Thursday, September 23, 2010

Guest Post: Lady Grey FBA!

Readers, the lovely Patty of The Snug Bug has written such a detailed account of her Full Bust Adjustment process on the Lady Grey, that I asked her if I could re-post it here. Luckily for us, she graciously agreed. It's very complete; make sure you click "read more" at the bottom to see the whole thing. And don't forget to check out her fab blog. Thanks, Patty!—Gertie

I've finished the Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) on my Lady Grey for the sewalong and made another muslin! While I'm happy with the fit of the top, now I've got a bit of problem with the bottom. For step by step photos on how I did my FBA and dealt with the gaping lapel, read on. But first, updated photos!

To recap - my first muslin was pretty much a straight-out-of-the box size 18 that was huge around the shoulders. For a full rundown of muslin #1 photos, an explanation of how I chose the sizing for muslin #2, cut down the pattern and tissue fitted to determine my FBA amount, check out yesterday's post. After all of that figuring, I determined I would do an FBA to add 5" to the bust area.

My method is the same one shown in Fit For Real People, a book that I highly recommend for anyone needing to do any bust adjustments. The Lady Grey coat (for anyone not familiar) has armhole princess seams, rather than shoulder princess seams. I decided to add half of my FBA to the front pattern piece and half to the side front piece, so I added 1.25" to each piece (1.25" + 1.25" = 2.5" for each side of the coat.)

The order of adjustments is:

  1. Add  width to the SIDE FRONT pattern piece
  2. Add length to the FRONT pattern piece to true up the length between the side front and front pattern pieces. As part of of an FBA, length is added to the two front pattern pieces - remember, I'm working on a princess seamed garment! This doesn't affect the hem length, it just gives enough fabric to get over your majestic chest. Just think about how hard it is to find RTW empire-waist shirts that hit you right, and you get the picture. This step is to add length to the front piece so the two front pieces are the same length after step one!
  3. Add width to the FRONT pattern piece
Step 1 - slash the SIDE FRONT pattern piece
In this step, make the initial cuts to the side front pattern piece (shown below in yellow). Start at the hem and cut straight up to the fullest part of the bust. Then hang a slight left towards the armhole. You should end about 1/3 of the way up the entire armhole seam (total length, if both the front and side front pieces are attached). Don't cut all the way through. Stop 5/8" (or whatever seam allowance you are using) away from the edge, then snip from the edge to where you stopped cutting, leaving a little hinge of paper so you can pivot the pieces around freely.

Make another cut around where a horizontal dart would be, meeting up with the point where you turned towards the armhole on your first cut. Again, don't cut all the way through, stop cutting a teeny way away from where you made your turn toward the armhole to allow the pattern pieces to pivot without falling apart.

Step 2 - add FBA width to the SIDE FRONT pattern piece and true up the hem
Now you'll add your FBA width. For my pattern, I'm adding 1.25" and will add 1.25" to the FRONT pattern piece as well, for a total of 2.5" added to each side, 5" to the entire bust area. To add the width, slide the left side of the pattern piece down (towards you), holding the right side in place. I usually do pattern adjustments on my ironing board, because I can pin things down easily!

When you slide the left side down, the horizontal cut will widen into a wedge and the two sides will move away from each other. The hinge that you left in the armhole will just swing together, leaving the armhole seam sort of strange looking, but it will work!

The blue line below shows where you should measure for your width (for mine, 1.25"). Be sure to keep the long vertical edges parallel, otherwise, you'll add too much at the bottom.

Once you get the new gap nice and straight, smooth and pin down all your pattern pieces. You'll see that now the hem of the left side is lower than the right side. Fix that by making a horizontal cut towards the bottom of the right pattern piece, then slide down so the hems line up. You'll find that the new horizontal gap that you just created is the same width as your FBA amount! Fill all the gaps with tissue and smooth any seamlines.

One thing - at this point you might start thinking you'll need to adjust the hemlines of your back pattern pieces as well. You won't! It's magic! We'll take care of that in the next two steps!

Step 3 - make another horizontal cut
Now we're going to rotate that big gap on the side to the bust apex area, where we need it! First make another horizontal cut where the yellow line is below. Remember to leave a bit of paper right at the point to serve as a hinge - don't cut all the way through!

 Step 4 - rotate the fullness to the bust apex.
Now swing that big gap shut (shown in yellow)! Smooth your pattern pieces and tape where the yellow line is below. Fill the new gap with tissue.

Now you can see why the back pattern pieces will stay the same length. The side seam hasn't changed a bit! you can use this method of rotating darts to move a horizontal dart to a vertical position, etc.

Step 5 - measure the fullness at the bust
Now it's time to make the FRONT piece the same length as the SIDE FRONT piece. The first thing to do is to measure the edge of the pattern where you just made that nice new wedge and filled it with tissue. You'll need to lengthen the FRONT pattern piece in the same place so the two pieces will match up.

Step 6 - lengthen the FRONT pattern piece
Now it's time to lengthen the front pattern piece. First (shown in pink, below), you'll add the width that you measured in step five. Using the markings on the pattern, make a horizontal cut straight across the FRONT pattern piece where the FRONT SIDE pattern piece will meet up with the FRONT piece in the bust area - where you just added the tissue wedge in step 4 and measured in step 5. Slide the two halves of the FRONT pattern piece apart the same amount you measured in step 5. Fill with tissue.

Now you will need to add a bit more length to meet up with the horizontal cut you made in step 2. As shown below in yellow, make a horizontal cut near the bottom of the FRONT pattern piece and slide the two halves apart the same width as you did in step 2. Fill with tissue.

You're done with your FBA on your SIDE FRONT pattern piece! Now it's time to move on to adjusting the FRONT pattern piece!

Step 7 - slash the FRONT pattern piece.
I find making the changes to the FRONT pattern piece a little less exacting than the method used on the SIDE FRONT piece. There's no armhole to deal with, so it's just swinging the pattern apart, keeping the shoulder length intact. Start out by making a similar cut as you did in Step 1. Start at the hem, then angle up to the shoulder seam, leaving a hinge at your seamline.

Then lay your ruler at the full bust point. Slide the pattern pieces away from each other, to the width of your FBA (mine is 1.25"). Your pattern piece should look like the photo below, with a giant wedge starting from the hem.
Step 8 - make the vertical edges parallel
Again, we want to make the new gap the same width down to the hemline. To do this, make a small horizontal cut as shown below in yellow, leaving a small hinge at the point. You can then swing the lower part of the right side of the pattern towards the left until the long vertical edges are roughly parallel. It won't be perfect, but it'll work! Once you get everything in line, smooth and fill the little wedge with tissue.

PS. You can see in the photo below how teeny my wedge was. Even though I'm adding a bit of length to this seam (this is the seam that attaches to the SIDE FRONT pattern piece), I'm not going to go back and adjust the hem of the SIDE FRONT piece. The difference is small enough to just ease the pieces together.

Step 9 - true up the hemline of the FRONT pattern piece
One final adjustment to make - and I didn't take a great photo! The hemlines of the two sides of the FRONT pattern piece are out of wack! This time, the left side is coming up short. Just make a horizontal cut (shown in yellow), slide the bottom half of the left side towards you until the hemlines match up, then fill with the horizontal and vertical gaps with tissue.

The side of the pattern you just lengthened is the center front, so that's the last hemline true up you have to do!
 That's it! You're done with your FBA!

So I've finished muslin #2. While I like the results, and the more fitted upper body, there will be a third muslin. When I made my pattern alterations, I preserved the original width of the waist and the hips, which I liked in muslin #1. Because the front pattern pieces are all one length, the 5" I added to the bust was also added to the waist and hips, and I'm not liking all the fabric in muslin #2! I also want to add just a tad to the hem, as I like the length now (unhemmed) and I'll add 3" to the sleeve length. Even though I love the pattern's 3/4 length sleeves, I live in Minneapolis, and a 3/4 sleeve length is practical for about a week in the spring and a week in the fall! Finally, while aggressively pinching out the gaping in the lapel, I made the lapel smaller than I'd like, so I'll be sizing that back up! Ah!! At least I'm finding a way to use up this nasty, itchy sale bin wool I greedily bought at Hancock last year!

Here's the side and back views of muslins 1 and 2...


  1. Thank you so much for posting this! Definitely the most detailed FBA explanation I've come across..

  2. It's a wonderful thing to be able to work out a fitting issue. I think Patty did a great job with this. Although the FBA is not my issue, I did notice the sleeve fit on both muslins. It looks just like mine. I keep thinking that something is wrong with my sleeve. I know that I matched markings and notches but it still looks a bit off to me. I cannot shift the sleeve backwards or forward because the seam of the sleeve are supposed to match the front and back princess seams. I am right about this - aren't I???

  3. The first muslin clinched looked better to me than the second!!! You look slim in that and sleek too! :)

  4. I agree with previous comment that muslin #1 cinched looks much better than muslin #2. Overall, the first look more balanced whereas the second makes the hips look even bigger. The book Fit for Real People shows how to deal with this issue.

  5. Hey guys, remember that fit is a very personal thing. Even if you would do it differently, there is a wealth of information in this post!

  6. Hey guys! I totally agree that the overall look of muslin #2 isn't as nice as muslin #1 - and don't think I didn't consider photoshopping the good bottom half of #1 onto to the better fitting top half of #2 before I told Gertie she could just copy the whole post!!

    On muslin #2 I just did the FBA, which not only added 5" to the bust area, but all the way down as well! There's WAY too much fabric over my hips (just where I don't need it!) Also, I was perhaps a bit too aggressive pinching out the lapel to reduce gaping at the end - which makes the lapel much smaller than it should be, adding to the unbalanced look! I'm working on a third muslin to correct that, and it already looks much better - I basically removed about 5" of width from below the waist. Also the first muslin was a bit longer, just because it was so huge on me - the extra length was a bit more flattering, I think.

    If you look at photos from the back, you can see how huge the shoulder area was on muslin #1 - maybe it didn't looks so bad (although, I think it looked pretty bad), but it was very uncomfortable, with the shoulders sliding so far down my arms!

    Faye - I'm not exactly sure on the arms - they're sort of funky with matching up those seams, that's for sure!

    LAP - thanks! I hope it's helpful for folks doing a FBA - I like as many pictures as possible myself!

  7. This is a wonderful tutorial. I need to learn the FBA myself for my future projects. I just made my first dress ( but it wasn't very fitted so I didn't have much of a problem with fit. Can't wait to try this technique for future projects.

  8. I'm happy to say that my muslin will be cut today, and hopefully stitched, and that there will be no more tears of frustration.

    Thanks all!!

  9. That really is a wealth of information - thank you for sharing (both of you, Gertie and Patty)!

  10. Wow, Patti, what a great alteration! I think the top half of the jacket is really working for you now! I'm sure that by Muslin 3.0 you will have the bottom half all sorted out too!

  11. Thank you thank you thank you Patty! How kind of you to share this with us. Thanks for that extra work! I nearly missed it, so glad I happened to scroll down.

  12. Nice work! Much better! This is exactly what method I used for creating a dress for my friend who is a 44GG! :D
    Unfortunately for commercial patterns if you go up to the right size for your bust (if you are busty), then the body is a sack & there are FAR too many revisions to make. Better to go off the waist measure and then make this adjustment for the bust.

  13. Can you please explain how you maintained the original waist and hip measurements? I have followed the Fit for Real People method, and it works great for making the bust area fit, but as you noted it makes everything else wider too, and I only need the width in the bust. Thank you!

  14. Hey guys! I'm glad you found it helpful - Purl, your new dress is super cute with the boots!!

    Jen - well, I didn't really retain the measurements! that's why Muslin #2 is so big on the bottom! I'm taking out the width for muslin #3, basically by recutting along smaller size seamlines (printed on the paper) to reduce by about 5" (same as my FBA). I am really focusing on reducing from the side seams, because I carry more weight in the front and back, but you could just take down evenly as well! That's the nice thing about a princess seamed garment - there's a lot of seams, so if you just take a bit from each one, it adds up!

    If that doesn't make sense, I am almost done with muslin #3 and will be doing an updated post on my blog (not Gerties wonderful blog ;_) - probably tomorrow or Monday!

  15. oy vey...I posted my muslin pics...looks like I'm going to have to re-cut and sew the front pieces.


    I will not get disheartened though. I WILL complete this project, and I WILL complete it into a garment that I will wear. So help me, I will!

    (It just might take me a while...)


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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