Making the Orla sewing pattern? Vanessa here again with a second post on fitting.
In the last post we looked at choosing your size, lengthening or shortening, and combining sizes to get the right proportion for you. I also mentioned the importance of making a toile or muslin - read more about when, why and how to make a toile. Today we’ll be looking at making adjustments to the bust, back and shoulders.
If your boobs are on the larger side, you may find that the pattern fits your bust but is baggy at the upper chest and shoulders. On the other hand, if your bosoms are on the smaller side, you may find that while the full bust fits you, the upper chest and shoulders are too tight. One way to resolve this is to choose a pattern size based on your high bust and then add or subtract room at the full bust - this is known as a full bust adjustment (FBA) or small bust adjustment (SBA).
How do I know if I need to do adjust the bust and, if so, by how much?
Our sewing patterns include a 5cm (2in) difference between the full bust (measured around your nipples) and high bust measurement (measured around your upper chest just under your armpits). If the difference between your full bust and high bust is significantly different to this, you might need to do a bust adjustment.
To work out how much you need to add or subtract to the bust, measure your high bust (around your upper chest just under your armpits) and add 5cm (2in). Choose the pattern size with that measurement at the bust to do your bust adjustment on. Compare your high bust to full bust measurement. If your bust is 2.5cm (1in) bigger, you’ll do a full bust adjustment and add 2.5cm (1in); if it’s 2.5cm (1in) smaller, you’ll do a small bust adjustment and subtract 2.5cm (1in), and so on.
Since the front bodice pattern represents one half of the top, as the fabric is cut on the fold – or one boob – you’ll be adding or subtracting half of that difference - 1.25cm (1/2in) in this example – to the pattern piece.
Both adjustments start off the same way by marking some cutting lines on your pattern, slashing them open, then either spreading them apart or overlapping them, to add or remove space at the bust.
Trace off a copy of your front bodice piece so you can keep the original one intact in case you need to go back to it, making sure to trace off the notches, dart and ‘Lengthen or shorten here’ line.
Start by marking the bust point, 2.5cm (1in) above the dart tip for your size. Draw a line parallel to the ‘Place on fold line’ from the bust point down to the ‘Lengthen or shorten here' line .
Draw a second line from the bust point to the notch on the armhole. Mark a point 15mm (5/8in) along this line from the armhole - this is to avoid the seam allowance.
Stick a strip of paper behind the bust dart opening. Draw a curved line through the middle of the bust dart.
Cut along the ‘Lengthen or shorten here’ line. Put the bottom piece to the side for the moment.
Cut along the first line from the bottom up to the bust point, and then to the point 15mm (5/8in) away from the armhole. Cut along the curved line through the centre of the dart, leaving it attached every so slightly at the bust point on a little ‘hinge’
Snip into the armhole in the opposite direction, stopping just before the 15mm (5/8in) point, so that the paper is also attached on a small hinge. This ensures that the armhole stitching line remains the same length.
Full bust adjustment
If you’re doing a full bust adjustment, gently slide a large piece of paper under your cut bodice piece. Stick the pattern down with the sections pivoted away from each other so that they open up at the bust point by the amount you worked out above, but remain in the same place at the armhole and bottom. In this example, this amount is 1.25cm (1/2in) – remember you’re using half the difference between your high and full bust measurements as you’re working on half your bodice. Let the curved side dart open up as much as necessary to accommodate this. Pin, glue or tape down on top of the paper.
Reattach the bottom piece you set aside earlier to the rest of the pattern pieces at the side seam. Pivot the other side of the pattern so it's at the same angle as the line marked with the 'Place on fold' arrow. Pin, glue or tape in place. You'll now have added length at the front to accommodate the larger bust, without changing the side seams.
This is your new pattern piece. Trace around the outside, including the original dart lines, which will now be wider apart to create volume to accommodate a fuller bust.
Once you’ve made the full bust adjustment, make up a toile to check the fit. A flat pattern adjustment is a good start, but since our bodies are all different shapes, you may still need to make a few tweaks to the toile – pining out fullness and slashing open anywhere that feels too tight, then making the same changes to the paper pattern. As you've changed the fit of the bodice, it's also a good idea to check that you can get the top on easily! You don't need to put a zip in but slash down the back by the same length as the line on the zip interfacing piece. If it's a struggle to get the top on now it's been changed, you could go for a slightly longer zip.
Small bust adjustment
If you’re doing a small bust adjustment, pivot the two side pieces over the bust point by the amount that you worked out above. In this example, that amount is 1.25cm (1/2in) - remember you’re using half the difference between your high and full bust measurements as you’re working on half your bodice. (Ignore the bits of paper stuck under the dart legs in this photo – they’re there from the full bust adjustment I did earlier.) Pin, glue or tape in place.
Reattach the bottom piece you set aside earlier to the rest of the pattern pieces at the side seam. Pivot the other side of the pattern so it's at the same angle as the line marked with the 'Place on fold' arrow. Pin, glue or tape in place. You'll now have removed some length at the front for the smaller bust, without changing the side seams.
This is your new pattern piece. Trace around the outside, including the original dart lines, which will now be narrower together to remove some of the volume to fit a smaller bust.
Once you’ve made the small bust adjustment, make up a toile to check the fit. A flat pattern adjustment is a good start, but since our bodies are all different shapes, you may still need to make a few tweaks to the toile – pining out fullness and slashing open anywhere that feels too tight, then making the same changes to the paper pattern. As you've changed the fit of the bodice, it's also a good idea to check that you can get the top on easily! You don't need to put a zip in but slash down the back by the same length as the line on the zip interfacing piece. If it's a struggle to get the top on now it's been changed, you could go for a slightly longer zip.
Moving dart tips
When you make your toile, you might find the tips of the bust darts land don't land in a flattering position for you. You want your darts to end about 2.5cm (1in) from the fullest part of your bust in order to avoid the Madonna effect. If they’re coming up too high, low, wide or narrow, they can be easily moved.
Mark onto your toile where your bust apex is (your nipple), then mark 2.5cm (1in) down, where the dart tip should land. Make a note of how the dart tip needs to be moved - for example, 2.5cm (1in) towards the centre and 1.25cm (1/2in) down - and mark the new dart tip on your pattern.
Stick a paper strip underneath the open dart. Move the tip of the dart cutting line by the same amount you moved the dart tip. Redraw the top of the dart stitching lines, blending into the dart legs further down.
Widening and narrowing shoulders
If you have particularly wide or narrow shoulders you can adjust their width so the armhole seam sits in the right place. Ideally this seam will run over the end of your shoulder – where you can feel the socket move if you place your fingers on your shoulder.
To amend this, add or subtract from your shoulder seam, depending on the alteration right for you. Do the same to the front and back bodices, and then re-draw your armhole curve to meet the new shoulder end at a 15mm right angle, transferring any notches over. Trim or rub away the excess.
Adjusting the back and shoulders
We’ve designed this pattern to make it easy to fit the shape of your back and shoulders. The back bodice has both shoulder darts and long contour darts to create a beautiful curved shape. If you have a rounded upper back and an inward curve at your lower back, you'll appreciate this!
Try on your toile inside out, the darts pinned in place. If you think you need to, you can now repin the darts, taking them in or out or moving them slightly until you feel comfortable. An extra pair of helping hands is useful for this! Don't be tempted to over-fit this top - it should gracefully skim over your curves without being skin-tight. Transfer any changes you make onto your paper pattern.
If you change the shoulder darts, you’ll need to change the back neck facing and collar pieces so they match. Slash and spread or overlap the pattern pieces to add or remove the same amount you added or removed when re-pinning the darts, then smooth out the neckline.
Phew! Well done for working your way through the steps above. Your reward will be a beautifully fitting Orla top. As they say, the juice is worth the squeeze!
Fitting is a massive topic and we can only cover the most common changes here. If you'd like to find out more, some handy resources include:
- Fit for Real People - Pati Palmer and Marta Alto
- The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting - Sarah Veblen
- A Craftsy class such as Sew the Perfect Fit
This post is part of the Orla sewalong that you can follow here on the blog over the next few weeks, or catch up with later at a time that suits you. If you haven't got your pattern yet, you can order it here!