Enlightenment + The Full Bust Adjustment

I spent 8 hours on Saturday at the Pacific Fabrics in Bremerton learning the Palmer/Pletsch method of fitting, taught by the very talented Nancy Seifert. 2 other lovely ladies and I spent the day walking around in our bras learning how to fit commercial patterns to our unique shapes. Part 2 is another 8 hours next Saturday.

To say I had a light bulb moment would be an understatement. All the pattern failures I’ve experienced over the last 10 years! OMG. I never even had a chance without the Full Bust Adjustment.

The class uses the book Fit for Real People and McCall’s Learn to Fit Palmer/Pletsch pattern 2718. The instructor has bodices made up in each size and within the size there’s one for each bust adjustment provided with the pattern. The student tries these on to determine their base pattern size.

All commercial patterns are a B cup. The class takes the student through fitting a basic bodice adjusting from the B cup to their cup size plus all the other funky things a 46 year old body has like high round back, forward shoulder, high shoulder (from carrying those babies around!), sagging breasts (they refer to this as lowering the bust darts), and, my favorite, more waist width.

A pattern adjustment technique exists for each type of alteration. I’ve made several attempts over the years to use these books and teach myself at home how to do the alteration. Looking back that was just plain crazy. A trained instructor can identify exactly the alterations you need and move straight to Go by teaching you how to do each one. I’ve always gotten bogged down in the past, feeling overwhelmed by all the different alterations possible and not being able to identify what I needed.

But let’s go back to that full bust adjustment. You can see on the tissue here that I added a full 1 3/4″ to the width of the bodice and deepened the bust darts accordingly. It fits perfectly!

What was I doing before:

1. I was buying size 14 or 16 patterns to match my bust measurement. My base pattern size should be a 12. The larger sized patterns created all kinds of baggy fitting issues and still didn’t fit through the chest (because the patterns were still a B cup!)

2. I was trying to give my chest space by extending the side seam allowances. Again, All I ended up with was a baggy shirt and it still didn’t fit my bust.

For next Saturday’s class we bring in a commercial pattern that we’ll tissue fit in class. I started practicing last night. Repeating the technique while it’s fresh in my mind is the way I learn best. I’m so darned excited I can hardly stand it!

1/23/09: I was asked about finding a class in your area. I’ve updated the reference to Palmer/Pletsch above with a link to their website. They provide a list of certified instructors here. Many of these instructors will teach a class at local sewing shops or provide custom classes for groups. I first heard about them from other members in my American Sewing Guild group. Definitely contact the person in your area for more info.

pink chalk fabrics ~*~ new arrivals ~*~ free patterns ~*~ on sale
pink chalk fabrics ~*~ new arrivals ~*~ free patterns ~*~ on sale
30 Responses to Enlightenment + The Full Bust Adjustment
  1. Sarah Jackson
    January 19, 2009 | 12:33 pm

    super super cool!! I would love to learn to do that. I rarely sew clothes for myself because of fit issues and I need to get over that.

  2. Christina
    January 19, 2009 | 12:40 pm

    Good think I didn’t attempt to make the dress pattern I bought several months back, I don’t think I could figure my way around adjusting it for DDD. It was never a problem before I had baby. Glad to know it’s a standard B on patterns. I’ll keep that in mind when looking at patterns now. Thanks!

  3. Meg
    January 19, 2009 | 1:08 pm

    Kathy, this is fabulous information! Now that I am, ahem … no longer a B cup and hopefully looking forward to more pregnancies and many years of breastfeeding in the future, I’ll have to look into this. Thanks!

  4. Kristin L
    January 19, 2009 | 1:24 pm

    I love the concept to muslin bodices with various alterations so one can find just what they need. I have sort of the opposite problem as you have in that I’m an A cup and things tend to poof out on me. Also, when I take my measurements, I’m a pattern size 12, but when I make clothes from that, they are huge. When I make clothes with the 6 or 8 sized pattern, it’s much closer — which means I hate trying to alter the patterns since the numbers on the package never match how the fabric actually fits me. It would be great to have a pro show me just what adjustments I’d need to make stuff fit my body. Question: if you figure out what adjustments you need based on, say McCall’s patterns, then would you have to start from scratch again with New Look, or Burda, Simplicity, or even Butterick? (I’ve found I am not beholden to one brand — very fickle.)

  5. Jessica Robinson
    January 19, 2009 | 1:25 pm

    I can’t wait to see what you make – it is going to fit like a T.

    Is this a traveling class? I’d love to take it. Can you give us more info about contacting the instructor or someone who might be able to give me more info?

  6. Kathy
    January 19, 2009 | 1:49 pm

    Kristin: All the major companies use the same sloper. The Fit for Real People book has a great page where she makes the same simple design in the same size from 6 different pattern companies (Vogue, Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, Style & Burda). The top fits the model in a similar way for all the companies (the same fitting issues show up for the model as well).

    She talks about how there is the myth out there where people say ‘oh Vogue fits me better than McCalls’ etc. but it’s just not true. They all use a very similar sloper as their base.

  7. jam
    January 19, 2009 | 2:14 pm

    Although I used to make most of my clothes, now that my measurements are for the “mature” woman I don’t even try. When I worked (pre-motherhood) I used to make “Very Easy Very Vogue” all the time. I’ll look for the book, but I really need to look for that class in the Chicago area. Thanks for the heads up. I wish the quilt and craft patterns were universal. Figuring out the craft patterns is always a challenge for me.

  8. Jean Marie
    January 19, 2009 | 2:51 pm

    Both Simplicity and McCall patterns have a few patterns which have different patterns for B, C, and D-cups. They won’t have all the adjustments needed, but I find that it can help to have some of the work already done!

    It’s easier to locate the Simplicity ones on their website, under the Pattern Shop heading at the left navigating column, look under Special Collections for B, C, D cup Adjustment Collection and click to get a list/thumbnail of the patterns available. Some of the patterns are already in their out-of-print patterns, and those you have to look for by going through each top or dress listing – the adjustment is usually noted in the pattern description.

    McCall’s are the Made-For-You patterns – but there isn’t any easy way to find them on the website. I’ve tried using the search function but as I get what seem to be random listings including everything from crafts to baby clothes, I’m either entering the wrong words or the search engine isn’t given access to the field that has those words.

    The one thing I do differently from the Palmer Pletsch method is that I trace the pattern pieces onto Swedish Tracing paper. It’s sturdier than tissue paper, and I still have the original pattern pieces if I mess up the alterations. I’d love to take the class, I’ve just worked from the book (and from Fitting Finesse by Nancy Zieman), and some patterns I haven’t been able to adjust to work for me (ex. one of the Simplicity blouse patterns with the cup adjustments just won’t work for me) and I’d like to know why!

  9. Stephanie
    January 19, 2009 | 2:57 pm

    This post is filled with all kinds of wonderful for me. As a E/F I’ve obviously always had problems.

  10. Melanie
    January 19, 2009 | 3:07 pm

    How exciting! I love those lightbulb moments. Looking forward to seeing what you do with your new techniques!

  11. Stephanie
    January 19, 2009 | 5:35 pm

    That sounds like a really neat and useful class. I have a little bit of the opposite problem (Small Bust Adjustment). Usually I can get away with just using the pattern based on my high bust measurement and then expanding out at the waist. I’d love to take a class to learn how to do a proper SBA and figure out how much difference it makes.

    P.S. I’m assuming they told you ahead of time that you’d be exposing your bra? I would be so embarrassed if I showed up in my “just running to Target” bra.

  12. Lisa
    January 19, 2009 | 7:50 pm

    I also used to make many of my own clothes… back when I was in my 20′s the patterns fit me fine. Now that I am almost 43 I have the same sagging, wider thing going on and they no longer fit as well! I also used to be a B-cup but post-baby have been left a size larger in that area as well.

  13. Sarah
    January 19, 2009 | 8:20 pm

    Nancy’s classes are always the first to sell out at Pac. Fabs. I’ve always wanted to take one. Next Fall I hope to get into the Pants fit class. I’m excited to see your finished blouse, be sure to have a photoshoot when it’s completed.

  14. Sara
    January 20, 2009 | 11:53 am

    How interesting! This is way way beyond me as I am just learning to sew but I’m looking forward to reading about it.

  15. Jacqui
    January 20, 2009 | 10:36 pm

    Hi Kathy,
    It was great to meet you at the class. I’m looking foward to Saturday but I’m having trouble picking which pattern I want help in fitting. On a side note, I picked you for a blog award on my blog if you like to play along with those. No biggie, if not. I do love your blog – so much fun stuff! =)

  16. pixie
    January 21, 2009 | 12:24 am

    jealous jealous jealous! send that teacher to NZ. I just bought the book. I’m going to teach myself that broad back alteration, and I’m going to sew myself something that fits. fits well.

  17. Johanna
    January 21, 2009 | 8:47 pm

    So glad to see you working on garments, Kathy! Good work getting those adjustments made, and can’t wait to see what you come up with for your first custom-fitted project. Sew on!

  18. Sarah
    January 22, 2009 | 4:08 pm

    The FBA was a huge revelation for me when I finally figured it out. All the sudden things I sewed were fitting me appropriately–which was a big deal, since I have particularly small shoulders and I was making sizes that were way too big for me. It’s amazing. The other reference book that I love for fitting is Sandra Betzina’s “Fast Fit.”

  19. Lisa
    January 22, 2009 | 10:32 pm

    I SO know what you mean!! Being a 34 DD I either have to wear a sports bra or swim in the tops I have made – I had no idea!

  20. Anne
    January 23, 2009 | 6:48 pm

    I would love to learn how to alter patterns. Does a pattern ever fit perfectly – I doubt it. Fit is what makes a dress a dress!

    • Patricia Schoeman
      March 15, 2010 | 4:46 am

      Hi Anne,
      Yes a pattern will fit properly, if you make the necessary adjustments and buy the right pattern size. I have some free tissue fitting video’s and I’m sure you will learn a lot by watching it.
      You could visit my fitting forum where you will find the tissue fitting video’s http://www.perfectsewandfit.com/forum/index.php

      Sewing is fun, but only when you can use what you have made :-)

  21. Nikki
    January 30, 2009 | 10:32 pm

    Thanks- I just clicked the link and found a fitting teacher nearby and emailed her!

  22. Andrea (noricum)
    April 28, 2009 | 2:20 pm

    Oh, wow!!! Now that’s a class I’d love to take! I’m off to check you link now. :) Thanks!!!

  23. Patricia Schoeman
    March 15, 2010 | 4:41 am

    I enjoyed your article about the front bust adjustment, and how you enjoy the fitting classes. I am a Palmer Pletsch Certified instructor, and I give classes online. I also have a forum where people could ask for fitting help at anytime. I love to see the awesome fit my students get, and the excitement about sewing for themselves after they have completed just one project. Tissue fitting is the best ! :-)

  24. [...] “Enlightenment + The Full Bust Adjustment” from Pink Chalk Studio. Another devotee of FFRP. [...]

  25. Sewing with knits
    February 8, 2011 | 2:08 pm

    [...] / misses patterns are proportioned for a B cup, even if you size up. Just take a look at this post on the full bust adjustment. I need to take a class or buy that book or something. I know how to trace a pattern using say, the [...]

  26. Katy Yo
    April 24, 2011 | 5:23 am

    Looking at all the adjustments you’ve made and reading this entry makes me think I should just take the class and not bother trying to learn this on my own. It seems so complicated! It WOULD be nice to know how to actually fit into something I made, though! Thanks for the informative post.

  27. [...] FBA resource is courtesy of Pink Chalk Studios, in her post she shares her experience from a fitting class  at Pacific Fabrics in Bremerton, WA [...]

  28. [...] FBA resource is courtesy of Pink Chalk Studios, in her post she shares her experience from a fitting class  at Pacific Fabrics in Bremerton, WA [...]

  29. [...] a bust dart. She simply rotated the dart up into the gathers at the shoulder. Kathy put together a Full Bust Adjustment blog post a while back. Check there for more info and some great [...]