Sewing a Woven Tank Top – aka the one where I make ALL the fit adjustments!

Welcome sewing friends – I’ve got a post full of sewing geekiness today detailing the many fit adjustments I made to the Gemma Tank Top by Made by Rae. Let me say from the off; this isn’t to imply there’s anything wrong with the drafting of Rae’s pattern, not at all. It’s simply that the Gemma Tank Top is a semi-fitted woven pull-on top. The operative words here being ‘woven’ and ‘semi-fitted’; i.e. there’s nowhere to hide in terms of fit. So off I went on my merry way to the drawing board.

The plan was to make it in a silk-blend Lady McElroy voile, that had been gifted to me by Minerva Crafts, so I wanted to make sure I got the fit right before I cut into the precious fabric!

I’m puzzled as to why I always look so … puzzled … in photos, haha!!

One adjustment I didn’t have to do was a Full Bust Adjustment as Rae has thoughtfully drafted the pattern with two cup options – an A/B and a C/D. However, the list of the other adjustments I made is fairly extensive …

Read More
Sew Sarah smith

Dartless FBA for Knits – Do You Need One & What’s the Best Method?

Sew Sarah smith

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!

Muse patterns

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 😉

// If you’re in a rush to get to the method I liked best, feel free to scroll to its full demonstration lower down! //

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 this particular project? Don’t just assume you do! 

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, stripe fabric?

Choose your FBA method wisely, not all are geared with this in mind (see below).

Ok, we’re getting closer to the fun stuff!

Basically, I discovered there are as many ways to do a FBA as there are to skin a cat.  I will say this though; no one method will ‘click’ for everyone. You have to discover the one that makes the most sense to you.

To this end I’ll merely list a few other methods in case the one I’m about to fully demonstrate below makes nada sense to you personally!

  1. 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.
  2. The ‘Pivot & Slide’ method 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.
  3. The ‘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.
  4. Alexandra Morgan’s two line FBA (You Tube) A lovely reader sent me this Vlog link (thank you Kathleen!) which is easy to follow. It 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!

NB. For an FBA larger than 1.5” it might be worth looking into Palmer-Pletsch’s Y Dart Method (illustrated here by the Curvy Sewing Collective) as a starting point. You will still need to rotate that dart out afterwards though.

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 80D9C70D-E145-4D9C-BB41-49E65B61D435due 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?!

// The Demo Bit //

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:

hiw to rotate out bust darts

Cut straight across along the blue line and lower that piece so it’s aligned:

FBA dartless knit sewing pattern

(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:

Dartless fba

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?

dart rotationBefore 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:

knit fba tutorial

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!

moving out a bust 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:

fill bust adjustment without dart

You may need to redraw your side seam – it is worth mentioning again that the bodice piece I’ve used here is a very cropped bodice which is finished with a long hem band and only then ends up sitting at the natural waist. I simply eased the excess width at the hem point into my original hem band piece to avoid baginess at the waist. If your bodice piece is of regular length you may want to consider redrawing your waist curve, i.e tapering back in at the side seam so that your waist measurement remains true.

dartless FBA knits

Clearly I’m no Oracle on the subject nor am I any kind of Pattern Drafting Ninja BUT this is what the finished cardigan looked like; see how the button bands meet equally along its entire length, with zilch gaping or straining at the bust? Result!

How to do a full Bust Adjustment with knit patterns

Until next time, I hope this was useful – let me know and please leave any other tips or suggestions you may have!

Enter your email to subscribe to notifications from this site

Pedal pushers sewing pattern

Classic Pedal Pushers & Fitting a Basic Trouser / Pant

Pedal pushers sewing pattern

Hello again!

So, following on from happily fitting my McCalls 6696 Shirtdress , I really wanted to  fit a basic trouser / pant; I felt I’d learnt a lot about fitting the upper half of my body but that the lower half was still shrouded in mystery. I say ‘shrouded in mystery’, what I mean is shrouded in massively oversized RTW boyfriend jeans – or lets be honest, PJ bottoms. I had no idea just how little idea I actually had about the size and shape of what lurked beneath!

I thought I was slim hipped, perhaps a bit short legged and with a backside not as pert as it once was (no doubt getting off it now and again would help in that department!) But that was about the sum total of my analysis. Just how hard could pant fitting be I blithely wondered? I’d found the perfect fabric; a gorgeous mid weight stretch cotton from a local shop and I was raring to go!

Well let’s just say I thankfully know more now than I did then. Now, straight off the bat, I have to say HUGE thanks to Anya (@anna.zoe.sewing) for helping me out so much. I’d emailed her a couple of very unflattering close up pics of my behind encased in my first pants toile (a #buttfie no less 😉  She sent back an incredibly detailed and helpful response.  Gah, does that women know how to fit pants! If she ever designs her own range, get it!

A rather less underwear revealing Instagram shot of my first toile than the one I sent Anya…which also garnered so many helpful responses!

View this post on Instagram

Pants toile #No1 – I have never stared at my own backside quite this much before! 😂They fit ok I think? I took 1" out of the rise which I definitely need to add back in and perhaps add some more since the waist facing will take away another 5/8" I cut them on the bias of an old bedsheet to try and mimic the stretch quality of the fabric I'll be using but they obviously don't stretch quite as much that. They look slightly baggy but feel a bit tight when I bend the knee and if I sit down the backseat pulls down really low?!?! Will these issues be miraculously resolved when I cut them in the real stretch cotton?!? 🤔Any and all advice greatly received! 😆😘thanking you in advance!!! #pantsfitting #mirrorselfie #sewingproject #sewingcommunity #makeitsewcial

A post shared by Sew Sarah Smith | Sewing (@sewsarahsmith) on

Anya’s advice was spot on! She very delicately pointed out that I perhaps had ‘athletic calves’ which was leading to excess fabric getting stuck above on the thigh and gently let me know that some of the issues with fabric pooling under my backside was due to it being a tad low and flat.

She wasn’t wrong! I slashed one of my pant legs from hem to the top of my calf to see just how much extra width was needed there. Immediately the whole trouser leg just settled much better – I needed over an inch more!

And yes, my backside is indeed a bit low and flat. Anya advised that I needed to take out the excess fabric there and then add it back in at the widest part of my calf (so that front and back leg pieces remained the same length).

I’ve also learnt that my inner thighs are disproportionally smaller than the rest of my leg. My waist is generally in a higher size bracket (*tuts*) than my hip and I already knew I had swayback issues. Mmm tricky trickster in terms of fitting then!

Pants fitting alterations

Toiles 2 and 3 quickly followed. I was using the basic Cigarette Pant pattern from the Gertie Sews Vintage Casual book simply because I had it to hand and it’s such a basic draft. Altogether, I graded between three sizes overall, reshaped the back crotch, slashed a ‘Y’ incision in the back leg to create the extra calf room, moved out the excess fabric from under my bum and did a swayback adjustment to make the waistline at both pant back and front parallel to the floor.

Of course I also did a bit of online research into ‘low seat’ and ‘flat butt’ adjustments. Can we please just take a moment to look at the variety of recommended modifications out there for these two issues…from the simple looking to the not so simple!

Pant fitting sewing

/1. From Gertie Sews Vintage Casual /2. From Closet Case Files /3. From Style Arc and /4. From Colette

I wasn’t totally happy with toile 3 but figured I was now wasting my time, procrastinating and faffing as much as anything. And my toile fabric was markedly different to the stretch cotton I was planning to use, which I hoped would be fairly forgiving, so I figured I needed to just bite the bullet and get on with it. Quite frankly toile No 4 would have had the Men in White being called for. So I attached the pockets and pocket facings and then literally basted in all other seams to check fit. I was fairly happy so proceeded to sew them together properly.

How to fit trousers pants
Channelling my hidden Monroe. Yes, she’s very hidden 😉

The pattern calls for an invisible centre back zip and a waist facing. I put in the zip but drafted a waistband instead of the facing. I basted it on, decided it was too high and didn’t allow enough room for pasta binges and so drafted another. I left a fairly wide tab at the back so the waistband can be adjusted a bit too. Again, pasta. (I married a Sicilian!)

So there we have it. I’m happy enough with them. They’re super comfy and decidedly more flattering than my baggy jeans. Though they’re not at all perfect, I love ’em. They actually look better (less wrinkly) in real life than they do in these pics. I might tweak the pattern again (if I can be arsed, every pun intended) but I’m much more likely to try another.  In fact I’ve got one altogether different summer trouser pattern coming to my cutting table (aka the dining table) very soon. And for the first time ever I feel I can justify making my own jeans…just got to decide on which pattern! A whole new world of sewing possibilities has just opened up now I’ve got a more considered view of myself and some idea of the techniques involved in altering pants to fit.

Oh and I’ve got plans for the perfect top to wear with these, not the tee pictured here but the Coppelia Wrap Cardy from Papercut Patterns. And that makes another two items checked off from my #2017MakeNine  That cardi is now up on the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network HERE..

How to alter pant patterns
Stand up straight, woman!

Until next time friends,

Sew Sarah smith

Liked this post? All links to Follow this blog can be found under the Comments section below. You can Follow me on Instagram here





McCalls 6696 Shirtdress: Ding Ding Round 2 – it’s a knockout!

Sew Sarah Smith

Ah McCalls 6696, what a bout we’ve had! You may recall that I documented Round One with this dress? It ended with me, well, losing … resulting, as it did, with a garment that was more tent than dress. However, I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet – I really wanted to go the distance with this pattern; to put into practice all I felt I’d learned and so … here we are, Ding Ding: Round 2!

Firstly, to give myself a bit of distance from the pattern I sewed up a couple of other things, so that when I came back to it I didn’t feel jaded. It wasn’t just the fit of the dress that had me on the ropes, I decided, but the styling of it too. I felt a bit wishywashy in my original, I wanted something that packed a bit more of a punch. And that’s where the fabric comes in. I love this poplin! I feel it’s bold yet understated; I love that it’s polka dots but it’s also flowers and that it’s stable but also soft. Perfect! (It comes in three colourways, you can find it HERE).

Sew Together For Summer

Once I’d found the perfect fabric, it was easier to think about the style changes I wanted to make; I decided to replace the full collar with a mandarin one (by simply using only the collar stand pieces) and to add short sleeves. I feel this ‘toughens up’ the dress, preventing it from being overly girly, especially since I decided I wanted to keep the full skirt. I made View B, with belt loops.

McCall m6696 review

I decided to muslin the bodice again, going down a size and using the C cup pattern piece this time to get rid of the excess ease. (For comparison purposes, bear in mind I’m 5.3″, fairly petite but with a longer waistline). This told me that I still needed to:

  • do a small narrow shoulder adjustment (taking 0.25″ from each shoulder piece)
  • raise the armhole (and the underarm of the sleeve) by 0.5″ because the forward rotation of my arms felt a bit restricted
  • lower the side bust dart by 0.5″
  • take 2″ out of centre back. This took out all the gathers at the top of the bodice and left just a smidge of ease at the lower
  • do a 0.5″ sway back adjustment – meaning I took out 0.5″ out horizontally at bodice CB, tapering to nothing at the side seams. This also helped remove any residual pouffiness from the back bodice. I don’t think the gathers are solely to blame for the excessive pouff; I’m sure the length of the back bodice contributes.
  • as before, I did not shorten the skirt.

Fit adjustments
For illustration purposes only! Taken from ‘Fit for Real People’ by Palmer / Alto

And because I was pulling no punches, I decided to put all that into yet another toile. Together they added up to more fit/pattern alterations than I’d ever before attempted in one garment and I was a bit unsure of myself. But the next toile came out perfect and I proceeded to dance a circuit of my imaginary boxing ring, fist pumping! In reality I was dancing around the dining table like a loon but…well, let’s not dwell on that image!

So I cut into my fabric and got sewing! It was a joy. As you can imagine, I was so familiar with it by this stage, that I could just plough through the instructions. Though the only thing I did differently to them, I think, was to sew the sleeves in the flat and hem them that way – it’s just easier isn’t it. I also added an extra couple of belt loops, as before. As for the collar, I incorporated everything relevant from the Sewing Collars : 10 Tips ‘n’ Tricks! post, namely trimming the inner stand a smidge, interfacing the outer stand only within the seam lines and to sew the two pieces onto the neckline of the dress one at a time; rather than construct the collar and then attach it. I cannot tell you how happy I was with the way it turned out!

McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I like how I can wear it buttoned up to the neck, all ‘prim and proper like’ or have it open and more relaxed. The same with the skirt, button it the whole way down or to mid thigh for a flash of leg, hehe!

Fabric buttons

I again self-covered my buttons so that I have more freedom in terms of what colour accessories I can wear with the dress, i.e a tan belt like here, or a white one or a navy one. Gotta have options, right?!

And let me tell you, I’m so happy that I didn’t concede defeat with this pattern. I’m a bit pleased with it! And by ‘a bit’, I really mean a lot! It is the thing I’m most proud of sewing ever. Try as I might to find fault with it, I find myself only loving it. I don’t think I’ve been this happy in a ‘proper’ dress since I wore my wedding dress (which I most certainly did not make!) My confidence with tackling fit, whilst still not sky high, is definitely on the up. That was my #MMMay17 pledge to myself and ultimately the basis of the #sewtogetherforsummer Challenge. I know it seems like a lot of effort for one dress. But it’s not all for one dress; the things I’ve learned and put into practice here, and the confidence I’ve gained, are all transferable. That said, I do want another 6696 at some point! It’s a win-win!

Next up, fitting skinny pants!!! Wish me luck!

Until next time, thanks for reading



Sew Sarah smith

Weight Changes, Fitting Issues & Me Made May #MMMay17

Sew Sarah smith

I’ve debated whether or not to write this post, questioning whether anybody would find it useful, meaningful or remotely interesting. But I’ve always reasoned that if I am here to document my sewing journey, I owe it to myself and any Reader to portray that journey honestly; to not prettify it or make it ‘Instagram-worthy’ only. As a WYSIWYG* type person, I’m not great at that anyway!

IMG_8526Back in the autumn of last year, I was diagnosed with Hydronephrosis and underwent two surgeries to correct my blocked kidney. I’d been feeling unwell for the longest time, constantly tired and seemingly unable to pick myself up. Paradoxically, every time I tried to get healthier by, say, drinking lots of water and eating more vegetables or salads, I’d be bed ridden within days. After a particularly agonising bout I was admitted to hospital, diagnosed and treated in record speed. Thank goodness for the NHS eh.

Once recovered, I got stuck straight back into my sewing plans. However, as time went on, I began to feel increasingly frustrated with the results, noticing issues I hadn’t really had to deal with before. Bewildered by gaping necklines, shoulder seams that were too long and armsyces that were too low, I began to question my sewing. It wasn’t until much later that I finally stepped on the scales and realised just how much my weight had changed. Being able to eat anything I wanted without feeling ill afterwards had simply meant I had automatically made healthier choices.

My body may have changed then but my self body image was taking rather longer to catch up. It was dispiriting to realise things I thought I knew about my body were no longer strictly true; I was having to seriously re-evaluate how I approached fitting sewing patterns. You can find frustrated comments to this effect peppered throughout my posts in this period. All the clothes I had lovingly sewn but which no longer fit, I donated (to my Mother, she’s delighted! Truthfully, as a to-the-core selfish-sewer, it was hard handing over my Me Mades; thank goodness for visitation rights!) Then, overwhelmed with feeling I was facing a massive fitting learning curve together with the mammoth task of practically resewing my entire wardrobe, my sew-jo understandably took something of a nosedive.

But this hiatus gave me the opportunity to have a word with myself; it shocked me to realise that, even as a Stitcher, I’d paid so little attention to my own body, which no doubt contributed to ill health. The culling of my wardrobe has allowed me to re-evaluate and plan properly. It’s been liberating learning to look at, and think about, my body objectively rather than emotionally. Now, rather than feeling stymied, I feel energised. My sewing plans are more considered; I’m selecting the patterns I want to sew based on the idea that I can justify taking the time to fit them properly; patterns which I will want to sew multiple times knowing that they will fill a core gap in my wardrobe and that, ultimately, they work for my body.  

Sew Sarah smith

Which brings me onto Me Made May (#MMMay17). This is a fantastic yearly sewing challenge set up by Zoe that has been running strong for a staggering eight years now! If you haven’t already done so, you can read all about it over on Zoe’s blog So Zo…What Do You Know? but, in essence, Zoe states that the Challenge, which works on a personal and community level, is simply about “…improving your relationship with your handmade wardrobe, and perhaps also learning about yourself and your creativity...” Never has that felt more apt than now. I’m going to participate with a very limited pledge and I’m completely fine with that:

I, Sarah Smith of and @sewsarahsmith, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’17. I endeavour to fit, sew up and wear at least one new handmade garment per week for the duration of May 2017.

I’ll probably wear more than that but this pledge represents my focus right now. I’ll be posting my fitting, sewing and #MMMay17 adventures over on Instagram, although this is by no means a requirement of the Challenge itself. Which is good to remember for future years as the idea of standing in front of a camera daily would, in all likelihood, have me running screaming for the hills!

Are you in?

Until next time,

Sew Sarah smith

(*Wysiwyg = what you see is what you get)

Enjoyed this post? Links to ‘Follow’ can be found under the Comments section below 😉