An epic small bust adjustment story…part 4

A revelation on choosing the correct pattern size


When I saw the latest offering from New Zealand-based company ‘Papercut Patterns’ I was smitten. The Clover dress, a collaboration with designer Brooke Tyson, looked like an easy to wear and (seemingly) easy to fit garment – exactly the type of pattern I’m always attracted to. I really loved the shape and the slouchy ‘casual but stylish’ look.

It’s the kind of style that works best in fabrics that drape well, such as those hard-to-come by soft woven rayon/cotton blends with a teeny bit of stretch. As luck would have it I had a huge black piece of rayon/cotton blend in my stash that I thought would be perfect for Clover. I was also totally taken and inspired by Anneke’s amazing black version!

I didn’t make a muslin (slap on the wrists) and just sewed up the straight size XXS as my measurements correspond to that size. This led me into troubled waters: the neckline and bust area were really huge while the back and shoulders were verging on the tight side! Argh!



I didn’t want my nice fabric to have gone to waste and was determined to get something wearable out of the whole escapade so I managed to make it work with some (unadvisable) improvised post-sewing tweaking and cutting to alter the neckline. It still droops a bit but it is not a total disaster and I really like the end result.

But what troubled me more was that at first I couldn’t work out why this pattern hadn’t worked for me. If my bust measurement matches the bust measurement on the pattern where did I go wrong?



Drumroll please…cue another revelation on small bust adjustments (SBAs)…..!

(You can read my previous ramblings on SBAs here, here, and here.)

Thanks to Tilly’s tutorial on the SBA for the Françoise dress and this Colette post on SBAs, more pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place.

While I knew that determining whether you needed a small bust adjustment involved your high bust measurement, and I’d also heard it suggested that starting with a larger bodice size before doing an SBA was an option, I’d never considered that you should choose your pattern size based on your high bust measurement, let alone why that would even make sense.

Here’s what I learnt in a nutshell:
1) Find out the difference between your pattern’s high bust measurement (around upper chest just under the armpits) and full bust measurement. For Tilly’s patterns this is 5cm; Colette patterns 7.5cm.

2) To choose the pattern size (for the bodice area at least – you can always grade between sizes if it is a dress and you want a different size around the waist and hips) take your high bust measurement and add this difference to that measurement. This measurement is then your imaginary bust measurement. Pick your pattern size based on it – this means that although it will be too big at the bust it will fit around the upper chest, neck, and shoulders.

3) Carry out an SBA to take away the difference between your imaginary bust measurement and your real one.

Understanding this helps me realise why the Clover dress probably didn’t fit right, and indeed why the Belladone dresses I made earlier this year are definitely verging on the slightly-too-tight around the armholes and chest.

So now I’ll retrace the Clover and Belladone in the correct size to see if that helps. Fingers crossed!

Of course, the main stumbling point is whether you know what the difference is between the high bust and the full bust on a pattern. But how can we find this out if it is not indicated? Is 5cm the standard difference?






Gold Fingers: une mercerie bruxelloise

 Discovering a shop that sells sewing supplies and finding just what you are looking for is great, and when that shop happens to be in your city, well, that’s just wonderful. Today I’d like to introduce you to ‘Gold Fingers’, a haberdashery I really like on one of Brussels’ main arteries, Boulevard Anspach, a stone’s throw from Bourse/Beurs.

Tomber sur un magasin qui vend des articles de couture qui correspondent parfaitement à nos attentes est trop bien –et si le magasin est justement dans notre ville c’est encore mieux !
Aujourd’hui je vous présente ‘Gold Fingers’ une mercerie que j’aime bien qui se trouve sur une des boulevards les
plus importants à Bruxelles, à deux pas de la Bourse (Beurs).




I happened upon the shop by chance a few months ago and ever since it’s been my go-to place for pattern paper, zips, sewing machine needles, and elastic. So to spread the word about this gem I asked owner Mohamed Al-Aarkabe if I could come and take some pictures to share them on my blog and he very kindly agreed. If you are looking for a friendly haberdashery with good prices and interesting stock then I really recommend it. The other main
attraction is that the shop specialises in sewing machine repairs, with a free cost estimate. I should probably take my hard-working sewing machine along for a long overdue check up!

J’ai trouvé le magasin par hasard il y quelques mois déjà et depuis c’est mon référence pour du papier du patron, des tirettes, des aiguilles, et d’élastique. Du coup, pour en partager cet adresse, j’ai demandé au propriétaire
Mohamed Al-Aarkabe si je pourrais venir prendre quelques photos et il a gentiment accepté ma proposition. Si vous cherchez une mercerie bon marché avec des produits intéressants je vous la conseille. L’autre atout c’est que le magasin fait des réparations de machine – et les devis sont gratuites ! Grand temps que je prenne ma machine pour une consultation d’ailleurs !






While the shop has been open at its current location at number 146 since January, Mohamed and his
staff have been providing customers with sewing notions since 2007, previously in a smaller shop further down the Boulevard Anspach. Mohamed
told me it is hard work running the shop but that he enjoys all aspects of it, particularly the varied customers – home and professional dressmakers, students, and those working in theatre – and the products themselves in all their colourful variety. The only negative aspect, according to Mohamed, is the reality of running a business and the risks it entails.

Le magasin n’est que ouverte depuis janvier au numéro 146, mais Mohamed et son staff ont fourni leurs clients avec les articles de mercerie depuis 2007, dorénavant dans un magasin plus petit. Mohamed m’a expliqué que faire tourner une petite entreprise n’est pas facile mais qu’il aime quand-même tout les aspects de son travail, surtout les clients variés qu’ils reçoit – des couturières pro et amatrices, étudiants, des gens qui travaillent dans le monde du théâtre – ainsi que ses produits
lumineuses et colorées eux-mêmes. Le seul aspect négatif, selon Mohamed, c’est la réalité de gérer un magasin dans un climat financier peu certain.
















There is no sign up yet so you’ll have to look carefully for the shop number – but the easiest way to locate Gold Fingers is by the lively feather boas hanging in the

Le nom du magasin n’est pas encore affiché devant donc pour repérer le magasin il faut chercher la vitrine avec des écharpes en plumes ‘boa’ pendus dans la vitrine !









Boulevard Anspach 146,
1000 Bruxelles

Out and about with my new pal Gerard!


I made a Gerard!

I’ve been swooning over the Gerard coat pattern by République du Chiffon ever since I first saw the various wonderful versions of the pattern by Jolies Bobines; to me it seemed like the perfect coat pattern: smart yet slouchy at the same time.

But I thought “well, of course I could never make a coat, that’s only for real sewers and not pretendy ones like me”.

I also remember at the Belgian/Dutch sewing blogger meet up in January how impressed I was by the number of people who had made their own coat. It sort of became my personal mission to make a coat by the end of 2014 (whoo for setting self-imposed challenges for no reason at all).

Then, along came the Sew it Up challenge in May where I made the La Maison Victor ‘Jackie’ jacket which I was pretty proud of. It was a good warm up for making a coat! I had actually initially planned to make the Gerard pattern for the personal style challenge but as I never got that far in the competition (sniff sniff) and summer weather beckoned I put making a coat on the back burner.

But with autumn well and truly here, October was the month I finally got round to getting on with my very own Gerard. And I’m so pleased with it!



I like the pattern just as much as I anticipated and luckily the size is fine – I just cut a straight size small and didn’t even consider making any adjustments beforehand – the style of the pattern is pretty forgiving in terms of fitting so you can afford to take a gamble really – a huge part of its appeal!

And, as I had so much of the fabric and lining I used for my Jackie jacket left I just used exactly the same combination. One, because I had so much left it made sense to use it up, and two, because I really like the combination!


Main think I learnt: how to sew a tailored collar. Result! Unfortunately, this means I am now obsessed with staring at the topstitching on coat lapels everywhere I go. Sorry in advance for staring at your collar while you are speaking to me. I’m listening really.

(I also learnt which side of a coat you are supposed to put the buttons on – mainly because I got them the wrong way round this time! Oh well, doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference!)


Also, it is worth highlighting that the instructions accurately state that two-thirds of the time taken to make the coat are on preparing the pattern pieces and cutting out. So be ready to put the time in before you even get to your sewing machine. Not always easy when you are itching to start sewing. The instructions are pretty easy to follow although probably not for beginners.



I’d like to make this again in a thicker wool for a cosier version. I’d try to do a better job on the cutting and getting a cleaner finish. But I’m pretty pleased with it for a first go at this type of project!

At some point I’ll try a more complicated coat pattern in terms of fit. But for now I’m happy with Gerard!

I was sewing this just as the second round of Sew it Up started so I’ll consider this as my sew-a-long entry for the coat week! If you’re not following and voting yet, make sure you take a look at the lovely garments the contestants are making. So far Lieke’s orange coat is my favourite!

She wore (black) velvet



Here is the result of some experimental sewing!

This dress in black fine velvet was initially meant to be a version of the BHL Anna dress. But as it proved so difficult to cut out the pattern pieces when the fabric would not stop sliding about all over the place, in the end I opted to just eyeball cutting the bodice pieces into something that loosely resembled the Anna bodice pieces and sew them up as they were and hope for the best.

I decided not to add any darts or pleats and fit the bodice by gathering at the neckline.

I then added a simple gathered skirt and fit the garment at the centre back seam by cutting away the excess and adding a zip.

It could have been a disaster but the sewing gods were on my side and luckily I’m really pleased with the result. This was one of those satisfying projects that takes just one whole day (with a break for a tea on a sunny terrace) from start to finish. I really love it as it’s super comfy and I’ll wear it for lots of different occasions.

I was really determined to use up this black velvet as I’d got it out several times to think about what to do with it but could never settle on an idea. I got a few metres of it for a very good price at a fabric sale at Le Caméléon Coquet on Place Van Meenen in Saint-Gilles – a gallery/shop/workshop that specialises in Japanese paper and fabric. It is quite a mysterious place but opens every so often for fabric sales, otherwise I think you have to make an appointment.

It’s lovely fabric but I’m definitely looking forward to sewing with something sturdier now though!

You can’t see so well in the photos but there is some interesting detailing on the fabric.



Self-drafted in September


September was a busy month – a trip to Palestine, amongst other things, kept me away from my sewing machine.
But this dress was one good sewing achievement this month. It is a self-drafted pattern based on a mix of features rubbed off of existing garments I own.

To say I’m happy with this dress would be an understatement – I love when you make something that reminds you why you started to make your own clothes in the first place. And the fabric – I’m not actually sure how to describe it! It hangs well, it is a synthetic mix of sorts but it is comfortable and breathable to wear – and it is a lovely shade of deep orange, oh and there are TEAPOTS all over it. I bought it a few months ago at the Marché des Abattoirs in Anderlecht.

I love the shape of this dress – it is kind of everything I could want, it feels dressed up and dressed down at the same time, it’s comfy and loose fitting yet there is a lot of ‘structure’ going on, with the front bodice waist yoke panel, the peplum bit and the split flappy sleeves. And did I mention the teapots already?

I also have to mention this amazing Coletterie ‘How to sew a baby hem’ tutorial. Without being too dramatic, learning this technique was one of this month’s highlights for me. Looking forward to a future full of fearless



Now for an avalanche of photos of me prancing around in the street…