October 21, 2015

Appleton Sewalong Day 2: Small Bust Adjustment

Okay small-busted friends, it’s our turn to have to modify patterns with a Small Bust Adjustment! Our FBA-on-every darn-pattern friends get a break. Fair warning, today’s post is long and filled with pictures, but I hope it helps you get a perfectly fitted Appleton Dress! As you saw in the last post on preparing your fabric and pattern, my waist and hip measurements put me in the size 12, but my bust measurement is 37″…3″ too small. Because I want a little more coverage up top, I’m going to take out 1.5″ instead of the full 3″.

Let’s get started! First step, hold your pattern piece for the front wrap up to your body and mark the approximate point of your bust apex, the fullest part of your bust. Draw a line (shown in blue below) straight down from this point, parallel with the grainline, past the waistline. Also, draw in the seam allowance on the arm hole.


Next, draw a line from the bust apex to roughly the middle of your arm hole (shown in green below). This will be at about a 135 degree angle from the vertical line you drew. IMG_7564

Our final line is drawn from the apex straight out to the side seam, perpendicular to the blue line and 45 degrees off of the green line (shown in orange below).

IMG_7567Now cut the bodice off of the skirt at the waistline. We’ll reattach this later, have no fear, but the bodice is much easier to manipulate when it is separated. Set the skirt aside for now. IMG_7577

Draw one more line, parallel to the waistline a few inches up. This is just a helpful reference line later on.

Carefully cut straight up along the blue line to the apex. Turn and cut along the green line just to the seam allowance line. Do NOT cut through the seam allowance line.


Very carefully, snip the seam allowance in line with the green line just to the outside edge of the line. The bodice should still be in one piece, connected just barely by the seam allowance line. If you cut too far, just tape it back together and try again!

IMG_7584Finally, cut along the orange line to, but not through, the bust apex. Again, everything will still be all connected, but just barely. IMG_7586

This is what your cuts will leave you with. You can’t see the cut in the seam allowance because it allows the other pieces to swing, but you’ll see it in the next few steps.

IMG_7587Draw a line parallel to your blue line at a distance of half the amount you want to remove. Remember, I want to remove 1.5″ from the bust, so I’m drawing a line 3/4″ from the blue line in towards the center line of the bodice. IMG_7588

Slide your bust apex over carefully until it reaches this line, keeping the cuts that were the blue and orange line perpendicular to one another. Line the blue line up with your new line all the way down. Tape your bust apex in place.

IMG_7590Now, our side of our bodice is too short, and since we don’t want to lose length in the bodice, we are going to cut along that reference line we drew earlier, and bring the bottom portion of the bodice back down to the waistline. Tape all these pieces in place. IMG_7594

Now, reattach your bodice to the skirt, lining up the front wrap edges rather than the side seam edges. We’ve got all sorts of weird gaps at this point, so tape some scrap paper underneath, makin sure it spans all the gaps. Using a French curve, we are going to re-draw the side seam now. Keep in mind that depending on how much you smooth this curve, you’ll be adding back in some ease to the bust. Try to keep the smoothing mostly below the apex of the bust. Your smoothing will look different depending on the location of your bust apex and how much ease you needed to remove.

IMG_7598The end goal is to have a smooth curve that meets back at the original waistline, as we’re not trying to remove ease from the waist in this modification. IMG_7599

Transfer the side seam dart out to your new seamline. Repeat the smoothing process with your arm hole if necessary, and cut away any excess paper.

IMG_7602Here’s my finished bodice, ready to be cut out!  IMG_7606 Hooray! You did it! Knit wrap dress SBA complete! Come back on Friday to cut out your fabric and get all ready to sew!


15 thoughts on “Appleton Sewalong Day 2: Small Bust Adjustment

  1. Mary says:

    Awesome! Thanks for posting this.

  2. Whatevname says:

    So cool! Thank you so much for all the pics.

  3. Rachelle says:

    Is this the only alteration that will be demonstrated? I ask because the waist is going to be way too short for me. The pattern waist line is abou 3 inches above my own waist. I’ve noticed in photos of people that have made it, the waist ties appear very close to the bust almost in an “empire like” style. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hi Rachelle – we’re not doing a full “lengthening the waist” tutorial, but you can certainly do that on this pattern, by cutting at the waistline marked on the pattern and adding in the length that you need. Also just to note that the dress is designed for the ties to be at the “high waist” where many women are smallest which is on the rib cage, under the bust, as opposed to halfway between your bust and hips.

      1. Thanks for the reply. Thinking about this kept me awake last night!

    2. Does the pattern have a lengthen/shorten line? (I’m still sitting on fence about getting it myself as I’m not sure I’d wear a wrap dress, hence me stalking this sew a long to help me make my mind up).
      If so, there are lots of tutorials out there that should help you add the length you need, such as this one https://eword10.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/a-beginners-tutorial-to-lengthening-a-bodice/

      1. Hi! Yes, it has the waistline and a skirt level lengthen/shorten line marked on the pattern

        1. See, Jenny and her drafter know their stuff Rachelle, so it should be a fairly easy adjustment.

          1. I’m sure that Jenny and her drafter know there stuff but if you look at the pattern and add length at the waistline, the tie will remain in the same place. For it not to look like a empire waist tie, the length has to be added above the waist to the point that the waist marked on the pattern will wind up in the proper spot me or anything sewer for that matter. The correct lengthening needs to be such that the left and right upper fronts would be longer necessitating the lengthening of the bands as well and the upper back to match.

  4. Oh it makes such a refreshing change to see a SBA on a sew a long! I absolutely don’t need it, but read it anyway out of curiosity and it looked very clear.

  5. Rose says:

    I’ve done so many FBA that I amazed that I’m now doing a SBA! After 4 unsuccessful muslins for a wrap dress with different patterns, I’m trying this one. I’m hoping that it will work. We’ll see soon.

  6. Sarah says:

    I just ordered your pattern and am excited to sew it up for some friends and family but I’m hoping I’ll be able to make it for myself even though I’m not in your size range. Do you have any advice for sizing down? I hate doing FBA and your pattern seems so perfect I hope I can make it work for me. I’m measuring 37bust, 28 waist and 40 hip right now and usually wear a 32DDD american size bra. Thank you again for making such an awesome pattern line!!

    1. Hi Sarah – we won’t be doing a full “grading down” tutorial but given you’re not far off the 12, I’d do the small bust adjustment to take the 12 C/D down, and then I’d draw a line inside the 12 waist and hip line, to effectively make it the 10 that you’d need. You can just continue the grading in from the 12. You only need to do the front and back wrap – you’ll be fine with the 12 in everything else. Hope this helps!

      1. Sarah says:

        Thank you! I can’t wait to get started now!

  7. Grace says:

    I’m an FBA veteran, but I’d like to suggest that when truing up that armhole one should turn the armhole curve 180 degrees from what is shown in this tutorial so that the roundest part is at the bottom of the armhole. It doesn’t look like the modified armhole has enough of a “hook” and needs be scooped out a bit where the SA was clipped. Conversely, when I make my FBAs I usually end up filling in the armhole curve because the FBA distorts the armhole too much and doesn’t account for the increased volume in that area. When you have a smaller bust, there is usually less volume in the across-chest area.

Let me know what you think!