Today’s mega topic for discussion is all about creating dartless Full Bust Adjustments for knit sewing patterns. There are loads of different methods out there; do you really need one and, if so, which works best? Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin!
You may recall that recently I sewed up my first Jenna Cardigan. Whilst this is an easy pattern to sew it did throw up an interesting challenge, personally. The Jenna is designed for a B cup and has slight negative design ease in the bust. Being a D cup there was no getting away from the fact that I was going to need to create some extra room in there for my boobage!
With my first Jenna I did a ‘cheater FBA’; relying on the stretch of my fabric I merely attempted to create extra width by grading out a size at the side seam starting at the underarm and tapering back in at the waist. It was ‘kind of’ sufficient but I mostly found that I had excess fabric at the underarm and still needed extra snaps to get the button band to lay flush. Overall it left me feeling a bit ‘meh’.
So, I got out pen and notepad and set to work, researching the various methods for a creating a dartless FBA suitable for knits. This post covers what I found to be most, ahem, pert-inent 😉 You have to discover the one that makes the most sense to you …
Here I list six methods, with Option 6 being my personal favourite – I’ll take you through that one step-by-step!
But, before I go any further into the various methods of knit FBA’s I discovered, I think when approaching your next knit project it’s worth asking yourself these three key questions:
Do you really need a FBA with your particular project?
Basically the stretch quality of your knit fabric may be sufficient, if you’re working with a particularly s-t-r-e-t-c-h-y jersey for example. Some negative ease can also be fine sometimes, say in a fitted Tee. However, in a front fastening cardigan it’s less likely to be enough. Check the finished measurements on your pattern; how much ease is built in? Is there enough to ‘cover your assets’? You’re never likely to need a FBA with the Linden Sweatshirt for example!
Importantly, if you are going to progress to doing a FBA it is crucial to assess the percentage stretch of your jersey as this will also influence how much, or how little, a FBA you need to do. With a woven FBA you would simply add half your required amount to your half bodice piece; however with a stretchy knit you may, for example, only need to add a quarter of that.
Are you Shorter or Taller than the Pattern is Drafted For?
If you are, it may be that your boobs won’t be accommodated properly irrespective of whether they’re technically in the right size garment or not, simply because the fullness of your chest won’t be in the same place the pattern assumes it will be! For example, if you’re shorter you may find you have lines, or a folded flap of fabric, radiating from the armscye of your finished garment. If so, you may need to do a Petite Bodice Adjustment, i.e shortening or folding your pattern piece horizontally across the upper chest and through the armscye to take out the excess length there. You may still ALSO then need to do a FBA!
Are you Planning to Pattern Match, say, Stripes?
Choose your FBA method wisely, not all are geared with this in mind (see below).
Option One – Cheat!
You know what they say, if in doubt…cheat. Just add extra width/grade out at the side seam. It works … to a degree.
Option Two – Pivot & Slide!
This method is advocated by Patterns for Pirates and Maria Denmark. Relatively quick and easy, this method essentially works by pivoting your pattern piece at the shoulder to re-grade it at the chest. In essence then, it just adds width in the bust area which is ok if you don’t need to do too big an adjustment perhaps. I personally wanted extra length at the front as well.
Option Three – Vertical Only FBA
See Communing with Fabric which proposes doing the exact opposite of the Pivot & Slide method by simply adding length at the front by slashing and spreading at the chest.
Option Four – Two Line FBA
Alexandra Morgan’s two line FBA (You Tube) illustrates two methods including one which simply eases the bust dart into the side seam, in pretty much the same way you’d ease a sleeve head into an armscye. This would only work sufficiently if your resultant dart legs were an inch or less wide. Side note of caution, bear in mind if you’re planning to sew with stripe fabric, again this is going to royally mess up your pattern matching!
Option Five – Palmer-Pletsch’s Y Dart Method
For an FBA larger than 1.5” it might be worth looking into Palmer-Pletsch’s method illustrated here by the Curvy Sewing Collective as a starting point. You will still need to rotate that dart out afterwards though.
Option 6 – My Preferred Method
But the one method, BY FAR, that made by brain sit up and take notice was the dartless method prescribed by Jennifer Lauren Handmade. Now, I admit, the first time I attempted to follow her diagrams I got a bit stuck at one key point – though this was probably due to suffering the effects of severe sleep deprivation! When I went back to it I had a face-palm moment when *cue music* it finally clicked, the sun came over the horizon and all the little birdies started tweeting. You get the picture!
So, I thought I’d use my Jenna bodice piece to illustrate how I interpreted Lauren’s diagrams. Spoiler alert, the end result is TOTALLY BLOOMIN’ FANTASTIC AND ABSOLUTELY WORTH THE EFFORT. You get me?!
Step by Step ‘How To’
First off, I lay my pattern piece atop the ruler guides of my cutting board as it makes it easier to accurately slash and spread your pattern to the exact increments you’re after. You then start off by doing a standard FBA in exactly the same way you would for a woven garment…before rotating that dart out.
Unfortunately, determining and marking your apex is slightly trickier with a knit bodice pattern piece – if you haven’t made the garment before pop on a similar fitted jersey top and mark your apex with some masking tape. Whip it off again and then place your pattern piece over your top and transfer the marking.
Once you’ve marked your apex, draw in your usual cut lines – like this:
Cut through the red line from the hem through to the armscye; stop cutting a couple of millimetres before the armscye to create a moveable ‘hinge’. Cut the green line from the side seam, again stopping a couple of millimeters short of the apex point to create your second hinge.
Then spread your pattern piece at the apex point by your required amount. (I initially spread mine at 0.5”). This will automatically create the side bust dart you’ll remove later – you will also notice that your side length is now longer than your centre front length:
Cut straight across along the blue line and lower that piece so it’s aligned:
(I decided to go the whole hog and increase by an inch!)
Pop some more tracing paper under your cut pattern and stabilise it with pattern weights, tins of beans or whatever else you’ve got handy.
Align your ruler and draw in the line on your bottom paper, as a reference point for later, like so:
Now tape your side bust dart back together (being careful NOT to stick it to the paper underneath!) – see how far your side piece now moves away from the reference line you drew in the previous step?
Before you taped your dart together, remember how it’s ‘hinge’ was at the apex point? Well, now we’ve taped the dart together we are again going to cut through it BUT this time cutting across in the opposite direction – from the apex to the side seam – again stopping a couple of millimetres shy of the side seam to create that all important hinge. What you’ve essentially done then in these last two steps is merely move the position of the hinge of the dart from one side to the other:
Now this next step is where I initially got flummoxed when I first looked at this method *need sleep* but, simply, move the bottom left section back up to realign with the reference line you drew earlier. Notice how in order to do this, the piece above is overlapped? Bye bye dart!
The last thing you will need to do is draw a curved line (like my dotted one above) to draw in your new hem line.
You have created extra width, extra length and rotated out your dart! (See note below regarding the potential need to retrace your waist curve).
At this point I drew around the whole thing to create my new bodice piece. Look how my finished piece compares with its original:
You May Need to Redraw Your Side Seam!
If your bodice piece is of regular length you may need to redraw your waist curve, i.e tapering back in at the side seam so that your waist measurement remains true (mine is cropped, I just eased the excess into the waistband).
This is what my finished cardigan looked like having adopted this method; see how the button bands meet equally along its entire length, with zilch gaping or straining at the bust? Result!
Until next time, I hope this was useful – let me know and please leave any other tips or suggestions you may have!
For more regular sewing chat, you can find me on Instagram at @sewsarahsmith
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