Sencha for a Small-er Bust

Finally, after a week or so of pattern tracing and cutting I started in on a few muslins over the weekend. (My multiple-pattern project is going great except–big except–I have little piles of patterns everywhere–which could make things get chaotic fast. I really need some hangers or clothespins because I don’t want to fold them up.)

First up is the Sencha blouse by Colette Patterns. Here is what could happen when one picks a sewing pattern by bust width:

Hilarious, right? I’m sure there’s some sort of style in this. (I had no one to help me pin the back, but I don’t think it would’ve pinned shut anyway!)

Many patterns recommend picking a size based on bust width, and according to Colette Patterns that would put me at size 0, their smallest. I knew that was silly as I was tracing it, but I decided to make a muslin out of the 0 just to see what would happen. (My Lady Grey coat started out as a size 4, with some bust alterations.)

It’s a good example of how picking by bust width might get one into shoulder trouble. I’ve read on blogs that Colette Patterns are based on a C-cup. That tells me that a 33-inch bust would correspond with a 30-inch upper bust (mine is 32). What I don’t know–outside of measuring the pattern itself–is the shoulder to shoulder width for each size. Obviously my shoulder width is at least two sizes larger than Colette’s proportions for my bust size–I can’t even tell you how painfully small these cap sleeves are–hard to see from the photos but they barely go over my arms.

As darling as they are, it’d be awesome if Colette included more measurements in their patterns. I’m sure larger bust ladies need them, too, because not every larger-busted woman has large shoulders. The only patterns I’ve used that do include more than the usual bust/waist/hip (and sometimes) back length are Burda and HotPatterns. Hotpatterns really goes into detail, which is very helpful when picking out sizes.

So back to tracing another size, most likely a 4 to fit my shoulders and chest, and doing an adjustment in the bust area. I’ve got some big plans for this pattern if I can get it fitting correctly–a top secret design I’ll share soon!


  1. Ruth says:

    I am a big fan of Burda Style preceisely because they give such exhaustive measurement charts, and their patterns are actually consistent with them Since know my own typical alterations, I never need to make a muslin for Burda patterns. From what I have seen of Colette patterns everybody has to spend many hours muslining their patterns, often without final success. The internet sewalongs with their patterns have actually put me off buying them! They really don’t seem to be well-drafted.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Ruth,. I appreciate the input! I agree about Burda sizing. I just started working with Burda mag patterns last year, and like their styles quite a bit–their shoulder and armholes are also tricky for me (high sleeve caps and a little bit tight) but I am learning what kind of adjustments I need. As for Colette, I love their ideas, probably more their online and print packaging and design than their actual styles, and it seems that one of their biggest markets is toward new (and a younger generation) of sewers. Alas, one of my ongoing frustrations is that very good content/drafting is often packaged in such a boring way–I know the reverse can happen, too!

  2. Taryn East says:

    I feel your pain. I don’t do a hell of a lot of sewing-from-patterns (I’m in medieval reenactment so mostly I draft my own), but when I do, I have the same-but-opposite problem.

    I’m a very-large-busted lady who has a normal-sized waist… and if I cut to pattern the waist normally balloons about my middle and makes me look far fatter than I am. 😛

    Not a good look.

    So yeah, some better measurements would help me to figure out between which patterns I need to interpolate.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Hello, just come across your blog because I’ve been making Sencha myself recently and I must say that it’s not just you that’s had problems with the sleeves – I’ve found them teeny tiny and the neck also. From browsing round I get the impression lots of people aren’t sencha-sized. Though if you look closely at some of the finished versions from Colette the sleeves look tight on the models, so maybe that’s part of it…

    • Amy says:

      Hi there, I’m so sorry it was giving you troubles! it’s funny because I was just thinking about this blouse again, or making a pattern similar to it. (There are quite a few vintage patterns with similar details.) The neck is quite tight and it’s meant to be close-fitting. I probably would have re-drawn the shape even if it fit. And the sleeves–sleeves are often a problem for me. If I picked by arm measurement alone I’d be going up about 6 sizes larger than I am! I’m just proportionally very large in the arms! I should probably pay more attention to those pictures on people so I can guess what’s going to give me trouble…

      So if I ever did make this again, I would probably make a 4 or even a 6 and do a massive small-bust adjustment, just so it fit in the shoulders.

  4. nobutterfly says:

    I like your story, it would already help if they specified the cup size they use. I had the same with knitting, only measured my bust and came up with a sweater too big, because the designer uses a B. And my D puts me in a bigger category.

    • Amy says:

      Yes, it’s taken me time to understand, but I now choose patterns by shoulder or chest measurement. I imagine that would be hard with knitting patterns to figure out what those are!

  5. Nicola says:

    eeek!! That is EXACTLY how my first Sencha has worked out… So disappointed. This is why i have avoided sewing for myself and sew for my kids where these kind of errors never seem to happen. Back to the drawing board!!

  6. Cherry Picked by Mimi says:

    I have learned to pick for my waistline and hips, then do a FBA for the bust area as long as it isn’t too far out. This works for me whatever pattern company I use, although I have to say, my waist and hips usually fit one size. With Colette, they give a category of beginner on the basis (as far as I know) of number of pieces to sew together and inserting of zips etc. However, I feel that this can be very misleading since it does not take account of the fact that as a beginner, you will have no idea how to fix the fitting issues that will undoubtedly arise.

    That said, I used their FBA guide from the website and got a very good fit for the blouse. So I say, don’t give up and perhaps pick the size based on your waistline and then alter the bust (up or down) accordingly. I’m no expert, but have done a lot of FBA adjustments and usually get a good fit.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Mimi, that’s wonderful that you have found a way to fit your patterns. Colette has done a great job of educating beginners on basic fitting ideas, especially on their blog. FBAs are one of those basics many sewists should learn!

      Also, I wrote this post almost 4 years ago, before I started drafting my own patterns, so if I were to do this again I would approach this particular project very differently now. I actually need the opposite of an FBA–I’d have to pick a larger bust than mine in order to fit my shoulders and then reduce some of the volume in the bust area.

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