Friday, July 10, 2009

Common marking mistakes & how I fix them/shoulder adjustment for large bust

Here is a photo of a Lutterloh pattern I drew up last week. I thought I would explain where I went wrong and how I was able to salvage it.
I started marking my dots without checking to be sure the furthest dot would fit on the paper. You might think, so add some paper to the top. Well this was my last three feet of paper so I moved the pattern down and started over.

You’ll see some of my dots have a penciled X through them. These are the dots that I want to ignore. The three dots in a row are where I started marking the dots. The one slightly to the left is where I marked a dot on the 1/2cm mark when it should have been an even number. As you can see drawing the X through, with a different drawing instrument, alerts me to a mistake. We all make them so just fix it the best you can and move on.

Another common mistake is when you mark some dots on the wrong side of the tape. An X marked through your mistaken dot fixes this one too. Once you’ve drawn a few patterns using colored markers you’ll end up with tiny marks on your tape all on the same side so this is easier to avoid. Just look up and down the length of your tape before you mark to avoid this one.

One more marking mistake I have made stems from an alteration I commonly use. Most commercial patterns, including Lutterloh, are designed for the average B cup bust. Since I have a larger than B cup bust I like to use my high bust measurement for all the dots from the center of the armhole and above. This narrows the shoulders for a better fit for me. Then I use my full bust measurement for all the dots below this. When enlarging the pattern I use two different colored markers to make the dots for high bust and full bust measurements. If I had a different hip and full bust measurement I would use three different colors to mark the whole pattern.

For some folks this bust adjustment may not be enough. For anything more than a D cup you may also need to add length to the front pattern piece or do an additional traditional FBA. You can find an excellent explanation of this FBA at this link.

Below is a close-up of a technique I’ve started using to avoid marking the dots with the pin in the wrong number on the tape.
Before I tape the miniature pattern to the paper I mark all the dots that are at the center of the armhole and above with the color I’m going to use on the pattern, in this case with pink. I do this on the front and back bodice and the sleeve pieces. This way I can decide which dots on the front, back and sleeve pieces will be affected by my high bust measurement. As you know some patterns have more dots that form the armscye and sleeve cap. You have to decide, before you start marking, which ones will give you the room you need for your bust and still avoid gaping at the shoulders. All the dots below the waist are marked with the color for the hip measurement but I don’t mark these on the miniature pattern since there’s already a waist line there to remind me. Just remember when you move the pin in your miniature pattern that you need to switch pen colors.

So there you have it. With a little practice and some careful forethought you’ll be breezing through your pattern drawing too, even if you make a few mistakes along the way.


  1. Dear Fonnell,

    compliments to your site. It looks good. Great idea with showing the patterns without numbers!

    The link to our Great Britain Website is :

    Regards from Germany,

    Marcus Lutterloh

  2. oh thats very clever! I Have 38 DDD and patterns always gape or squeeze. I'll try this!

  3. So do you measure your bust circumference with the Lutterloh tape as suggested by their instructions or, the general way.... for example, being measured for a bra?

  4. Ursula, I would measure as the Lutterloh system instructs unless your bra size is a C cup or larger. I personally measure straight around, under my armpits for a high bust measurement and straight around the fullest bust area for my full bust measurement. Since this is not according to the Lutterloh instructions I would always suggest making up an inexpensive muslin to be sure these measurements work for you.

  5. Hello, I appreciate your blog since I recently purchased the Lutterloh system. I began using this system by trying out the vest sample pattern. I have the large bust problem also, but forgot about your instructions in your blog about using high bust measurement. Now I have had to cut back my pattern to narrow the shoulders, etc. I think I will just redo my pattern trying the high bust measurement as you describe. Sorry this is so long, but I appreciate this help you are giving.
    from Cheryl in San Diego

  6. This is not a comment but a question--I recently drafted a pants pattern and the front pants was aligned straight, but drafting the back I could see the pants leg was drawn slightly to the left--not in line with the grain. I just redid it knowing what it should be, but why did this happen?

    Betty C

  7. Betty,
    Can you tell us the year the pattern came from and the pattern number? I'd like to take a peek. With pants the top 1/3 has to fit your hips and your crotch as to be comfortable. After you have drafted that, the legs can be any design but they do need to be on grain, where as the upper 1/3 in the back is often off grain.

    Another possible reason is the European pant fits differently and it does cock in order to go around to the shorter front crotch.

    Now I am only guessing here and until I see the pattern I can't say what might be happening for sure. Just wanted you to know we are listening.

  8. can I Make doll clothes from this system?

  9. I've heard of people who do make doll clothes, and there is a tiny tape measure that is out in cyberspace somewhere.

    I would think that you could just enlarge the pattern on your scanner to a size that you guess at. cut the paper pattern out and lay it up to your doll. If it fits great if not back to the scanner.

    I know I've used the fashion photo to make paper dolls for the grand kids. Just keep in mind that dolls can't bend and have to dress straight armed etc so when you make your fashion make sure you can get the doll in and out of it.


  10. I am thrilled to find this blog! I have been fascinated with the concept of the Lutterloh system. I have drawn out several pieces of patterns, but with bodices, I have found that if the pattern piece is designed to be cut on the fold of the material, the bottom edge of the pattern piece will be skewed. One side will be higher than the other. I am using 128 on the scale for both top and bottom measurements. The top part of the bodice fits perfectly but I just don't know why the bottom edge has this problem. I have gone back over to check whether I made the wrong measurement or put the dot on the wrong side of the measuring tape, and have not found any errors that would explain this. I am using the new patterns for fall that Lutterloh has on its website. This same thing has happened to me on 4 different patterns. If you have any idea why or if you can help, please let me know. I would be very grateful! Ms Brownstein

  11. Laura,

    This makes me smile because when I do a Lutterloh pattern it is so odd on the paper I wonder if it will ever sew together. But it always does.

    If after you cut out the pieces you walk the pieces together you will see if you need to make an adjustment to one of the pattern pieces. Start at the underarm, match up the two different pieces if they come out uneven at the bottom, note how much you need to add or subtract.

    You can walk any pieces together before you cut and sew the fashion fabric. This includes the sleeve, each time the sleeve pattern differs from the curve of the arm in the bodice, put your finger firmly down to hold the sleeve to the pattern and turn it until it is once again touching the bodice. Keep doing this several times until you can see if the sleeve is going to look as you wish in the armscyle.

    I Have not used any of the current patterns and do hope the Lutterloh company is doing a good job in producing them as before. If you continue to find dispairity you should e-mail the group you bought the patterns from.

    Hope this helps.

  12. Thank you, this helps. Actually, it just dawned on me that although the drafted pattern looks askew on the pattern paper, it looks just fine when I lay it out on the fabric! I lined up the seams and everything fit right together perfectly. So I think it is because I was comparing my drafted drawing with the small image and the line I had was not a straight line where the small drawing (pattern) had a straight line, but that is because my hips are larger than my bust line, so it is customized. Of course it doesn't look the same! LOL. Anyway, may pattern works fine, I just needed to adjust my thinking! :-)

  13. I'm so glad I found this blog! You answer so many of my questions. Thank you!

  14. Hi from Germany,

    wonderful blog and very helpful. Thanks a lot. I've got one question as to the high bust measurement. What do you do with the sleeves? Do you also use the high bust measurement for them? I think with a large bust you sometimes also have larger upper arms and maybe they'll turn out too narrow?


  15. Monica,

    I use the high bust measurement for the upper part of my body. In making the upper part of the body smaller or larger you are NOT changing the armscye. You are making the front wider or narrower. That doesn't do much to your sleeve.

    If you need a larger armscye and wider sleeve (I always do!) it is a separate adjustment. Please respond with your e-mail and I WILL NOT post your response but will e-mail you some information on working with the sleeve size etc.

    Also the large bust adjustment is another process and here is a good web site to see it done on a top.

    As you can see you are not increasing the arm hole even with the bust adjustment. That is why the sleeve and arm hole are a separate issue.

    Is this helping? Remember once you do this successfully you can reuse this adjustment in all your patterns. I do! (see making a sloper out of your vest posting on the side bar)

  16. here is another look at the bust adjustment for larger bust...

  17. Hi Monica,

    It looks like Fonnell has you on the right track for the Full Bust Adjustment. Typically the Lutterloh bust measurement should give you room enough for a larger bust I have just found that it does not account for an average shoulder width to go along with a larger bust cup. The high bust measurement simply reflects a more accurate width for your shoulders even if your full bust is larger than average. Rarely will one pattern alteration fix more than one problem area. I agree with Fonnell in suggesting a separate alteration for the sleeves if you find your drawn pattern isn't wide enough to go around. This is where a good pattern fitting book comes in handy. It will explain how to determine where the problem actually stems from and then suggest pattern alterations to adjust for the issue.

  18. Hi everybody :-)),

    thank you so much for your answers. They have helped a lot. I'll send an e-mail concerning the sleeves within the next days. As you can see I am quite new in the lutterloh-scene ;-)) but although I was very sceptical the first trials were quite nice. I have to work on the larger bust (high bust 105, full bust 120 cm), quite a difference and on a high round back which gives me some drag lines from the back armhole to the neck/shoulder area.

    Thanks again for this wonderful blog.


  19. your instructions on using the hi-bust dots, etc. was the 'ah-ha' moment for me. bought my system in 1983 but have never had success with it. now i know why! thanks!!! will give it another go!

  20. yes I am a small person until you hit my bust and a large bust adjustment might be helpful also. We have help for that in some of our links. I do my upper body in a smaller number.

  21. I am cutting out my first garment with the Lutterloh system. It is a yoked shirt #17). Why is the yoke so much wider than the shirt back piece. After I put the tuck in the shirt back, it will be even smaller. How is that going to work?

  22. Sorry ma, without the year of the pattern you're working on there's no way for us to look at the pattern to which you refer. Have you double checked the dots you've drawn? It sounds like the pin may have moved while you were pulling the tape straight.

  23. Regarding paper- I bought a roll of butcher block paper for about $28. For really wide patterns I tape the edges together on the back. The paper I use is 18 inches wide and now I have plenty of paper.

  24. Hi, I am new to sewing humming, I am so please to learn so much about the Lutterloh system. I am also new to the system. And so far I very please. Question... How can I use this same method on commercial pattern?

  25. Welcome Adlaide! Not sure of your question. You can not convert commercial patterns to this method. However the Lutterloh books are full of so many styles you would find what ever you want to make. Or check out the supplements they come out quarterly.

  26. This tip was like a light bulb going off. I didn't realize about the B cup. I am a triple D and that explains a lot. With your approach we are basically drafting a multi-sized pattern. You don't need two measurements, you need four at least. High bust/chest, full bust, back length, and full hip. I haven't tried pants yet, but there may be a couple of other measurements there, too. Thanks. I was wondering if something like this would work but was afraid it would mess up the scaling. Now I know. Appreciate it! Kay