Bonfit Bodice Patterner

I recently got a Bonfit bodice patterner – a few dollars from ebay just to try it out.

It’s fun to have something you can physically hold and draw round to make a pattern. And obviously a lot of thought has gone into it. So it’s a pity the Bonfit patterner has many problems.

Initial impression and basics

My first reaction was that it’s overwhelming when you open the box. I can imagine people getting excited about a demo at a sewing show, taking the patterner home, opening the box, seeing the jumble of unexplained peculiar shapes, and never looking at it again. I don’t know if the video helps. The previous owner of my set hadn’t even unwrapped it.

The Bonfit patterner is a set of tough plastic shapes that slide relative to each other to alter width and length. I had to read the book slowly while looking carefully at the pieces. But once I got past that stage it is a method that ‘comes naturally’ for me, I like having something physical and robust. I haven’t tried but think it’s possible to draw round the template and mark stitching lines directly onto fabric without making an intermediate paper pattern.

Here is the basic set of parts. It consists of a ‘base’ piece (top right) with neckline shapes, plus an inset to change front to back neckline. Added to the side of that are fitted armholes for front and back, or a dropped shoulder piece. The body section is added below.

”bonfitbasic”

There’s a choice of three body pieces. One is for back, and for front without darts. Then there’s one with bust dart, and one with waist dart.

”bonfitbottom”

There are separate pieces for a variety of sleeves :

”bonfitsleeve”

and for collars :

”bonfitcollars”

The sections slide against each other in ingenious ways, so you can alter the usual width measures of :
bust
waist
hip.
And you can adjust the length measures of :
bust height
back length.
Everything else is standard, doesn’t allow for individual differences.

Instruction book : One reason why people go no further may be difficulty with reading the instruction book – small low contrast print, few diagrams. I know Bonfit had a lot of information to fit into a small space, but this book is not for a visual or physical person, while the patterner is.

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How well does the patterner fit ?

Well, as usual that depends on the individual. Bonfit’s and McCall’s (fitting pattern 2718) shoulder lengths and armhole shapes are surprisingly different.

What about the big issue of cup size ?

The same body section is used for both back and front without darts. So back and front without darts are the same width, with different necklines and armholes.

This is standard practice for loose fitting casual styles with no darts. For example, the front and back at bust level of the tops in ‘Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew Way’ are the same. So although this can’t give a good result for people with a generous front, there’s no point blaming Bonfit for using standard practice (except of course if they claim to be helping you get good fit. . .).

More problems arise when using darts for a fitted pattern.

The front body section with darts is about 1/2 inch wider than the back section at bust level.

That wouldn’t work well for all women. McCall’s (fitting pattern 2718) has a choice of front patterns for different cup sizes (though they don’t say so on their website). The front-back differences in size 14 are :
A cup : front half pattern 1/4 in. wider than back at bust dart level
B cup : 1/2 in. wider
C cup : 3/4 in. wider
D cup : 1-1/8 in. wider
DD cup : 2-5/8 in. wider

So the Bonfit is the B cup size that most patterns are designed for. Anyone with a larger bust cup would have difficulties.

The section on fitting in the Bonfit book is short and at the end. If you are full busted you might well have discarded the patterner for its bad fit long before getting that far.

Full Bust Adjustment

A true FBA is an ingenious method of adding length and width in the middle of a front pattern, without changing the finished length of the neckline, shoulder, armhole, side, and waist seams. The bust and waist darts are deeper, and the shape of the armhole changes (see links in Sigrid’s Sewing Tutorials – blog list).

The Bonfit doesn’t cope with this well. The only thing they suggest for larger cup sizes is to widen the front pattern. As bust size and shoulder length are related on the patterner, changing front body width also changes front shoulder length. You might move the lower body piece without moving the armhole piece, but that wouldn’t give you the changed armhole shape needed for a true FBA. There is also no way of deepening the bust dart, or of increasing the centre front length without lengthening the side seam.

So if you want a good FBA, you need to make changes to the basic pattern produced by the patterner in the same way as you do with a conventional pattern.

What about other fit alterations ?

I have sloping shoulders and a forward neck. These aren’t included in the patterner. So I would have to make the sort of sloping shoulder alterations that I need with any pattern. But I think with this physical template that should be easy to do by pivot and slide .

- – -

Otherwise, for making other styles, it’s the same as any fitting sloper

Basically the Bonfit is an easy way of making a fitting sloper for average cup sizes. If you want to make classic basic styles, by just changing necklines / collars and sleeves, or to make basic slopers for a range of different people, then it could get well used. But to make styles other than simple classics, you have to draw a basic starting point paper pattern using the patterner, and then do conventional pattern making changes (described in the accompanying book). The Bonfit doesn’t automate pattern making for other styles.

And I think many pattern making instruction books explain the process much more fully than the Bonfit book, with more diagrams.

So if you already have a good fitting sloper, the patterner won’t make other styles easier for you. And if there’s anything unusual about your shape, I think you’d be better off doing the work needed to make a proper fitting sloper.

I wouldn’t expect to make anything other than basic garments from a patterner as I don’t enjoy the ‘cutting up a sloper’ method of pattern making. For other garment styles I prefer to do the alterations needed on a commercial pattern, so I am sure what style features I’m getting.

Conclusion

If you have average shoulders and an A or B cup, you may be able to draw round the bodice patterner direct onto fabric for the stitching lines of a basic repertoire of tops : tee, blouse, shirt, tunic, light jacket.

And there could be advantages for someone who needs simple patterns for a wide variety of people but doesn’t enjoy using pattern making software.

I think this only suits a small group of sewers. People have different personal clothing styles (classic, romantic, casual, etc.) and different ease preferences (close fitted, loose, etc.) We have different sewing style preferences (quick, couture, etc.). And there are also many different methods and preferences for pattern making. And many different methods and preferences for getting a good fit. I suggest the Bonfit patterner only works for a few of these.

Altogether, once I understood it I found the Bonfit patterner fun to play with. But I doubt whether it will get much real use, so I’m glad I didn’t pay full price. I may use the collars and sleeves, as they’re so easy to draw round. But I haven’t yet tested them for fit !

Explore posts in the same categories: fit of clothes

14 Comments on “Bonfit Bodice Patterner”

  1. RuthieK Says:

    I own the bonfit trouser set I think I used it once and the resulting trousers were not a great success. Mine does not have a video though.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks for your comment Ruthie. It’s difficult to find information about the patterners, so it’s helpful to hear about the pants one.

  2. EJVC Says:

    I love its gadgety quality. When I get my PMB sloper going I may well trace it onto something heavy. Fun to just trace around on the fly, right? Great review. Ruthie, can you post pix of your trouser patterner?

    • sewingplums Says:

      Yes Elizabeth, good point. Though my fitting sloper isn’t finalised yet (currently working on an ideal armhole shape !) I’ve had it cut out of card for some time, and draw round it a lot. It’s also very easy to lay a card version of your personal sloper against a paper pattern to see what fitting changes would be needed. The edge of mine is the stitching line, not the cutting line. I find that much easier to use, but many people prefer the cutting line at the edge.

  3. Anne T Says:

    Thank you for the review. There has been sparse bloggery about the system. I’ve had my bonfit patterner for some time and had mixed success. I’ve giving it a serious go for some basic pieces before I give up.

  4. Pat Says:

    I have the skirt Bon Fit Patterner, Just love it. I have made many lined wool skirts, Turns out well.

  5. Roz Lang Says:

    A friend has a bonfit pants maker I love it and want one of my own and a bodice maker Where can I buy them in South Africa ? If I have to buy them from overseas How much ? Roz
    rozlang@gmail.com +2731 7764092 {dbn SA}

  6. Fonnell Says:

    The bonfit bodice is like starting with a sloper with ease. Once you know what adjustment you need you just do them every time. The skirt bonfit works really well but pants I haven’t tried…I find pants are better to fit the Palmer/pletch way…

    The more curves you have the more paper fitting you have to do no matter how you get your pattern

  7. laetitia Says:

    Where can i buy this patterns please let me know Laetitia cloete
    0729922571 cloete.laetitia@gmail.com

  8. Kathy Says:

    I have been reviewing old VCR tapes. Among the things I recorded years ago there are a few episodes of America Sews with Sue Hausmann. I have so far found two of those episodes where demonstrations of Bonfit patterners. The program would start with Sue Hausmann introducing Martin Fung who on one showed different patterns that could be made with the Bonfit patterner and the other with him talking about stretch fabrics and the different things that could be made with different types of stretch fabrics. After his presentation Verajean Dunwoody came in to give a demonstration using the bodice and pant patterners to draw a swim suit pattern. The other she used the bodice and skirt patterners to draw a pattern for a princess seamed dress. At the end of the princess seamed dress demonstration Martin came back and they showed that same pattern that she had just drawn had been used to make six different versions. Sue Hausmann mentioned that Verajean had been there before to show the construction of something made from a Bonfit patterner.

    I bought my Bonfit probably back in the late 80’s and my measurements are on one of the charts so I got that far. Besides the instructions that come with each patterner I also have two other Bonfit books. Fashion concepts design by Martin Fung and Fashion Sewing instructions with an inside special thanks to Connie Amaden Crawford and Verajean Dunwoody. Inside these books are little write ups about these two ladies. Verajean was teaching beginning and intermediate sewing at Chaffey College. I should add that I was a student back then and heavy duty into job hunting so I probably did not have the time to really learn how to use these. Connie Amaden Crawford also had 3 videos out showing alterations to make using all three of the patterners.

    I initially thought I did not have a pants patterner instruction book which I have since found. I went looking for where to buy one. The only place I have found is a lady in Canada that sells the patterners and the two books I have just mentioned. She also sells the bodice in three different sizes.

    I think I read somewhere that Bonfit came from Europe. I wonder if there was not enough sales in America or if they lost their license. If you look up Bonfit on the internet it is now a sporting goods distributor. If I had not found my pants patterner instruction book I would have e mailed the woman in Canada to try to get one from her. I might not even be a bad idea for me to consider getting the bigger bodice pattern although I could slide and pivot the one I have. My books do not have a spiral spine on them. The Canadian lady does mention hers are spiral bound which would be easier to use.

    I have watched Sewing with Nancy since the 80’s too. I believe her program started at that point and she is still on the air. She is a heavy duty believer in the slide and pivot method. There is a (Sew Fit manual ) slide and pivot book that shows a multitude of ways to alter your patterns. When looking last night I discovered that she is one of three authors that contributed to that book.

    If you do enough looking around there is another pattern review site that people are posting their experience with the Bonfit. Some good, some really good, and some not so hot

    http://www.patterners.com/orderform.htm#contact

    • sewingplums Says:

      Interesting comments Kathy. Yes there are many exciting things you can do, starting from a well fitting basic pattern. My point is that the Bonfit patterner won’t give a well fitting basic pattern for all that many people.

      I prefer the Sure Fit Designs approach to making a well fitting basic pattern. It doesn’t cover all fit issues, and it doesn’t work for me. But it does cover more fit issues than the Bonfit.

      I also prefer the Sure Fit Designs explanations of how to change the basic pattern to make other styles. I find those explanations easier to understand than the Bonfit ones – the Sure Fit ones are more visual !


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