I made the Meringue skirt this weekend from the Colette Sewing Handbook, but as you’ll have noticed my version does not feature the signature scallop edge. Although I cut it out with the scallop edge, unfortunately it didn’t look right when I sewed it all together so I decided to just chop it off. I’m quite pleased with the result, but I would like to have another go at the scallop and be less slap dash this time! Or maybe life is too short for scalloped edges?!
The Anna Dress
So I think I finally cracked the SBA alteration!
I’ve set out a step by step guide that explains how to carry out an SBA on a dartless bodice, I don’t claim in any way that this is the way to do it, rather it is just what works for me. (Coming soon in my next post will be my step by step guide to doing an SBA on a bodice with darts.)
I worked out how to do it through trial and error, and I’d also highly recommend the amazing Craftsy course, ‘Adjust the Bust’ by Kathleen Cheetham which really helped me understand the principles behind the adjustment.
There are 3 main things to consider before you start an SBA:
1) How much needs to be removed?
The best way to work out how much needs to be removed is a simple calculation: the pattern bust size (so for the Anna dress UK size 6 this is 81.25cm) minus my bust size (78cm) = 3.25cm excess to be removed. Divide this figure by two (1.6cm) and you have the amount to be removed on each side of the bodice front piece.
2) Where do I slash? Sadly there is not one method for all patterns! Seems to be most commonly at the shoulder, armhole, sideseams, and waist on a dartless bodice and on bodices with darts it seems to be at the waist, armhole, and sideseam. But again this is not set in stone.
3) The golden rule is that the SBA must not alter the finished waist line length or finished side seam length.
The centre front length can be altered as you can afford to lose excess fabric here. Or in other words, if you alter the side seams they will no longer match up with the back bodice side seams but if you alter the centre front it is ok as it just ‘matches up with itself’ so to speak.
Step by Step example on dartless dress: Anna dress from By Hand London
*Please note, I’ve marked on the original pattern neckline and below it an alternative neckline which is the one I used.*
1) Mark the bust point, about 9cm from in between the top of the two pleats.
Draw a slash line from bust point to waist line, this line should be in between the two pleats, not cutting through them.
3) Draw a slash line from the bust point to the shoulder, this line should be perpendicular to the shoulder line. Mark a hinge point 1.5cm from shoulder line (or whatever your seam allowance amount is).
Then put some tape over the bust point and over the hinge point at the shoulder to bolster them. Cut along the line from the waist through the bust point and up to the shoulder hinge point.
Place a mark 1.6cm* inwards from the bust point ( towards the centre front). Then swing the pattern piece over to that point. Secure with some tape.
*Amount that needs to be removed: The pattern bust size (81.25cm) minus my bust size (78cm) = 3.25cm excess to be removed.
Divide this figure by two = 1.6cm to be removed on each side of the bodice front piece.
6) As the waistline is now out of kilter we need to bring it back together. To do this we can draw another slash line from a point on the side seam (for the Anna dress this is 2cm or so down from the underarm point) to the bust point. We cut through this line, again leaving a small hinge amount. We then overlap this lower section of the bodice by moving it upwards until the waist line pieces meet once more. Secure this in place temporarily with tape as it will be moved later.
7) Now the centre front section is longer than the side section so this must be rectified. The side seam point on the waist must remain where it is but you can modify the waist line point on the centre front, you just have to
make sure that the waist circumference length stays the same. So redraft the waist line to cut off the excess in the centre front section. The top line in this picture is the new waist line.
8) In step 6 you shortened the side seam so now it will be too short to match up properly to the back side seam so you need to do another overlap. To do this draw a new slash line from the armhole to the bust point.
The aim of this slash is to effectively disperse what was taken away in step 6. Cut all the way in (leaving a small hinge of course) and then lift the tape on the side seam slash line and move the slash line at the side seam back to where it was and move the excess to the armhole.
I hope this is clear, it’s tricky to explain this part! Now redraw the armhole with a French curve.
And we’re done! (I just realised that I forgot to mark the centre front and the cut on fold instruction, sorry about that!)
Tada! Here are some photos of my Anna dress with the SBA alteration:
Although I was really happy with it and it is much better than the original muslin I made of the Anna dress size 6, I still felt it was a bit gapy so I decided to try another alteration: on the front bodice I kept the outer pleat but I extended the inner pleat into a dart, which I then altered into a princess seam. My thinking was that this would give a more structured style and remove the extra excess.
Tada take two! Here are some photos of the Anna dress with the princess seam bodice adaption:
I love the Anna dress, it really is an amazing pattern!
Coming soon…an epic small bust adjustment story part 3 covering altering bodices with darts using the Colette Truffle dress as an example.
When I think back to some of my earlier disastrous sewing projects it strikes me as odd that I never made any muslins! I always dove straight in and tried things out on some piece of lovely one-of-a-kind fabric I’d been saving, which inevitably led to many disappointments when my project didn’t turn out as I’d imagined and I’d wasted the nice fabric to boot!
Thankfully I (almost) always make muslins now, and never has this been more useful than when tackling my first pattern from the Colette Sewing Handbook.
I decided to start with the Licorice dress. I traced off the pattern in the smallest size and then cut out the dress in calico. I knew it would be too big in the bust area as the smallest size in Colette patterns is 84cm at the bust and my bust measurement is 80cm. And sure enough the muslin confirmed this.
While I think that the Colette Sewing Handbook is amazing, I would say that it could go into more detail when it comes to fitting issues as the explanation on how to remove excess fabric at the bust in the book (on page 89) was really not detailed enough for me. But of course no book is designed to be the only source consulted and it is not a bad thing to have to go and seek out other complementary information elsewhere.
So began my online quest to understand exactly how one tackles a ‘small bust adjustment’. And this is what I love about the online sewing community: the wealth of information being shared out there is just incredible. I found loads of helpful tutorials on small bust adjustments but there does seem to be some disagreement about how to go about them so I thought it would be a good idea to collate some of the online discussion about SBAs in once place and explain which method works best for me:
Some comments on the Collette blog point out that the method they describe (for the Hawthorn dress) is flawed, this was the one I tried to follow for the Licorice dress. I made some slash lines and then overlapped them, but I didn’t really feel that confident in what I was doing so it was a bit of a fluke really. I then redrafted the bodice back into the front dress piece and made a second muslin, which fit much better despite gaping a bit at the neck front.
Generally speaking I am happy with the fit, although I don’t think it will be my new favourite dress (I didn’t add the collar or the sleeves to my version so perhaps that is a factor in it not looking quite right).
Shona Stitches highlighted the problem she discovered with the Colette method: “The main problem is that the Small Bust Adjustment shortened the bodice and made the waist much smaller. It also raised the apex of the dart and moved it more toward the center, which may or may not be a problem depending on your bust.”
In the comments IrendeDAdler (You Sew Like a Girl) also points out the flaws with the Colette tutorial. She said: “The widely-known 4-slash SBA/FBA should only be done on bodices with 2 darts, and should not be blindly applied to all darted bodices.”
Now I’m in the process of trying out the Paunnet and Deer and Doe methods to try out my second SBA adventure on the Truffle dress.
Some essential points for me to remember:
– My bust is 80 compared with 84 on the pattern, so I need take out 4cm at the bust.
– I think what is needed is to reduce the surface area around the bust, but not shorten the side seams.
I’m still incredibly confused about all this so any help would be much appreciated! 🙂
Look what the Belgian Post delivered to me today – the Anna dress pattern!
Can’t wait to get started on it. Now to rummage through my fabric boxes and decide what to make it up in…
I wrote previously about how making the Mathilde blouse was a sewing gamechanger for me in many ways. I finally got round to taking some pictures of the 3 different versions I made!
This is the dress version in a green linen.
A blouse version in a thin cotton – minus the tucks!
And the original Mathilde I made as Tilly intended it! Could probably do with a better iron in these photos…