Alder Sew Along Part 03: Specific Fit Adjustments

Today I have a few specific fit adjustments for you, lengthening and shortening the pattern, moving darts, and a full bust adjustment. For all of these images you can click for the full sized view.

Grainline Studio | Alder Sew Along Day 03 | Specific Fit Adjustments

First up is lengthening and shortening the dress. I’ll be showing the skirt here.

1. Start by locating the pattern piece you need to adjust. Depending on what piece you’re altering there may or may not be lines to denote where you should lengthen & shorten between. If there are no lines, you can draw in your own.

2. Cut between the lines. With a piece of paper underneath the pattern, spread the two sections the amount you need to lengthen your piece making sure to keep the grain line of the two pieces aligned.

3. Trace your piece off onto the paper and re-blend any jagged edges along the side seam and repeat the adjustment to any affected pieces.

Grainline Studio | Alder Sew Along Day 03 | Specific Fit Adjustments

You can also follow the above steps with any part of the pattern. Here’s an example of how you could raise and lower the armhole while moving the dart lower at the same time. If you need to lengthen or shorten just the bottom of the torso, perform the same steps with a line perpendicular to the center back running out through the center of the side seam.

Grainline Studio | Alder Sew Along Day 03 | Specific Fit Adjustments

If you find that the torso is the correct length but you need to move the dart here are some easy steps to do so. We’re going to be moving the dart down in this tutorial but if you need to raise it you can do the opposite.

1. Draw a line through the bust point parallel to the CF/grain line. Place a mark along that line at the point where you need to lower the dart. If you need to lower the dart 1″ you would place the mark 1″ below the existing bust point.

2. Move the legs down the same amount down from where they connect at the side seams. Reconnect the dart legs to the dart point.

Grainline Studio | Alder Sew Along Day 03 | Specific Fit Adjustments

3. You’re going to now need to fold the dart, since you’ve moved it the dart take-up is now in the wrong place at the side seam. Fold the dart so that the dart excess points down towards the waist and re-blend the side seam. Trim off the extra.

4. This is your new pattern.

Now lets talk Full Bust Adjustments. This is something that I don’t have a ton of experience with being that typically when I’m making a pattern, either for myself or a client, I know what bust size I’m starting with and the pattern is drafted for that. As I said in the previous post the Alder pattern is drafted for a B cup so if you’re a C you may be able to get away without a FBA. The illustrations are cropped for better detail but any vertical lines should extend to the bottom of the pattern piece.

Grainline Studio | Alder Sew Along Day 03 | Specific Fit Adjustments

1. Select your size based on your upper bust & waist measurements. Cut size.

2. Draw a line from the apex of the dart out through the center of the dart legs splitting the dart in half. Next you’re going to draw a vertical line from the apex down to the hemline of the pattern piece making sure to keep the line parallel to the CF / grain line. From there draw a line connecting the apex to the approximate center of the armscye. These are the lines that will form the full bust adjustment. Additionally you’re going to need a line across the torso, perpendicular to the CF / grain line in order to line the hem up in a future step. I made this one dotted so that it doesn’t get confused with the adjustment lines.

3. Slash through the waistline to the bust and up to the armscye taking care to cut to, but not through, the pattern at that point. You want to make sure that the two pieces are hinged together. Then slice through the dart line you drew to, but not through, the bust point. You’ll then open the vertical slit the amount of your full bust adjustment making sure that the two edges of the opening are parallel.


PLEASE NOTE: The illustrations here are drawn without seam allowances for ease of explanation. When clipping to the armscye clip just to the seam line (1/2″ on the pattern) and then clip to, but not through the seam allowance to the seam line keeping the piece hinged.

To find the amount of your full bust adjustment subtract your upper bust measurement from your full bust measurement. Take this number (the total adjustment) and divide it by 2 to get the amount you need to increase on one side. So say your full bust was 38 and your upper bust was 36 you’d subtract 38-36=2/2=1 so your adjustment would be 1″.

Grainline Studio | Alder Sew Along Day 03 | Specific Fit Adjustments

4. You’ll notice that when you move the side out for the adjustment the center front panel became shorter than the piece you moved. Cut along the line you drew in step 2 and align the newly freed piece so that it’s even with both the center front and the dotted line on the side piece.

5. Find the center of the dart legs and mark a line through the center of the dart (dotted line above). This will help you when folding the dart in the next step. Then draw your lines from the dart legs to the apex.

Grainline Studio | Alder Sew Along Day 03 | Specific Fit Adjustments

6. Fold the dart legs together with the takeup pointing to the bottom of the garment and re-blend the side seam. I like to score the bottom dart leg and center line lightly with an awl to help the pattern fold right where you want it to on the first try. You can either cut across the side seam / dart or mark it with a pattern tracing wheel and cut when the dart is open.

7. Unfold the dart and cut out your new piece.

That’s all, tomorrow we start cutting!

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25 Responses to Alder Sew Along Part 03: Specific Fit Adjustments

  1. Rebecca says:

    Thanks Jen this is a great post on fit, most sew alongs seem to minimal attention to this important step, the more detailed the better!

  2. Martha says:

    Great post and explanation of the FBA! This is my first sewalong and hope to get the PDF pattern pieced together tonight. I’ll probably have to catch up this weekend…

  3. lisa g says:

    so i’m one of those that always needs to do a small bust adjustment… i always agonize over what bodice size to choose. my upper is 33″, full 34″. since you draft for a B cup (that’s upper bust+2″, right?) i traced off the 35″ bust size and should reduce my pattern by 1/2″. does that sound right? if the answer is more complicated don’t worry about it, i’m muslining the top to work it all out anyways!

    • Jillian says:

      Hi Lisa. You measure exactly the same as me and yes, as far as I can tell using Jen’s explanation and the Craftsy course I did I cut the size 6 (35″ bust) and reduced each front piece by 0.5″ each side for a full 1″ reduction via an SBA. Fingers crossed it works as I’m going ahead and calling it a wearable muslin 🙂

      • lisa g says:

        thanks! i know when i choose size based on my actual bust measurement i lose too much room in the back. had planned to muslin this today, good luck with yours!

  4. Sara Berkes says:

    You are the first person to actually explain a full bust adjustment in a way that made sense, and including how to know HOW MUCH to do one by! That’s amazing. I’ve always known I have to make a full bust adjustment, but every tutorial I find super confusing and none of them that I’ve ever found have covered how to know how much, which pretty much makes all the tutorials useless to me.

    I know you have this all planned out and done for now, but if you could do a tutorial on a sway back adjustment with this dress, that would be incredible. I always get pooling fabric above my derriere in loose fitting things, and have no idea (literally none) how to do that adjustment

    • lr says:

      I also have issues with pooling fabric in places that don’t need any such attention drawn to them! What I do is pattern fit first; pin the front and back pattern pieces together at shoulder and side seams (with seam allowances outward) to assess where adjustments need to be made; I always have to check if I need a swayback adjustment. At the center back, approximately at the lengthen/shorten line,pinch out amount of excess [for me, it’s usually 1/2″ but could be 1/4″- 3/4″ tapering to nothing at the side seams] Try a muslin like that and see how it works. Good luck!

  5. rg says:

    Jen can you explain with the post-FBA square armscye, what effect does this have on the fit of the armhole? I can’t wrap my mind around why full bust would need a different shape armscye. Or should I redraw the armscye based on the original pattern shape?

    • Jen says:

      I’m not exactly sure what you mean by the square armscye, can you explain? In the adjustment above you’re not really changing the armhole shape by too much and the way you are changing it creates more room for the bust starting from nothing at the upper bust to the actual bust measurement. The armhole is far from square though?

  6. rg says:

    Sorry I wasn’t clear. What I’ve noticed about FBA’s is that the angle between the underarm curve (below the slash) and the curve that extends up to the top of the shoulder gets more acute. I just keep looking at it thinking “its not my arm that’s shaped different, its my boob, so…?” And this is not in any way a criticism of your tutorial! Its my general confusion about FBA’s. I was kind of hoping to follow your directions to add sleeves later on…hence my concern about the impact on the armscye shape.

    • Jen says:

      No criticism taken, I just wasn’t exactly sure what you meant. So this is going to be difficult to explain because it’s translating a 3D concept into words without any illustrations, but the angle of your armscye does change with bust size in this instance. Because of the fact that you need to fit more circumference into the bust area that lifts the front and therefore skews the side seam from laying parallel to the side seam of the back of the garment. By angling the armscye you keep the side seam intact while increasing room for the bust measurement which maintains the drape of the garment and reduces pulling. If you’re doing a large FBA you’ll want to blend the armhole smoothly through your pivot point, but keep the general angle that results from the FBA. If you pivot just to the seam line instead of the edge of the garment the seam line will stay the same length no matter where you angle it to. Hope this helps?

      • rg says:

        Tremendously! I’m going to reread a few times but it sounds like exactly what my geek self needs to hear 🙂 Thanks so much!!!

      • Grace says:

        I would also add that if you are increasing more than shown in this tutorial, an extra slash up through the dart apex to the middle of the shoulder (pivot point at the shoulder seam) will alleviate the wonky armhole shape while giving the extra width in the across-chest area that is needed with a much larger FBA.

  7. raye215 says:

    Ohh! When you say “the seam line will stay the same length” that means I should be able to take my post-FBA pattern and put a sleeve that fit the pattern pre-FBA? Penny drop 😀 (it may have been a mirage that I thought someone had talked you into doing a sleeve variation on this sewalong. either way I’m learning lots)

  8. I seem to have a very high up bust (I am small busted and 5’4″, but I think my torso is short for my size, too) and moving the dart up to the right spot starts interfering with the armscye, i.e. one leg moves right off the side seam. Do I move it up some and then change the angle? Thanks!

  9. hedgewick says:

    Does it not matter that the bottom of the armscye angles upwards when doing an FBA?

  10. Jillian says:

    Just a quickie. I have done an SBA on my pattern and this shortens the length of the front. Correspondingly this would mean an FBA would lengthen the front. I guess it would be important that people doing an FBA also account for that additional length when preparing and cutting the button bands and interfacing or their pieces will be too short??

  11. Léa says:

    Hi Jen, how to add a back darts on back bodice? I prefer not so roomy (on my back). Thank you

  12. Jen says:

    Yep, I would move the pocket placement up as well, otherwise it may end up looking too low.

  13. Johanna says:

    Does the FBA also increase the size of the waist? If so, is there a way to do a FBA while keeping the waist size the same? Thanks!

    • Jen says:

      It does increase the waist, you could pop a dart in where you added the excess at the waist to take care of it quite easily though.

  14. annri says:

    hi, Jen! thank you for this pattern, I’m really happy with the dress I made from it. I have a question about fit with regard to some pulling I getting between the inner-shoulder near the neck and the front of the armhole, kind of a diagonal pull/pucker/fold. What do you think is the issue there? I think I might need to make the armhole bigger toward the front, but I’d like to know what you think. Thank you ~ Annri

  15. Frederica says:

    Hi Jen!

    2 questions:

    1. When you do a FBA (I’ve done 1″ adjustment), do you then need to adjust the height of the dart? On my muslin, I’ve now found that the dart sits quite far down under my bust – where is it meant to sit on this pattern?

    2. Usually I would cut a size 4 for my top, however have done a size 3 with a FBA as this corresponds to my high bust measurement. Do I now cut the rest of the top pieces (eg yoke, arm hole binding) using a size 4 or a size 3?

    Thanks for your help =)

    • Jen says:

      The dart should sit at your bust, it sounds like you’ll need to raise it a bit. You can do this by simply moving it up the pattern and refolding the legs. As for the sizing, we don’t use sizes 1,2,3,4, etc. but I get the idea…if you cut one size for the dress, you’ll want to continue with that size for the rest of the pieces or else they won’t fit together at the seam lines.

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