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.
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.
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!
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!
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 websitehere, and see her makes on insta @kingdomdaughtermakes.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Ogden Cami by True Bias seems to be one of those sewing patterns you see everywhere. I’m sure anyone who has spent even the smallest amount of time browsing sewing hashtags on Instagram or scrolling through a sewing Facebook group will have seen this pattern pop up everywhere! I absolutely love the simplicity of it with its lovely clean lines, stylish neckline and plunging back. That being said it took me a long time to get around to making one because I just couldn’t see how it could work for me.
The Ogden Cami comes in two size ranges, and whilst it’s not clear from their website I *think* the larger size range is drafted for a sewing D cup (4 inch difference between upper and full bust). Unfortunately, my measurements fall firmly into the smaller size range which is drafted for a sewing B cup (2 inch difference, again this is not clear on the website). I opted to cut out a size 4 and went with a 1inch full bust adjustment (half inch on either side). When doing the FBA I decided to leave the newly created bust darts to provide a bit of shaping as the roomy shape of this top which hangs from the bust could easily become tent like on a larger chest.
As a busty sewist one of my main considerations was that I would want to wear this pattern with a bra – I really cant stand the faff of a strapless bra and finding one in my size is pretty difficult (and I’m not up to making one quite yet!). Unlike our small-chested friends busty bras tend to have wide straps and the lovely spaghetti straps on the Ogden would just leave them on show. So I set about make this pattern bra friendly. Firstly I measured the width of the straps on the bra I want to wear this with – they are 3/4inch wide so I widened the strap pattern piece to 3/4inch plus seam allowances. I then made the corresponding change to the front and back pattern pieces where the straps join. To do this I cut off the strap attachment section about 2 inches down from the top. I then cut it in half vertically and spread the two halves apart to add in the extra width I needed.
I also wanted to make sure that the position of the straps would lie over my bra straps – in my case this meant that the front straps needed to be moved out a bit (toward my shoulders) and the back needed to be moved in towards the centre back. I measured how much I needed to move them by and then reattached the top part of the pattern offset by the amount required. I then smoothed all the curves using a French curve and I was done!
Hopefully this little diagram will help visualise those adjustments:
And heres a photo of it on the pattern piece itself!
I made up the top in this really fun bright viscose and it was almost perfect. After a bit of wear I noticed it was riding up over my bust…a good indication I needed a bit more bust room.
I decided on an extra half inch all round so I added the extra to the side seams rather than do another FBA. I also decided I wanted the lining lengthening a bit as it finished right at my bust line. After making those changes I cut out another version in the same fabric and this time the fit was perfect.
Now that I’ve got this pattern to work for me I can definitely see it becoming one of my go-to patterns for summer. In fact I dived straight in for another go and this time hacked it into a sundress by adding gathered tiers. To do this I sewed up the top as normal and then marked where I wanted the first tier to start being sure to get it level to the ground all round (this means it needs to be much longer in the front to go over my bust). I then gathered the skirt and attached it and repeated for the second tier. I also added some faux ties to the straps. It really is perfect for summer, light and breezy with very little fabric touching my skin, and I can still wear a normal bra underneath!!
Helen is a UK based scientist who loves to create her own sustainable handmade wardrobe to suit her personal style and shape.You can find her makes on insta @hshandcrafts.
Cashmerette Size Calculator recommends that I “start with a size 6 G/H with a 1″/2.5 cm full bust adjustment, size 10/12 waist and size 8 hip.”
What I did to start with was print sizes 6, 8, 10 and 12, and tissue fit my tracing of the pattern. I followed the Palmer/Pletsch Complete Guide to Fitting (PP) process to double check the size calculator recommendations and identify any other fitting issues.
I expected to have to do an FBA, and I usually need wide round back adjustment. PP shows how to use gap between pattern and body centre front (CF) to measure size of FBA required, and gap between pattern and body centre back (CB) to identify width of wide back adjustment needed. Placing the pattern on my dummy suggested I needed to raise dart, but my dummy has perkier bust than me. My shoulders are wider than pattern shoulder width, but looking at armscye height on pattern, and gathering at top of sleeve, I left that for muslin fit, as it looked like sleeve sat over shoulder.
Figure 1: tissue fit on dummy – green thread marks pattern seams, pink thread marks my seam locations (I got my colour code mixed up between dummy & body fit 🙂 Figure 2: tissue fit me – green thread marks seam locations, pink thread marks pattern seams
Once I had made these adjustments on the traced pattern I made up a muslin, to check fit and see whether the FBA had created gaping in the bodice front.
Figure 3: Muslin to check FBA, wide back adjustment, and sleeve fit Figure 4: A little too much cleavage shows
Figure 4 shows the extra length over the center front created by the FBA did create gaping.
In the previous ‘Cross your heart woes’ blog post, I controlled the gaping by taking a wedge out from the apex to the cross over point on the CF:
Figure 5: high CF wedge Figure 6: 1 – high CF wedge; 2 – mid CF wedge; 3 – low CF wedge. These correspond to the dart lines 1,2, & 3 drawn on Figure 7
What I discovered was that the high (1) and mid (2) CF wedges took length out of the vertical CF measurement as well as shortening the cross over length as required to reduce gaping. The low wedge, however, did not affect the vertical CF length, and did not go to the apex, so did not have to be rotated to other darts, simplifying the fitting of all the darts.
Figure 7: locations of wedges 1, 2, & 3 Figure 8: CF height and cross over length on B cup & large boobs
Figure 7 shows that the location of wedges 1 and 2 cuts through center front, so shortens center front as well as shortening cross over length. In order to remove them, these darts have to be rotated into another dart. Wedge 3, on the other hand, gets folded out through the waist line, so does not remove length from the CF but does remove length from the cross over.
Figure 8 shows that in order to fit around large boobs, the cross over needs to go lower before turning around bust and turn more sharply. The red tie drawn on Figure 7 shows where the tie end of the bodice was after the FBA adjustment as compared with the original black line. After wedge 3 was removed, the tie end moved up to where it is marked in blue on Figure 7, wrapping the tie better around the large boob, like in Figure 8.
Figure 9: final front Figure 10: final side Figure 11: final back
Once I was happy with fit, sewing up this top was one of the quickest and easiest I’ve made. I love how it feels and looks. See Figures 9, 10 and 11.
I left off the ties and replaced them with hat elastic button loops and buttons. Figures 12 and 13 show the outside and inside buttons. Figure 14 shows the elastic loop in place on what will be the outside of the binding; Figure 15 shows the bias folded with the button loop inside, and stitched through; and, figure 16 shows the button loop completed.
Figure 12: outside button Figure 13: inside button Figure 14: Inserting hat elastic loop Figure 15: bias band folded out and stitched through button loop Figure 16: button loop attached
The ¾” FBA I did on top of the Cashmerette G/H cup gave me a dart that measured 5” (12.5cm) along the side seam. This means that while the fold of the dart is almost on the straight of grain and, once the dart is stitched and folded up, the straight of grain fold of the dart lies under the bias of the outer layer. This means the outer fabric can stretch along the grain, but the dart edge cannot. If the leg of the dart is sewn to the side seam it will pull on the outer layer when you move. To stop this happening I trim dart leg to 5/8”. In this fine rayon I finish the dart edge as a faux French seam. With non-fraying fabrics I would just cut the edge.
Figure 17: Watch video to see how and why large dart pulls on outer layer, and how to fix it.
The base pattern is a button front blouse, in either a cropped or regular length, with cute puffed, elasticated sleeves that you can wear up on your shoulders for a square neck look or dropped down your arms for an off-the-shoulder look. The pattern designer also includes pattern pieces for a wrap front version with long tails that tie in the back AND pattern pieces for a full bust version (“C and up”). There are full bust pieces for both the button front option and the wrap front option! Just a warning though, the size chart does not include measurements for the full bust pieces.
I have been seeing this top all over instagram and quite frankly, I’ve been obsessed. Especially with the wrap version. The wrap feature creates more of a sweetheart shaped neckline and with the off the shoulder puffy sleeves, its an ultra romantic and pretty effortless look. Truthfully, most examples I came across seemed to be on sewists with less busty silhouettes so I had no idea how it would actually turn out for me!
Choosing a size:
My measurements put me inbetween the 18/20 at my bust but squarely in a 16 for the waist. The pattern designer suggested I choose the size 18 and add 1” to the bust area and bring the waist in. I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about adding an inch at the bust (can’t wait to dig into the wrap bodice blog post from July 15th to help inform my second go!). There was no mention of upper bust measurements so I’m not entirely sure how to determine which pattern pieces will work best for you. But I decided to cut the full bust pieces in a straight 18. From looking at the pattern pieces it seemed like a full bust adjustment (FBA) already accounted for more volume at the bust compared to the same size for the small bust pieces.
Editor’s Note: From my conversations with the designer, the full bust pieces are drafted for a 3″ difference between high and full bust. 🙂
For reference, there’s not a huge discrepancy between my full bust and high bust measurements. My measurements don’t typically dictate using a FBA because I still need room in my upper bust area width wise. I almost always need material pinched out horizontally above my bust because I’m on the shorter side. I generally need more waist shaping below the bust.
I used a light, white cotton voile with little black polkadots. The wrap front pieces are fully lined by design and since the fabric was so sheer, I ended up fully lining the back and sleeves to match.
This was a super quick and satisfying sew! It came together quickly and I was wearing it within a couple of hours. Woo!
This top is super cute, especially when I’m standing still. But as soon as I start to move the neckline shifts/opens and the sleeves start dropping off my shoulders. Tying the top a bit more snuggly helped to reduce shifting and helped define my waist. Unfortunately, the wrap would either cut across the opposite boob or bunch up underneath it awkwardly. My shoulders are not narrow by any means but I do have a bit of a downward slope. I always have to bring my bra straps inward to keep them from slipping off so it doesn’t surprise me that I’d need the same adjustment here.
It’s Instagram ready but I would not feel comfortable wearing it out of the house much or for any activity beyond lounging. I’d need some real adjustments to make this something I’d want as a standard piece in my wardrobe but heck, it’s so cute it might be worth the tinkering needed to get it there!
Adjustments for Version 2:
I’ve thought about how I would approach Version 2 for a while and my thinking keeps evolving. Currently, I’ve landed on making the following changes (as drawn on the images below – click to zoom in):
Start with a size 20 full bust piece. I definitely need a bit more room across my full bust.
Raise the neckline to give a bit more coverage but drop the centre front to more easily cross under my bust. (Red)
Add a dart at the neckline to reduce any additional gaping. (Yellow)
Add length and change the angle at the end of the armscye to bring the sleeve inward on the bodice and hopefully on my shoulders. (Blue)
Add waist darts. (Purple)
Adjust the sleeve to match bodice armscye, narrow the top of the sleeve and shorten the elastic at the top of the sleeve to help bring the bodice up a little higher and hopefully keep the sleeves up. (Green)
Advice for other sewists:
I think most busty sewists would want to add more coverage by raising the neckline as there is quite a lot of decolletage on display! One other busty sewist who made this also mentioned the sleeves slipping off her shoulders. I’m guessing this would be especially important if you have a comparatively small upper bust measurement as the sleeves are very wide set and attach right at the upper bust.
Kei Muto is a wedding florist in Hamilton, Ontario who has been sewing for 1 year. She’s happy to tackle all kinds of garments when she’s not sewing bras for herself and friends.You can find her makes on instagram @stuffkeimakes.
Editor’s Note: Since we are sewing up Cashmerette Roseclair wrap dress/peplum for the July 2021 sew along, I’ve asked a couple community members who are ahead of the curve to write community posts on their experiences and their tips and tricks. If you’re a beginner and following the Roseclair Sew Along as part of our Beginners’ Sewing Series, I’d bookmark these posts for later use, and stick to making the pattern as-is for now. For all you adventurous or intermediate-to-advanced sewists, yesterday, Christy talked all about getting perfect bust darts, and today, Karey is chatting about curing wrap gape.
Many sewers struggle with getting a good fit on cross-over wrap bodice styles. This post will address the most commonly raised issue of neckline gaping. Because it is raised so often, I Google searched ‘FBA wrap dress’ or ‘gaping wrap dress’ for solutions, but while there are plenty of tutorials, none seem to address why wrap dresses gape, especially after a full bust adjustment (FBA) for larger boobs, and few wrap dress FBA tutorials provide specific advice for fixing neckline gape.
Sure Fit Designs provides some advice for why a wrap crossover style bodice with a “dart width … correct for your body, … would … still gap? The simple answer is because that crossover in on the diagonal or bias of the fabric.”
The Cashmerette tutorial for their Roseclair wrap dress also identifies a risk of the bias edge of the neckline stretching and creating a gaping neckline. Cashmerette recommends staystitching the neckline edge before starting construction in order to avoid this happening. Both Cashmerette and Sure Fit Designs provide instructions for taking a dart out of the center front edge if there is gaping due to the neckline being too long, but don’t explain why that would happen in a bodice drafted for your cup size, or after you have done an FBA.
By Hand London also has a good tutorial on adding a dart from center front to apex and rotating it to bottom dart, it doesn’t explain what causes the gaping.
Figure 3 shows foam half scale boobs (b) that approximate Lily Fong’s examples (a) of standard root – standard projection; wide root – standard projection; and, narrow root high projection. I combined these with Sure Fit Designs free Half Scale Bodice Templates to create the bodice models I have used in this post.
Figure 4 shows how the scaffolding of a standard B-cup bodice is like a tent with a ridge pole connecting the two bust apexes, with the side poles sloped down to the waist on one side, and to the neck on the other side of the ridge (a). In contrast, once the breasts are divided by a wrap bodice, you need more like a dome tent structure over each breast, connected to the CF seam in the canyon between the breasts (b).
In order to examine wrap bodices on bigger boobs, I first needed to do FBAs on the half scale B-cup bodice to fit my projected and large, wide boobs.
Figure 5 shows a) left: the B-cup boobs and bodice; b) centre: the projected narrow boobs and Y-dart FBA; and, c) right: the wide large boobs and standard FBA, I constructed with the half scale boobs and bodice template. In Figure 4 b) and c) the Y-dart and standard FBAs have been spread to fit over the projected and wide boobs, but the gaps this creates have not been filled in yet. Note the extra length over the apex ridge poles required to reach the waist on the projected and wide boobs (Figure 4 b) and c), bottom).
Figure 5: a) left: B-cup boobs and bodice; b) centre: projected narrow boobs and Y-dart FBA; c) right: wide large boobs and standard FBA Figure 6. a) left: projected boobs, regular FBA; b) right: projected boobs Y-dart FBA
I wasn’t intending to do a Y-dart FBA, but when I tried the standard FBA on projected boobs, I got armhole gaping. I had previously read the Curvy Sewing Collective post suggesting the Y-dart FBA as a cure for Honking Great Darts, however Figure 5 shows the result of my experiment, which found that the Y-dart (b) solved the arm gaping issue of the standard FBA for high projection boobs (a). Consequently, I then stuck with the Y-dart FBA for all my projected boobs examples.
Once I had bodices for B-cup, projected, and wide boobs, I created wrap fronts by joining a half front to its mirror, drawing a center front seam down the canyon between the boobs, then mirroring this wrap front to create left and right versions.
Figure 7 shows how even B-cups gape at the neckline, if the length of the center front is not reduced with a dart, to convert bodice from ridge pole structure (a) into dome structure (b). The same thing happens with the projected FBA bodice (Figure 8) and the large wide FBA bodice (Figure 9). This demonstrates the requirement to replace ridge pole scaffold on standard bodice, with dome tent structure for wrap bodices.
Figure 7. a) left: B-cup wrap front gape; b) right: adjusted B-cup front no gape Figure 8. a) left: projected boob wrap front gape; b) right: adjusted projected front – no gape Figure 9. a) left: wide boob wrap front gape; b) right: adjusted wide boob front – no gape
In order to show more clearly why the wrap bodice needs center front darts I measured the wide boob FBA wrap bodice over the ridge pole and through the canyon (Figure 10). The center front length over the half scale ridge pole was 28cm (11’) (a), while the length through the canyon created by the wrap front was only 26cm (10 ¼“) (b).
These half scale results are proportionate to the measurements I get on my petite height G cup front. When I measure myself from one shoulder, over the ridge pole to my waist under the opposite boob I am 22”. Through the canyon between my boobs I am 20”. This means a standard FBA on a wrap which creates ridge pole bodice, will be up to 2” too long for me on a wrap bodice.
Try taking these measurements on yourself and see if you get similar results, I’d love to see you post what you found in comments.
Given I found neckline gaping in wrap fronts for all bust shapes, you may be wondering why everyone doesn’t have problems with neckline gape. The main reason is that designers mostly correct their bodices so they don’t gape for the block they are designing for. This means people with B cups will mostly not have gaping problems. The same applies for designers that include cup sizes, they have probably corrected all their sizes to remove gape.
However, the larger your boobs, the more chance your boob shape does not match the block the designer uses, even if they provide cup sizes, increasing the chance of gaping. And if you have to do an FBA on a wrap front, you are adding length (as we saw in Figure 5), almost inevitably creating gaping issues. Removing that length from pattern by folding out a center front dart (or darts) creates the dome structure that wraps the fabric close to the bust.
Figure 11: a) left: B-cup wrap front with waist darts (top) and darts folded out (bottom) b) left: projected wrap front with waist darts (top) and darts folded out (bottom) c) left: wrap front for large wide boobs with waist darts (top) and darts folded out (bottom)
Figure 11 shows the center front and low front darts marked, then folded out. You then need mirror front for the other side. As I started with full front on which I did FBA, before I marked cross over center front seamline, my left and right bodices should match. However, when you are adjusting a wrap pattern for a smaller cup size than you need, doing an FBA on the half of the front that goes below the bust is tricky. The Sewing Divas have a helpful tutorial for how to check that side seams of left and right fronts align after you have done an FBA on a wrap bodice.
Editor’s Note: Since we are sewing up Cashmerette Roseclair wrap dress/peplum for the July 2021 sew along, I’ve asked a couple community members who are ahead of the curve to write community posts on their experiences and their tips and tricks. If you’re a beginner and following the Roseclair Sew Along as part of our Beginners’ Sewing Series, I’d bookmark these posts for later use, and stick to making the pattern as-is for now.For all you adventurous or intermediate-to-advanced sewists, today, Christy is talking all about splitting your bust dart!
Dart Splitting, Turning, & Adjustment
So – you have completed your first bodice muslin of the Roseclair Dress, and you found and fixed the big issues: the shoulders hang correctly, right on the top of your shoulders; you added a FBA if needed; and you fixed any gaping in the neckline.
Congratulations! Now your bodice fits, but you might have ended up with a new difficulty: The Big Honkin’ Dart. The Roseclair Dress already has a fairly large dart in some sizes, so it is especially susceptible to the BHD, but full-busted sewists find themselves with this problem when making adjustments to many different patterns. The BHD technically fits, but it looks blocky, and it is impossible to sew so it lies smoothly. The good news is that with all this dart-y room, you have the opportunity to adjust the fit of the bodice so it is perfectly and precisely your shape. In this article, I will go through everything you really need to know about turning large darts into a beautifully fitted bodice:
How to split the BHD into smoother chunks
How to decide where to place your new darts
How to sew darts smoothly
1. How to Split a Big Honkin’ Dart into Smooth Chunks
When I had to add a couple inches of neckline into my already-large Roseclair dart, I figured out quickly that I needed to turn it into multiple darts, but after a ton of internet research I was still completely confused how to do that. I finally just traced my pattern piece and started messing around with it, and it made more sense. I will describe here the way of thinking about it that works for me, give links to a couple different tutorials that might work for you…. but if none of that makes sense, I encourage you to just start manipulating the pattern piece. I think it is easier to physically do than it is to describe.
Method: When I started manipulating my darts, I traced my pattern piece (with the first-level adjustments) onto a large roll of tracing paper, and I just kept making new tissue-paper tracings. That way my main pattern piece didn’t get muddled up. For this tutorial, I just free-hand drew the pattern piece on a regular sheet of paper. It is not perfectly to scale, but it should make sense. If I were doing it again, I would start with a mini version like that, to play with so I can see what I am doing.
copy of pattern piece
scissors (for paper, not fabric)
pen or marker (a couple colors)
ruler for making straight lines
scratch paper (to put behind pattern piece)
Here is the pattern piece after my initial adjustments. I had over 4 inches of width in that side dart.
For this first section, I am going to demonstrate how to turn the one large side dart, into three small side darts.
Draw straight lines from close to the dart apex to the edge of the pattern piece. You’ll want to use a straight edge/ruler on the real pattern piece.
Cut along those lines.
Cut out the triangle of the Big Honkin’ Dart. (You can also just cut one side, but I think it’s easier to see if you just cut the whole thing.)
Now you have two triangles of paper. As you move them up and down on the pivot point, you create three triangles of negative space. Those are your new darts. (This makes way more sense when you actually do it!)
Put a piece of scratch paper behind your pattern piece, so it fills in the negative space.
Tape the two narrow triangles of paper onto the scratch paper, making three similarly sized triangles behind them. These are your new darts. I colored them purple.
Trim the scratch paper so it matches the edges of your pattern piece. (If you were going to sew it up, you could make a slight outward angle for each dart, like there is in printed patterns.)
Voila! Now you have three darts of manageable size, instead of one gigantic dart.
2. How to Decide Where to Place Your New Darts
You can just sew your bodice with three small darts on the side, and it will work much better than the BHD. But now that you know how to move darts around, you might as well move them to create the perfect fit for your body. This part is not about the size of your bust or your measurements, but about the way your personal body fits together – the shape of your torso, how high or low your breasts are, which way they face – and also the way that you, personally, want your dress to fit and look.
First of all, if the pattern’s bust apex (the point of the triangle) is nowhere near your bust apex, make a note on your first-draft muslin and then your pattern piece. You will just move the point of all your triangles (the pivot place) so they are pointing towards your bust apex. If your bust apex is close to the pattern but not exact, don’t worry about it yet; we will adjust it naturally in the next steps.
In these diagrams, I am dividing the original BHD into three darts. This is what I did with my pattern; my BHD was over 4.5″ and I wanted each dart to be less than 2″. It also makes it easier to demonstrate in pictures. However, you can split your dart into two – or four, or whatever you want.
Method: This is all about fit, so experimenting with what works for your personal body! I traced the basic pattern piece (with first-level adjustments) onto tissue paper; drew new darts into place with the method described; cut my new pattern piece out of a sheet; drew the darts onto the fabric; and sewed the darts. I did sew a basting stitch down the front angle of the muslin pattern piece, so that neckline distortion would not be affecting my decisions about fit.
I did a different dart pattern on each bodice piece (so they looked different on my right and left), and once I had two, I basted them to a back bodice piece. I had about three sets with a back bodice piece and two differently-darted front bodice pieces. I pinned them together onto my body where the ties would have held them in place.
This is super quick to sew, and allowed me to go back and forth and compare different options.
In this picture, you can see how simple this muslin is; that I basted the neckline; and pinned together the edges. You can also see where I used marker to note the apex points of the experimental darts, and drew the darts in where I can see them.
Note: In the final version of the dress, the neckline is finished and folded under. Do not adjust the neckline in this step!
For this tutorial, I am just using my small version of the pattern pieces. I’m not including pictures of what it looks like on me – I think it’s incredibly difficult to see the 3-D fit on the muslin fabric. Once again, this is something that makes so much more sense once you just do it!
Darts in Any Direction:
Remember how we drew a new line from (almost) the apex of the previous dart? You can draw that line in any direction – not just to the side seam, but to the shoulder, or to the waist, or to the neckline – and that will be your new dart and your new shape … well, where you draw these lines depends on your pattern.
In the case of the Roseclair, some of the directions head to the neckline of the wrap dress, and if we adjust the neckline then it will no longer fall right. So for the Roseclair, we are going to ignore all the directions that go to the neckline, although if you are doing a different style bodice you can play with that too! I also did not demonstrate a dart going straight up into the shoulder. To my eye, that doesn’t fit the look of this particular bodice, but you certainly can go straight up to the shoulder, and if you are having trouble getting the shoulder-to-bust proportion to fall right, using a dart might be a good way to solve that problem.
A French Dart is a fancy name for a dart that goes up from the corner of the pattern piece. Because it is at an angle, the dart is longer, and a longer dart gives us more room to sew it gradually and gracefully, making for a smoother finished look. So let’s draw a line to the lower corner and rotate our triangles to make one dart in the original place, and one French dart from the lower corner …
The two new darts are colored in purple. It makes the corner of the pattern piece look like a funky shape, but it works out fine once it is actually sewn up.
Now, when we are rotating our paper triangles, we have to use almost the same apex, just leaving enough paper to allow the triangles to rotate. But if you actually sew up several darts with an almost-the-same apex, you end up with a nice, pointed, Madonna-esque breast. If you want Madonna breasts, now you know the secret!
In case you don’t want pointed breasts (I didn’t), you have to adjust the points of your different darts, so they don’t all end up in the same place. In this example, I drew a new point, farther back towards the seam line, for the original side dart, making it a shorter dart. I then drew lines (in black) defining where I would sew that dart. So in this example, now I have one long French dart coming from the bottom, and one short dart coming from the side, and the tips of the two darts point in exactly the same direction.
Having a shorter side dart worked for my body, probably because my breasts are rounder at the side, so that dart didn’t have to go as far to get towards the top of my breast. However, in real life, I pointed my darts in slightly different directions. The pattern apex was accurate for me, but once I was adding more darts, I placed them so they aimed differently around my breast, which created a rounder, softer look.
This is also the step where you adjust the pattern apex if it wasn’t quite right for you. You have to move the points of the triangle anyways, so move them wherever you want them.
other Dart types:
The next pattern piece shows three more possible darts:
Multiple Side Darts: Having darts next to each other on the side works well for some people, and the darts will be less visible because they are near the seam. You could make them next to each other, but different lengths, as they step around the larger and smaller parts of your breast.
Curved Dart: A curved dart also allows for a longer, smoother sewing line. It is also a good way to solve a problem of having a distinct shaped curve to match a more distinct breast shape. It looks confusing on the pattern piece, but it sewed up nicely. I have heard that it is much easier to create the right curve of a pattern piece with a helper, who can pin up (and mark) the pattern piece as it is on your body, and solve the exact problem (folds of fabric) that you are having. Obviously, the curve can go any direction, and come from any direction (I just showed it from the lower corner here). On this particular pattern piece, the curved dart did not help me at all, so I did not experiment with it further. My breasts are wide and round; my guess is that it would help more with breasts that are held up more distinctly.
Armcythe Dart: If your armcythe fits perfectly (once you have the sleeves on), then you probably want to leave it alone. However, if you have a little extra fold of fabric, or it feels a little tight as you move your arm backwards, you now have the perfect opportunity to tweak it. Draw your line up into the armcythe – I went fairly far towards the back, again so I ended up with a nice long line. I had a little extra fold of fabric, so I drew in the dart just at the right amount to compensate for the BHD, and then when I draw the dart in, I extended it ¼ ” outward, to make the dart slightly bigger. It worked like a charm, and made the perfectly-good armcythe even better. If you wanted a little extra space, draw your actual dart slightly smaller than the triangle you created from swinging the triangles.
The first picture shows the three new lines drawn in to make the new darts. Then I cut on the lines and arranged the negative space to make new darts (colored purple). Then I drew in adjusted apexes for each dart (except for one – one can point to the original place!), and drew the legs for each new dart in black. I would sew on the black lines.)
Note that I adjusted that top dart apex farther over towards the middle. This worked for me, because it creates a longer line, makes the curve of the breast more broad, and followed along the top width of my breast.
Bottom Dart: Your dart could also point at the bottom of the pattern piece, either straight or at an angle. Or both. Then you can adjust how far up it needs to go in order to get to the height of your breasts. It’s up to you!
That Other Dart Hanging Out Over There: There is a second dart in the pattern, which we haven’t talked about yet. That is more of a waist dart than a bust dart, although of course it also shapes the bust. Can you move that one too? Of course you can! You are a dart moving mastermind!
Personally, I kept the apex and one leg of that dart, and moved the other leg equidistant (from the first leg) towards the center of the bodice. This gave me a longer dart (again!), and I think helped shape the inner curve of my breasts. Adjusting this dart is another way to change the waist line, like we discussed with the armcythe. You could also move part of the BHD into this dart, although I think it would be easier to add a second dart on the waist seam instead – but whatever works for your body! You just have to cut out muslins and test it.
Just for funsies, here is my finished pattern piece: This isn’t “the” right way to do it, this is just the result of what worked for me. It’s kind of messy looking because I adjusted some of the darts on the same tissue paper piece so I could keep what worked. Once again, the purple shows the original paper dart when swinging from the pivot point; the dot shows where I put in the bust apex; and the lines show where I actually make the lines/legs of the dart.
And here is what it looks like when cut out of fabric, with the darts traced on:
Which brings us to our final section …
3. How to Sew Darts Smoothly
If you are an Expert Dart-Sewist, this section will probably be review. If you are a less-confident dart sewist, then this article is your one-stop shop for darts! And here’s some really good news: all the articles about sewing darts say to get lots of practice, and suggest getting out some scrap fabric and just sewing a bunch of random darts in order to get the hang of it. Well, if you are like me, and end up sewing half a dozen bodice muslins of the Roseclair, and each one has four darts, you can skip the random darts step – by the time you are done with your muslins, you will have graduated to Expert Dart-Sewist level. Or at least upper intermediate!
Draw your darts onto the wrong side of your fabric, including the legs and the apex.
Pick up the fabric at the dart apex and the middle of the dart, so the two legs of the dart hang down and are more or less on top of each other, on opposite sides of the fabric.
Lay your fabric down flat, and pin along the legs. Here are two pins going across the leg of the dart, holding the fabric in place, and I can sew over them. The third pin is placed so the head of the pin is on the apex of the dart. This is optional, but it can make it easier to see where you’re going. You must take that pin out as you sew.
I like to draw and pin all the darts before I start sewing. It looks like this
Now, the trick is that you are not going to sew on that line. A straight sewing line makes for a blocky dart, because you are not straight! You want to start at the “feet” of the dart, and head towards the apex of the dart in a slightly concave line.
Then, at the tip of the dart, you sew parallel to the very edge of the fabric for the last few stitched. Because this angle is so miniscule, it doesn’t matter if you exactly hit the apex of the dart. It is shaping more than taking out chunks of fabric.
To create a subtle tip of the dart, lower your stitch length as you get towards the end. Here I have marked the stitch length that I use, as seen below. The first part (towards the right) I am making a curve with the stitch length at 2.4mm (the “normal” stitch length on my machine). At the first arrow, I reduce the stitch lengh to 1.8, and follow the line towards the tip of the pin and the apex. At the next arrow, I reduce the stitch length to 1.0mm and stitch right at the very edge of the fabric for about ⅛-¼ inch.
Reducing the stitch length also means you DO NOT backstitch, which reduces bulk (aka a bump). You also do not have to leave tails of thread and tie them together (which I see some people recommend), which might work fine but is an annoying extra step (in my humble opinion!). Several 1mm stitches will hold your dart in place, and you can just trim the thread right at the end.
The finished dart looks more or less like the image below. Note: more or less is just fine! Each of these things is subtle, and you are not going to notice little imperfections when it is finished. You can see that my concave line has a little convex bump, and I meant to go more parallel at the tip. It doesn’t matter, because you are going to …
Iron it smooth!
First of all, just lightly iron the darts in the direction you want them to go. Cashmerette recommends up. I aimed them away from each other.
Now put your garment over your pressing ham. (If you do not have a pressing ham, the general recommendation is to use a towel, but in this case you need a firm and breast-shaped surface…. maybe a towel rolled over a softball would work? A pressing ham is not expensive and it is much easier to create a good bust shape using one.) Separate the fabric away from the dart, and rub your iron around the seam, especially at the curve and the tip. I make little circles with the tip of my iron.
Now turn your garment right side out over the pressing ham. You will need to pull the sides away from the seam, because from the wrong side it will have made more of a triangle than a curve. Shape it around different parts of your pressing ham, and smooth out all the curves and tips.
Here are the tips of the finished four seams, at the tip of the pressing ham. This is not quite shaped like my breast, but it is also less forgiving. You can see that the tips of the darts are not making any bumps on the outside of the garment!
Conclusion, Next Steps, and Pictures
Now you know how to divide up a Big Honkin’ Dart, how to adjust the position and angle of the darts so they match your shape, and how to sew the darts so they look smooth from the outside. It will take a bunch of “quick-n-dirty muslins” to get the best shape for you, and meanwhile you’ve gotten lots of practice sewing beautiful darts!
Next, you might move on to making adjustments on other parts of the dress, like a Full Bicep Adjustment, changing the waist measurements, or adjusting the length. Or, if the dress more or less fits, you might be ready to make a wearable muslin! Cashmerette warns that this dress behaves differently in different fabrics, so you might want to use something closer to your final fabric than a stiff muslin or sheet.
I made a peplum version in a rayon/linen to test the fit of the shoulders, waist, and sleeves. I made some more adjustments once I could see how the whole piece fit together; I moved one dart again, and made a number of adjustments to the waist. (The peplum version takes approximately 2 yards of fabric in my size; used the top layer of the skirt from View A. I suggest adding 3 inches to the length of the peplum, which I did not do but admired in other people’s pictures.)
The dress is very fabric-hungry, so it is really worth making a peplum top, and then your first dress version can come out perfectly!
For many people, the Roseclair is not the easiest dress to get a perfect fit. Many people need to adjust the bodice in order to get the neckline and darts to lay properly, and the darts might not fit the first time. But this bodice is very well drafted, and once you put in the time to adjust it for your own body, this comes out as a spectacularly well-fitted dress. I enjoy both the look and feel of my Roseclair dresses, and I think they look stunning and graceful on many other sewists of different body types. I hope this tutorial helps you make a beautiful Roseclair dress of your own, now that you know how to sew perfect darts – for you!!
Here are some examples of how this method works for me:
This was my first peplum. The waist sags below my natural waist, so I adjusted that. Here I have two darts in the side seam and one French dart, and the original waist dart is in its original place.
Roseclair in linen. For this version (and subsequent), I moved the higher side dart into the armcythe (see how it changes the wrinkle in the first version) and put the waist dart at an angle.
The dress behaves differently with this slippery rayon, and it is hard to see the darts in the busy print. It just looks like the bust magically fits around my shape, just the way dresses are supposed to do!
When her fourth child grew out of infancy, Christy realized that she was a better mother (and human being) if she spent less time worrying about whether the house was clean, and more time making beautiful things. She is now raising and homeschooling five children, and her current textile art passions are hand embroidery and dress-making. She shares her work, and ideas about life, at Sonata in So (which is a double entendre with her past life as a musician).