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Determining What Size Pattern To Make

Many of us have purchased a pattern in what we thought was our size, only to find out that what we thought – is not what the pattern makers thought. Your best bet whenever you buy a pattern for anything is to test it out before possibly ruining your favorite fabric that you just spent your hard earned money on.

First, take accurate measurements of your body. Get help if you can, if your elbows are pointing out, the bust measurement isn’t necessarily accurate. Measure your bust, waist, and hips. Measure the distance between these measurements. Inseam (crotch to ankle), out seam (waist to ankle), arm length, back length, etc., are not necessary for every pattern, but take what you need. If you’ve got help, you may as well take all of your measurements and just store them with your patterns.

Before cutting out a multi-sized pattern look for the measurements on the tissue. Often you will be one size at the bust, different size at the waist and hip. Look at the measurements between the horizontal measurements, is the distance between your bust and waist longer or shorter than “industry standard”? If so, now is the time for easy changes. If your body is 2″ longer than the pattern, cut all of the pieces and tape a 2″ piece of paper in between. This is the “cut and spread” method of pattern alteration. If your body is shorter than the pattern, simply fold the pattern pieces to take out the excess. True up the curved lines and walk your pattern pieces along the seams to make sure that they still match each other.

Keep in mind that on the envelope the size 10 may say it’s for a 40″ hip, while the finished garment may have a 42″ hip ‘for ease’. Meaning they’ve allowed extra for you to bend over and sit. There may be extra ease in the bust for you to reach up. The ease they allow may or may not be what you are looking for, it also may throw you off as to what size you wear. You may want to compare what they give as the actual measurements to your own body, hold the tape measure at the exact measurement listed on the tissue around your body at the same place. Is is snug, loose, way too loose?

Once you have decided on the size to cut, I suggest that you always make a mock up first in muslin. (If you can’t find muslin you can use some old sheets. *If you sew in knits, save your old knit sheets to use as “muslin” to make mock ups.)
Try the garment on with the seam allowances on the outside so you can draw or pin what alterations you need to make. Again, this is usually easier with help from a friend. Remember to check for wearing comfort. Can you bend, sit, walk up stairs? You don’t want to split a seam while wearing your brand new creation. Transfer any necessary changes to the paper patterns.

When you are happy with the fit you can cut your pattern in the fabric of your choice, with the confidence that you will get exactly what you envisioned.

*Grading refers to taking a pattern and mathematically adjusting the size up or down at multiple locations horizontally and vertically. Unless you are making a size run of a single pattern, or you buy a size 24 and need a size 8, it is not necessary to grade it. If you love fractions and algebra (like me) you may want to learn this technique, but it can be confusing. If you want a quick reference check out this awesome article from Threads Magazine.

~Happy Sewing, Amy Delicious

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