Ok. Second post in the Elisalex Dress Sewalong and judging by the title things are already looking scary, right? Wrong. I can’t even tell you how long I put off learning how to alter sewing patterns simply because at first glance they looked so scary. Like I thought that if I couldn’t just absorb the know-how from a tutorial with just one quick flick through of the diagrams, it meant it was too hard or advanced for me. If I had actually read the tutorial, I would have realised that altering patterns is as easy as following a recipe. It’s just a formula, and once you’ve done it once, you’ll be able to do it again, and then you’ll have the confidence to try all sorts of alterations, and then guess what? You’ll be making clothes that fit.
One of the most common alterations women need to make is the Full Bust Adjustment (FBA). But how do you know if this applies to you? If your bust is a bigger “size” than your waist, and you always find that your girls are getting flattened in tight-fitting bodices or the waistline keeps riding up, chances are, you probably need an FBA.
The Elisalex Dress is designed to fit snugly, enhancing and exaggerating a teeny waist. But if, like Elisalex – and this pattern’s namesake (which is actually me writing – can get a little confusing referring to oneself in the 3rd person sometimes!), you have ample bosom for your frame, cutting the size according to your waist would result in this Squished VonBoobie look:
When what we really want is this Perky McKnockers look:
(Please ignore the mess in the studio, the fact that I’m still in my PJs, and the horribly murky mirror – these shots are for demonstrative purposes only!)
In this post, we’ll be showing you how to apply the FBA to the princess seams of the Elisalex Dress bodice using the “slash and spread” method, which essentially involves drawing lines, cutting them and spreading out the pattern to make it bigger. Don’t freak out. It’s pretty easy. And so damn worth it. This is what you need:
Before we begin, we obviously need to figure out by how much we need to alter the pattern. Let’s use me as a case study.
According to my 26″ waistline, I am a size UK8/US4. But my 34″ bust thinks I’m a size UK10/US6. There is a difference of 1″ between bust sizes UK8 (33″) and UK10 (34″), meaning that I need to increase the pattern by half an inch (half an inch at each boob = 1″ increment altogether at bust) at the fullest part of the bust, without increasing at the waistline.
On your pattern pieces, mark out the seam allowances (5/8″ or 15mm). Also mark out the notches on the curves (not shown here!).
Start with the SIDE FRONT panel, and work on the piece of scrap paper as you will soon be taping your pattern pieces down.
With your pen and ruler, and using the image below as a guide, draw a vertical line from the waistline up to the part where the bust is at its fullest (you can eyeball this). Start the line where you marked the seam allowance (1).
Continue that line up and diagonally towards the armhole – roughly 1/3 of the way up the armhole, remembering that the side front panel represents just over 1/3 of the armhole (2).
Draw another diagonal line from the full bust point out towards the side seam like a big dart (3).
Draw a final horizontal line 1″ up from the waistline out into the curved princess seam (4).
Carefully cut line 1, continuing up line 2, stopping when you get to the seam allowance line:
Now snip the rest of line 2 from the armhole, stopping again at the seam allowance line, so that you have a little pivot point:
Now cut line 3 from the side seam, stopping just before the full bust point, creating a second pivot point. Tape down the section representing the princess seam:
Time to create the adjustment! Gently pull at the side seam and increase the opening at line 1 by the amount we discussed above (seeing as I need an extra inch at my bust, each princess seam will be increasing by half an inch). Make sure you increase evenly all the way down line 1:
Tape down to secure.
Remember line 4? Cut that, and bring it down to match the waistline, remembering to keep the spacing the same as you just did all down line 1, and tape it down:
At first it may seem odd that we’ve elongated the princess seam – won’t that make for a longer bodice? Kind of, but not really: if you imagine that the curve of a bigger bust is longer than that of a smaller bust, you’ll see that what we’ve actually done is just create more room for the girls!
We now need to get rid of that “dart” so that the side seam goes back to its original length.
First, draw a line extending line 3 all the way to the edge of the princess seam:
Then roughly cut the scrap paper around your Side Front panel and place onto another piece of scrap paper:
Starting at the side seam, cut line 3, stopping at the full bust point:
Now cut the extension of line 3 from the princess seam, stopping again just before the full bust point to create another pivot point:
Close line 3 so that the side seam meets again, and your princess seam opens like a little beak:
Tape it down and fill in the curve and seam allowance lines at the beak:
The final thing to do on the Side Front panel is to reduce the waistline back to what it was – we’ve added half an inch here which would add a whole inch to the waistline, and the whole point of this exercise was to increase the bust while keeping the waistline as is.
Simply bring the seam allowance line at the side seam in by half an inch (or however much you increased the bust by), then draw a new cutting line 5/8″ or 15mm from the new seam line:
Now cut out the newly altered pattern piece and you’ll have something like this:
Almost done guys! All we have left to do is alter the Centre Front bodice piece to match the new Side Front panel. And this is super easy -
Measure 1″ up from the waistline and draw a horizontal line – this matches up with line 4 on your Side Front panel.
Next draw another horizontal line equivalent to line 3, measuring up the seam allowance to find the same point on both pattern pieces:
Cut lines 3 and 4 on your Centre Front piece and open them up by the same measurements that they increase by on the Side Front panel – measure the seam allowance line not the cutting line!
Tape it all down, and cut it out:
And you’re done! See, not so bad right? You could now if you wanted, re-trace these pieces so you have fresh pattern pieces without all the tape and markings, but I personally prefer to keep them like this. Always a good point of reference when you come back to doing alterations for other patterns.
Hope that wasn’t too painful… at least that’s out of the way now ready for the fun to really start next week! Have a wonderful weekend!!