Anna Dress FBA – changing the gathers to flatter a fuller bust

I am so glad you liked my FBA tutorial for the Anna dress 🙂 (And I am glad you realised how much effort it was; I took photos as I went along, but it wasn’t until I was editting them that I realised how many steps there were!)

I have sewn my bodice muslin (well in a cheap fabric that I will use for first wearable test version) and realised the gathers I have are a bit too big to be flattering. Do you remember my Cambie dresses? I had the same problem there; with a full bust, the size of darts/gathers is big, so the darts begin to make a pointy corner. And how did I solve that problem? I changed the darts from one to three, so each dart was slightly smaller and less pointy!

Here is a quick diagram to show the extremely scientific method I used to adjust the gathers on my Anna (after unpicking the first set). Following my FBA tutorial, work your way to step 20, and stop there.

Anna FBA part 3

Changing gathers is easier than changing darts, as you don’t have to worry about the pointy dart ends. For my measurements I narrowed each pleat by about an inch (technically it was a thumbnail length). I then created a new pleat in between (green lines), making sure it was the same size as the amount I removed (2 red lines below). This gave me 3 approximately equal pleats, but you could measure them and do some maths (if you haven’t spent all day teaching 4 year olds how to sit quietly! this method is good enough for me!)

pleatsAnd here is how the pleats now look in real life:

Dodgy camera-phone shots in the mirror, but I think you can see the effect. I have pinned and re-sewn the pleats more than my fabric could cope with, so I need to cut out a new bodice before I can carry on with the sewalong. Who else is sewing along? How is it going?


Anna Dress FBA – how to use your high bust for a great fit

Warning: This is a long post, full of pictures, but only because you requested fitting tutorials!

I am definitely on the By Hand London bandwagon and love the drafting of their patterns, however I was a little disappointed by the FBA (full bust adjustment) advice in the Anna dress Sewalong. The method is fine if you just have a tiny bit to add, but I have read lots of people saying they had big or gaping necklines on their Anna dresses; the method they show will cause/add to this problem, so here is how I did my FBA (using the Y-Method for adding more than 1.5″).

Before we start I’m going to explain why I am using my high-bust measurement instead of my full-bust. Hopefully these pictures will make sense to you, but let me know if you have any questions.

Why you need to use high bust

Patterns are graded to fit different sizes, but the shape of the garment usually remains the same or similar proportions (a). Most commercial patterns are drafted for a B or C cup, and if you are much bigger than this then your proportions will be different (b). Someone with a full bust measurement of X could either have a full-frame and wear a B-cup (c – outer black line), or have a smaller frame and wear a GG-cup (c – red line); your high-bust measurement is a better indicator of your overall frame. When choosing your size (d) it is better to fit to your high-bust and adjust, otherwise you will have extra fabric above and below your bust (e); it is easier to fit the waist with darts/gathers but a baggy/gaping neckline is harder to fix.

Does that make sense? I hope so! So now you need to measure your high-bust and full bust, and we can get started…

Anna FBA part 1

  1. Get your resources and tools ready. You will need your pattern, tape-measure, ruler, pencil and pens, sticky-tape and tissue paper (I like to use multiple colours to see the changes I have made).
  2. Some patterns include high-bust measurements, but today we have to do some maths. Take your high bust and add ease (I added an inch for this pattern). Divide by 4 and then add seam-allowance to get X. Take your tape measure to the pattern and measure to find the size that matches X at the underarm, going up a size if you fall between sizes. I am ignoring my waist measurement at the moment, as the FBA will add extra at the waist.
  3. Place tissue paper over the pattern and hold it in place with weights or tape. Trace the size you have just chosen.
  4. Use a ruler to trace grainline markings and darts to ensure they are nice and straight.
  5. Mark the stitching lines. This is SUPER important so don’t skip this step! Use your ruler or tape-measure to make marks 5/8″ or 1.5cm inside the pattern, and join them up with a ruler/french-curve or freehand.
  6. Cut out your traced pattern.
  7. Pin the shoulder and side-seams together, and darts/gathers at the seam allowance. Now you need to carefully try it on and measure how much you need to add at the bust.

    Anna FBA part 2

  8. While you are wearing the tissue bodice you need to mark your bust point; this is the fullest part of your bust/nipple area.
  9. Before we can do the FBA, we need to get rid of the sleeve. Draw a line from the side-seam (before it curves out) straight up to the shoulder. Cut along the line and put this piece in a safe place.
  10. With a ruler draw some lines from the bust point to
    a) the waist seam (parallel to the centre-front fold). I made sure mine was in between the two gathers.
    b) the shoulder seam
    c) two-thirds up from the underarm (armhole)
    d) just under the underarm
  11. Cut along these lines, stopping at the stitching line you drew in step 5. This keeps the stitching line of the shoulder the same length so it will still match the back shoulders. (I left the underarm line intact for a few steps)
  12. Place some tissue paper under the pattern and start to spread the slashes.
  13. Do you remember how much you needed to add? Spread the shoulder slash until it is half this distance away from the bust point, and tape in place.
  14. Now spread the armhole slash the rest of the distance and tape down onto the tissue paper.
  15. Now cut the underarm line and slash until the pattern lies parallel with the centre-front piece. Slash the centre front piece horizontally and spread down until the waistlines line up.

    If you want to sew up a side dart, you can tape everything down and skip ahead to part 4. I didn’t want to spoil the lines of the bodice with a side dart, so I rotated the dart out into the waist gathers.

    Anna FBA part 3

  16. Before we can rotate the dart, we need to move the gather/pleat to underneath the bust point. Cut a box around the pleat and move it across.
  17. Position the pleat so the bust point is directly above the centre of the pleat. Tape in place and fill in the gap with tissue.
  18. Cut up the pleat to the bust point (following the original cut lines). Spread this cut and half close the underarm dart (we are going to share the fullness between both pleats). Tape extra tissue in place.
  19. Cut along the top of the underarm dart, extending to above the second pleat, and then down between the pleat markings.
  20. Fully close the underarm dart and tape tissue in place.
  21. Now draw on the cutting and stitching lines to fill the gaps on the added tissue.
  22. When you get to the pleats, fold the pleats together and mark the lines on the under layers at the fold. Use a pen for this as you need the marks to bleed through the tissue.
  23. Join the dots using a ruler.

    Nearly there…

    Anna FBA part 4

  24. The FBA is now done. Make sure all the layers are taped down securely. You might want to trim away the excess tissue paper layers on the back.
  25. Now we need to add the sleeve piece we removed in step 9. Carefully join the stitching lines (in red) and tape in place.
  26. Fill in the hole with more tissue and tape. There! We have finished the adjustments!
  27. Check the fit by pinning the front and back bodice pieces, making sure you have pinned the pleats and darts closed. My waist was a bit snug so I redrew the pleat markings a little closer together. If your waist is too big, you could easily extend the pleats to nip in the waist some more.

And we are done! It sounds like a lot of stages, but it really does make difference to the fit around the neckline and shoulders. Before you cut into your yummy fabric, it is a great idea to make a muslin in cheap cotton (or similar weight to your fashion fabric). My fabric for the sew-along was only £1.50pm (it has a tiny fault every 75cm) and I got plenty so I am going to make a wearable muslin of the whole dress.

I really hope this is useful. If there are any questions or if anything isn’t clear, please ask in the comments below and I can try and explain.

Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) tips

The sun is out and I am so tempted to push another Sewaholic Cambie to the top of my to-sew list. It is a really great pattern but gave me a few fitting headaches so, at the request of someone at the big blog meet-up (I can’t match names to all the faces), here is how I did a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) on the bodice.

This method is based on Fit For Real People Y adjustment (for adding more than 1.5″) but needed some thought due to the lack of side-darts and shoulder-seams. Before you start you need to know how much to add to your pattern. I hold up the pattern on my body with the side-seam aligned, and measure the gap at the front. Or you could compare your high bust and full bust measurements (remembering to halve this number to get the amount to add to each side). For easy maths I’m going to say I need to add 2″ to the pattern at the bust (there is 4″ difference between my full and high bust) which is why I am using this Y method.


  1. Trace your pattern onto tissue paper or tracing paper (or greaseproof paper if you are desperate). Transfer all the markings clearly.
  2. Imagine where the shoulder straps will be. With a ruler draw 3 lines from the point of the bust dart:  one to the centre of the “shoulder”, one to the underarm (just past the point where the straps meet the bodice), and one to divide the dart in half.
  3. Mark the stitching lines on the pattern. This is very important, so you don’t distort the final shape.seam line
  4. Cut along the line through the dart to the shoulder, stopping at the stitch-line you just drew. Spread the pattern half the amount needed at the bust point (in my example, I need to add 2″ in total, so here I am spreading the pattern by 1″). Lightly tape this in place.
  5. Cut along the line from the dart point to the stitching line of the underarm. Spread this part by the same amount (another 1″ here).
  6. Carefully secure the pattern onto another sheet of tissue paper (I use coloured tissue saved from presents). Make sure the pattern is smooth and flat before you tape it down.
  7. Draw a line at the bottom of the bodice at right angles with the fold line. Cut this line.
  8. Lengthen the centre of the bodice until the bottom is level with the side piece. Tape this in place, making sure that the fold/grain line is straight.
  9. Hold the pattern on your body to measure your bust point/apex and mark this on the pattern.
  10. Draw a circle around the bust apex to mark where the dart will end. If you are full chested this should be further away than most patterns suggest; I always have to do trial-and-error but on me it looks best being approx 1″. Redraw the dart legs, making sure the centre of the dart is on the grainline.FBA

So now you have a dart that is big enough to fit your body. However on this pattern there isn’t a side dart to share the fullness. My first dress needed a lot of careful pressing to avoid looking like an 80s Madonna pointy bra.dartsI divided the fullness into a few darts so that they would all be smaller and less pointy. The picture below shows how I did it, however after wearing my Cambie I think I’d  lower the central dart a bit more.dart fullnessIt has taken me a lot of tweaking to get this dress to fit how I wanted so I hope this helps you with your fitting; if anything isn’t clear or you have any questions please ask and I’ll try my best to answer them.

How to… make thread chains

Don’t you just hate it when you are walking and can feel your lining and skirt sliding and twisting around in different directions? It is super irritating, but it can be fixed in a few easy steps..

I make a chain to join the lining to the skirt at the side seams (and maybe front and back seams if you have these, depending on skirt fullness). Easy peasy, and it stops your lining sliding too much – an inch or so is a good length to allow some movement, but not too much.

p.s. for all those keen eyes, yes that is navy thread on a black garment. I did it *cough* deliberately to highlight the specks of blue in the print, and not at all because it looked black when I was sewing in the evening and by the time I noticed it this morning I’d done too much to unpick it all. Deliberate style choice, totally intentional.

How to… crochet loops

Crochet loops? But isn’t all crochet made up of loops?


I made a blanket square with a fluffy sheep and learned how to do loop stitch.

It looks tricky, but is pretty easy when you get the hang of it. Here’s how you do it:

1. Start with a row of single/double crochet (whichever you call it)

2. Insert hook in a sc/dc of the previous row.

3. Wrap yarn around your finger to make a loop.

4. Insert hook into the loop. image

5. Pull the two strands of the loop through (there should be three loops on your hook)

6. Wrap yarn around hook…

7…. and pull through all three loops.

8. Remove your finger from the loop and admire your loop stitch.

The loops are made on the side away from you – if you are crocheting in lines, you’ll need to alternate with plain rows.

Wasn’t that easy? Now you can make your own fluffy sheep!

A is for… (or How to Start Designing Your Own Crochet)

I crocheted a letter A, thinking I was going to applique it onto a square for my blanket. However I then remembered that the best thing about crochet is that you can crochet everything together, without the need for needles.

From A to…?

So I decided to design my own pattern to go from A to a square. Here is what I did:

1. Draw around the crocheted motif on squared or graph paper (I used a page in a French exercise book that is a cross between lines and graph paper)


2. Draw the final shape around your motif.

3. Calculate how many stitches your final row will have. I measured the line I had drawn with the crochet on the motif, and counted how many stitches filled the space between important points (and checked they all added up to the same edge length.


4. Play around with filling the blank space, using different length lines for different stitches. i drew little dashes for every stitch I knew I needed to have, changing them into specific stitches as I went along. I drew each round in a different colour.

Plan then crochet (sorry for the horrible picture)

5. Crochet your design, noting down exactly how many stitches used if different from what was planned (use your drawing as a guide, not a strict rule if it isn’t quite right).

6. Does it look right? If not, just unravel and try again, repeating steps (3) 4 and 5 until you are happy with the final result.

A is for…

Do you like the *ahem* deliberate decision to have 2 colours in the final row? I might actually make a deliberate decision to do this on a future square!