3 March 2007

My Cup Does Not Runneth Over

I see a lot of talk on discussion boards about the ubiquitous full bust adjustment (or FBA, for short). It seems that every time I turn around, someone else is making a FBA or learning how to make a FBA.

FBA, FBA, FBA!! (cue Jan Brady style whining)

I have always thought I leaned slightly more toward the pessimistic than the optimistic, but the fact that my body bears this out is disconcerting. I have no choice but to view the cup as half empty! :)

Not that you would know it by taking a quick poll on the PR or SG discussion boards, but there are other women out there that, like me, are not so amply endowed. So,what is a frustrated member of the IBTC to do? Well, the small bust adjustment (or SBA) is usually the answer. However, most fitting books simply state that the SBA is the opposite of the FBA. How lame. I mean, honestly, could that be any more dismissive?

Never fear, as self-appointed protector of the "almost A cup" crowd, I will take you through the SBA on a darted pattern. In the future, I will show you how to reduce the bust on a princess seam.

SBA - Step by (tiny) Step
I will illustrate this tutorial using a pattern that I am using for my SWAP (McCall's 3489). Here is a picture of the front bodice piece. Notice that there is a diagonal bust dart that starts at the side seam and a vertical waist dart. Both these darts are drawn in black on the traced copy. All lines added to complete the SBA will be drawn in red.

Fold the bust dart legs together and crease along the centre of the dart. Unfold and draw a line along the fold in the centre of the bust dart. (labeled L1)

Draw a vertical line, parallel to the grain line through the centre of the waist dart. Extend beyond the dart a bit. (labeled L2)

Draw a horizontal line from the point of the bust dart toward centre front. This line should intersect L2 at a 90 degree angle. (labeled L3)

Mark a point approximately 1/3 of the way up the armscye from the underarm seam. Draw a line from this point to intersect at the crossing point of L2 and L3. (labeled L4)

Starting at the side seam, cut along L1 and on through L3, leaving a small notch of paper at the intersection point of L3 and L2.

Cut from the hemline along L2. Without stopping, continue to cut along L4, leaving a small notch of paper at the armscye seam line. Also cut from the armscye edge to this notch.

The bust dart can now be reduced by any amount or eliminated all together. Since I am barely an A cup, I tend to remove the dart completely. Just pivot the pattern at the bust dart notch to overlap the paper. The legs of the original bust dart should now lie on top of each other at the side seam edge. If you still wish to have a portion of the dart remain, just overlap the paper by a smaller amount. When you are satisfied use tape to secure this alteration.

Now pivot the pattern at the armscye notch and overlap in the middle. The edges of what used to be L2 should be parallel to each other to restore the proper grain line. Once again, use tape to secure this alteration.

Notice that there is an extension of paper on the right hand lower edge. To fix this, cut horizontally through this extension and shift it upwards, to make the bottom edges meet.

Draw a new thinner waist dart along the old overlapping dart lines. You should be able to see the old lines on the paper. Stop at the bottom and top points where the lines cross.

The entire front pattern piece is now shorter in length. This is caused by the removal of the excess fabric across the bust which is unnecessary due to the smaller cup size. Less fabric is required to cover a smaller bust. The width of the pattern piece is reduced as well. However, since the waist dart is now smaller, there should be no net loss of fabric to fit around the waist in the final garment.

Notice that the armscye has changed in shape slightly. If the garment is sleeveless and has an armhole facing, this facing will need to be redrafted. Simply smooth out the new armhole edge and create a new facing. This is done by tracing the armscye, along with a few inches of shoulder and side seam. I make my facings at least 2 1/2" wide. You can see a comparison of the old and new facings at right.

Also notice that there is a small wedge of paper protruding from the outer edge of the bodice, where the bust dart was removed. Smooth this area out before cutting out with the garment fabric.

Check that the newly drafted front bodice matches the shape of the back bodice piece along the side seam.  If it all lines up nicely, you have done a perfect SBA. You can see the difference between the original front bodice piece and the new altered front bodice piece.

24 comments:

Vicki said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I am one of those without a lot, but I cheat by having a padded bra....lol.

PS looking forward to seeing more of your SWAP :)

stacy said...

A really great tutorial! You don't see SBA instructions very often, so thank you!

Gaylen said...

Thanks Shannon! I too am a member of this darn club! However, I have a very wide rib cage and still need a FBA - baffles me every time! Any suggestions on that? Good to see you blogging again :) g

Summerset said...

Very nice tutorial! The instructions are clear and pictures are definitely a bonus.

Sharon said...

Oh how I wish I was a member of the SBA club rather than the FBA club... Thanks for posting this!I have to help a new sewer with this adjustment and this tutorial will come in very handy.

Anonymous said...

And I was going to say: how I wish I was a member of the FB club!!! What's really strange is that dd IS a member!!
Thanks Shannon for the info. It'll come in handy for me, unfortunately.

RuthieK said...

Another thanks here for the SBA. I am a B cup but on a plus size body where they have assumed C cup and above and I can never work out how to take out the excess fabric whilst keeping the shoulder and upper chest width I still need.

Maria (hubby's co-worker) said...

Hi, I think that you should go to Europe, specifically Italy, this summer, for ideas... you will easily be able to find fabrics and beautiful design styles- Milan is Italy's fashion capital and Dusseldorf is Germany's- Just an FYI from a friend :O)

ps-you only need to speak English.

Anne said...

Thank you for the wonderful tutorial! I found it much easier to follow than the instructions in Fast Fit. This is going to be very helpful for altering my Burda patterns (which seem to be drafted for a C cup).

Melissa said...

I just want to thank you so much for the excellent tutorial. I am in the same boat as you (barely an A cup) and always found it rediculous that a SBA was the opposite of a FBA - take a page and show me how to do it for heaven sake. I'm so glad you took the time to write this, I can't wait to make my first SBA! :-)

dawn said...

I see you mention the princess seam SBA but I don't see it. Am I missing it? I have a super cute vintage 60's dress that is princess seam on the top and it fits everywhere except there. SIGH.

Fabienne said...

Thanks so much. I have been needing a good, logical and reproducible SBA for many years. This one makes sense and isn't one of those "reduce by what you think it should look like then sew it the way you think it should be..." kind or the kind where you pin the pattern to yourself and somehow are supposed to figure out what to do about the darts and excess material. You actually explain it. Great! Thanks and I am waiting to hear about the princess seam reduction, too.

French_Seam said...

Thanks from the UK! I just made a dress (McCall 5466) in a size smaller than I take, and the bodice STILL has room in it for a medium-size dog :( I just can't mentally sort a 2D pattern into a 3D outfit - your SBA adjustment is a godsend. Thank you

Anonymous said...

hey! thanks for posting this! i posted the question at patternreview a couple of years ago, and either nobody knew or nobody cared! but no i am not bitter, because you saved the day, and pr linked to it!

Sigrid said...

Hi Shannon,
I was looking for an e-mail address for you but couldn't find one. Therefor in the form of this comment (of which I assume that you receive an e-mail that it is posted): I started a new blog with links to sewing tutorials: http://www.sewingtutorials.blogspot.com/. Would you mind if I post links to your tutorials there. If you don't object to a link, may I use a picture to illustrate what the tutorial is about? Could you please let me know at isedl at yahoo dot com? Thanks, Sigrid

Jilly said...

I recently found your blog and great info on the SBA. A popular sewing/alterations book list the well know sba as "a reverse of the fba", as we all know. But, my favorite is, from the same book, just "wear a bigger bra". No kidding. Please! I like the fact that I'm small and want to make and wear well fitting clothes to accentuate what I have. So great tutorial on the SBA. Finally!

Heidi said...

Thanks so much for posting these instructions. Alas, I am a member of this club but at least what little I've got is all mine. Since I am just starting to use BWOF I may need it. Even with a little help from VS I'd never make it to a C-cup (without looking ridiculous)! I'm going to save this in my favorites. -Heidi

hausmausblog said...

I just found your post and I laughed out loud when I read the introduction! I've always asked myself why everyone seems to understand the need for pattern alterations to suit women with bigger busts, thighs, bottoms (which is of course important) but no one ever thinks about people with a smaller-than-average frame! Thank you for your funny and useful tutorial (step by little step... I'm still laughing to myself)!

Anonymous said...

Great info! I'm a club member, too. Now, can you tell me where to find a decent bra, too? Yes, we still need to wear them!

Emkayan said...

Thank you thank you thank you! It's hard enough not to be able to buy clothing that fit because of my bust size, but recently I've been stumped by the patterns I've bought. Your post will change my fashion life- it will finally be half full. ;)

atelierflou said...

I have no choice but to view the cup as half empty! :)

--To paraphrase an old joke, sometimes you have to be grateful just to have a cup. :)

Juliette Esper said...

brilliant tutorial! I am going to feature it on my Sewing and Style blog
if it is ok. Juliette

Shannon said...

Thanks Juliette - you are welcome to feature my tutorial on your blog.

parasombra said...

As a sewist contented with my AAA bust I've been looking at this tute for ages but managed not to need to use it until... I wanted to sew the Collette Sorbetto without the dratted bust dart.

I've just traced it and removed the dart the way you suggest and I am happy, happy, happy! Thank you!