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Sophie’s Rātā Top Adjustments

Rata Top sewing pattern by Below the Kowhai

Let’s discuss my personal fit adjustments. This ones dedicated to all of the fit-geeks out there. It’s nice to know I’m not alone!

When you have worn any ready to wear womenswear, at all, you’ll discover that size, fit and proportions are not universal. What fits in one shop on one body doesn’t fit in the next, and so on. The same goes for sewing womenswear.

This blog is a conversation around pattern adjustments, and not the tutorials themselves.

In each of our womenswear patterns you’ll find links to adjustment tutorials for you to refer to if needed.

You may or may not benefit from pattern adjustments: Don’t let that put you off sewing womenswear! Many of these adjustments are quick to make (we’re talking 30 seconds here!) and make a huge difference in the finished garment!

Rata Top sewing pattern by Below the Kowhai
Sophie wears a size 12 Rātā Top in a linen and rayon blend fabric.

Understanding Fit

So why does the designer of the pattern need to make fit adjustments? I hear you asking!

My proportions are not standard. It’s that simple. When I was designing this top I -knew- that I would need to make these adjustments, as I do on all of my garments.

Take a size 14 bust measurement for example. Some of us who match this measurement may be more rounded through the shoulder blades. Others will have fuller breasts, wider rib cages, rounded rib cages, shoulders that lean forwards, flatter chests and fuller through the back… the list goes on!

Even within the same measurements our bodies are unique.

Knowing When To Adjust

I recommend creating a toile (practice garment using old fabrics) when sewing womens patterns for the first time so that you can test the fit with your own proportions.

One way to diagnose a fit issue is to follow the “drag lines” of the garment. Where are the lines heading to and where have they come from?

Check out the next image to see my own drag lines and what I did about them.

My Personal Fit Adjustments

Today I wanted to share with you two simple adjustments I’ve made to my Rātā Top in the pattern cutting stage.

Both of these changes take 30 seconds to make. As mentioned, I will usually make these same changes on any personal sewing that I am doing.

So, for fun, here are my fit photos and final garment photos! Lets pick them apart to see what I did for a custom fit!

Sway Back Adjustment

In need of Sway Back Adjustments

My lower back has a pronounced curve. This curve is called a Sway Back.

It causes fabric to gather and bunch in my lower back as in the following photo. (I get this in ready to wear clothing too, so it’s nice to be able to adjust it in my own sewing!)

drag lines for Sway Back Adjustments

My sway back is pooling fabric in wavey horizontal lines across my lower back. Drag lines are also pulling in from the edge of the garment towards the centre.

I remedied this with a sway back adjustment.

On my toile I pinched out the excess fabric to see how much was there. Then I went back to the pattern and I took 4 cm total out of the centre back seam in a “triangular wedge” shape.

Sway back pattern adjustment

In the waist area of the pattern I cut across in a straight horizontal line from the centre seam to almost the side edge. I shifted the cut edge upwards by 2cm at the centre back. This caused an overlap taking out 4cm in total.

I taped it in place and used this to cut out my fabric.

result of Sway Back Adjustments

Immediately the wavy lines have disappeared and there is no visible evidence of adjusting.

There are other drag lines as you can see, but the bunching of excess fabric in my lower waist has disappeared and I’m very happy with the results!

Understanding Cup Measurements

Lowering Bust Dart

On the front of my top you can see drag lines pulling towards my bust.

Many people might think I need a Full Bust Adjustment for fuller cups. I wear a 10E bra so you would think that makes sense right.

However, Bra Cup and Sewing Cup sizes are different.

Use the difference between your high bust and full bust measurements to figure out what sewing cup you are:

  • 1″ = A cup
  • 2″ = B cup
  • 3″ = C cup
  • 4″ = D cup
  • 5″ = DD cup
  • 6″ = DDD cup

Despite being a 10E bra cup, my measurements between my high bust and full bust are 5cm (2″). This puts me at a B cup for sewing garments.

The Rātā Top is drafted using B Cup measurements. This is a standard cup for sewing patterns. Click here for more on sewing cup sizes.

So, all that to say I don’t need a full bust adjustment. Instead, I can create fullness by lowering the dart to my full bust point.

Lowering the Bust Dart

bust dart adjustment

The original bust point (black circle) is approximately 2cm in a horizontal line from the tip of the bust dart.

I cut around the dart in a rectangle and shifted it 2cm down for my actual bust point (white circle).

lowering bust dart Adjustments

The thick white line is where the bust dart now sits on me. You can see the X where my full bust is naturally. There’s only 2cm difference here from the original toile which makes all the difference in fit.

I created more “room” around my full bust by lowering the dart which minimised the drag lines.

Rata Top sewing pattern by Below the Kowhai

I hope this conversation around my own pattern adjustments has been useful and encouraging for you!

Start your toile and dive in to womenswear, it is SO rewarding having your own handmade garments in your wardrobe.

Love and happy sewing,

Sophie x

Grab your Rātā Top and Pōhutukawa Dress sewing patterns to see the full adjustment guide and join the fit conversion in our VIP Community to share your before and after photos!

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