Friday, May 13, 2011

How to alter a sewing pattern for a larger cup size/bust

One of the frustrating things for me about sewing patterns is they don't usually include a way to account for a larger bust. Seems like a no-brainer, but if you're not an A or B cup, then some styles might not fit you even after you've followed the directions to a T -- and the pattern companies don't tell you that. It took me years to figure it out myself.

I wanted to make a simple, quick dress to wear to a luau-style party recently (like it?), and that's the obstacle I ran into. Any style (either a store-bought top or dress, or one you sew) where the bodice emphasizes the breasts usually doesn't fit me. The seam line that marks where the bottom of the bust should be? It goes right across the middle of mine. If I pull down the top or dress so the seam is where it should be, then I feel I'm going to fall out of the top. So I usually avoid styles like that.

The pattern I wanted to use is a good example of this kind of top, even though the halter style keeps your girls covered. Not only is the bust separate from the rest of the top, but each breast is defined:

I had made one of these tops before and extended the bottom of the bust line just a bit when cutting out the pattern, and it worked great.

But six years and two breastfed kids later, and I need more extensive alterations to make this pattern work.

First, I knew my bust measurement was bigger this time around, so I needed to cut the pattern to fit what my "new" size should be. I had already used the pattern pieces and had cut away the line showing the larger sizes, so I made a good guesstimate.

(Whenever I am making my own pattern or using another pattern as a jumping-off point, I like to use the classifieds. It has straight lines.)

I also held the pattern piece up to me and measured how many extra inches I'd need to cover the bust area. Then I added that on to my classifieds pattern.

When I was looking into how to do this, I discovered that the more-professional way to do alter a pattern for a larger cup size is to cut the pattern piece vertically and horizontally through the middle, add inches based on your measurements, then tape the pattern back together. I will try that next time.

My pattern has darts, and I ignored the pattern's lines showing where to sew the darts, because now they would be shifted. So after I cut out my fabric using my altered pattern, I held each fabric piece to me, inside out, and pinned it where the darts needed to be. Turned out I also needed to put in darts near the armholes (the fabric bunched out in that area when I held the fabric to me), which weren't shown on the original pattern.

Marking the darts myself rather than relying on the pattern worked out so well that I think I just might do darts this way from now on. The darts perfectly lined up when I pinned the outer fabric piece to the inner fabric piece (the facing):

So fear not marking your own darts.

But do fear the kitty, who likes to lie on top of things like fragile tissue-paper patterns.

Anyway, after the hard work of measuring, tracing, cutting, pinning and sewing the altered bust, I could focus on the easy part -- the skirt. The pattern I used is for a top, so I just continued extending the line of the top past the hips and cut it longer to make a dress. I cut it on the bias of the fabric (diagonally, which gives your garment a bit of stretch), so the dress' length was at the mercy of the fabric width.

A little dress (for a little work) for a little party -- and it fits pretty good, if I say so myself.