journey involving pointy darts, darts that pointed the wrong angle, darts that were too long, darts that were too short. I learned to love and hate darts. I had nobody to hold my hand through the process. There was a lot of swearing, plenty of wasted fabric, more than a few tears, several glasses of wine, and finally a bodice that fit. And it fit perfectly. No gaping armholes. No shoulders that fall off. No drag lines. No pulling up at the waist. 

After that, the FBA and I became good friends. I learned to take my upper bust measurement to determine what size I should be cutting, and accepted that patterns were not drafted for the cup volume I needed, and went into each project with the expectation that I would be doing an FBA. I got good at it, and taught a friend how to adjust for her own larger bust, when she lamented about sewing patterns that just don’t fit.

Learning how to adjust sewing patterns to fit my bust led to realizing that I could fit other areas that weren’t quite fitting right as well. I learned about drag lines, smile lines, and pooling fabric. Previously the only adjustment I’d done was to grade between sizes, but it never worked out because it wasn’t the appropriate approach to the fitting issue I was having. I always get a pile of fabric at my back waist, so I learned how to do a swayback adjustment. I have big biceps and calves, so I learned to adjust for those too. I’m not talking about grading between sizes here, there are specific adjustments needed that will address a muscular calf better than grading sizes (if you just grade sizes, the front calf of your pant leg will be too big). My post-baby (and too much chocolate) tummy? There’s an adjustment for that too, and it’s not difficult to do.

While I was able to resolve my bust fitting issues with garment sewing patterns, I still didn’t have a bra that fit quite right, because as I said before, augmented breasts don’t behave the same way as natural breasts. They have a tendency to be somewhat self-supporting (depending on how much breast tissue you had to begin with and how your implants are placed). Most underwired bras didn’t tack at the centre because my breasts, which used to be set a bit far apart, are now closer together. Since I couldn’t find commercial bras that fit well, I dipped my toe into the world of bramaking in 2019. Let me tell you, my world has been changed! I don’t sew a lot of bras, and I haven’t quite perfected the fit yet, but they fit a whole lot better than what I can get at the store. At my size (32H or I in ready to wear) bras aren’t cheap, and there’s not a lot available. Obviously shopping online is problematic. 

Through my bramaking journey, I’ve discovered that yes, I’m still asymmetrical, but it’s not enough that it is visible. It is enough that I need to adjust my cup volume however. My most-made pattern is the Black Beauty bra by Emerald Erin, with a split lower cup, narrowed bridge, and reduced bottom band (the elastic flips when worn otherwise, thanks to my ribcage shape). I’m currently working on perfecting the Ruby bra by Pinup Girls, because I don’t always want to wear the same style of bra. I try to only order supplies from Canadian shops, since shipping from the US or elsewhere is slow and expensive, so my options are a bit limited, but I can still sew up a bra that is prettier than what I can buy for less money than it would cost if I could find one that fits me right.

These days, I don’t buy clothes aside from cardigans and graphic tees. I know I don’t have to settle for tops that fit at the bust but are too big everywhere else, or live in jersey knits 365 days a year. Sewing my own clothes means I have control over the fit, fabric, and style. The options available in shops leave a lot to be desired. I can’t recall the last time I bought clothes. I can, however, tell you that the last time I bought fabric was about two weeks ago! I don’t just make tops, either. I sew all ofmy clothes. I make my own jeans, and they fit better than anything that I could find in a store. I sew underwear out of scraps, and no, they don’t match my bras because I don’t care. I have an office job and need to dress for my role, and wear all me-mades to work. 

I’m glad to see the indie pattern design community coming together to make fitting easier for those of us with larger breasts, but it still isn’t perfect. Most designers only offer a D cup option for size 12 and up (I currently wear a 12 or 14). Most don’t offer additional cup sizes. Even with D cup sizing, I sometimes still need a little bit of an FBA. I’d love to see more designers offer cup sizes for their entire size range, and even better if they offered multiple cup size options. I have the power to adjust patterns, however, and can do so fairly quickly now that I’m comfortable with the adjustments I need to get a good fit.

At the end of the day, I’m glad I got my surgery, but it wasn’t the solution to the “problem” I was having. It actually created a whole new set of “problems”. In reality, those “problems” come down to society’s perception of what is “normal”, but really, whose body fits that perception of “normal”? I don’t know anyone who fits off the rack clothing perfectly. I’m a little taller than average. I’ve got big hips and a smaller waist. Big calves, big feet, and Mother Nature blessed me with boobs that don’t match. It’s been a long journey, but now that I’m in my 40’s, I’ve finally made peace with my body. My body isn’t a problem to be fixed. Sometimes the clothes aren’t designed to fit MY body, and I have the power to adjust the clothes to fit ME. And, thanks to a great plastic surgeon, I’ve got awesome boobs.

Hazel is a sewist and knitter based I. Vancouver, Canada. Sewing is in her blood, and she can’t sit still without some kind of project in her hands. See all of Hazel’s makes on instagram @see.hazel.sew!

Community Blog | Making a Ruched Dress from the Allie Olson Kila Tank with Sasha

Hey it’s me, Sasha from Kingdom Daughter Makes and Im here with my first blog post with SewBusty.

With the help of the Sew Busty database, I was able to find this Allie Olson Kila tank. I had been on a hunt for patterns that accommodate a D Cup because I had just grown tired of doing full bust adjustments on every pattern. While I don’t mind learning and making sure I get the fit right, I’d like for the FBA to be one less step for me. So I was glad to see the tank came in a D cup.

From there, I decided to design this ruched dress. Now this is not an original design and I’m sure we have all seen this dress somewhere on Instagram or pinterest. The top half of the dress is just the tank top chopped off at the waist.

When it came to drafting the bottom pieces, I found the apex of my tank and then drew a straight line down from there. I looked for my apex by measuring down from the top of the sleeve cap. I also took my apex to apex measurement. There are a ton of videos that help you determine where your apex is on a pattern but my favorite people to watch are Made to Sew and Lifting Pins and Needles. Lifting Pins and Needles has a series of videos on pattern adjustments for tops and bottoms. Whoops! Looks like we may have gotten a little side tracked there, back to this dress. 

Then I cut the two pieces from the waist down and added a half inch seam allowance. This became my middle front and side front (same applied to the back). When lengthening my skirt portion I just decided to bring it down to just a few inches below my knee. I didn’t want a ton of ruching. And you will see in the pictures that my ruching is not nearly as exaggerated in most skirts you will see. This was an experiment more than anything.  So I just drew straight line down. I’ve seen YouTube tutorials where they chop the patterns pieces into 2 inch slices and then spread them out to create a new pattern. I decided not to do that. 

When I joined my middle and side pieces with a zigzag stitch, I stitched down the seam allowances to the dress to create a casing. You can see here that I was undecided on if I was going to create two channels or one for each panel. But I thought one channel was easier. I created my drawstrings by just cutting long strips of fabrics and sewing them down. I found out quickly that the zig zag stitch was best to prevent thread popping. I chose to leave my edges raw on this dress but you can also create a hole on the right side of the dress at the bottom where sits so that you can hem it properly.

Sasha is from New Jersey and has been sewing since 2015. To her, the most fascinating part about sewing is pattern adjustments and fit. You can find her website here, and see her makes on insta @kingdomdaughtermakes.

Community Blog | Seeing the Full Bust Adjustment as a Series of Adjustments with Kerry

Over the past couple years, I’ve gotten quite confident in my ability to do a successful FBA on a standard two-dart bodice pattern. 

McCalls 6696, my first (successful) FBA!

I’ve even gotten comfortable with the idea that you can pivot darts anywhere you’d like around the apex and that they can be split and transformed into gathers. 

McCalls 6696 again, but modified to have a front yoke and two waist darts.

But I haven’t had a lot of practice with doing an FBA on other types of bodices.

Enter the weekend sew-along hosted by Marika of Enchanted Rose Costumes for McCalls 7974. 

Line art for McCalls 7974

This pattern not only doesn’t have standard darts, it has a plunging neckline and a curved underbust seam. My experience with this style of bodice in RTW has been that plunging necklines are prone to gaping and that underbust seams rarely sit under the bust.

I knew fitting this bodice would likely take several tries, so I started with a straight 1” FBA on the size corresponding to my upper bust measurement. (This is always a bit off for me, since I’m in between upper bust measurements on most standard size charts. I err on the side of slightly too big and then use my toiles to refine if necessary.)

Toile #1. 1” FBA.

This bodice was undoubtedly better than the standard pattern, but the underbust seam didn’t sit against my ribcage. So, even though it seemed like I had added enough width, I had not added enough length. Also, I was able to pinch out some fabric along the front neckline – suggesting it wasn’t going to sit tight against the body.

Back to the drawing table.

The FBA is often treated as a single adjustment, but it’s actually a series of changes. The obvious change is that you’re adding width right at the apex. This makes sense because doing an FBA is often triggered by noting that the full bust measurement on a pattern is smaller than your own full bust measurement. But an FBA also adds length – specifically travelling over the apex – because it assumes that the change in width is at least partially driven by a higher point the cloth must travel over (more forward thrust, if you will). This might not be the case! Or the distribution of that forward thrust may not be distributed above and below the apex in the assumed ratio. There are an infinite variety of body shapes and untangling which standard adjustment assumptions work for you and which ones do not can take time.

For my second attempt, I added length to the entire bodice piece after doing my 1” FBA.

Comparing attempts #1 and 2 with the original pattern piece.
Toile #2. 1” FBA & 1” length at underbust.

This toile puffed out along the sides. (I didn’t bother to cut new back pieces for this toile which is why they don’t match at the side seams.)

The fact that this didn’t work made a lot of sense once I thought about it. The underbust seam actually sat in the right place along the sides in my first toile – it was just under the bust itself that it seemed to float out and ride up. So I marked where along the underbust seam it started to sit in the right place. Then I did my 1” FBA and added on extra length right below the apex and tapered it out to the side seam.

Attempt #3.
Attempt #3 compared to the original pattern piece with bonus sewing cat.
Toile #3. 1” FBA, 1” length under apex tapered to nothing at the side seam.

The style of this particular dress made it really obvious, but as I thought about it I realized that I have had this problem before! Even if I have no other drag marks or pulling after an FBA, I do notice the center front waist pulling up a little. Whatever the assumption in a standard FBA is about how much length to add for how much width, it isn’t quite enough for my particular shape. In hindsight this seems obvious, but I think it took the full process for me to really start to see the FBA as a series of adjustments rather than a rigid formula.

For the actual dress, I also raised the neckline and sewed a strip of organza into the neckline seam to stabilize it, so I wouldn’t have any gaping. 

Success!

Kerry learned how to sew from her mother as a kid, but only recently started sewing consistently for herself. You can see her sewing projects on both her IG @kamtrouble and on her blog.