sewing small talk: full bust adjustment

Have you ever done a full bust adjustment, or FBA, to a sewing pattern? Many of our patterns provide separate pattern pieces for different cup sizes, but sometimes we can’t provide them due to space restraints. In those instances we provide instructions for doing it yourself.

Have you even done a FBA?

So we’re wondering: Have you ever attempted a full bust adjustment, either using our instructions or someone else’s?

If you have, how did it go? And if not, what’s stopped you? We’d love to know.




  1. Laura

    I have not done an FBA, but I do a small bust adjustment on almost every pattern I try. I am not always sure I am doing it correctly. For instance, with the image you showed with the raglan sleeve, I woul not have known to slice in from the neck rather than the side. However, I see it as a puzzle that I get to try to figure out; and it is amazing when I end up with something that actually fits me.

  2. Lyn

    I’d love to learn about BAs for the smaller busted and how and when to tell if one is needed. There seems to be a lot of tuts for the larger girls. My high bust is 30″ and bust 32.5″, I have a narrow upper torso and narrow shoulders and never know if I should do a BA or not. Avoiding making fitted tops and dresses has been my method so far. I’ve just done a narrow shoulder adjustment on a muslin but really want to learn to fit my upper torso properly.

    I’m looking forward to sewing the side seams on the Cinema dress I’m making to see if it fits, psyching up to the long topstitch/edgestitch on the princess seams today.

  3. Penny Hammack

    I used to do a FBA on every dress or top that I made. I wore a DD bra and was seldom able to find readymade garments that fit. I used a combination of the cut and spread shown above and the pivot and slide method. It was also necessary for me to add length to the front as well additional length front and back because I’m long waisted. Then in 2004 I had breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. I’m now happily flat chested and, thanks to other physical problems, wear mostly tent type jumpers. At age 79 I’m still making almost all my clothes.

  4. Alex

    Im a large chested women but quite narrow in the waist. The difference between the two measurments is so extreme. I watch the tutorials and feel over whelmed when i go to the pattern , then never complete it. This has lead me to only make baggy tops and dresses

  5. Verna

    I used the FBA on the Weekend Getaway pattern and it turned out beautifully. It was explained very well and that made it very easy to do.

  6. Wanda Teegarden

    I currently have two patterns that are not the normal. One is a Komono sleeve and the other has a front yolk with front seam lines that end at the yolk. How do I do a FBA for those types of patterns?

  7. Katy nelson

    I’ve tried a fba so many times, been to courses, had a one to one session with a dress maker you name it. It has never worked. I wear a (wait for it) 32j bra. I have tiny shoulders and ribs but massive honking boobs. Trying to add 4 or 5 “ to a busy dart just looks crazy.

    Then I had a revelation that off the peg clothes don’t fit so i’ll Just make clothes with a similar fit issue. I love sewing for me and the idea that it had to fit perfectly was really holding me back.

    That said if anyone has any wise words, please send them my way!!

    1. Yes, I’m not a J but tiny size 4-6 shoulders, back and ribcage and huge boobs. FBA always looks ridiculous and I’m sure I could do it better. Also I’m short from my shoulder to upper bust position and I need to find out how to shorten there and what that adjustment is called.

      1. Penny Hammack

        I had the same problem. You can either take a tuck to raise a horizontal dart if there is room between the armhole seam and the dart, then add the same depth below the dart. Or you can pivot the dart to make a French dart that points to your bust apex which will also make for a better fit through the rib cage. Or pivot the dart into the arms eye without increasing or decreasing the armhole seam. The main thing is to keep the arms eye intact so your sleeve will fit.

    2. G

      You May need to Split the d’art if it’s too big.

    3. Marian Cooper

      I am 4 feet 11 inches and wear a size 32GG bra.

      From library books I taught myself to pattern cut and after a year I was able to design, draft the pattern for and make my own wedding dress.

      One hint: I needed a 4 inch bust dart, but instead of having that amount of material in one bust dart, I divided it into 3 separate darts; the fit was amazing. Try it.

  8. Linda Cooke

    I have done two full bust adjustments I’m a D cup on the liesl maritime. Hardest part was waiting for my hubby to come back from a trip to help me pinpoint the apex. After that plain sailing. Great instructions.

  9. Katheryn C

    I’ve done a ton of FBAs, both with and without your instructions (which are great, btw). If you’re spreading the pattern by a lot, I’ve learned to be careful where you meet the armscye. It can get pretty wonky if you choose a spot ill-suited to the pattern, and no one wants their sleeves to start way up in their pits ;-). Don’t be afraid to play around with it or redraft the armscye back into shape if needed.

  10. Georgia

    I have been sewing for over 15 years now but haven’t perfected FBAs! I have tried quite a few courses/ tutorials, even had a go at bra-making to better understand. Still so hard! It doesn’t help that different designers and pattermakers determine size quite differently! I’d love a full bodyscan and accurate sloper to my exact measurements, not sure I can get that yet in Melbourne Australia!

    1. Lyn

      well, you’ll def get it before Tassie does 🙂

  11. Sarah

    Learnt to sew using your patterns, thank you! Interested in learning a small bust adjustment that keeps breadth in the shoulders (broad shoulders, v small bust : )

  12. Karen

    I’ve been sewing off and on for years but never did a full bust adjustment. It worked great. Usually I’m having to do all kinds of adjustments to the shoulders (too big because of choosing a larger size using my bust measurement). My bust isn’t all that big (D) but I am quite short and also apple shaped. With the full bust adjustment I used, it added width to the front waist which was great! Then I didn’t need to grade out a size at the hips.

    The only other adjustments I needed to do for the top was to raise the bust a little because I’m shorter from shoulder to bust than average, and to smooth out the change to the armscye caused by the FBA. It was a sleeveless top.

    I wish I had known about this years ago – it fixes the main fitting problem I’ve had all along.

  13. Holly Dumont

    The elephant in the room. The GIANT HONKING dart. I hate what I end up with when I do an FBA. I feel like Dior, I hate darts. I’ve even taken a pattern and made the Dior Dart!

    I want someone to make a shirt that manipulates those darn darts away from pointing at my bust. Several different ways, so I can figure out once and for all what works.

    Every pattern has straight darts. Why? They aren’t very flattering. FBA’s always leave me with gaping armholes or necklines. It doesn’t help that I have to lower the darn dart practically to my waist. That thumping you hear is me banging my head on the wall. Darts…..arggh. A sore point?

  14. Currently doing a FBA on the Bistro Dress. Since it now lowers the front bodice at the waistline, I will have to add to my dress back at the waistline, right?? Also, since it added width on the dress front (which is fine by me) how do I adjust the dress back so that my side seams are actually at my sides? I have made FBA’s on shirts before, just not a dress.

  15. Tami

    Liesl, I have watched your Creativebug video about bust adjustments and have poured over library books about it. I purchased Lisette pattern B 6482 and am trying to figure out how to apply those full bust alteration principles to it (the bodice of this dress has raglan sleeves and a bodice gathered into the waist band). Your diagrams of #1-4 look like you are altering a raglan sleeve too but it has no directions with it. Help!

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