Choosing a size and making bust adjustments tutorial

For the first part of my Me Made May 2015 Blog series on the Simple Sleeveless Top from my book, I wanted to give you a few pointers about getting the fit right and this week I’ll be showing you how to measure yourself and do a Bust Adjustment to accommodate a small or large bust.

This post is pretty long and text heavy but you’ll be able to work out quickly if making an adjustment is applicable to you or not.

The top is a pullover – so there are no fastenings or zips or anything. It is semi-fitted so it does fit over the bust but then is looser over the waist to allow enough ease to pull it on and off.

The size chart in the book labels the sizes UK8-18. Like any other patterns out there, it is best to measure yourself and choose a size based on your measurements, rather than just picking what you think you are. It will lead to a much better fit.

The 3 measurements you’ll need are:

  • the bust measurement at the fullest point of the bust

  • the natural waist line

  • the hips at the fullest part

How to work out if you need to do a bust adjustment in the first place

  • The patterns are drafted for a B cup so if you differ from that, you might need to do a bust adjustment. If you are a C cup you might be ok, but follow the steps below on measuring your high bust to work it out.
  • If you have a larger bust and have made clothes before that have ended up being huge and baggy at the arm holes or the neckline, or you feel like there is excess fabric across the back of the garment.
  • You have a larger bust and have made clothes before that fit around the neck and arm holes but you feel like your boobs are getting squashed by the tightness of the fabric at the bust area.
  • If you have a smaller bust and end up with loose, baggy fabric at the front of the garment over your bust.
  • You may NOT need to do a bust adjustment if your bust is say, a size 14 (and you usually wear a B or C cup) but your waist and hips are a size 16. If this is the case, just trace the size 14 for the arm hole and dart and after the dart, start to merge out to the size 16 line at the waist and hips.

Put simply what is a bust adjustment?

A Full bust adjustment will create more space and ease at the front of the top only, which is done by increasing the size of the dart. It means instead of increasing the circumference of the top all the way around to accommodate the bust (which will make the arm holes and neck too big) it just adds more space at the front for the bust.

A small bust adjustment will do the opposite. It decreases the amount of excess fabric over the bust by reducing the size of the dart.

Setting up the bust adjustment

If you think you need to do a bust adjustment then you’ll need one more measurement – the high bust measurement.

This is right under your arms and will come across over the top of your bust.

The measurement will help you work out how much you have to adjust the pattern by.

If the difference between your high bust measurement and full bust measurement is more than 2 inches, then it will confirm that you need to do an adjustment.

Choose your size based on your high bust measurement, this will mean that the top will still fit nicely arcoss the back and arm holes.

So for example, if your

  • high bust measurement is 36 inches
  • full bust is 38.5 inches
  • waist is 30 inches
  • hips are 40 inches

The difference between your high and full bust is 2.5 inches.

So you would choose to make the size 12 based on your high bust measurement and the amount we have to adjust the pattern by is 2.5 inches

When we work on the pattern piece, we just work on half of the front bodice at the time – as it’s cut on the fold.

So I need to half 2.5 inches, which gives 1 ¼ inches. This is how much I will adjust the pattern piece by.

Stil with me? ......Awesome! This does require lots of concentration and patience, and don't worry if you don't get it right the first time. Always make a toile to check the fit first before cutting into your special fabric.

The following steps apply if you were doing a small bust adjustment too.

Making the adjustment

You will need

  • tracing paper
  • Pencil
  • Paper scissors
  • Rectangular quilters rule, I use 6 inches by 24 inches, or grading rule like this one from Morplan (link here).

Trace your chosen size from the master pattern sheets included with the book. I use dressmakers dots and cross paper which you can buy by the meter in the shop – follow this link.

Next you need to mark the apex or point of your bust, which will be around the nipple area. To do this look in the mirror and hold the pattern piece up in front of you covering half your body. Line the fold line up at the centre of your chest and the shoulder section over your shoulder and mark the point with a pen or pencil – a felt tip might be easiest to get a clear mark.
You will also have to mark in the seam allowance line around the armhole. As this top has binding around the arm hole which creates a smaller seam allowance than normal, just mark it in 0.5cm from the edge.

This point will be the basis for the following steps.

Draw 3 lines from this apex point

  • parallel to the centre front fold line, all the way to the bottom hem

  • from the centre of the dart at the side seam to the apex

  • from the apex to 1/3 way up the arm curve

We now need to spread the pattern out to accommodate for the extra bust size. So we make two cuts into the paper.

One from the bottom hem, up to the apex, then towards the armhole curve, stopping just short of the edge to create a little hinge in the paper. This will stop the arm hole curve from changing length.

The second cut is from the side seam along the line toward the apex, again stopping just short so that you still have a little paper hinge.

For a small bust adjustment

Instead of spreading the pattern, overlap it by the amount you need to reduce by, this will make the size of the dart smaller.

For a Full Bust Adjustment

Place another piece of pattern paper underneath your bodice and tape the bodice at the neck and centre front to anchor it down.

Spread the side part of the bodice away from the centre and measure the distance between the two edges of the vertical line you cut. Make it the same amount that you had to increase your bust measurement by. For our example this was 1 ¼ inches.

This will automatically gap the dart line that you cut too. Tape everything in place.

You will then have to lower the centre bottom part of the bodice to the new hem line.

To do this draw a line at 90 degrees to the centre fold (it doesn't matter exactly where it is) and cut along this line.

Lower the section of pattern paper down to the same level as your new hemline, keeping it lined up with the centre front line.

Marking in the new dart so it still points towards the apex of your bust

Doing the above adjustment will lower the bust dart, so we will need to re-draw it by creating a new dart point. This should finish about and inch before the bust apex (to avoid a Madonna boob look).

Mark in the point of the new dart an inch away from the apex point, towards the side seam.

Draw in the new bigger dart by connecting the points of the dart at the side seam to the new point of the dart.

To even out the side edge of the pattern and create the proper shape for the wide end of the dart, fold the new dart lines towards each other. The paper will bunch up a bit, don't worry too much, as long as the dart lines are touching.

Using a pin, make small holes in the paper to smooth out the curve of the pattern.

Open the fold back out and following the little holes main de the pattern by the pin, cut out around the shape of the pattern.

You now have your new front bodice pattern piece, ready for toiling to check the fit. Yay!

Next week I'm going to show you how to change the neck line to make it narrower and lower and how to make adaptations to the pattern if you have narrow or broad shoulders.

Are you wearing handmade as part of Me Made May today or this weekend?

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