Tag Archives: FBA

Some By Hand London Anna dress fitting issues

9 Apr

I have today off work, and was planning on using the time to try and make some headway on my Sew Dolly Clackett dress, for which I’m making a By Hand London Anna. I’ve made an Anna before, and although I love it, I did not get the fit right. Nothing drastic – it could definitely have done with an FBA, but other than that there weren’t really any issues.


I decided that, this time round, I was going to try and get the fit right. I initially thought I’d need to do an FBA, but then I looked again at the measurements, and thought that maybe I could get away without. Last time I made the dress I made US10/UK14, which fitted my measurements – 37 inch bust and 30 inch waist. But at the time, my upper bust measurement was only 34 inches, so I should probably have made a US6/UK10, with an FBA.


But just to complicate matters, I’ve lost quite a bit of weight since then – I now have a 34 inch bust, 27 inch waist, and 33 inch high bust. So, looking at the measurements, and with only an inch difference between my bust and high bust measurements, I thought that a straight US6/UK10 might actually fit. So I traced off the pattern and sewed up a toile. And I’m not really sure what to do with the results.

On first glance, it doesn’t look too bad…fit under and across the bust looks ok:



But there actually seems to be quite a lot of excess fabric across my upper chest:



I can pinch a good couple of inches out to the front:


I’m not sure why this is – it’s not a problem that I noticed having on my last version. I just don’t know where the extra fabric is coming from – if I’d chosen the size based on my upper bust measurement and done an FBA, I’d only have made one size smaller. When I did the fitting course with fit2sew, I didn’t have any issues with needing a hollow/scoop chest adjustment, although maybe that could have changed since I’ve lost weight?

The pleats aren’t sitting exactly where I think they should under my bust either. Ignore my right hand side in this pic, as they seems to have risen up a little, but if you look at where my hand is on the left, my middle finger is at the top of the pleat stitching, and my thumb is on the bottom of my bra, right underneath my bust. I don’t think there should be that much of a gap.


It certainly feels like a better fit when I pull the bodice up slightly so that the pleats sit directly under my bust, but then there’s a good  inch or so excess above my shoulders, although it’s not amazingly clear in this pic. Bizarrely, I’ve also had the same issue recently with two RTW dresses – they’ve always been fine before, but I wore them both recently and spent the whole day each time pulling the dress up at the front, to save from flashing my bra at everyone, but when I did that, the dresses were way too long in the upper bust area. It’s almost like the space between my shoulders and my bust has shrunk!


So, with all the excess fabric across my upper chest, is an FBA what I need? The bodice is quite a good fit across my bust, and under my bust as well. When I’ve realised in the past that I’ve needed an FBA, it’s been when the dress has fitted across my bust, but been too big under my bust, and I’ve had to take in loads of excess at the centre back. The back doesn’t feel too bad on this, but looking at the top picture, maybe there is a bit of excess there:



Those pics also demonstrate another issue in that the shoulder seams are sitting too far back, but that should be easily fixed with a forward shoulder adjustment. The side seams however, do line up ok down my side:


So i’m just trying to work out where I should go from here, and any advice or guidance anyone can give would be much appreciated. do I need an FBA after all? And if so, does anyone have a good method for an FBA on an Anna? I don’t like the idea of adding a bust dart like the FBA BHL did in their sewalong. I was going to try using Alison’s tutorial, although she does say that’s for adding 1.5 inches or more, not sure if it would work for a smaller FBA?  Or do I not need an FBA at all? Is there something else I’m missing?

I’ve decided that I really want to conquer the fit on this. I have to admit, even though I’d decided to fit it properly, and gone to the effort of making a toile, I was half tempted just to say ‘it’s good enough’ and sew it up anyway. Mainly out of lazyness and lack of time and just wanting to get something sewn up. But I know that I wouldn’t be happy with it, and I’m much better off taking my time and doing a proper job, especially as I want to make more versions of this dress, so having a well-fitting pattern will be invaluable. But sometimes I find it hard to make myself slow down and actually take the time to get the fit right, especially when I’m making something as part of a sewalong and therefore have a deadline for getting it finished. But you know what, if I don’t get it finished in time, so what? I’ll still get the dress at some point, and I’ll be much happier if I take the time to make it fit properly. So instead i’m going to turn the fitting into a challenge, and I am determined to conquer it!


Pattern fitting course with Fit2Sew

6 Nov

There’s been a bit of radio silence around here recently, what with all the house buying and suchlike. I haven’t even been managing to keep up with my blog reading. But a couple of days ill laid up in bed (seriously, I feel like someone has filled my sinuses with lead) has given me a bit of time in between steam inhalations to catch up, once I cleared the 700 unread blog posts from my reader so I could start clean! It’s also reignited my desire to sew, and while that is a little tricky from bed, I can at least catch up with writing a few blog posts, so you should be hearing a bit more from me now! Although I do apologise in advance that this one is a bit text heavy and lacking pretty pictures! Some of those coming in posts soon I promise!

One Sunday about a month ago, myself and two sewing friends went on a pattern fitting course, and boy was it useful! The course was with Mandy at Fit2Sew in Croydon, and I first came across mention of her course on Daniela’s blog. I’ve had a few fitting issues with things I’ve made, namely that they inevitably end up too big on the top half, and I end up taking a couple of inches in at the back when I put the zip in. Even then, they can still be too big at my waist and shoulders.


I love the first dress I made, but I have to admit that I have hardly worn it because, despite my taking in at the back, it’s still too big round the waist and I really don’t like that. The yoke is also a bit wide.  I had come to the realisation that I probably ought to be making a smaller size and doing a full bust adjustment, and I probably could have worked out how to do that myself. But I wanted to know if there were any other adjustments I should be making, and also know that I was measuring and doing the FBA correctly – I didn’t want to get to the stage where all the clothes I made were badly fitting and in the end I just got fed up and gave up on sewing. This course seemed like just the thing to get me making clothes that fitted, and that I really loved. I also thought that it would be really helpful to have someone who know what they’re doing identify what issues I need to address when fitting, rather than trying to work them all out myself!

The technique that Mandy teaches is the Palmer/Pletsch method of tissue fitting. The technique works by making all of the necessary adjustments to the pattern tissue, before you even think about cutting into the fabric. This should, in theory, cut out the needs to make multiple muslins of a pattern, as you can keep making each adjustment to the same piece of tissue, until your happy with the fit, and then either just making one muslin to check the fit, or go straight to cutting out your fabric. Mandy has very small class sizes (max 3 I believe) which is great, and means she has lots of time to go through everything with each of you. She is one of only two people in the UK who is a Palmer/Pletsch certified instructor. The introduction to pattern fitting course that we did costs £45 for the day, which is great value for what you get.

We started the class by taking our high bust measurement. That’s it. Just the one measurement. We then used our high bust measurement to choose what pattern size we needed to use. the pattern used is McCalls Palmer/Pletsch fitting shell 2718. My came out at a 12. We then prepared the tissue pattern pieces for that size – taping around and clipping the curves, and pinning in darts and the side seams.

mccalls 2718

Once our pattern pieces were taped, and pinned together, we tried them on to check the fit. Once we were happy we had the correct size, we started working on any adjustments we needed to make, starting with the back. I needed a slight (half inch) narrow back adjustment. It was also evident that I would need a full bust adjustment, but we needed to make the adjustment to the back first, so we took them off, took in a tuck on the back, which we taped down, then pressed the tissue, pinned it back together, and tried it on again.


My finished bodice front, with all adjustments made. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pics as we were going along, so here’s a few from when I used my pattern pieces to make my toile.

Now that we were happy with the fit on the back, we moved onto the front. The tissue fitted well across the top of my chest, with the centre seamline on the tissue meeting the centre of my chest. However, further down it did not meet. By measuring the distance between the seamline (NOT cutting line) on the tissue, and the centre of my chest, we established that I need 3/4 inch FBA. In fact all 3 of us needed an FBA of a similar amount, so we took our tissue off again to make this adjustment. Mandy explained the adjustment brilliantly, and pretty soon we were all done with that. Trying it on again, the tissue bodice now met across my chest nicely :)

After that, I just needed one more small adjustment – a slight forward shoulder adjustment. The two Clares (I now have three sewing friends called Cla(i)re, Marcus insists on giving them numbers so he knows which one I’m talking about!) both needed a horizontal tuck across their upper chest to reduce some baggy tissue, as well as a sleeve adjustment, and one of them also needed a slight sway back adjustment.


Finished bodice back pattern piece with narrow back tuck, and forward shoulder adjustment.

After we’d finished making all the adjustments to our tissue, we made a note of all the adjustments we’d made, and Mandy then talked us through some dart manipulation techniques, so that we could apply the same FBA to different styles. I have to say that, despite Mandy explaining it well I didn’t *quite* get exactly how you’d do the adjustment on different styles, but I think I just need to give it a go and it will become clear.


All the adjustments are also explained really clearly in the Palmer/Pletsch book Fit for Real People. I bought this book before the course, so that I could read about the technique beforehand, and hopefully have a better grasp on the course. I have to admit, I am one of those people who buy a book (particularly reference books) and then hopes that, by owning it, I can absorb the information by osmosis. Oh how I wish that worked. I buy books with good intentions of learning about whatever they’re about, and then never actually sitting down and reading them. Not so with this book. Although the cover (and many of the images) make it look like it is straight out of the 80s, it is one of the most readable reference books I have come across. In two sessions, I’d read through the first 60 pages. Everything is explained so clearly, and it’s well organised so that you can easily find the information about the adjustment you want.

Just an FYI, because I know a lot of people go straight to Amazon for books – I got it from the The Book Depository where it was much cheaper (£12 as opposed to about £21, they do free worldwide delivery too, and I’ve just discovered that you can get 5% cashback through Quidco too). The course was based largely on the information in the book, so it’s a great tool to refer back to now that I’ve done the course. Palmer/Pletsch also do a DVD called ‘Full Busted’ (ah I can just see the search terms which are going to lead people to my blog now!), which apparently shows you how to do an FBA with various different styles of pattern, which I have heard good things about. I don’t have the DVD, the cheapest place I can find it is on Amazon for £20 (annoying when the US RRP is $20)(scratch that, just found it on The Book Depository for £10!) but based on how good the book is, if I needed a bit more guidance with doing the adjustments with different styles, I think it would be worth it.

Having spent a while looking for the perfect pattern weights, I finally stumbled on the idea of using the weights from my parents' old set of imperial scales.

Having spent a while looking for the perfect pattern weights, I finally stumbled on the idea of using the weights from my parents’ old set of imperial scales.

I came home from the course, and immediately cut out a toile, based on my paper pattern. Because you only fit the paper pattern on one half of you, its worth doing at least on your first garment, so you can check and see if you need to make any changes to the adjustments for your other side – e.g. if you have uneven shoulders. The toile seems to fit me really well, so I’m happy with that.


I was dying to put what I had learned into practice and actually make something, but unfortunately I haven’t had a chance yet, what with my change in plans for my week of sewing! I also want to try the first attempt out on a bodice that has darts, rather than another style, so that I can just directly apply what I’ve learned. Most of the patterns I have lined up to make have princess seams, or under bust pleats, or some other design. I’ve been wanting to make Simplicity 2444, which does have darts, but I only have the larger of the two pattern sizes, and based on my high bust measurement and the finished garment measurements, I ought to be making it up in a size 8, so I’ll have to procure the smaller pattern size before I can have a go at that.

Having looked at the measurements for Simplicity 1803, which was the first dress I made, based on my high bust and finished garment measurements, I should have made a size 6 (34 inch high bust), and then done an FBA. Given that, according to the pattern, I measured up as a size 16 (37 inch full bust), and actually made a size 12 (once I’d taken account for their ridiculous 4 inches of ease), it’s no wonder that I still find it too big. I’m going to try tissue fitting this pattern in a smaller size, and see what difference that makes. Although the waist and hip sizes for the smaller pattern sizes would in theory be a bit small for me, the FBA also adds some width to those parts as well, so that should be addressed. And, as Mandy pointed out, it is easy to add some width to the side seams at the waist and hips, it’s much more important to get the shoulders fitting properly.


If you are thinking about doing a course on fitting, or struggling with fit at all I’d highly recommend Mandy’s course. She also does specific courses on fitting a shift dress or a pair of trousers. Depending on funds, and how I get on with putting the fitting into practice, I’m seriously considering doing her shift dress course at some point in the future.

I’ll let you know how I get on with my fitting, and hopefully you’ll see lots of beautifully fitting clothes on here in the future!

chinelo bally

Dressmaker| Author| Blogger| Freehand cutter


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