full bust adjustment no darts

HelenBlackwood Cardigan, Blackwood Sewalong, Fitting & Pattern Adjustments36 Comments

How to do a quick full bust adjustment without any darts

full bust adjustment no darts

Today will be the first post in a 2 part series on doing full bust adjustments on patterns without any darts.  For the first post, we will be covering a quick and dirty method that works well for more forgiving pattern designs and stretchy knits. It is called the ‘pivot and slide’ method. 

Works best for: A small Full Bust Adjustment, not a large one (learn the difference below)

Pros: Easy, simple, fast

Cons: Does not add length in the front (those with large busts may need extra length so the fabric doesn’t lift up in the front)

For the Blackwood Cardigan, this simple method works well. Because the pattern is designed to be open in the front and fall down the sides of the body, a small FBA works well and it is OK for most people that no length is added in the front. 

You can grab your copy of the Blackwood Cardigan here.

Do you need a full bust adjustment? The first thing we need to do is measure our high bust and our full bust. To measure the high bust, place the tape around your back, under your armpits, and across your chest ABOVE your breasts. To get your full bust, measure your bust across the fullest part of your chest. 

Next, find the bust measurement of the pattern you are working with. Choose your size based on your high bust measurement and do the following calculation:

Your full bust measurement minus the pattern bust measurement.

If the difference between the two measurements is 1-2”, you may want to try this full bust adjustment (FBA). If the difference is more than 2”,  you may want to skip this quick method and try a full-on FBA.  That said, given that we are working with knits and this pattern is designed to be open at the front, this method may work for larger busts too.  It really does involve some experimenting for the individual.

Let’s get started on our quick ‘cheater’ FBA!

You will need a large piece of paper to trace your new pattern piece onto. Lay your original pattern piece on top and then follow the instructions below.

1. Trace all the way around your pattern piece.

full bust adjustment no darts

2. Divide the difference in the bust measurements by 2. Measure that amount out from the bottom of the armscye and make a mark. For example, if I have a difference of 3” between my full bust and pattern full bust, I divide that by 2 to get 1.5” and measure 1.5” out.

full bust adjustment no darts

3. Holding the corner of the pattern in place, pivot the pattern piece out to meet the mark.

full bust adjustment no darts

4. Draw a new armscye curve.

full bust adjustment no darts

5. Holding the pattern piece in place again, pivot the pattern back again to the bottom corner meets the original traced lines.

full bust adjustment no darts

6. Draw a new side seam.

full bust adjustment no darts

7. Lift up your pattern piece and see your new added ‘wedge’. This will give you more room at the bust. Cut out your new pattern piece. Don’t forget to add in the notches!

full bust adjustment no darts

Do I need to do any adjustments to any other pieces? No! That is another bonus of this quick and dirty method. The length of the armscye has not changed drastically enough to warrant adjusting the sleeve and back side seam. Remember, this adjustment works best for small FBA’s on, so if you need to add a lot of extra room for the girls, try the full-on FBA method for a bodice without any darts.

I hope this post on doing a ‘cheater’ FBA has been helpful! Let me know if you have tried this before or any other tips you have for making this method work for you! 

About the author


Helen Wilkinson is the designer and founder of Helen's Closet Patterns. She also co-hosts the Love to Sew Podcast! Helen is obsessed with all things sewing and strives to share her passion and knowledge with the sewing community.

36 Comments on “How to do a quick full bust adjustment without any darts”

  1. adding width at the armscye is really no different than going up a size and blending back down at the hip, it also creates ‘batwings’ under the arm

    1. Thanks, Diane! I know what you mean. If you make a large adjustment using this method, wings can develop. That is why this adjustment is best for a small full bust adjustment, and has worked quite well for me.

  2. Thank you for this. No harm in having even more FBA methods under one’s belt!! I’d think if the result was ‘batwings’ (see above) then the boobies aren’t needing the space, otherwise the excess would have been used up in front?

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  5. this is a total cop-out. people who need a little FBA can just go up a size. if you need a FBA it is usually a big one–especially when you have a large ribcage to full bust difference (like 8+ inches or more).

    1. It’s true that this wont work for larger adjustments, but if you have a pattern already cut out in a certain size, you can use this method to quickly add a small amount of extra room. It’s always nice to have different tricks up your sleeve, I find!

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  7. The trouble with going up a size – the shoulder then becomes too wide and the armscye is too long. This is a great tip for the purpose of a SMALL FBA Thanks

  8. I know I’m late to the party – but I wanted to say thank you SO much for these simple comprehensive drawings. Often times there are marks and tape and bits of paper photographed by well-meaning sewists. This explanation is wonderfully clear. A visual learner sends her regards!

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  10. Very handy. Unfortunately, my raglan has a yoke and it was too much of a hassle. I decided to use a simpler pattern. Works great!

  11. I don’t know the detractors in the comments. I’m at the top of the size range of the knit dress I’m making so I can’t “simply go up a size”. I need just one inch in the bust so this method is perfect! Why go through the many step hassle of other FBA methods when you don’t need to? Learning when to apply what kind of alteration method is such a great way to up your sewing game. One size need not fit all! 😀

    1. Thanks, Leah! It is always great to have different methods in your arsenal for making adjustments, isnt it? 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  12. I am very narrow of torso and going up a size would never work for me. I am only a C cup but I need that extra and this is perfect. I use Zieman’s pivot and slide mostly but love this bump out technique for knits. Thank you so much.

  13. Oooh just about to make my first Suki Robe for myself and this looks perfect. I’m all one size aside from the bust, and the pieces are so big to work with to do a regular FBA so I reckon this is the way to go.

  14. Thanks , so much, Helen. Your diagrams and explanation are so clear and I think this will be just what I need. Perhaps a silly question: you said this works for a bodice without darts. Why wouldn’t this work for a bodice with darts? After doing this adjustment, wouldn’t you just need to extend the legs of your darts? Thank you!

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