Follow the FBA – Adjusting The Pattern Piece & First Toile

Okey-dokey, here I go – diving into the unknown!

The first thing I had to do was adjust my front bodice pattern piece. I began by tracing a copy of the pattern piece in size 4. My previous version had been cut out in a size 10 at the waist, tapering to a size 6 at the chest.

Whilst doing this tracing, I added an inch to the bottom of the pattern piece, as I felt my bodice was too short on the last incarnation. I lowered the bust dart. I noted both of these adjustments on my traced front bodice piece, for future reference. (At a later stage, I also added an extra inch depth to all my other bodice pattern pieces.)

I then used blue pen to mark on the traced piece where I should be slashing with my scissors. To be frank, I just out and out copied what Symon Sez suggests doing in her blog post here! Then I set to with the scissors.

There is a two inch discrepancy between my upper bust measurement and my bust measurement. This means I needed to add a one inch gap where that piece was sliced. I put some brown paper beneath the gap, taped one side firmly down and measured out an inch across for careful placement of the other slashed side.

As soon as I started manipulating the pieces, it became clear why I’d had to slash through my dart. It allows the pattern piece to spread out without rippling or distorting – which means that it will ultimately accommodate the 3D aspects of your body. Clever, innit?

Brown paper was great to work with – those obvious lines made placement fairly accurate. Can you see how the dart has spread? Also, you’ll notice that the bottom of the pattern doesn’t line up any more. So I cut through the horizontal line on the right and lowered the bottom pattern piece to measure up with its friend.

Then, a quick trim with the scissors and I had a new pattern piece!

And how did this compare to the original?

Quite a difference, I think you’ll agree. So I made a bodice toile in some fairly heavy calico that was a near match to my fashion fabric in weight.

What do you think? I’m pleasantly surprised that the fit is pretty good. The darts are pointing where they’re meant to point, and there are no obvious pull marks across my chest. I don’t want this so fitted that I can’t eat lunch. But is there anything really obvious that I’ve missed? Any screaming errors or pathetic oversights? Shout now and help me before I slice the fashion fabric!

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41 Responses to Follow the FBA – Adjusting The Pattern Piece & First Toile

  1. punkmik says:

    unfortunately I am not experienced enough to help more but The fit looks great! It really emphasizes your small waist, which maybe on the lobster hazel was not as noticeable! I am excited to see your final fabric and reading everyone elses ideas! 😀

  2. Sassy T says:

    Looks good to me but I know nothing being a beginner lol.

  3. annie says:

    Looks really good. Are the wrinks along the diagonal leading to CF significant or is that just those scruffy camera trolls?

    • I see what you mean. My hope is that is heavy calico struggling with darts, but it may not be. My one issue with toiles is that you can tweak for ever but never fully know how fashion fabric will perform until, you know, you start work with the fashion fabric!

  4. Carolyn says:

    I’ve only recently begun to play with FBA’s, and one thing I’ve noticed is that when I’ve thought I’d need more bodice length is that once the FBA is done, it no longer seems like extra length is needed. I have one dress right now that I had intended to be a wearable muslin that won’t be wearable until I take the skirt off and remove the extra bodice length that I had added (still debating the worthwile-ness of fixing it). I thought the waist seam would hit at the right point when I tried it on during construction, but after the weight of the skirt was added in, it hits far enough below my waist to throw off all the upper body fitting work I’d done (read this as “bunches in unflattering ways”). Looking at the comparison of your pattern pieces and the way your toile fits at the bottom edge, it looks like you might have the same issue after you get a skirt attached.

    • Yep, the FBA definitely lowers the bodice piece. Thanks!

      • LinB says:

        You’ve added length where you need it, which, on some-but-not-all pattern pieces, may also add length where you DON’T need it. It is fine to slice off any bits of pattern pieces that are too long or too wide, just as it is fine to chop them open to add length or width when needed. The only time you have to worry about “balancing” a pattern piece is when you have to maintain a measurement, but want to shift a fitting seam or a design element. That is the time when you have to add as much to one place as you’ve taken off in another. And, as Carolyn has found to her misfortune, once you translate a pattern into fabric, you cannot always predict how the garment will behave.

  5. It looks good but I suspect you might find it a little large in your fashion fabric. I’m not an expert on these things but I use what looks like a similar calico to make toiles and have found it tends to result in a larger than required final garment, particularly when I’ve left a bit of ease as you have done.

  6. K-Line says:

    Looks nice in the chest but I sense that the width of the bodice below the bust is too large. (This is the eternal challenge using the FFRP version of the FBA.) Given the diagonal seams, you might be able to take in the underbust to waist are (like a tuck or dart). Those of us with proportionately larger chests on proportionately narrow frames often end up needing to dart under the bust in order to get the best fit. I’ve been working on bodice fitting, under these circumstances, for quite a while. I don’t think the FBA is an easy alteration (from an outcome perspective) as it has to do with a really delicate relationship between one’s individual proportions and the pattern (often drafted for a less curvy bust area). What I can say is that I’ve never done a side-darted FBA that didn’t wreck the line of my bodice, though I hope you have more luck than me! I’m moving towards draping.

    • Jenn-NY says:

      I’ve had the problem with the extra underbust fabric too. I usually slash through the armscythe and cut through the (side) pattern piece horizontally. Then I rotate the bottom of the (side) piece toward the CF, essentially creating a dart. Then I usually rotate the dart out, unless I want one there. Does that make sense? I think I learned this one from a 1960s home-ec book. Not sure how/if it would work on Hazel, though.

    • i didn’t do a FBA on my hazel (not being in possession of sufficient boobage to need one) but i found i needed to take out a bit of fabric under the bust to make it fit better. i found this pretty easy though with the diagonal princess seams in the hazel. i believe (according to FFRP) that with princess seaming you can just add fabric to the right part of the front and side princess seams rather than a full on FBA? sure someone with a lot more experience than me can confirm.

  7. It looks really good. I’ve been putting off learning how to do one while secretly fearing that I ought to… maybve I should be inspired by you. It doesn’t seem *too* terrifying…?

  8. It looks really good. I’ve been putting off learning how to do one while secretly fearing that I ought to… maybe I should be inspired by you. It doesn’t seem *too* terrifying…?

  9. redsilvia says:

    I must begin by saying I’ve never done a FBA so take my advice with that huge grain of salt. The dart placement seems good and they fit well. You may want to pinch out some of the ease under bust to get rid of the wrinkles. Those wrinkles may also be exacerbated by the bodice now being to long. If you mark where you want the waist to be then clip the toile to that marked waist line you’ll get a better idea of how it will lie. Then you’ll also be able to see if the bodice is now too long…

    Great start and I can’t wait to see what fabric you’ll use. It’ll be hard to compete with lobsters.

  10. Janice says:

    It looks good, but I think you need to pinch out some fabric by the underbust — that part looks kind of baggy. What do you think?

  11. Vicki Kate says:

    The bust looks great! I wonder if it’s a little long in the waist now though and that’s contributing to the wrinkles. But I always have to deepen the curve of the seam under my FBA (5″ total usually) so that there isn’t a tent beneath my boobs. With this I think I’d try futzing the side seam as the centre V seam is central to the design. But again, the weight of the skirt may pull them out! Maybe pin the bodice to a skirt and see?

  12. You’re very brave to try the Hazel on a large bust. It strikes me as the sort of bodice which has to fit very snug to look good, which can be very difficult to do without lots of darts. I can see lots of small fit issues, which I think people have already identified, so I won’t repeat them, and wish you lots of luck with this beautiful pattern

  13. Sarah says:

    That looks great! I agree that the bodice pieces may be too long at this point. Perhaps shaving off a 1/2″?

  14. piakdy says:

    I’m also fairly new to FBA, and never tried Colette Patterns before, but 1″ increase seems like a lot. I have Vogue Fitting Shell and it’s FBA instruction says to increase 1/2″ to go from B-cup to C, 3/4″ from B to D, 1-1/4″ from B to DD. Colette Patterns’ FBA instruction ( mentions that their patterns are designed for C-cup (rather than B-cup like Vogue, etc.). You might want to check if you can get away with smaller adjustment which might help with the slight bagginess under the bust.

    • Sarah says:

      I like that in theory, but surely many people don’t have their proper cup sizes…so is it more reliable to use the difference between your high bust and your full bust measurement as a guide for how much to add?

  15. Molly says:

    Congrats on tackling your first FBA but choosing such a tricky pattern is brave! Some things I’m wondering…

    Not entirely sure, but did you add length to your bodice twice? You say that you added an inch while tracing because it was short last time, then when you redrew your waist seam after the FBA you lowered the front line again. You probably didn’t need to add the inch when tracing because the FBA adds length and possibly the cause of the lobster being too short in the bodice was because the length was being used up to accomodate the extra distance over your bust without an FBA – does that make sense?

    Did you check the paper pattern against yourself to see where your bust point (apex) lies? The reason I ask is because the underarm dart finishes about 1″ from the apex normally but you’ve slashed your apex right at the dart tip instead of extending the cutting line through the dart to meet the bust point. Normally, you can find the pattern apex by drawing a vertical line through the waist dart, a line through the underarm dart and where they intercept is the apex. You would then compare this to your body, mark your own apex on the pattern, use that as your target and redraft your dart positions accordingly (which may also mean redrafting shoulder darts if they exist). Obviously you can’t use that method here because you have no waist darts at all! In that case you could benefit from finding your apex before you start.

    After you’ve done an FBA you’ll need to redraw the dart to end 1-2″ from your apex to avoid Madonna boob syndrome (pointy-ended darts). Your darts look very deep and you might find the fit and shape more flattering (and flatter) if you divided them into two darts at each underarm. Sloping them upwards to point at the apex is also more flattering on big boobs.

    Did you measure the full bust of the pattern before deciding how much to add? Lots of factors come into play here including the cup size the pattern assumes, how much ease is added which varies from designer to designer and pattern companies and where your bust volume lies . My first FBA, using the method you’ve chosen above, came out way too big because I’d just added the difference between pattern sizing chart and my bust (divided by two). It turned out to have so I could have halved the difference and got a comfortable fit. This may well be down to ease in the pattern (turned out there was a fair bit) so measuring the pattern first is a good indicator. (Now I make a muslin first to determine how much I need to add, even at an F cup I’ve found with the Big 4 I don’t often need to even do an FBA they add so much ease!)

    Its always a good idea to think about what bra to wear too when fitting the patttern as the changes in boob shape can affect an FBA – think of your boobs as a foam tennis ball, if you squish it, the diameter changes horizontally (wider) and vertically (shorter) but its still the same volume (cup size) so fitting yourself in a saggy bra could mean when you put your perky, push-up bra underneath you find the FBA is too small or you have excess fabric above the bust.

    I have to admit, I have always been sceptical about Colette patterns because they don’t appear to be drafted with fuller busts in mind, the style lines tend to be those that flatter smaller chests and are complicated to adjust for the beginner. And on a parting note, your toile freaks me out a little bit, the calico makes it look like a giant surgical bandage!

    • Nyssa Jayne says:

      I am loving that not only is Karen detailing her FBA, which is helpful, but these comments are so helpful too! Your comments about working with the pattern’s bust apex to slash the pattern has suddenly made my own FBA problems very clear — I thought I had to slash according to where my bust apex would be, but of course, now that I think about it, that makes no sense considering the changes the flat pattern goes through. Thank you!

    • This is incredibly helpful, thank you! A second toile is in order, I believe.

  16. Amy says:

    Wow. There’s really not much I can say that your prolific readers haven’t said already. I am glad you’re braving the FBA. I imagine learning how to move darts and open patterns pieces will make sewing and fitting so much more fun and creative.

  17. Erika says:

    Yay! Congrats on your first FBA! 😉 That’s a great first attempt! I was going to point out that maybe the depth of the bustdart needed altering, to avoid “bust pointing”, but Molly has already said it all =) Basically, I agree; it might be a good idea to do a new toille, where the FBA starts with the bust apex, and you add a little bit less width and length. Something that might remove the underbust sagging is a curved waistdart. I sometimes find that I need to make my waistdarts a bit convex (or the other way, not sure on the geometry-terms) so that on the pattern they sort of softly curve to an almond shape. Tricky to explain…
    Anyway, good luck!

  18. Roobeedoo says:

    There is a point at which an alteration becomes redrafting, which is fine if you are fine with that and really really want that dress, but when I see the two pattern pieces one on top of the other I get scared! I kind of think it is becoming a different dress? Which is great if it fits! I am rambling. I just find it a bit daunting I suppose :S

    • Lucy says:

      If an original pattern isn’t right for the shape of the wearer then yes – there is an element of it being a different dress. But surely better to have a slightly different dress that fits and flatters than stay true to the original for the sake of it?

    • It’s definitely daunting, Roo! And I’m definitely embracing my stubborn streak… It’s one section of a bodice – I won’t be defeated by this scrap of fabric! I’m gonna keep going and see what happens. What’s the worst that can happen?!!!

    • Lucy says:

      Speaking personally, I also really like the technical challenge.

  19. Lucy says:

    You’ve had plenty of fine-tuning advice, but can I just say how much better it looks already 🙂

  20. Leah says:

    This is a really interesting discussion. I’m quite pleased that I thought “didn’t she just add the extra length twice?”, and I noticed the extra fabric underbust but had no idea how you’d get rid of it, so all these points have been fascinating. I have a fear of FBAs that is probably why I mostly sew for my children and I need to overcome it…

  21. ooobop! says:

    What a totally awesome post. Thank you Karen. Not that I will need to do one of those adjustments anytime soon but I still find the process of pattern cutting and fitting, fascinating. From a totally inexperienced and just a geometric point of view…. I do wonder if those front side panels need to be shaped differently themselves. I have a feeling that by overall shortening it will improve and remove some of those wrinkles but it still wont be totally fitted as there is still a contour that needs to be addressed. Are those side front panels going to be cut on the bias? Maybe that would help to ‘mould’ to your waistline. Or perhaps it doesn’t need to do that. Bit difficult to tell without the skirt attached. Looking forward to more posts. Sounds like you’ve got a very professional following!

    • Aw, thanks! I was really concerned that I was just wasting my time and my readers’ time, so I’m very glad that people are engaging. Yes, those pieces are cut on the bias and I think you make several good points!

  22. symondezyn says:

    oh I’m so glad you’re having success! (I knew you would!) I think you’ve fitted the bust well but from what I can see, perhaps the extra length the FBA adds has alleviated your need to make a length adjustment, which could be why there’s some extra fabric there – hard to say without seeing it in person though 🙂 I think you’re doing a smashing job so far! ^_^

    As for determining the amount to add with the FBA, because Colette patterns have very little ease in general, this method has worked well for me but for patterns with more ease, I agree the standard method is also a valid option 🙂

  23. MrsC says:

    This is very interesting indeed and reading all the feedback is so interesting too. I want to address a part of the bodice noone else seems to have noticed. To my eye, the top bodice line on you curves up and over a lot more than the pattern is meant to. I know it curves up from under the arm, but it is then meant to bear a fairly straight line across the front. I don’t think the extra curve upwards flatters your fabulosity at all, and if you are retoiling, I suggest you draw a new neckline onto the toile and cut it off or pin it under. I do feel that the bodice top line shape for you is either slightly scooped or v’ed into the middle. You could even cut it straight and add a little vertical ruching in the centre to give it some v’ness. Venus! Get it? hehe.
    One of the joys of a fuller bust is the tendency for a lot of unbroken fabric above the ‘apex’ to have it look top heavy. By cutting down on it, you rebalance the dress’s horizontal zones to suit your proportions better. I hope that all made sense, I’ve made fast and loose withe English language as I don’t know what the proper terms are for things, begin instinctive not academic in these matters! 🙂

  24. Phil says:

    Karen I have decided that you are very brave! You just put it all out there (um, if you know what I mean!). I am a DD cup, I tend to favour modern loose cuts fortunately, even though they can make me look larger than I really am . . . But should I ever want to go fitted, I will be referring to all this knowledge for sure! Thank you!

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