January 18, 2016

Troubleshooting an FBA gone horribly wrong


It was another ordinary afternoon in what she called called her "studio" -- a tiny corner in a dingy shared room, overstuffed with fabric scraps and strands of thread littered across the stained carpet like spider's legs after a cat's been playing. Outside, a greasy drizzle dripped from the sky, mixing with the street grit of the city in a way that made puddles crunch when you dragged your two-bit shoes through them. 

She was smiling. Smiling like a dirty politician who knows where the missing ballot boxes went. Because today, she had decided something. Today was the day she was going to murder a neckline. [CUE STABBY MUSIC]

Yep. Killed me a neckline, I did. But I had a good reason: self defense. The thing was literally causing me to go crazy*.

Photo source: BAMF Style, Bogart in The Big Sleep, Birdseye Wool Suit. By the way, have you ever visited BAMF Style? Go, look! Now! It is a series of detailed reveries on the tailored suits and other garb of Bad Ass MoFo characters in film and TV, described exquisitely by a writer who clearly knows his man-clothes. How have I not stumbled across this site before? Not to self: add to blogroll tout suite! 
* (not literally)

Let's explore the crime scene, shall we?

New Look 6184, A Perfectly Ordinary Dame

It started out as a simple Full Bust Adjustment (FBA). The pattern? New look 6184, View B, a sheath dress whose bodice is shaped with regular darts at the waist and -- this is the part where my face starts to twitch -- pleats at the neckline.

New Look 6184, View A with the round neckline and slim skirt.
I'd never done an FBA with neckline pleats, but they were placed at the center of the neck, in an area that wouldn't have bumped up against the slash-and-spread actions of a normal FBA. So, I chose an FBA method for a dartless bodice, essentially pretending like the pleats and waist darts weren't there.

In hindsight, ignoring the neckline pleats makes some kind of twisted sense. But ignoring those waist darts: why? It is an inscrutable mystery of the universe. I was on a coffee- and adrenaline-fueled roll. Undeterred by normal thought processes. As Tony Soprano would say, "Those waist darts are dead to me."

New Look 6184, FBA (Full Bust Adjustment) for a bodice "without" darts.

By the way, if you need to do an FBA on a bodice that actually doesn't have darts, Alexandra at Sew Sew Sew Your Boat provides a picture-riffic tutorial: FBA For Garments Without Darts

Trouble Walks In The Door

Back to the story: did I muslin it? Hell yes. Did it look fine? I thought so.

But muslin has a tricky way of being muslin-y, and not at all like the lightweight, drapey, shiny, silky poly charmeuse I'd selected for the fashion fabric. The crisp muslin followed my curves politely; but in the gossamer charmeuse, the bodice poofed out on all sides as if inflated by an invisible air compressor. I generally attempt to camouflage any Dolly Parton-ness in the bust department, so this was not a good thing. By the way, Dolly Parton is a bona fide national treasure, so don't go thinking I'm dissing her.


And Then The Facing Gets In On The Racket

Inflate Gate (Bodice Edition) was nothing, compared with the second major problem: in the altered version, the neckline facing turned out to be too narrow at the free edge. Again, in my defense, it had behaved perfectly well during the muslin phase, but something about the poly charmeuse made it fold its arms and scowl "Hell no."

You can't see it in the pic above, but this act of rebellion caused the neckline to stand out from my chest in a most unnatural fashion. As any Fitting 101 book will tell you, a neckline is supposed to lie flat. Like a dead body rolled up in a rug.

On the inside, there was an equally frightening display of aggression.

The neckline facing, shortly before being placed in the corner for a time-out.

See how it strains and twists itself at the bottom edge? Like a medieval peasant in a dungeon, stretched across The Rack (no pun intended), things were going horribly wrong.

So, I took the choppers to it.

Sha-sha! Showed it who's boss.
With the fervor of a madwoman, I slashed the piece three times, and wrapped the edges in rayon seam binding to conceal the evidence.

This allowed the facing to expand as much as it wanted, and lie flat without bunching. Like a dead body rolled up in some kind of stretchy rug that allows corpse-bloating.

From the front, the neckline now behaves itself.

The Silver Lining

One of these problems can be fixed in the next version, without resorting to slashing any finished pieces after the fact.

We can alter the piece, adding width to the bottom edge without affecting the seamline.

First, trace the original piece for your neckline facing.

You don't need to use graph paper for this alteration. It was just the closest thing lying around.
Cut out the piece.

"You know how to use scissors, don't you? You just put your thumb and finger in the holes, and squeeze them together."

Now, make a couple slashes from the bottom, almost to the top. Leave about 1/8" uncut, to act as a hinge.

Spread the piece apart. Tape paper behind the slices to keep 'em in place.

Make your slices whatever width is needed for the facing to lie flat. Usually, this measurement is determined during the muslin phase, but, as we've seen, muslins can fib, so ... make a good guess? And run with it?
That fixes the neckline facing.

The problem with the no-dart FBA is a different story, and will require a re-do of the pattern piece. This time, I will take the waist dart into account. Sew Country Chick shows how to do this: FBA Tutorial - Adjusting Waist Darted Bodice.

When doing the FBA, I still plan to ignore the neck pleats for FBA purposes, because I genuinely believe they should not be screwed with. We'll see if that theory holds up in the next version.


Speaking of the next version: I've no plans to make this dress again in the near future, but I do like the design. And it is very frugal, clocking in at a mere 1 3/8 yards for the slim-skirt version. The next time I get a bee in my bonnet to make something quick from leftover fabric in my stash, this one is a promising contender.

So, as Humphrey Bogart and his trench coat fade into the distance, I want to know: have you ever made New Look 6184? Did you make any kind of FBA, and if so, how did it go? Let me know! I am genuinely puzzled by this pattern's possibilities for FBA-ing.

Next up: a traditional review of New Look 6184, with pictures of the whole garment, inside and out, and impressions of the pattern that go beyond the FBA debacle.

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