Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review: "Full Busted?" DVD

I first became aware of this DVD not long after returning to sewing – about a year and a half ago. It is produced by the Palmer and Pletsch folks who do know a lot about fitting, but I had trouble finding real information about this DVD. I was worried it would contain information that I pretty much already knew and I held off purchasing it.

But I decided in December, what the heck, maybe I will learn something new, so I ordered it.

What took me so long???? It may be the best $20 I've spent for any sewing information. I am surprised that more women with bodacious boobage aren't hailing this as the best DVD ever, except maybe they don't know about it.

I want to get the word out. :D

I finally sat down and watched the two hour video yesterday, just before I was planning on altering Yet Another Princess Seam jacket pattern. As fashions have become closer and closer to the body in the last few years, you DO need this DVD if you are larger than a B cup. It is essential if you are a D or larger, as it contains information I have not seen anywhere else - not even in their fitting book (which I do love).

The presenter is Marta Alto, who has worked with the brand for a long time, I gather. The video begins with the tools/supplies that Marta uses. I am forever making muslins because I had never figured out how to achieve a reliable fit trying to get the pattern tissue over all my curves without ripping it to shreds, but they've created a technique that is most impressive. For the first time, I am making a jacket without a muslin - I can report on how effective this approach worked after the weekend - if I can get enough done today and tomorrow.

The FBA process begins with your standard dart - either creating one, or lowering/enlarging an existing one. How to rotate a dart, convert it to released tucks/pleats are shown. It covers the latter information fairly briefly, but as it's old information to me, I wouldn't have wanted a lot more detail anyway.

Next (and here is where it starts to get really good) Marta shows you how to alter non-standard patterns, such as a pattern with a cut-on sleeve. Because she is doing it in front of you, you can see little details, such as how and where to correctly true the seam - details that you often don't get from a book.

Marta then shows how to do an FBA on one of those twist, knot front tops. She uses a popular McCalls pattern and, I'm telling you, I could have NEVER figured out how to do this one. I could barely follow it, but at least you can watch the DVD over and over until you get it.

By this point we are about halfway through the 2-hour video and nary a princess seam to be found! She now brings out "real people." (I hate fake people.) Her first model is a young woman with perky breasts. She alters three patterns for her body - one with a crossover empire seam, one that is cut to fit just over the bust, and a princess-seamed strapless top. All are tops I could actually see a young woman wanting to wear.

The final two models have mature figures, thank goodness. :) Model #2 is fitted for a McCalls Palmer/Pletsch lined jacket with a bust dart and a fisheye dart from bust to waist. She also needs two back adjustments, which Marta acknowledges but does not go into detail on how to achieve. (They have another Fit video that most likely covers this.)

Model #2 needs an FBA, but she does not need her dart to be lowered. In this example, Marta mentions backing off of a dart (which I always have to do), especially if you wear a contour bra. Model #2 also needed a bit additional width through the hip area, another common alteration. Model #2 (as all the models) looks fabulous in her completed jacket. (She shows all garments in process and then completed. I really appreciate this.)

During the fit of Model #2's jacket, Marta stops for a brief comparison between a standard FBA and a Y-dart FBA. I learned of the Y-dart fairly recently from their book, Fit For Real People and I like this technique very much. It's strongly recommended for folks who are adding 2" or more to a dart and I have only seen this particular dart in their publications.

I started wondering if all Marta's models had perky breasts, when she brought out Model #3, who did need lowering of her bust fullness. (Lowering the bust fullness can be very tricky in some designs and I typically have to lower about 4" which can really affect a design.) Model #3 was being fitted for a lined, shoulder princess seamed jacket. Finally! She needed the bust to be lowered on the princess pieces and she needed BOTH front pieces to be altered.

BOTH! I had never seen this before and this was also worth the cost of the DVD, and then some. I will now look at altering princess seamed garments with a totally new eye. Marta also explains the difference between a princess seam and a side panel design. She walks through the alteration using an sleeve princess design.

A quick note about the floral blue top Marta is wearing during Model #3's segment. I had this fabric over 20 years ago. I made (way back then) a long, gathered skirt from it. It's a rayon jersey and very swishy. I may still have the skirt somewhere, though I would have to redo the waist to wear it anymore. Anyway, I found it distracting to study her top and try to remember where I knew that fabric from! It's akin to seeing a face you recognize, but cannot place. :D

The last 15 minutes of the video quickly cover two much more involved patterns. This part is wonderful and could have been expanded even more, to my mind. She first shows a gorgeous jacket with complicated seaming - I would love to know the pattern number for this jacket, though I can't imagine how you would add a dart AND lower it. (She only showed adding the dart.) I am sure this pattern is OOP, but it might be worth tracking down.

She then shows a Belville Sassoon gown that needed loads of altering, though she just tells you what needs to be done, and doesn't walk through the steps. (For this dress you have to alter the (asymmetric) left and right fronts, the corset, the corset lining, and the front skirt. It was exhausting to think about!)

And that's it! The only FBA I would have liked to see that wasn't shown, is an "offset" princess seamed design with a dart on the front panel. I have dealt with this recently, and it's a PITA.

You know, I wonder if new sewists tend to ignore the Palmer Pletsch folks because their aesthetic is not very young, hip, or edgy. But, I'm telling you, these people understand fit. I have an engineering mindset, which is why I am so comfortable altering flat patterns, but Marta is an engineering genius and I bow to her greatness. I've already ordered a couple more DVDs and have even thought about attending one of their workshops in Portland. I think it would be fun and immensely educational.

By the way, you can order their books/DVDs through their website or through Amazon. And, as usual, I get nothin' for my review. ;)


  1. Thank you for the review. I haven't sewn clothes in soooo long but I'm wanting to get back into. A good fitting video would make all the difference I think.

  2. I'm ordering this. I am getting back to sewing seriously this year and the entire FBA thing is something new to my mature figure that I did not need to know in my more youthful sewing.

  3. I have this DVD and I totally agree with you. It's great!

  4. Thanks for the great review shams. I just ordered Fit for Real People Basics: A Palmer/Pletsch Interactive DVD ($17.99!) I am encouraged by your review.
    I've been re-reading FFRP, and I also decided to try the tissue fitting thing. I think it would work if you take the time to prepare the pattern properly. When I tried a couple years ago, I ripped the tissue and got frustrated.

    If you decide to attend a workshop in Portland, please let me know! I am considering it, too. It would be great to be students together :)

  5. That would be SO cool, Robin! The next one is in July... I just ordered the Basics DVD last night. I am eager to watch it after seeing this one.

    I often wonder... Do I need broad back or rounded back alterations? Do I exhibit a fish tail back there? I do not know for sure.... :D

  6. I have that DVD and I agree with you. It is fabulous!

  7. Thanks for the dvd tip...I snapped one of the two in stock from Canadian Amazon. My girls are large and (sadly) low and I always struggle to accommodate them.

  8. Fantastic review -- thank you for taking the time to go through it so thoroughly.

    I have to admit that I'm not a fan of tissue fitting -- to my mind, tissue paper is never going to act the same way that fabric does, and you do typically have to make cuts in the outside curves which compromises the structural integrity. There is also that right side v. left side thing -- so many of us are asymmetrical! It's good to know that they've presented a good method, but I'm guessing I'll be sticking with my usual MO. ;) I often do the muslin for a client in their lining fabric, since so much of what I do is lined. So far it's worked out pretty well... *knocks on wood!*

    1. I sew a lot of Burda magazine patterns, which means I have to trace the patterns. I trace them onto non-woven interfacing, which is much tougher than tissue paper, and handles tissue fitting really well, including draping much better than paper. I can snip into seams and fit firmly without being worried about tearing it. Fabric still needs fine tuning, but unless the pattern is especially complicated, the tissue fit is enough to make sure I have fabric where I need it.

  9. I may agree with you, Laurie. I skipped the muslin for the jacket I am working on now, and I had a lot more fitting in the final fabric, as a result. Their technique does reinforce the tissue pattern so it won't rip, but paper will never lay like fabric.

    The jury is still out for me. :)

  10. I ordered this once I saw your review on Amazon...thanks so much!!! I'm looking forward to receiving it. I was even able to get a few dollars cheaper from another seller thru amazon. Thanks Again, Marvita

  11. Cool, Mocha! I didn't know they got my review up already. And welcome. :D

  12. It looks like there are 2 workshops in November. I can't go in July (too busy at work) but November would be good.

  13. U r so far ahead of me but I want to learn. U r a good teacher I really liked your pattern for the anthropology skirt. I am looking forward to your blogs. Thank u

  14. Thanks for the review! I just saw your review on Amazon and followed you here. I will be getting this DVD.

  15. Thanks for posting a thorough review. One of the other reviewers on Amazon said that this DVD isn't helpful if you have a very full bust but are small everywhere else. Would you agree?

  16. Hi Amy! Well, I am not "full busted but small everywhere else" but, no, I don't think I agree. :) If you have a shape like that, what I would suggest is you do what I do. (I mention this on many of my posts.): Chop the pattern off at the waist (or thereabouts), THEN do the FBA on the upper portion. Then put the two pieces back together, merging them together. Before I figured this out, my clothes were too big through the hips. It has made a huge difference. You can email me (toofunny2 at gmail dot com) if you have further questions.

  17. Thanks for your advice! I just found your blog through your Amazon review, I am looking forward to reading through your archives. I appreciate the time you put in to sharing your knowledge.

  18. Shams, what a great review! Thanks for the great review and thanks for pointing me here. I just looked it up on and they have the DVD.. I'm going to order one right away.

    I also read the comments and found your post on big top but small elsewhere..That's a great idea... One of the puzzling things in the FBA process was that it added a lot of extra material in the tummy.. why would I want to add more fabric there, wouldn't it look like a tent?? I didn't really understand this process... [This was all mental calculations... was to chicken to do it on paper or fabric ].. I like your idea of chopping the pattern at the waist and doing an FBA on the top part.. brilliant!