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FBA, bigger dart, or grade the pattern?

kbalinski | Posted in Fitting on

Ladies, I need some advice in regards to fitting this pattern correctly.

I’m preparing to make this jacket (view C), and am trying to wrap my brain around the measurements and the correct fit.  I *know* I should just make a muslin and go from there, but I *hate* making muslins.  So, maybe you can give me a recommendation before so I can decide which path to take. 

I’ve checked the Pattern Review website, and thankfully, the single review on this pattern answered the biggest part of my question about the FBA! Yay!

It’s a princess seam, so according to “Fast Fit” by Sandra Betzina, it’s best to cut across the side front perpendicular to the grainline (which should be vertical, but isn’t because it is cut on the bias) stopping an inch below the armhole, and spreading it open 1/2″ for every cup size beyond a B. This makes sense to increase the cup size, but I’m still confused about which size to cut, the smaller for my bust, or the larger for my waist.

I should cut the larger, but grade all the pieces from size 16 (bustline) to 18 (waistline).  Am I right?  I’m still concerned about all those curves on the pattern pieces, though.  I’m such a chicken…

Any advice on this problem will be appreciated.  I’m prepared to do what’s right, as opposed to what’s easy.  I want the fit to be right.

Thanks from Kristine

Edited 8/16/2008 7:07 pm ET by kbalinski

Edited 8/16/2008 8:08 pm ET by kbalinski


  1. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #1

    Kristine, always choose your pattern according to the hardest part to fit, the neck, and shoulder area. If your cupsize is above a C cup, then the pattern is chosen according to the upper bust measurement rather than the full bust. I would pin fit the pattern pieces, from your size 16 to size 18 like you suggested. Try on the paper pattern and it will tell you quickly what you should do. This is between guessing and a muslin. Cathy

    1. kbalinski | | #2


      You are right, I will pin fit the tissue and see how it looks.

      So, if my high bust measurement is 38, and the envelope says that's a size 16 bust, then 16 (with a FBA) is the appropriate size to cut (in the bust)?


      1. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #3

        Yes, that is the way I would start with the pin fitting. Are you familiar with this? Cathy

        1. kbalinski | | #4

          I've been learning as I go... I always thought my body proportions matched the pattern companies, but the closer I look, and the more I sew, I'm beginning to realize that the fit could be better.  So, this pattern will be my first FBA ever.  Kind of stupid since "the twins" aren't recently acquired, huh?  I'm reaching that time in my life when having the project done isn't worthwhile unless it's done correctly.  I think it's called getting old... er, uh, I mean, growing up.

          When the kids go to bed, I'll cut the pattern, open up the 1/2" needed for the FBA on the front and back pieces, then mark the seam allowances grading from the 16 at the bust to the 18 at the waist, pin it all together, and see how it fits.

          I think liposuction is actually the easiest remedy to this issue.  Where are my magical M&M's at tonite? Oh wait, that's the opposite of solving the problem...


          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #5

            I would approach it slightly differently. I would cut out the pattern pieces, and just pin fit first before attempting any major adjustments to the pattern. Sometimes, esp with a princess seam, you will be able to go between 2 sizes easily from bust to waist. Depending on where the seam for the princess line falls, you may want to make an adjustment there. If all you need is just a tad extra in the bust area, you may be able to accommodate it by just reshaping the curves and seam allowance in just the bust area. You should also look at this time to make sure that Your bust apex matches the pattern bust apex. Larger cups often need to be dropped a little. Darned Gravity. If all you need is to let a little out to bring it up a cup size, you may be able to just tweak the seam allowances in the bust area, without doing a FBA. The difference between a B & C cup is only about 1 inch each side ( 2 inches total. You have 4 seams that you can spread the difference out at, the side seam front, each half of the princess seam. 1/4 inch at each SA is 1 3/4 inch width increase right there across the whole front. As it is a jacket, depending on what you wear underneath, this may be enough. It is a place to start looking at before going full steam into something more complex. Just a thought. Cathy

          2. kbalinski | | #6

            Here are pictures of the jacket muslin.  I cut and prepared the size 18, to suit my waist's needs and tried it on.  It's correct in the waist, but the area under the armhole was too baggy.  I sewed 1/2" more seam allowance than before, grading into the already sewn stitching just above the waist.  I think this is a good fit, what do you think?  So, I'm going to continue my work with the muslin by taking in the sleeve 1/2" in the armpit, and checking the fit.  These changes are pretty close to the size 16 cutting lines, so I'm thinking when I do the real jacket, I'll grade the side seam from the 16 at the armpit to the 18 at the waist, and follow the 16 cuttings lines on everything above the armpit (sleeves & shoulders).


          3. Ralphetta | | #7

            With me, if the area under the arm is too baggy, that usually means that the shoulder seam is too far out also. I can't tell from your picture if that is a problem, be sure to check that out before you cut your fashion fabric.

          4. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #8

            Are there shoulder pads in the jacket? before you make too many more adjustments, slip a couple into your muslin and check the fit again. This will have the same effect as taking up some of the "bagginess" and remember not to over fit, or you will not be able to wear a blouse or sweater underneath. By the time you have added lining, interfacing or underlining, it does fill up the space a bit also. Take that into consideration as well. Ralphetta has a point also, check your shoulder width as well. Looking good so far, seems like you are on the right track. Cathy

            Edited 8/18/2008 8:56 pm ET by ThreadKoe

          5. kbalinski | | #9


            Yes, thanks for reminding me, there are 1/4" shoulder pads that are called for!  You're so good... I'm feeling better about it, and think I'm on the right track now.  Thanks for all your help so far, and I will keep you posted!


          6. Stillsewing | | #10

            Please what is "FBA". I went as far as reading the posts in Pattern Review and I'm still as in the dark as ever.Thanks

          7. Josefly | | #11

            Full Bust Alteration or Adjustment.

          8. Stillsewing | | #12

            Thank you very much for that. never heard the initials, or the phrase for that matter used before.

          9. Josefly | | #13

            You're very welcome. I've never done the adjustment myself, but apparently there's a very set way of making the necessary length and width changes, if you're anything greater than a B-cup (or even if you're a B-cup, when you use a smaller size pattern to fit narrow shoulders, chest, and neckline.) I think the procedure has been described in detail in several places, among them on the patternreview.com site. I wouldn't be surprised either, if there's an article somewhere in the Threads archives on the fitting technique.

          10. Stillsewing | | #14

            Fitting is a great bugbear with me as I get older. I used to be able to use size 12 Vogue patterns with just an adjustment on the hips. Now I still have the same small bust but with plenty of extra conditioning on my back and shoulders. I barely make the B cup size, but I have to use the larger sizes to get the back to fit. So while I might have to reduce the bust ... I never have to increase it. The one thing I have learned from this website is that I am not alone with these problems in fitting.

          11. Josefly | | #16

            "The one thing I have learned from this website is that I am not alone with these problems in fitting."You're sure right there! I haven't satisfactorily fitted my bodice yet, but I have issues much the same as you - my back needs a larger size. But my shoulders are so narrow, that if I use the same size pattern above-the-bust as my bust-measurement would indicate, I end up with way too much fabric. It's what keeps me from sewing much for myself. One of these days, though, I'm gonna fit myself.

          12. Stillsewing | | #18

            I agree with you. I spent yesterday helping a friend getting a pattern ready and cutting it out and it it is so much easier to have someone else to measure rather than contorting oneself in the mirror and hoping that the garment will fit. There are so many imponderables when you start, how the pattern will fit, how your chosen material will suit the pattern and yourself, and then if the style and pattern will suit you.
            I recently made a pattern that in my mind turned out as a disaster, I made it in velvet and didn't realize that by following the pattern slavishly it would become unwearable. This was for two reasons, my small bust did not fill the front and the pattern instead of having a normal facing had a full self lining. As I made this in velvet all I can see is huge lumps of material hanging from my shoulders. It was only when the jacket was finished that this became apparent. I don't understand why anything should be totally self lined in the front and then have normal silk lining in the back, so who was I to doubt them? and as I say I slavishly followed the instructions and came up with an unwearable mess.
            Anyway sorry for the outburst, it was such beautiful material and such a waste. That was positively the last Vogue pattern I'll ever use, after many many years of using only Vogue. One lives and learns! but I should think by now I wouldn't make such a glaring mistake.

          13. Josefly | | #24

            Oooh, I'm sorry about your disappointment with the velvet jacket. That must've been so frustrating, and hurt to waste the beautiful fabric. I hope you salvaged it for scraps, at least - crazy quilt pieces perhaps? Collar for another jacket? I'm overrun, though, with scraps like that.

          14. Stillsewing | | #26

            Thanks for the kind reply, like yourself I have a large bag of scraps, cutoffs call them what you may. I've just proudly got rid of the remains of one outfit last week, I made two little kilts for two teddy bears......and they turned out beautifully. Now for some patchwork with navy velvet worked into it as a theme!

          15. Josefly | | #27

            Teddy bear kilts! Cute. The first crazy-quilt I ever saw was made with pieces of velvet and other luxurious fabrics, and each randomly-shaped piece was hand-embroidered around the edges with beautifully colored threads. I was a teenager and thrilled at the sight of it - it belonged to my best high-school friend, whose mother or grandmother had made it for her, I forget which. To me it was sheer elegance. I'll bet your patchwork will be beautiful. There have been some amazing patchwork Christmas stockings shown on this forum.

          16. moira | | #17

            Glad you asked that! I was wondering too! As I've a FB I should have known!

            Edited 8/25/2008 6:47 pm ET by moira

          17. Stillsewing | | #19

            Thanks for Moira, I didn't have a clue and the answers to the origional question didn't clue me in at all.

          18. kbalinski | | #20

            Well ladies, the jacket in question is complete! After making the muslin, and seeing how big it was (even in the waist and hips), I decided to cut the 16 and add the Full Bust Adjustment according to the Sandra Betzina book, "Fast Fit".  Because it was a princess seamed jacket, the instructions had me cut a horizontal line (perpendicular to grainline) from 1" below the armpit toward the center front.  Keeping it closed at the side, I "slashed and spread" 1/2" open for my C cup adjustment.  It's 1/2" for every cup size above a B cup.  I then adjusted every front piece, including the lining, the same way.  If you need a visual, let me know, I'll photograph my paper pattern.

            Anyhow, the final product came out great, the fit is right on, and I'm so happy to have success with a new challenge... adjusting patterns!  So, thanks to anyone who helped me with this project!

            Pictures are here.

            Kristine in Michigan

          19. Stillsewing | | #21

            Fair dues to you for your perseverance you really have a terrific jacket! Well done!

          20. Gloriasews | | #22

            Wow - great job!  It's a very nice jacket that you'll wear for ages.  The diagonal side pieces are very slimming, too. 


          21. Josefly | | #23

            Very nice job. You should be able to wear it with so many things.

          22. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #25

            Bravo Kristine! Your FBA worked excellently. The jacket is very smart looking. The muslin was well worth the effort. Cathy

  2. Teaf5 | | #15

    Some good ideas so far.  Since my high bust is also 38, and I have to do a fba but have a relatively small frame, I can share my latest jacket fitting success. 

    I used a multi-sized pattern, and marked the pattern cutting lines above midpoint of the armhole to a skimpy size 16 and below the midpoint to a size 18 (even to size 20 for the front just under the armhole) for about three inches down the side, and then back to a 16 for the remainder.  I redrew the armhole to blend from the smaller to the larger size and used a sleeve from a rtw jacket that fit well--it runs in areas from size 16 to 18 or bigger.  I used the size 16 collar. 

    Somehow, it all worked out and fit well!  I did, however, end up making it a muslin as I decided I didn't like the color of the fashion fabric after all...

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