Why should you be Grading Altering Sewing Pattern Sizes?

It is very likely that you, as well as me, have different sizes in your waist, hips, and chest.

And all of those sizes can’t simply match a size “M” or “XL”. For example, I am “XL” bust size, “L” waist and XXL “hip size in most cases.

Grading Altering Sewing Patterns

The problem starts when choosing which size of your sewing pattern to use.

If you have ever had this problem, read on because here you will learn how to modify your patterns to use the sizes that really correspond to your body thanks to this easy tutorial.

Every day I see more and better options in the PDF sewing patterns that we can find available online.

They have more variations and even more special sizes which are very attractive to all of us who enjoy creating our own clothes.

Something to understand about sizes.

Despite this, we must remember that commercial patterns tend to have standard sizes.

And how does this affect us? You might ask…

Well, the answer is simple and I have repeated it several times on this blog: There is no way that your body is equal to another.

It is a beautiful reality!

Our bodies are unique and everyone has a different shape. It will get weirder, with the passing of time, to find a person who has the same size measures in bust, waist, and hip.

God blessed us by giving us a little more chest maybe, maybe a little larger hips, even the most fortunate ones carry the evidence of their motherhood in their mommy’s tummies.

All of this is fine!

And even with all these differences, we can adapt our sewing creations to our bodies thanks to the grading and resizing methods.

If you are one of those girls with more than one size in one body, keep reading this tutorial and learn the correct way to make the patterns adapt to your figure.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase using one of the links in this article, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. (To know more about this click here.)<<

The 3 things you need to know before Grading Altering Sewing Pattern Sizes

1- Know your measurements

Each brand uses a specific chart of measurements for each pattern.

It is important to remember that not because in a clothing store you are always size M means that in all the garments or patterns you are size M.

Every time you start a new sewing project you’ll need to remeasure.

Take your measurements and look at the sizes of each pattern to know where you fall in each area. Being the most important: bust, waist, hips, and lengths (skirt, waist, pants, etc …)

2- Use the appropriate rulers for each zone.

Otherwise, try to follow the shape of the line you are copying.

The lines on the patterns are like this for a reason. Try not to modify their natural form too much or the pattern could end badly.

If you do not have any sewing rulers I do recommend these ones that are the ones I use and have endured for more than 7 years (the same ones!). No breaks, no folds, and no blurry numbers.

Fairgate rulers


And is not only me who says that. Check out what this customer on Amazon said about these rulers:

Item is exactly as describe… I highly doubt there’s any drafting tools brand better than this one.. This is going to last you until you pass away . Extremely durable which is why I had no problem buying it again. This is the only drafting tools I recommend to fashion designers,If you want quality over quantity that is.

You can buy them on Amazon here.

To know which ruler use in which zone of the pattern, take a look at this guide. Save this guide on Pinterest to always have it on hand.

Sewing Pattern Rulers

3-Use translucent paper (Tissue paper) to trace the patterns.

Tracing paper for sewing


Using this type of paper is the best since putting it on the pattern you can continue to see all your lines and information to make a more reliable.

You can get this type of paper in Frame here for $11.70 is the favorite of seamstresses on Amazon with more than 524 reviews and it has 4.5 stars.

Grading Altering Sewing Pattern Sizes to make them fit better.

Print these “Grade between sizes” instructions with the free printable card at the bottom of this post.

Now you know the three most important fundamentals for grading your patterns and use the sizes that truly correspond to yours.

So let’s follow a step by step example of this technique:

For this tutorial, I’m using my T-shirt pattern for Women Thimble-T.

On this pattern, I am size XXL of chest and waist and size 4XL of hips.

You can see the two sizes in color teal and gold in this picture.

How to use Multiple sizes in a Sewing Pattern

The first thing I did was trace the top part of the pattern with the size that corresponded to my chest.

I used the French Curve/ Form Curve to trace the XXL neckline and armhole. Then the Transparent ruler to copy the shoulder of the same size.

Check this also: How to sew a zipper 3 ways with a Secret Trick

How to grade your sewing patterns

Then I use my curve form ruler to copy the Hemline of the pattern corresponding to the 4XL size (which is my hip size).

And marked a dot where this line finishes.

How to use Multiple sizes in a Sewing Pattern

On the next step, I usually go from the end of the armhole line and trace a straight line to the waist point of my correspondent waist size on the pattern.

Now, in this Sewing Pattern, the waist measurement falls into the same size as my chest measurement. 

So I just copied the line of the side bodice until the waist point.

If you have a smaller or bigger size you need to draw the dot on the correspondent size line. At waist heigth.


Modifying your sewing patterns to make them fit better

Then again, I took my curve form ruler so I could join the dots waist-hemline of my pattern.

This could be is a tricky part.

As I said before, you need to keep the line shape of the pattern that you are “resizing” as similar as you can with the original line.

To do this I placed the Curve Ruler on one of the original lines of the hip. Then I moved it, being careful to not take it up or down, rather than a pendulum. Then I traced the new Hip line.

You will also like: This 10 Sewing Tools will help you to sew Faster.

How to use Multiple sizes in a Sewing Pattern

 

Final Step: Compensate

To finish the new pattern when you are Grading or Altering Sewing Pattern Sizes you need to do this final step.

Every time!

No one tells you about it or care so much for it but is very important for your garment.

Can you guess what it is?

Psst… Is that ugly corner in the waistline.

How to modify a sewing pattern

The final step is to soften the pattern lines.

You can see in this picture that when we joined the waist and hem dots a weird corner was formed.

This was because of the difference in sizes and is totally normal that happens on paper.

But… I don’t know about you but I don’t have a weird corner on my waist sides.

I am thinking you don’t have one either. So let’s fix this.

Take your French Curve/Form Curve again and place it over the waistline.

You want the curve of the ruler to touch the lines of the top and the hip part of the body sides.

Aim for a natural line and then trace the new line. (And remember to cut through this line when cutting your pattern).

How to use Multiple sizes in a Sewing Pattern
Change your pattern sizes easy tutorial

Finally, copy the important pattern symbols and information and you are done.

How to use Multiple sizes in a Sewing Pattern

I hope you find this tutorial useful to you.

If you want to see another kind of pattern being resized, please comment below so I can see a way to help you with it.

modifying sewing patterns

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And if you want to be part of an amazing group of like-minded people like you join My Golden Thimble Sewing Club on Facebook!

Grading Altering Sewing Patterns

How to Grade Patterns between Sizes

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Intermediate

Instructions to grade a pattern between sizes.

Instructions

1. Outline the sizes you need.

Use a marker to outline all the sizes in which your body falls in. Example: M, XL, 2XL

2. Mark reference points.

Use a different color marker to mark reference points on the corners between the sizes you need to grade. Ex. If you are a Medium in the chest but a large in the waist, mark the Medium armhole pattern line and the large pattern waistline.

3. Redraw the pattern using Pattern Maker Rulers.

Use your french curve, your curve, or L ruler to draw the new lines of the graded sewing pattern. If you don't know which ruler to use in which zone of the pattern go to our site to check our ruler guide.

4. Compensate the new lines.

Soften the lines of the pattern using the curve rulers such as the french ruler on the waist.

Lines should look natural and without sharp points. For example, if the side of the waist has a weird corner, use the french ruler to trace a new line that connects the bodice side with the hip side.

Sewing Pattern Rulers

Recommended Products

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46 Comments

  1. This is so helpful! Thank you. I can’t wait to try this on my next sewing project.

    1. Author

      You are welcome! Please let me know if you have any doubts or questions

  2. I measured myself and chose the appropriate pattern size, but the top I made is too large. Do you have any tutorials or advice for altering the garment?

    I’d classify my sewing skills as ‘advanced beginner’. I used to sew frequently in my teens and twenties but have used my sewing machine only for mending and minor alterations the last 20 years or so! I’m excited to sew again now that I have more time and to learn more about fitting patterns to me.

    Thank you!

    1. Author

      Hi Lizz! I have a recommendation for a great book for modifying patterns. It is called the Fitting Book, you can find it here: https://amzn.to/3x8LJ9X (affi link)

  3. I ordered a pattern in a petite by mistake. I am 5 8 in height so I will a lot of altering to do on the pattern. Other than checking the measurements I will need to add length to the body and legs. Any other helpful comments other than use my glasses when ordering a pattern.


  4. This is amazing!

    I have a question about the tracing of the new hip line (sixth image): Do we slide the whole ruler evenly outwards?

    The “rather than a pendulum” part got me confused. You meant “rather than following a pendulum motion”, didn’t you?

    Thank you so much for this tutorial!

    1. Author

      Hi Kim, thank you so much!

      Ok, so what I mean here is that you place your curve ruler over the original line (on the biggest size) of the hip. Then you slide only the top part of the ruler leaving the bottom part of it on the first line of the hem. So In my mind is like putting your finger over the ruler at hip height and sliding like a pendulum the top part so it can get to the waistline of the smaller size.

      Let me know if I made sense. I am not sure I did LOL

  5. when I grade the pattern, lets say for a t- shirt am I only grading the front piece and not the back?

    1. Author

      Hi Penny,

      You should grade both! Whatever you grade on the front should be translated on the back so the patterns can match again.

    2. Penny, I have one pattern that I have to add width to across the upper back/shoulders. I add it at the middle back so it doesn’t affect the armscye or shoulder width.
      For this pattern I have to grade from 3X bust to 4X waist/hip – I just add the little extra to the center back.

  6. I’m petite size 5’3″ and have to shorten everything.. but my problem IS my waist and hip are 5″ apart. How do I adjust a pattern for this?

    1. Author

      The same way I did here with the waist and hips of this t-shirt. Grading 5″ is not that much once it is divided by 4 on a flat pattern. Just make sure that your garment has zippers or buttons if it isn’t made with knit fabrics.

  7. Do you have tips for altering a panty pattern? I’m using Kwik Sew 2075, my hip measurement puts me at a half inch larger than XS, half inch smaller than a S, and my waist measurement puts me at a M. Not sure where to connect the 2

    1. Author

      I would do size M altogether. If your hip is half an inch smaller than size S, it might be a little tight. But if you want to grade, Then do M waist through S on hip using a curve ruler.

  8. If the measurement of your high bust area fits into the finished garment measurements for the bust on the sewing pattern, do you still do a full bust adjustment. Your answer to this will open the door to the sewing room for me. It’s the only thing holding me back!


  9. This is great. Very simple and easy to understand, finally!

    1. Author

      Thank you so much!



  10. Can you still do the same adjustment with a size 18 shoulder? I’m also the same adjustment but a little smaller hip. I’m wondering if I do an 18 shoulder would it mess up the armhole.

    1. Author

      Which two sizes would you like to combine??

    2. Can you please teach how to lower the rise of pants? Thank you!

      1. Author

        Yes of course! Please join My Golden Thimble Sewing Club and we can make a video tutorial there.

  11. This was so amazing!! Thank you for your clear instructions. Do you have tips on grading the palisade pants by papercut theory? I’m worried I’m going to mess up and not match the pockets properly when I grade the front side and back panels

    1. Author

      Yeah, if you are grading from waist to hip draw the pocket line from the smaller size of the waist to the bigger size of the hip.



  12. Thank you. This is the clearest tutorial I have seen. I feel more confident altering patterns to fit now.

    1. Author

      I am very glad that this helped you 😀 I will try to make more fitting tutorials for you guys

  13. Thank you for this info, I will alter my pattern tomorrow.

    1. Author

      You are very welcome Estelle 😀

  14. I have a vintage blouse with princess seams, I need to size up from 14 to sixteen but there are to many pieces

    1. Author

      Do you have several sizes or just the one?

  15. Loved this. I will definitely use this. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Author

      I am so glad this was useful to you 🙂

  16. Armholes for me are usually where I need to alter. Would love to see you expand an armhole. Thank you!

    1. Author

      Absolutely! I am planning on doing a more advanced fitting tutorial! Look for it soon.

      1. I would love to see this too! Please do this tutorial. 🙂

        1. Author

          Thank you, I will

  17. Very Helpful. I will certainly use this as reference.

    Thank you for this!

    1. Author

      You are very welcome 🙂

      1. Thanks for this information, very useful. Another thing I’d like to know is, how do I adjust a sleeve pattern if I adjust the armhole sizing / shape on a bodice?

        Thanks

        1. Author

          Hi Jerrie, to adjust a sleeve when you grade the armhole you have to measure the cap line of the sleeve to match both front and back armholes measurements. Use the french curve to re-trace the patterns

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