Sunday, April 15, 2012

FBAs in Knits - Advice for the Uber Busty

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Quick links:

This post has been a long time coming. I mean, it's pretty hard to avoid the fact that I am mostly boobs. My current bras (I have three in varying states of decay) are 36G... and they are actually too small, purchased when I weighed 20 pounds less. When I sit cross legged and bra-less... well you can imagine the rest.

When I was nursing my babies (a very difficult challenge for reasons I won't go into on the blog), one of my major personal milestones was when the baby's head would finally grow larger than my breast, and it took months. TMI? Sorry. :)


Patterns with Built-in Bust Darts

Before I proceed, I want to put something out there. I really dislike patterns that come with bust sizing. This might surprise you. I dislike them for two reasons: First, the cup size range offered usually ends at D and is nowhere near big enough to fit me. Second, the dart is completely in the wrong place. It is much easier to start from scratch and add a bust dart than to move and enlarge one. I just had to say it, because I have been told by more than one pattern designer, that their patterns "just work".

Generally these pattern designers have a petite (or regular sized) bust.


Are You Uber Busty?

My full bust measurement is 10 inches larger than my waist and 12 inches larger than my hips. So, yes, I have a unique fitting challenge. In fact, I don't consider a D, or even a DD cup, to be large. Of course, that is a large bust, but I have an uber large bust. Are you busty? Or uber busty? Once you can no longer easily buy a bra in Nordstroms without special ordering and are looking at cup sizes like G, H and I, you have entered uber busty territory.

But doesn't everyone have fitting challenges? Yes, I am quite limited in the styles I can wear up top. But isn't everyone limited in the styles they can wear? Every so often I truly yearn to wear a design that I know is totally impossible, but that is hardly unique either. When this happens, I whinge for a minute and then I remind myself that I can wear all sorts of great pants styles and move on. Women who are uber short, uber tall, uber small busted, highly asymmetric, all have fitting difficulties.

Despite this fact, I don't post tutorials on how to fit my bust. This is for a couple reasons:

  • There are many resources available that already cover this topic. My favorites are:
    • Fit for Real People, 2nd Edition, a book by Palmer/Pletsch. (The second edition describes the Y-dart.) This excellent book on fitting is often referred to as FFRP.
    • Full Busted, a DVD by Palmer/Pletsch.
    • Debbie Cook has some good tutorials on her blog, Stitches and Seams.
  • Even where I have gathered special knowledge on fitting my own bust, I am reluctant to post exactly how I deal with it. Maybe this is cowardly, but it's partly because I don't want flak about my approach being "wrong". And, every situation can vary. You have to learn the particularities of your figure — become the master of fitting your body. I am not great at fitting patterns. I am great at fitting patterns to me.

So, I tell you, I have approaches that work for me: an uber busty, but hipless wonder. My measurements are, pretty much, 50-40-38. One of the big reasons I started my blog, over two years ago, is because the uber busty is a body type that one doesn't see much, outside of porn stars or Dolly Parton, and I wanted to represent this segment of sewists.

Also, when the boobage is fake, the fit might be a challenge, but it's a slightly different challenge. Fake uber boobs are generally much higher up on the body - I always have to lower the bust point on a pattern by 2", maybe more. Women with fake uber boobs usually have slim upper arms and a strong shoulder line. I often have to enlarge the arm width on patterns, especially Style Arc or Jalie, which are drafted for a slim arm — the Palmer Pletsch book has the easy alteration for that. I also usually have to move the shoulder in by a couple inches, even on raglan styles or the shoulder "bump" is a couple inches down my sleeve. (Though I don't usually have to fiddle with the shoulder fit in Style Arc patterns, they are drafted to be much closer to my actual body. Many sewists of varying sizes comment that they love how Style Arc patterns fit through the upper chest and armscye.)


Altering a Pattern for Woven Fabrics to fit the Uber Busty

As I mentioned, there is a lot of information available on how to add a bust dart to a pattern for woven fabrics. I favor the Y-dart (covered in the Palmer Pletsch book), which is good for an uber bust. I routinely sew a size 18 or 20 (based on my upper bust measurement) in the Big 4 and add a 3" dart, for a total of 6" of width. Despite this, I always sew the darts and side seams last in a garment. This gives me an opportunity to place the dart exactly where it should go on the body — it can vary for each project. Once the dart is sewn I then pin the side seams, try the garment on, make any tweaks, and then complete the side seams — it is one of the last steps for me. So, I rarely follow the construction order given by a pattern, which usually has you sew the darts first thing. This is why my garments fit as well as they do (not that there isn't room for improvement...).

Another thing I do when altering a pattern (and I have mentioned this in several posts) is that, before adding the bust dart, I chop the pattern in half approximately at the waist. This is because my hips are so much smaller than my bust and much smaller than a size 18 pattern. Before I figured this out, the tops I made were generally tents. So I add the dart to the top half of the pattern, and then re-attach the bottom and kind of merge them together at the side seam. This can create a strange pattern shape and is another reason I always fit the side seams last in the garment - so I can tweak.

To give you a better idea of what I am talking about, in this post on the Liberty top, I show two versions that I made. The first version uses a standard FBA, extending to the hem of the garment. The resulting top has a tent-like, unflattering fit. The second top, uses my modified approach and creates a much better fitting garment. The following images are borrowed from that post:

Both versions.
Left: Size Large with standard 2" FBA. Right: Size Medium, sliced at waist, 3" Y-shaped FBA on top, bottom re-attached, and side seam merged.
Result: Much better fit through the hips.

Another way to prevent the "tent" effect, rather than chop the pattern at the waist, is to sew fisheye darts from the bust to the hem. You might be wondering why I do not make more liberal use of the fisheye dart. However, I am not a fan of this approach. It works fine if you have a relatively small belly, but I do not. This technique can work well for a conventional blouse, and I have used it once or twice in that situation, but it does not work well for the more unusual styles I favor. I mean, can you imagine the Sewing Workshop Liberty top with fisheye darts? I don't think so. If your pattern is asymmetric, or has an unusually seamed hem, a fisheye dart is not likely to work.


Altering a Pattern for Knit Fabrics to fit the Uber Busty

I know that knits intimidate many sewists, and I don't really get that. At the age of 11, in 1970, my mother (an amazing sewist and an A-cup wonder who didn't get how to fit my body at all when it suddenly exploded at age 16) signed me up to take a sewing class at a local Stretch and Sew store.

Back then, there was no such thing as lycra. Imagine that! Knits were generally cotton interlock, qiana (a nylon fabric somewhat similar to the ITY and slinky poly knits you see today, except less breathable), or wool double knits. Stretch and Sew was the bastion of cotton interlock, having built their empire on that particular form of knit, which is a very stable, but not highly stretchy, doubleknit.

So, I have been sewing with knits for a long time. It's true that they require some light handling and a good machine, but I find them to be, in most cases, a delight to sew.

While there are many resources out there for bust darts, there is much less information available that specifically deals with knits. So, how do I handle an FBA in a knit? Well, it depends.

The first question you must ask yourself is, what kind of knit are you using? Is it a stable knit with some heft to it, such as a ponte? A wool double knit? A cotton interlock? These fabrics can handle a standard dart. Though I suggest you might be happiest with a dart that extends into the armscye, rather than the side seam. It will be shorter, less visible, and give a superior fit.

These kinds of knits are easy to sew because they are beefy and stable. For a knit like this, you may want zero ease in the finished garment. In other words, if your bust is 50", you might want the finished garment to be 50": 50" (garment) - 50" (body) = 0" (ease), called zero ease. This will skim your bust without tugging at it and it can look nice. But, to be sure, find a garment in your closet, or at the store (you DO carry a tape measure in your purse, don't you???), using a similar knit that fits the way you like and measure the bust. These days, clothing is more fitted and you might find that a garment that is larger than your bust is too loose. I know I do.

Or, are you sewing one of the flimsier, floatier, highly stretchy, knits such as a rayon- (or bamboo-) lycra jersey, a mesh knit, or a a slippery ITY polyester knit? You probably will not be happy with a dart in a knit like this. It is likely to be wiggly and draw attention where you don't want it. In this sort of garment, I add the FBA, but I don't sew the dart. I convert the point of the dart to a curve, and ease the fullness in at the side seam.


Negative Ease

In a garment made from a stretchy knit, I like to use negative ease. For me, 4" of negative ease is just perfect. For a 50" bust, I would fit the final garment to be 46": 46" (garment) - 50" (body) = -4" (ease), or 4 inches of negative ease. A bit of negative ease creates a garment that gently cups the bust, and the fabric below the bust comes "in" a bit, but doesn't hug the belly. The resulting fit is very flattering. To determine the amount of negative ease that you prefer, measure a garment made from a fabric with similar stretchiness and fits the way you like.

(By the way, when the garment measurement is larger than the body measurement, that is not called "positive ease", it is just called ease. Ease comes in two forms: wearing ease and design ease. Wearing ease is how much ease do you need to comfortably wear a garment. Design ease is purely aesthetic — how much ease do you add to create the design line you want?)

For example, here is a top I made recently and posted here that has 4 inches of negative ease:


But don't forget that the amount of negative ease varies according to the stretch of the fabric. In this garment, posted in Sweatshirt Mashup - Jalie and Au Bonheur, I used a less stretchy fleece but forgot that it would need more ease. I used 4" negative ease and the result is a bit hoochie mama:


When adding a dart to a pattern for knits, I sometimes do not need much width to be added to the pattern at all because I do prefer negative ease. In this situation, I shortcut the alteration a bit. Rather than a normal FBA, which adds both width and length, I add length only: I slice the pattern horizontally at the bust point, lower the bottom part of the pattern by an inch or so, and possibly curve the outer seam at the bustline just a tad - but not too much! This adds the length I need to go up and over the bust, which you still need unless you like your front hemline to be too short.


Note: Remember, when you are adding a bust dart of any kind, that you need to add length, and not just width. This is because, your bust is a mountain and not a rainbow. (And, yes, I made this phrase up. :) )

When constructing the garment, and I am pinning the side seams, I ease the fullness in at the bust level. In other words, I start pinning from the hem so that the front and back are one to one; in the few inches at the top of the side seam, the front seam is longer than the back and I leave the fullness alone — I do not gather it. When stitching at the machine, I have one hand above the presser foot and one below, and I pull the seam so that they ease together. This is very easy because this kind of knit is stretchy. In the finished side seam, you will see slight puckering on the front side, but it works out fine on the body.


Pictures of Alterations

I have been asked for clarification of some of my pattern alterations. I pulled a few patterns and took pictures. These alterations were made on my Style Arc patterns.

Seriously, I LOVE the fit I get from Style Arc and I use these patterns as my TnT (Tried and True) patterns and transfer the fit to other (non-Style Arc) patterns. Yes, shipping from Australia is expensive, but it's the same for our Aussie sewing sisters who order from the U.S. - maybe we need to develop Aussie sewing buddies so we can buy things for each other... And, yes, these patterns come in one size only. But I find that to be a treat - to just cut out the pattern on the lines and go.


The Debra Zebra top with a Y-dart alteration. (The Y-dart is shown in Fit For Real People, 2nd edition.) I have chopped off the bottom of the pattern at the waist and reattached after the FBA is complete. I smoothed the bust dart into a curve - I do not sew it as a dart, but ease (not gather) the fullness in at the side seam. Note that I further tweak the fit in the garment stage, on my body, so this is just a starting point.


Debra Zebra sleeve with the alteration to widen the upper sleeve. This is also explained in the Fit For Real People book.


Adele top with FBA. In this case, the width of the top at the bust is correct, given that I want 4" of negative ease. However, I still need more fabric to go up and over my bust, so I add to the length only.


Breast Reduction - Yay or Nay

Every so often, someone will ask me about breast reduction surgery. Often, it is from a well meaning person who has herself had breast reduction surgery and has been very happy with the results. While that's fine, I have never seriously considered this for several reasons. One, it is expensive. Yes, it can be covered by insurance if you have back problems, but, except for a few notable times in my 20s and 30s, I have never had back problems. I stand fairly straight and my back is generally fine.

Two, I am a complete weenie about surgery. Hate it. Don't want it. Avoid it.

And three, I like my bust. Not in the "I'm proud of my huge boobage" sort of way, but in the "Yes, I have big boobs and it would be convenient if they weren't quite so large, but they very nicely hide my enormous belly" sort of way. Seriously, if I magically woke up tomorrow with a C or D cup size, all you would notice is belly, and I far prefer a dominant bust over a dominant belly.

Besides, my kids, when young, really enjoyed my natural pillows, or Wilma and Betty, as we referred to them. ;)

126 comments:

  1. Shams, this is a fabulously informative (and well written) post. I love reading your blog. You always have such well fitting garments. Thanks for sharing some of your process.

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  2. Great information Shams. I've always admired how well you fit yourself. You and Cmarie are the epitomey of a fabulous fit. Your info was well thought out and put together so anyone should be able to understand it. While I'm 'only' a D - my stomach, for some strange reason, has decided it wants to be a D also - I'd do better in tent dresses!!
    Marcia

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  3. Thanks so much, Kelley and Marcia! This post took me three hours to write, so I do hope it is useful to people!

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  4. What a great and informative post! Thanks for sharing your hardwon knowledge!

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    1. That means a lot, coming from you Carolyn! A more generous blogger I have never known. I'm sure everyone knows that you are diaryofasewingfanatic.blogspot.com - a master of manipulating the TNT pattern, and sewist extraordinaire.

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  5. A wonderful, inspirational post. There is always something 'wrong' with our bodies and accepting and working with what we have is so much healthier.

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    1. Thanks, Nancy! I just started following your blog, nancyksews.blogspot.com - not sure how I missed it before. You are one stunning lady!

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  6. Great post! I love reading about how others accomplish great fit.
    Your clothes always look stylish, comfortable and nicely fitted.

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  7. Wow. What an informative post. Even though I am not your target audience you had me at "I mean, it's pretty hard to avoid the fact that I am mostly boobs". I really did laugh out loud. Really fascinating reading. I am blown away by the variations of altering for boobage. Now you know what you have done, I am going to be walking around looking at women's chests and analyzing fit. I could be getting some strange looks for the next little while. 8-)

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    1. Thanks, ElleC! As you walk around the streets, studying boobage, be prepared to hear "Hey! My eyes are up here!" ;)

      I love your blog, ellecsews.blogspot.com, you sassy Canadian, you. ;)

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  8. Well done, shams! I am not particularly well endowed but I almost always do an FBA. I think it must be my rib cage.

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    1. Wow, Martha, I had never considered the rib cage being prominent enough to warrant an FBA. Congrats for figuring that out!

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  9. I forgot to say thank you for the info about negative ease. I am just starting on a knit top and I am certain this info will be very useful.

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  10. Thanks for sharing Shams. I wear an 18F bra so I guess that puts me in your target audience. It's always great to learn of others approach to a particular fitting problem. I've found that the older I get, the more comfortable I've become in settling into my own personal shape. It was a wonderful day when I learned about the FBA. Vive la difference!

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    1. Thanks, Pam! Yes, it's a learning process, that's for sure!

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  11. Great post, lots of great info and I appreciate your sharing these details. You have inspired to make more things with knits this past year and I am happy I followed your lead. And you are a wizard with pants - such variety.

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    1. Thanks, Beth! I love reading your blog and your impeccable sewing skills. I imagine this can be an issue with clients, though not for yourself!

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  12. Love this post! I have two thoughts:
    1. Tell us how you really feel!
    2. and, they have names!

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    1. Well, of course they have names, Mary! And, for the record, Wilma is on the left, as I look down. ;)

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  13. Shams,
    Such a timely post. I am currently on a fitting journey for a woven shirt, focusing mostly on boobage fit. You know that you are a great source of inspiration for me. As you know, I too am uber busty, with the bust 10" larger than my waist, although I've got uber hips also.

    One of the main issues I find with fit books is that they tend to stop at basically a D cup, just like the cup sized patterns. The principles are basically the same, but extrapolation is required.

    I have embarked upon my journey with my first cup sized pattern. Of course, I began with a D. What I like about this type of pattern is that is gives me a starting point closer to where I need to be, so that my FBA isn't so insane.

    Just a note about fake ubers and real ubers. I have real ubers, however, my body is more like I have fake ubers. I don't have back or side fluff to speak of - it is as though the ubers just sprang forth from my chest. My upper arms are not big, although in today's pictures I see I need to get back to the gym - they are getting 'soft'. Anyhow, it is what makes up my own challenge, but I think I am the exception to the usual trend as you so well described.

    I've got to tell you I nearly peed my pants laughing so hard. I was also able to successfully breast feed, but not without challenges. I can relate to your milestone re: baby's head size.

    Thank you for posting all of this. I so enjoy your writing, and I find it refreshing that you have such positive feelings about your body, and express them. Yes, we all have fit challenges, for sure.

    I am going to be posting a couple of pictures here shortly on my blog regarding fit. I would love your input if you have the time.

    Andrea

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    1. Hey, Andrea! Thanks so much for your comments! I just found your blog and became a follower. I love how the first picture I see on your blog is measuring the distance, on your dressform, between your twin peaks. I also love how you can identify your particular unique shape - that's the first step to learning to fit oneself!

      Glad to hear I amused you. ;) I will check back on your blog, satinbirddesigns.blogspot.com, to see if I have any fit suggestions, though I do not see myself as a fit expert.

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  14. Thanks for this post, Shams. I learned a lot and had a good giggle, as well. I had never thought of "negative ease" and what it might do to the fit of a knit. I want to come in just below the boobs and then flair out again at the waist to hide the fact that I have no waist. This should work for that purpose. Also, I like the idea of changing a bust dart on a knit to an armscye dart. Much nicer me thinks.

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    1. Thanks, Janis! I really respect your feedback, and sense of style, which is similar to my own, though we have different fit issues.

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  15. Very valuable post and thoughtfully written, Shams, especially the comparison of the hip area of the two Liberty tops vis-a-vis the FBA. I'll be using that info soon. For myself, I prefer an easy fit, not snug, but with your helpful info, your readers can get ease just the way we like.

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    1. Thanks, Carol! I always appreciate your comments and there is no way I could have written this blog post a year ago. Refining my fit and perfecting my style is an ongoing process.

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  16. I really identified with this post since I am uber busty (sigh). I was really interested in how you use negative ease in some kinds of knits since I don't - but thought it was worth a try since I like the affect of the knit moulding around the bust rather than falling flat in a shapeless kind of way.

    We are proportioned slightly differently - my waist is comparatively narrower and hips wider - so instead of highlighting my narrower body parts I try to go for balancing out the bust by adding more interest below and aiming for an overall figure 8 shape. That works for me quite well except I'm not very disciplined and often end up sewing fitted dark lower garments which gives me a more inverted triangle shape anyway!

    Overall what's important I think, is to feel at home in my own skin, no matter what its dimensions. If I start with the premise of what feels comfortable to me personally I do better off.

    Like you, surgery would be a denial of an overall acceptance of who I am but I would certainly consider it if it became a health issue.

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    1. I love your comment, Mary Nanna. It supports my comment that each of us is different, with different issues and proportions, and can learn how to work with our assets!

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    2. By the way, I have no problems with folks who have breast reduction or breast lift surgery, be it for health reasons or otherwise - no judgements. It's just not right for me. :)

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  17. Shams, I can't thank you enough for this wonderful, informative, well-written post. While my shape is different from yours, I still qualify for UB. Your hints are just wonderful and I plan to try them all. While I usually do a FBA, I often have many problems in fitting. I have never considered negative ease, due to the ripples on my back from bra and excess skin. LOL, that's how i refer to my back fat.

    Please note those of us with similiar problems admire the wonderful garments you produce that are so great fitting.

    Karendee

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    1. Thanks so much, Karendee! I can always count on your for the most gracious, most thoughtful comment, both here and on Stitcher's Guild. I love you!

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  18. Sweetheart--you are my uber boob super hero! Yours is one of the first sewing blogs I began following regularly, because of you unique figure. I think qualify as having uber bust--I don't necessarily see it in the mirror, but damn! its always there in the photos! I have a 9 inch in differnce in underbust and full bust.
    I agree, its sometimes easier to start with a pattern w/o darts and draft the dart yourself. & Different projects require different approaches. I'll have to look up that Palmer/Pletsch DVD.
    I've always sewn the dart first, like we were all taught, but next time I'll do it you way!!
    Surgery? Never. But if the boob fairy could donate a couple of my inches to a needy gal...maybe. I don't know if I'd be me without them.
    Great post!!!

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    1. Welcome, Uber Busty sister! You are exactly right that each pattern is a new project and can require a different approach. It keeps it challenging and interesting!

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  19. Great post -- and not just for the fitting info. Always love seeing what you've sewn. Karen

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    1. Thanks, Karen! I just found your blog, Mingling Yarn, and starting following. I love your style!

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  20. Shams thank you so much for explaining your alterations. I am not uber -- just a measly D cup -- but I do have to alter for this and have always wondered how you got your tops to fit so well. Now I know and I really appreciate the information you have shared with us.

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    1. Thanks, Carol! Isn't it scary to think that my 17-year-old has a larger cup size. We grow 'em big in my family. ;)

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  21. Oh, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, Sharon, for this FABU post! (Although ... whaddaya' mean by the "uber busty" crack?) :o) I'm bookmarking this, as it's so very helpful, and THANK YOU for your time in posting all this info (and all the OTHER info you post). I know what you mean ... whenever I've thought about breast reduction, I though, yeah, but then I'd be UBER HIPPY (and not in a good way). Plus, once I read that it can mask results on a mammogram, I said FORGET IT.) Annette.

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    1. I love you, Annette! I know you understand! Folks, this is Annette1 on Pattern Review! Check her out here: http://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/search.pl?search=1&ProfileID=12379&heading=all_pattern_reviews_by_Annette1

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  22. Fantastic post! Lots of great info. I've always admired the fantastic fit you achieve.

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    1. Thanks, Sew-4-Fun, though I imagine this problem is completely unknown to you. :)

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  23. Thanks for the informative post. I always feel like I'm looking at my twin and am so impressed with the fit you achieve. I struggle with FBA and bust fit and you are an inspiration. Thanks for the tips. I will keep reading your blog for continued inspiration.

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  24. What a fantastic post! I could have used the information more years ago, when I went from a very busty petite to an uber busty nursing mom (who "overshadowed" her son's head size for many months). After nursing him for FOUR years, I kinda deflated. And now I wear a 32C or 30D (coming to this from G and H territory). It's hard to keep up! I am just mentioning this in case anyone else has experienced all-over-the-map bust size and might like to know they're not alone. You have the most wonderful, unique and personal style and your shape is a part of it. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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    1. Thanks, Ripple! That is an excellent point, as I was even larger when nursing. I enjoy your blog, asewinglife.blogspot.com.

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  25. Thanks for another fantastic (and hilarious) post. I am a mere 34DD, but between that and my BFW and belly there are fitting and style challenges........ your tips have been so helpful. Your style and fabric selections are unique, interesting and look fantastic on you! I look forward to seeing each new creation. And I am soooooooooooo envious of your new loop scarf!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Sherry! Give Marita in Pacific Grove a call. She was going to have her mom knit more. Make sure you mention you want the covered rings at the end, because some of her mother's scarves did not include that and it really finishes them off. The scarf cost me $28, so it was a real deal for a hand knit.

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  26. Thanks, Shams, for talking about the elephant(s) in the room! You always do such a great job of fitting your body. I really appreciate the tips you shared.
    I thought of you today while I was doing an fba on a woven shirt pattern. I've never done one before, but I followed a Threads article written by Kathryn Brenne, and it seemed to work well. I'm a small D, so I can get away with just darts in a knit. But I noticed the woven shirt I made last summer looks like it could use a little extra room for the twins. We'll see how it goes!

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    1. Thanks, Dixie! Glad to know that the Brenne article is good. Good luck with your woven shirt!

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  27. Oh Quiana, the memories! I had an orange Quiana bodysuit shirt in the 70's (yes, wide convertible collar and all) with a snap crotch. What was the designer thinking? What was I thinking? The snap crotch kept that slippery stretchy shirt tucked in, but was a menace otherwise. If you weren't careful unsnapping, the ends would fly up like little missiles aimed at tender body parts. And trying to get it snapped back again in a bathroom stall, pulling the back end between your legs and contorting to see both ends of the snaps...oh my. I think seeing this one long-forgotten word--Quiana--has uncovered the source of my deep-seated (?!) fear of sewing slippery stretchy knits. Thanks! Elle

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    1. Oh, yes, I remember my body suits! I had several. My mother had some notable outfits from qiana, including a shell and matching palazzo pants made from a white-with-brown polka dot qiana. It was a bit... much. ;)

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  28. Thank you so much for your informative post! I admire how you are able to achieve such a great fit for your body shape. I am also on a fitting journey. I'm still trying to achieve a good fit for my body type in knits. I love to read blogs and pattern reviews for people with fitting issues. I truly admire a person that can achieve a good fit when they have major fit issues. People who achieve a good fit straight out of the pattern envelope probably don't understand the trials we have to go through to achieve a good fit.

    I would like to see how you fit your patterns. That's if you feel comfortable. I know there are others that would also like to see how you fit your body.

    Thank you

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    1. Thanks, Joyce! As I live and sew alone, I can't really take photos of the fitting process. I don't have a dressform, which would make it easier to illustrate.

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  29. Ever since I first found your blog here, it is one of the first things that I check each time I go online. I count myself in the uber-busty camp, with almost 8" difference between underbust and bust measurement. Alas, I do not have the consolation of narrow hips, and over the years the area formerly known as my waistline has done it's best to catch up with my bustline. While I still have a bit of hourglass figure from side to side, from back to front is another story entirely!

    Your information about pattern alterations is something that I am eager to try out, as my former attempts with knits looked more like your first Liberty top. I ended up putting princess seams in my knit tops, to deal with the issue; it will be great to try a different way of covering the same hills and valleys

    I am always grateful and enthused to see your works, both the technique posts and the ones about your delightful personal style

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    1. Thanks, Alison! I am happy to see you posting and hope your health continues to improve!

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  30. i have never commented here before. i have to say that i love reading your blog. i am getting back into sewing clothes and i really like hearing about the patterns you use and how you sew. another thing...and this is why i am posting now... is that i think you are a great role model ... you feel good about your body. hooray for you! i really think the world would be better if more of us liked ourselves better! thanks so much shams!

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  31. You have hit upon an unique fitting challenge that pattern companies should take up. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise, and your honesty.

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    1. Thanks, Ruth! I *love* the two striped tops you recently posted on your blog, sewruth.blogspot.com.

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  32. Fabulous information - well done - you are very clever and very generous for sharing all of this. You always look amazing in the garments you make.

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    1. Thanks, handmade! And I like your blog, handmade-andsewitseams.blogspot.com.

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  33. This is a wonderful post Shams! Although I'm not uber busty, I have fairly slim hips (very similar to my waist) and so I love seeing what you make and how you alter things. So although yes, I have noticed that you are busty, from a sewing perspective your styles and alterations are all very interesting to me too in terms of our commonalities from the waist down! I too love your body acceptance (it's something that I try to practice myself). One of the benefits of sewing for yourself is being able to tweak garments to suit our bodies, rather than trying to tweak our bodies to suit shop-bought garments! Thanks again for your wonderful blog.

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    1. Thanks, Thornberry. And you are right, it's not so much about the bust measurement in a vacuum, but how all the measurements relate to each other.

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  34. Enjoyed reading your post about being uber busty. I was just reading up on how to add a bust dart into a blouse and started reading about the FBA. Your post really emphasis the different knits and how they must be handled and what knit will take the dart and which one's won't. I always struggle with knits - and not in a good way so I enjoyed reading what you have experienced. Thanks for sharing your insights.

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    1. Thanks, sewforward. If you learn additional tips to what I have posted, please reply here!

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  35. Another great post, Shams. It reflects such a healthy body image, I think every wonman should read it, no matter the shape and condition of her boobage, waist or hips! You are realistic and frank about what you have, and do a super jop of making it work. Brava!

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    1. Thanks, Laura! Yeah, I don't mind sharing numerical data, like my age and measurements. After all, this is just my meat packaging and not who *I* am. Of course, I need to take better care of it, but it's a process!

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  36. Wondrous post Shams! I have struggled with 'F troop' for some years and have foung some of my own methods for dealing with them - but it is always wonderful to be shown someone elses methods. Thanks for being so generous!

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    1. Thanks, materiallady! Not only are we uber busty sisters but, I see from your blog, that we like many of the same patterns. 'F troop' - lol.

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  37. Shams, first time commenter here. Thank you for an informative / well written post. I struggle with FBAs and hope to get the hang of it soon. There is nothing like great fitting clothing and you always produce fantastic clothing. I really love the fact that you stress acceptance of one's figure.

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    1. Thanks, and welcome, Rosie! You can definitely learn the right FBA for your body. Start with the resources I've mentioned and remember it's a process. Like anything, the more you do it, the better you will get at it.

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  38. I so enjoyed your post. Your straightforward approach to your fitting challenges are a comfort to those of us that also struggle with them. Thanks for your courage and generosity in sharing your experience.

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    1. Thanks, Kuby! I appreciate that you faithfully read and comment on my blog! :)

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  39. Thanks for this discussion. I can see you put a great deal of time into it. Mary Lou Rankin of Park Bench patterns was at the Peninsula Wearable Arts Guild Saturday. She also said her garment patterns are designed to be put together and fitted at the side seams last thing before construction. I'm planning a Marcy Tilton jacket with V8779 and will try some of these ideas.

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    1. Wearinbeads, I am sorry I missed Mary Lou at PenWAG. I spent that day with my younger daughter, buying bras for her. She is, much to her chagrin, following in my boobular footsteps, though she's "only" a DD, but she's also only 16.

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  40. Thanks so much for this article, Shams... You are a very generous teacher and have a great way of explaining things clearly. Thank you!

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  41. You have a belly? Now I'm curious about what alteration tips you might have for that. Great article here...wish it applied to me.

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    1. Wow, I've never been asked that before, Amewsed. First of all, I avoid designs that are tightly fitted at the waist. I do have to make sure I have enough room at the side seams. For the rare design that has darts in the waist area, I either eliminate them or make fewer, or make them very small.

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  42. You give me so much inspiration in sewing. I've sewed my entire life and know the traditional ways to accomodate the uber bust but I'm feeling more liberated with your methods. I was uber busted and twelve years ago had a breast reduction. I'm happy with the results, I am merely full busted now - BUT the reduction and recovery was not a cakewalk and I would not undergo optional surgery again.

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    1. Thanks, Denise! Thanks for your perspective. I have heard that this is major surgery. Remember, I am a weenie, so I avoid any specific explanation of what is involved, but I know it's a significant procedure and not quickly recovered from. Much more serious than breast enlargement or a breast lift. (Now, a breast LIFT is something I can understand! Imagine... no more lap dusters.)

      Have fun sewing for your new figure!

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  43. Oh, and I forgot to add:

    ROOKIE!

    Signed,
    38GG (Annette again.) :o)

    P.S. I won't be commenting on my hips.

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    1. LOL. I love ya, Annette, my big boobed sister. ;)

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  44. Your sewing tips are always marvellous and so beautifully well explained Shams (not that I will be doing this alteration myself!)
    I have not tried the sapote, in fact the first time I even heard of it was when I looked it up; checking out what the name of the colour of my yarn came from! it is native to Mexico and central America, so I am surprised it has not made its way into your supermarkets :)

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    1. Thanks, Carolyn! No, I imagine this is completely foreign to you. ;)

      Interesting about the sapote. Maybe one of these days I'll run across one and have a chance to try it out. I did not see one when I visited Brazil several years ago.

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  45. I think I love you Shams! Yes I do :-) I'm uber busty and have a fear of sewing tops - especially in wovens. I think I'm ready to try again and will have your post printed out and stuck to the wall of my sewing room. You are an inspiration to me and I love your blog... even though I think this might be the first time I've commented :o)

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    1. Thanks, Claire! I wish you much success and remember, sew the darts and side seams LAST. :)

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  46. as an uber busty woman my self in the plastic surgery field i advise unless your breast are bothering you physically dont do it, just get a better bra, and thank you for the uber busted sewing complaint its not just me :D

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    1. Thanks, Cypress! I really appreciate your perspective. I am so lucky that it's not medically warranted!

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  47. So much great info here Sharon. Thanks for taking the time to share all this with us. As to the breast reduction surgery, I had a dear friend that chose to do this years ago. It was very painful to recover, she didn't look herself anymore and then, sadly, she developed and died from breast cancer a few years later. I have always thought that the surgery set loose some cells that might have stayed dormant for decades. So I'm happy you are not interested in doing that.

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    1. Thanks, Ann! You know I am a big fan of your work!

      That is very sad about your friend. And scary to think about!

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  48. Thanks for the great info here! I would call myself "occasionally uber-busty"-- I struggled with this stuff a lot when pregnant and while nursing my daughter! I'm a 32E (busty, but not uberbusty) and still nursing but when I was pregnant I was a 36G and for a while while nursing I was a 32I... anyway, I'm really glad you put this together!

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    1. Hi Mikhaela! lol, "occasionally uber busty". Yes, nursing can really do that. Also, you have a tiny waist so, on your frame, you really might be uber busty.

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  49. Sharon, I am so impressed that you took the time to write each and everyone of us a personal note. This was such an exciting post.
    I certainly love you too!

    Karendee

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    1. Thanks, Karendee! This was an experiment. To see if people liked it, or cared. It feels a bit weird to see all those comments posted by me - a little self indulgent!

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    2. It might FEEL that way to you, but it doesn't come across that way to me. I think it's especially appropriate for this blog post. Kudos to you for writing it.

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  50. From a 40G, thank you from the bottom of my heart (and boobs). Your article was super helpful. I am definitely going to bookmark this page. I live in San Mateo and hope I run into you at a sewing event.

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    1. Hey, Lozzen, thanks! Email me (address in my profile) and we can chat about local events.

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  51. Shams, as you know we have quite different body types and quite different personal styles. Nevertheless I am a devoted reader, and I think is a wonderful post - helpful and positive, as well as for your cleverness with sewing.

    Regarding surgery - I am uber-hippy, as you know, and can only IMAGINE if people suggested i should have liposuction all the time. I admire you for the restrained section on this.

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    1. I love you, Elizabeth! It is funny how oppositely we are designed. :) My youngest daughter has taught herself Swedish, and has managed to arrange to go there this summer, so I think about your Swedish connections.

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    2. xxx back atcha. We should be there in late July/August on holiday so if she's there then, happy to hook up with her if possible (I can email to let you know she's OK too). Will we EVER hear the result of the job applications? Meant to be April/May but April is almost over... Grrr...

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    3. She'll be there in July, Elizabeth. We can talk offline to see if you'll be anywhere in the vicinity. thx!

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  52. Hi Shams, I follow your blog as I am also uber-busty with similar measurements (48(20F)-35-40) - although you have smaller shoulders by far - and I learn a lot from you, especially regarding style. I so appreciate the time your take from your personal life to post these blogs

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    1. i meant 38 or 40F - 20??? ha ha ha thats my thigh measurement!

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    2. Thanks, anonymous! Wow, are measurements are very similar! It's nice to know I am not so unique. ;)

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  53. I'm definitely in the uber-busty category. I'm currently wearing a 36G, but during my nursing stage, I was wearing a 34J. I'll definitely be returning to read this entry again. I have a different set of issues (short torso, for example), but I'm sure this will help me, too. Thanks.

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    1. I'm glad it's helpful, Kimberly! My torso isn't that long either. My mother, for example, had a looong waist. I did not inherit that.

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  54. Shams, thank you for the complement! I tend to make knit tops too big and your 4" of negative ease interests me. I take it from looking at your clothing that you don't have negative ease on the bottom. My question is how do you determine how much negative ease you use. I have tried Peggy Sagers wrap around the body bit and that was a disaster both times I've tried it.

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    1. Thanks, Nancy. My best suggestion is to find a garment (from your wardrobe or the store) that is made in a knit with similar stretch and fits the way you like. Measure it at the bustline. That is really the best way. I suggest you keep a tape measure in your purse. :)

      And, no, I don't use negative ease for pants, unless it's something like leggings, made in a very stretchy fabric with lycra.

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  55. I truly enjoyed reading this post. Very informative. Though I am not "über busty" I am larger than I was years ago. So your FBA for knits was new info for me to try.

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    1. Thanks, Linda! Someone told me that she was flat until menopause and then she became very busty. I have *never* heard of that!!

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  56. Shams, I follow your posts everyday. You are amazing and I love your sewing. I am the complete opposite in body type from you. I am so small on top compared to my shoulders - hips, I had one customer service rep for a well known clothing company suggest maybe I could be fitted in clothing better if I had breast implants! Oh well, I am now way to old for that, so I just read and learn from you wonderful bloggers that share your knowledge in fit issues. Thanks again.

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    1. Sheesh, people like to give unsolicited advice. Your frame can support so many wonderful things, like huge scarves, and all sorts of embellishments at the bustline. It sounds fun to me!

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  57. Shams, thank you for this post. I especially like seeing how you change a bust dart from a traditional side dart to a curve - and your pictures help me understand your process. I've been hesitant to cut out a Western style chambray shirt because it doesn't use my usually necessary side dart (it only uses a fisheye and I "have a hunch" it won't be enough - you've given me some ideas to try and I now feel free to experiment! I can't just stick in a side dart because the leg would interfere with the yoke. (The chambray is a whole different animal but I feel I can play around and I'm not chicken to reach for the rotary cutter - PHEW!).

    Your idea to sew the darts and side seams last is simply brilliant.

    I think this would be a great tutorial for Threads and I bet they'd love to publish you! I know I've learned a ton. My fitting challenges aren't the same as yours, but I like my fit to be better than RTW and I always tweak somewhere between my shoulders to my waist.

    I am going to bookmark this, if you don't mind. Thanks so much for the energy you put into documenting your work for our benefit. I love your style!

    BTW - I'm a Style Arc fan too, and even though the shipping is almost as much as the patterns, I don't think the overall cost is so expensive. I've seen several US independent designers with $18 patterns that need tons of work to fit properly. I think my Style Arc patterns average out to less than that, and Chloe is fun to work with. I'm so happy to support her!

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  58. Shams,, THANK YOU SO MUCH,, I really appreciate you making this post..

    My Dd is a 36 DD, and I have a lot of problems fitting her,, I especially like your idea of fitting the dart after you try it on,, I never thought of that,, but will try it... so many times I make her tops and the dart is too high or too short,, but if I added extra fabric and fit it to her after I sew the shoulder seams, it might work better..

    I also thank you for posting the pic of your alterations,, the dart area I noticed was rounded, not "pointy" at the side seam, like on most darts,, I have a tnt knit top of Holly's that the dart is rounded,, now this is a self drafted pattern,, i always thought it was odd/wrong that the side seam part of the dart was rounded off at the side seam,, but I see yours is the same way,,

    Please please please keep posting pix of alterations that you have done,, it helps me to know that I am not the only one out there that has to them this way,, and if they look ...wonky... it is still ok...lol

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    1. That's great, sewbluetiful! I'm so glad you found this info useful. Your DD is lucky that you sew for her. :)

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  59. Dear Shams,
    I looked up your blog after getting interested in Style Arc patterns and finding your wonderful reviews and comments on PR and SG -- and feel as if I have struck gold. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise. I am a 32 or 34G and really struggle with fit, even with Palmer/Pletsch and Debbie Cook! Your methods are very exciting and have encouraged me to try some tops again. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    And I know what you mean about bust trumping abdomen. When I was pregnant I became über über-busty to the point where many people didn't realize I was pregnant until the baby was born!

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. I was walking my two daughters (now 3 and 4) after the younger one was born in a double stroller and one of my neighbors came out excitedly, "You adopted another one!" and I answered, "No, I gave birth to both of these babies." She responded that she never saw me pregnant when I walked to get the mail, which I do almost daily and didn't stop during the pregnancies.

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  60. Firstly, I love your blog but this post is awesome. As an E cup lady I so needed this information. I especially appreciated the negative ease info. I am always conscious of not having my garments too tight at the bust but your photos show how flattering it can be. My shape is quite strange in that I have smallish shoulders that sit very backwards on my body due to a connective tissue disorder and then the large bust as well. So I start with a size 16 and do a rather large FBA but then have to do a backward shoulder adjustment which has me ADD height to the front shoulder seam and reduce from the back (the opposite to a forward shoulder adjustment). Boy it took me a lot of years to work that one out lol!!! My armsyce looks VERY strange and nothing near to anything on a pattern but it is what it is and seems to work. After many years of frustration and trying many pattern companies I have realized that this weird shape is just how I am. The thing I need to work out now is what the sleeve will look like to fit into this armsyce. Sooo a bit of sleeve study is in order to see what I need to adjust to get it to fit. Thanks again for taking the time to write this post.

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    1. That is very cool how you've worked out your fit issues, waikikimum. It sounds like you might be a good candidate to work out a stable of TnT patterns that you can then play with. It is so nice not to have to re-do the FBA all of the time.

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  61. I have recently become uber-busty due to pregnancy, and you are the only blogger I've found who ventures beyond the realm of DD - thank you! My biggest problem has been shirts hiking up over my bust when I raise my arms - and then staying there :( Do you get this problem? How do you solve it? It seems like this happens especially when negative ease is involved.

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    1. Hi Robin! I'm trying to think if this is a problem that I just haven't been conscious of, but I don't think so. I do have to make sure my tops are long enough, or I expose too much when raising my arms, but that's not quite the same thing.

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  62. hmm... I was thinking that it was because I needed to increase my FBA, but maybe not. Now I'm thinking it has to do with the armscye/sleeve shape? I just tried on my snuggest RTW shirt and it doesn't hike up at all!

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    1. Robin, I would do some sleuthing in your closet. Take the shirt that doesn't exhibit this behavior and lay it on top of a shirt (or two or three) that does. Examine the differences between them. Also note the difference in the knit itself, such as amount and direction of stretch. Since this is not a problem I have, I'm not sure what might be causing it. If you do figure it out, let me know. :)

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  63. I used to be uber busty. Now after bilateral mastectomy/ reconstruction with downsizing. I say be happy with what you have!!! I love your attitude

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  64. Just found this post via Stitcher's Guild forum, thank you so much for putting the information together. I'm just relearning sewing with knits after a gap of many years, during which time I too have become super-busty, so this is going to really help.

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