Thursday 10 April 2014

Fitting for slouch: No-dart Full Bust Adjustment

This feels like quite an embarrassing confession, for a sewer, but here it is: I DON'T LIKE DARTS.

I don't mean the sewing - I don't even mean the looks. It's the wearing. Darts are about structure and fitting and woven fabrics, and what I actually wear, a massive majority of the time, is casual and slouchy and, frequently, knit.

And if, like me, your bosoms are larger than the pattern-standard B-cup, you may recognise the fit problems that come with wearing that sort of thing: the t-shirt that drapes nicely in the line drawing, but stretches across your real-life chest in a kind of ugly mono-boob. Or the sweater that slinks in a casual "why yes I have cleavage under my jersey" kind of way - while hanging off your shoulders and making you look about 5 sizes larger everywhere else.

It is, of course, possible to adjust your pattern to avoid all that. Durrr Jo well yeah - the internet is full of excellent tutorials on adding or increasing bust darts for precisely this reason. Strangely though, it's less full of tutorials on how to do a full bust adjustment without darts. Which given the popularity of things-without-darts (like most stuff with knits, or many of the fabulously casual and rightly-beloved Grainline patterns) is slightly surprising.

So, here's my method for a no-dart full bust adjustment (FBA).  There are a couple of pretty good no-dart FBA tutes out there already, particularly here and here - but the way I do it is different. And as it's good to have options, here we go...

First, grab your supplies. Here's a fairly pointless picture so you all know what supplies means in this case, like you couldn't have guessed:

That's a pattern piece, an ruler and a pen. You'll also need some scissors, tape, and spare scraps of paper to stick everything together with.

Time to draw some lines!

The first line goes across the bodice front, at right angles to the grainline, halfway between the armhole notch & shoulder seam. My red pen was running out, but it is drawn in red here - I hope you can see it ok:

Draw your second line parallel to the first, 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) below the armhole:

You third third line connects the first two, and extends down to the bottom hem.  It should go through the bust point - I never bother working out where this actually falls, as I don't think it matters as much for a non-fitted garment. In this case - Grainline's Archer shirt - I lined it up with one of the shoulder seam notches. About a third of the way between the neckline and shoulder seam is usually a good idea.

So that's your drawing done. Get your scissors!  And cut along the lines you drew, as shown here:

At this point it's useful to slide some spare paper under your pattern piece, so you can stick the pieces down in the right place as you go and don't risk shifting them around unintentionally later on.

First, we're going to add width to the bust area.  Slide out the piece you just cut, by a maximum of 2 cm (3/4 inch). You can then stick it in place already if you like.

Next we're going to add length, so your shirt/tee/etc doesn't ride up at the front.  So, slide down the centre front part of your pattern piece by a maximum of 5 cm (2 inches):

Stick it in place, and you have something that looks like the next picture.

Now all you need to do is true up the lines. If you haven't got a French curve for this - get one! So much easier!  Draw the armhole curve so it connects again with the shoulder:

Then re-draw the side seam, connecting with the original hem length.  And finally, draw the new hem line, from the lowered front piece up to its original level at the side. ALERT - I like my tops long so I didn't do this! And only realised afterwards that it made for a less clear illustration of the whole method, oops...

So, to be clear! : if you don't want to add to the original length of your top, just keep the hem length where it is at the side seam, and draw a new hem line joining it to your lowered centre front section.

Tadaaa!!!! No-dart full bust adjustment!

Not so hard, right?

Now, to wrap up, a word about how much to add to your pattern. Obviously this will depend on the size of your boobs - and equally obviously, with this method of adjustment, you can't add huuuuge amounts of extra ease.  The maximum amounts are there to stop your pattern going totally off grain.

For reference, the difference between my high bust (which I used to pick my size) and my full bust is 10 cm (4 inches). Strictly speaking, the 2 cm width I've added to the pattern here isn't 'enough' to accommodate all that extra. I find, however, that combined with the extra length, this usually is enough to get a much better fit. Remember, we're mostly talking about clothes that are stretchy or designed for a fairly loose fit to begin with. This adjustment is a pretty easy way to put enough extra fabric over my chest to make the garment drape, rather than hang unflatteringly. I've used it on so many makes and am always really happy with how it works out.  Like on my Archer, for example, which I'll be showing you next!

(Credit/disclosure: I did this tutorial "on my own" from memory because I've done it so many times, but basically everything I've ever learned about fitting came out of this book. Highly recommended!)


  1. Great post - I have pinned it for safe keeping (thanks loads!) :-)

  2. Thanks for the tutorial! I've pinned it so I can use it in the future!

  3. You make it look so easy, FBA are my weakest link in garment creation. I will definitely being referring to this post again and again. Thanks for the help!

  4. thanks too :-) Hope it's useful!

  5. When I first learned it I was amazed by how easy it turned out to be - it always seems scarier than it is! Good luck!

  6. Hi Jo, am I right in thinking that if you redraw the hemline to the original length, then you haven't added any extra length for the bust? What if you do want extra length for the bust at the front but not the back? Or perhaps that's imposdible without a dart :-)
    Will definitely try this one out!
    Thank you, Sarah

  7. Hi Sarah, and good question! I think this is one of the probably one of the main reasons you might want to add a dart instead of using the dart-less method. For the no-dart version you're indeed right that length is added over the bust at the centre front (when you slide down the lower part of the pattern piece), but not at the side - the extra length at the centre gets tapered out to nothing at the side seam. This no-dart method works best really on looser-fitting or stretch garments, as it is definitely a lot less exact than adding a dart. I hope that helps!

  8. Thanks, Jo, that makes perfect sense. I think I will try out your method and a dart when I tackle a knit top. Thank you for the excellent, clear pictures. With no sewing friends nearby, blogs are so helpful :-)

  9. Thanks for this! I am getting back to sewing after many years' absence
    and my body has changed a great deal in that time - plus I never
    adjusted patterns way back when - so this is all new to me. I do want
    things to fit me well, so I am going to brave the waters and try making
    adjustments now. The FBA tutorials I've found all seem so complicated
    when they apply to darts, but I have several patterns without darts, so
    yours will be bookmarked and I will definitely try it out! The difference between my high
    bust and bustline is also 4" so I will try this with your
    measurements. Thanks again.


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