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Buying pattern sizes that fit

KraftyKandi | Posted in General Discussion on

I’ve read all my books, researched this sites archives, but would like to get your advice…and I thought others out there might share some of my confusion.

I have a rather large bust for my frame (no HATERS! It takes a lot of “origami” to get these puppies in a bra!). Do you buy blouse and dress patterns using your bust size measurements? I’m a 40″, therefore a pattern size 16 or 18, but I wear a size 2 in store-bought clothes for pants and skirts (remember – no HATERS – this is not my fault, no special diet, doesn’t look as good as it sounds!). I end up spending all my time adjusting the pattern pieces that follow under the bust to get some sort of fit without looking like I’m in a sack. And yes, I do adjust the pattern (or buy a matching one in a smaller size) to cut the pieces below smaller so that I don’t waste fabric.

Am I buying the right size patterns (16-18)?


  1. meg | | #1

    You might be better off purchasing a smaller sized pattern and learning how to do the FBA (full bust adjustment).  Surely someone with your similar situation will chime in and help out!

  2. sewelegant | | #2

    This addresses how to buy a pattern that fits your neck and shoulders


    1. User avater
      KraftyKandi | | #5

      Thank you for sharing the link - I tried, but couldn't get the reply to print. You pointed me in a direction that will help me, though!

  3. sewluving | | #3

    I have found the same information regarding fitting by the shoulders as Sewelegant.  However, my information and using pivoting etc is in a book I have just picked up at our local library.  It is by Nancy Zieman and is called Pattern Fitting with Confidence and was written in 2008 or 2009.  It uses this same concept.  I will now try and make something.  However, I have mostly size 16 or 18 and higher patterns but I measure for a size 12 using this new theory.  I like the sound of a size 12 pattern.  :) My bust is 41.5 but I'm also 64 and have that middle age oops old age spread so the rest of me is also a size 16 using waist/hip etc measurements.  LOL

    Hope this info helps.  I do like the way this new book works and am going to buy it from the bookstore when I return this one to the library.

    Heather in Calgary

    1. User avater
      KraftyKandi | | #4

      Thank you Heather! I was hoping you'd respond and you did. I'm going to go to our library today, and if that book isn't there, I'm going to see if I can find it at a book store. I've bought about 4 books on serging and sewing, and all I get is confused (easy for me to do anyway), so I keep making the same mistakes.And, I too, have developed the "age" spread, or "readjustment", where things aren't where they used to be!Since math isn't my strong point, the FBA gets me a little confused. And using a muslin to get the fit right beforehand has been a little beyond my understanding abilities, too (most of my age spread has been in the brain, only I think that means "age shrinking").

  4. Teaf5 | | #6

    I'm a similar shape and size, and I routinely use a multi-size pattern so that I can use a size 12 back, and size 14 lower front and a FBA, lowered bust point and reduced shoulder width for the bodice--in other words, I completely revise the pattern according to a completed piece that fits well.

    That said, for someone with a small frame/large bust, certain styles work much better in woven fabrics.  Tops that have an empire seam (horizontal seam under the bust) with gathers above and darting or piecing in the lower bodice work far better than topss with side seam darts only.  Vertical darts are essential, and I often add pairs of them in front and in back to take up underbust fullness.

    Some patterns that have worked well for me include McCalls 5522, Simpl.4586, 8468,& 3785; Vogue 8182, and Butterick 5316.  Let us know of any you find that work for you.

    1. User avater
      KraftyKandi | | #8

      I just checked the patterns you suggested online - and absolute love ALL of them. Those are exactly my style - I don't know why I passed them up when I was browsing the catalogs (silly me). Thank you so much for the ideas. These actually will be easier than the ones I've been "trying" to make and I can't wait to start. (Getting keys, going to Joanns) I'll let you know how it goes - have a happy day!

      1. Teaf5 | | #9

        I'm glad that someone will get some use out of those patterns; it's my final week of summer break, and I didn't sew a THING this summer!  Ah, well, that's what rainy winter days are good for, right?

        Be sure to let us know how your garments turn out--and post photos?  Sometimes, we just need a little inspiration to push us to more productivity!

        1. User avater
          KraftyKandi | | #10

          Will do! My lovely daughter helped me to put our picture on my profile page now, so I hope I learned enough to put my own photos up next time (if I'm not too embarrassed!)And I never wish "rainy days" on anyone (except sewers and crafters!) Enjoy :)

          1. Teaf5 | | #11

            You can always shoot a photo from the shoulders down, preserving dignity and privacy, or have someone else model the garment.

            Go ahead and wish for rain--in our drought-plagued area, a long series of rainy days would be a blessing for everyone, not just distracted hobbyists!

          2. User avater
            KraftyKandi | | #12

            Oops - I didn't mean I'd be embarrassed due to modesty (hehe), I meant I'd be too embarrassed to post MY finished projects, because there are SO MANY talented "posters" on this site! I'd look like a pre-schooler compared to most of the pictures I've seen ... I'm honored to even be able to ask for advice from this group - you included! Thank you everyone...And, OK - I do wish you rain over there, for everyone...and if you could send some to me in So. California, we'd all be very appreciative too!

            Edited 8/13/2009 10:45 am ET by KraftyKandi

          3. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #14

            NEVER be embarrassed to post your projects!!!!!!!!! Never, ever ever!!!! We all love to see them. No matter your skill level. We all had to start somewhere. You are proud of your work, and the progress you make as you learn. Each project shows that. Each project is an accomplishment that should be shown off! Please post them. It is a joy to see them for us as much as it is a joy for you to show them. Cathy

          4. User avater
            KraftyKandi | | #15

            Thanks ThreadKoe! You gave me a little "lift" of confidence...I just ordered the Threads 4-part DVD "Fitting" series and can't wait until it arrives. I watched the "intro's" on this website and learned so much just from watching them! NOW I understand why "shoulder slope" is so important - I had my daughter mark one for me and am starting to apply the principal to the patterns I have to "try" it out. I don't think I'll cut fabric quite yet until I watch the DVD's. I'll give everyone a "review" once they're here...The DVD's and the book by Nancy Zieman "Pattern Fitting with Confidence" (as suggested by Sewluving), as well as the book "Fit for Real People" by Pati Palmer & Marta Alto, have also been extremely helpful. When I put out the question for this topic, I was having so much trouble fitting to my new size, and the responses from you and the more experienced sewers helped me immensely! Thank you so much...

          5. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #16

            It is always easier to fit someone else, rather than yourself. It is easier to see the whole and you are less emotionally involved. Don't get discouraged, and don't give up. It is really easy to get too picky. One saying that has been going around here is..." It won't be noticed on a galloping horse." Each project is a step in the right direction, and the next one will be better with practice. The first shots at the moon were not perfect, but they eventually made it, Right? :) Cathy

  5. judyhouston | | #7

    I strongly recommend you take a look at Silhouette Patterns. They have cup size adjustments and Peggy Sagers is the best!! You might also want to check out her video on fitting using a muslin. I took a jacket fitting class from her and she starts with the bust measurement. Other stuff is much easier to adjust.

  6. From my Stash.... | | #13

    You've received excellent suggestions on the books and on Peggy Sager's patterns.  I really like Peggy's patterns since they address this problem head on and work for both those who are more generously endowed and those less endowed than the average.

    The comments re the fitting the patterns to the shoulders, neckline and torso in the smaller size and adjusting for the bust size is correct.

    I saw the difference in action in one of Sandra Betzina's sewing classes whereby she had a jacket pattern made up in each size of the range of the pattern and then fitted each participant. Frequently the women would self-select the larger size based on experience and as Sandra began making the various fitting changes, they were asked to try on the smaller sizes which Sandra then fitted. The number of adjustments needed using the smaller size were fewer and easier than those needed for the size based on the bust size. (And the neckline, shoulder lengths and widths, etc all fit with no changes).

    If you already have a multi-size pattern, you can try this out by tracing the smaller size pattern onto tissue and then making the adjustments to the tissue for the full bust adjustment.  Then you can make any final adjustments to a muslin before committing to your fashion fabric.

    Good luck with this.


  7. Ckbklady | | #17

    Hi there,

    I thought I'd add a thought. Yes, I would buy blouse patterns by the bust measurement, but only because that's what I've always heard we should do. But, I'm not as endowed as you (oh, well) so I also can't say I've had much experience with it. (What I can tell you is that in the Vogue designer patterns, when they say "no provision for above-waist adjustment", they're not kidding. I've wasted some good fabric over the years trying and failing to take in the slack around my collarbones because of my boniness.)

    Having said that, there are a couple of books I could recommend that may help:

    FIT FOR REAL PEOPLE by Pati Palmer & Marta Alto


    Both books have been in print for some time. Your library should have both for you to test-drive. I like them both because they are completely realistic and use actual models of all shapes and sizes (with lots of photos and line drawings) to demonstrate customizing the fitting of all parts of a pattern (which both books reminds us is what we're really doing, rather than "fixing" the fit). They have helped me make great coats and shirts over the years (and Pati Palmer has other books in a similar vein on customizing jackets and pants patterns).

    I've seen all three ladies in person at sewing shows and can say that they are warmhearted and friendly and hugely encouraging. You'll get that from their books too. They make it fun to be unique! Hope that's good food for thought.

    Happy sewing!


    1. User avater
      KraftyKandi | | #18

      How coincidental - I just bought the book "Fit For Real People" on the suggestion from another poster on this site...it's really been helpful! Glad to know that Pati Palmer is so nice in person - I love how encouraging the book is written. Thanks for your input!

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