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I feel like there is something missing from these conversations about pattern adjustments.  I understand the theory, working parts and process of a Small Bust Adjustment (SBA).  But when making a garment, one pattern piece does not act alone.  It’s just one piece of the three dimensional puzzle. In making my washi dress octopi tunic I discovered two places that required some additional adjustments.  I don’t get around alot in the garment area of the blogsphere, so maybe there are detailed discussions in this area, but I haven’t come across any in my limited meandering.  Changing one piece really does affect how it comes together with the rest of the garment.  Maybe experienced sewists just fix it along the way, not really thinking too much about it – the adjustments are not difficult and are quite logical.  But in my mind, it’s worth clarifying for posterity and thoroughness.  Here are the supplies I use:  a roll of vellum, scotch tape, clear ruler and a pencil.

Cutting mat, vellum, scotch tape, clear ruler, and pencil.

Cutting mat, vellum, scotch tape, clear ruler, and pencil.

It’s nice to have a ruled/lined cutting mat underneath too but not necessary.  I have used pattern paper that you can buy by the yard from the fabric store before, and I like the grid lines on it, but it’s thick, and hard to see through.  This vellum is thinner than that, but sturdier than commercial pattern tissue, a good compromise.

First, I take a look at the newly drafted bodice pattern piece and find the horizontal (perpendicular to the center front line) adjustment and measure how much overlap there is.  You can also line up the original pattern piece next to the new pattern with center front together and notice the new draft piece is shorter.

Side by side comparison.

Side by side comparison.

If you measure this difference, it should be equal to the amount of horizontal overlap.  In my case, that is one quarter inch.

IMG_4217 Agreed, this is not much, but if you cut your pattern without fixing this, the front pieces will come up shorter than the back.  That is annoying to fix after the fact, so I’ll fix it now.  With the washi dress you could put that quarter inch back into the bodice or back into the lower skirt. Or, you could opt to take 1/4″ out of the back.  I like a longer tunic so won’t mess with shortening the back. I am also a petite person, and think the shorter bodice will be a better fit, so opt to add the 1/4″ to the skirt.  Just think it through and do what makes the most sense for you.

Commercial patterns typically come with a line marked “lengthen or shorten here”.  Indie patterns may or may not provide this indication.  In Rae’s tutorial for the washi maxi dress she recommends lengthening by the tunic line.  I cut a tunic, so have already cut my pattern piece at the tunic line.  Therefore, there are two ways to lengthen the tunic (a) extend the bottom by 1/4 inch and redraw the curved hemline (yuck!) (b) slash the pattern just above the tunic line and add 1/4 inch there, merely redrawing the short lines on each side (Yes! This one’s for me. The time-efficient, lazy, rather-sew-than-draw-hemlines, girl).  Here are the steps to follow.

  1. Draw a line perpendicular to the center line for the skirt, about an inch above the hemline.  I like to keep the pattern piece on my ruled cutting mat to keep things straight, and use my clear ruler to line things up.  Draw your line with your pencil, and cut with your paper scissors.  (You should never, ever cut paper with your fabric shears.)IMG_4219
  2. Cut a one inch strip of your pattern paper and slip it under the slashed pattern pieces.  Use the mat to keep them lined up at the center front, separate the two pattern pieces by 1/4 inch – measure at both ends to make sure it is even.  When you are satisfied that everything is lined up, tape it down with your scotch tape.
  3. Use your clear ruler to redraw the sides where the pattern piece was extended.IMG_4227
  4. Trim as necessary with your paper scissors. And you are done!

Silly me, I began sewing my tunic without any regard for further adjustments when I discovered one more place that needed some help.  This is what I love about being a maker – always learning something new.  New skills improve the outcome of the next project.  It’s brilliant.

When you look at the SBA bodice, you will see a vertical line where the pattern piece was overlapped.  In other words the width of the original pattern piece was shortened as well.  When the slightly narrower bodice gets stitched to the skirt front you need to make one more adjustment.  This you can do on the fly, it’s very easy.  I just like to be prepared, because sewing surprises are not always the fun kind of surprises. This is what you do:

Rae’s pattern includes these adorable pleats, two on each side of center front.  When you pin the bodice to the skirt (yes, yes, you should pin, it’s true) start at the center and work your way out.  Pin at center, pin at the two pleats either side of center and when you come to the last pleats, take in any excess fabric from the skirt.  Increase the size of the last pleat on each side until you get the sides of the bodice to match the sides of the skirt and pin that too.  This will make the pleats different sizes, but it is such a minimal amount, no one will notice.  It will be our little secret. 🙂  Heads up – if you basted your pleats as the instructions indicated earlier, you will have to un-baste (hello seam ripper!) the outer pleats in order to take in the extra fabric.  Now you can finish the rest of your dress or tunic as instructed.  If you have any questions, let me know.  I’ll try my best to answer them!

I suppose you might like to see the finished octopi tunic on me…

2015-02-24 I wore it to my quilt guild meeting.  We are the East Bay Modern Quilters.  So fun!  Now that the tunic is done, I have my sights set on some knits – leggings perhaps?  (yes, daring) and a cardi.  Looking forward to sharing with you.

xo MamaCat

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I bought this delightful octopus fabric to make myself a tunic.  It is from Cotton+Steel and it is their cotton lawn substrate.  At first the fabric seemed very stiff and little bit heavy for a lawn, but after I pre-washed and dried it, it was soft with just enough body to it so that it didn’t feel flimsy.  Perfect for a blouse.

Cotton+Steel cotton lawn

Of course the impulse was to cut into it right away.  I love starting new projects, and was particularly eager for this fabric to arrive in the mail so I could get to it.  The grand plan being – make a lined, sleeveless Washi tunic, pattern by Rae of Made-by-Rae. You can buy her pattern and see lots of inspiration & tutorials on her website. Then that little voice inside, the one that comes from a place of logic and reason, the voice that carries wisdom and experience with it, had something to say.  Sometimes I don’t like nor agree with this voice.  Our conversation went something like this.

Me: Oh, I looove this, lets start now.  It’s prewashed and everything.

Logical me:  Um, that fabric was expensive.  Maybe you want to test a muslin first.

Me:  Naw, this pattern has plenty of ease in it.  And, the elastic shirring in the back to pull it all together – it will be fine.

Logical me: Well… have you actually looked in the mirror lately?  I mean, there’s not really much happening in the chest area (duh) and you should probably test it out.  The pattern says its made for a B cup.

Me:  [Checks all the bras in the chest of drawers.]  Humph.

Logical me:  And, ya know, that fabric wasn’t exactly cheap or anything… (yes, logical me used this argument more than once – it often works)

Me:  Dammit, I hate it when you are right.  Fine.

Sometime later…

Me:  Oh, thank goodness I did a muslin and then a small bust adjustment.  Because now, the fit is perfect.  This new blouse is going to look so gooooood. It really didn’t even take that long!

Logical me: (nothing – she’s very polite and never gloats)

Drafted bodice pattern piece.  You can see the three areas where the tissue overlaps.  This is where the pattern was reduced for a better fit.

Drafted bodice pattern piece. You can see the three areas where the tissue overlaps. This is where the pattern was reduced for a better fit.

I vowed some time ago, maybe this happens when you turn from being a kid to a real adult, to always listen to the voice of reason.  The voice of reason is almost never wrong.  Trust me, if at all possible, make yourself a muslin.  You will be so glad you went to the extra effort!  Take that button down shirt from the closet that your DH never wears, put it to some good use and cut it up for your muslin.  It’ll be fun.  🙂

P.S. I am not going to review a bust adjustment because it’s all been done before on the interwebs.  My favorite source for this type of pattern adjustment is the Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnik of Colette Patterns.  Her book not only gives step by step photos and procedure for the adjustment, but also tells you other areas you can apply this type of adjustment to.  Her book is indispensible for the home sewist and that’s a fact.  You can also find out how to do a small or large bust adjustment from Megan Nielsen  her version is nearly identical to the one in the Colette book.  Have fun sewing!

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