Sewing Blog

Easy Guide to Grading: 2 Methods for Resizing a Sewing Pattern

Have you ever wondered how to change the size of a sewing pattern? Grading a pattern can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be.

Let’s see two easy methods to help you grade up or down that pattern!

easy guide to pattern grading

Method #1: Slash and spread method

Imagine that you have found the perfect vintage pattern for that little ’50s dress you’ve been dreaming of, but it only comes in bust size 30 — and you’re a 34. Come on, you’re not going to let this occasion be ruined by 2 sizes of difference!

The slash and spread method is the easiest method for resizing a pattern. You just need a ruler, tape, a pen and scissors.

slash and spread method for pattern grading

First, make horizontal and vertical lines on your pattern piece, placed where you want the pattern to increase or decrease (more or less the same placement as on the drawing). Cut along those lines and spread the pieces to create the new pattern piece.

But how much do you add?

Let’s take our example: The pattern is a 30″ bust size and you have a 34″ bust…

  • There’s a difference of 4″, so you’ll need to split that increase between the front and back (2″ for each) and then break down again as the pattern pieces are placed on the fold (so 1″ to each piece).
  • If you make two vertical cuts, then add ½” between the pieces.
  • As for the horizontal lines, you need to add about 3/8″ (this is the common rule).
  • Then it’s time to redraw and blend the new lines of the pattern, and you’re done!

And what should you do if you want to go down a size? Easy: Slash your pattern piece in the same way and instead of spreading the pieces, overlap them following the same calculations, like on this drawing:

spred and overlap method for pattern grading

 

Method #2: The shift method

Now, if you want to increase or decrease a multi-size pattern instead of just one size, the shifting method is quite handy. If you are working with a traditional pattern that comes in multiple sizes (the Big 4, Burda magazine, etc.), but your size is just outside the measurements chart, you can shift the pattern piece in or out quite easily.

shift method for pattern grading

On this example, the three sizes offered in the pattern are outlined in black. Let’s say these are sizes 6, 8 and 10. Draw straight lines at each corner, connecting the three pattern sizes, and beyond them. Draw the new pattern piece, shifting the pattern to meet the red line at the corners toward the inside for size 4 (in blue here) or toward the exterior for size 12 (in green).

Helpful tips:

You want to be careful when you’re grading a pattern!

  • First, you shouldn’t try to go more than 2 sizes up or down. That would disrupt the balance of the pattern.
  • Also, try to stay into the same range — grading up a petite pattern when you’re not petite isn’t going to work out.
  • And lastly, muslins are your best friends! Make sure you make a muslin of the altered pattern before cutting your fabric.

Grade sewing patterns you love to the size you need.

pattern grading

Learn simple techniques for grading sewing patterns to your size while maintaining the proportions, fit & design details of the original!Enroll here now »

29 Comments

PeterP

Great Guide. Thanks!

Reply
karen

I understand your comment and I agree. When the written word has grammatical errors, it appears that the writer is ignorant. Not that he is ignorant but that he appears ignorant. I think you were trying to be kind to the author in letting them know this.

Reply
Deby at So Sew Easy

You can click on the author’s name at the top of the page to see their bio. In this case the author is French so English may not be her native language. I think if I had to write this article in French, there would be a lot more than just a couple of slight errors!
The info it contains is useful.

Reply
Pauline Alice

Hi Bonnie, I’m really sorry for the grammatical errors. I’m french and English is not my native language, I’m sorry if some of the explanations is made difficult to understand clearly because of these mistakes. I’ll ask the Craftsy team if they can proofread my texts before the publication. I still hope you’ll find the general information of this post useful.
Thanks and best regards,
Pauline

Reply
Mammothy

The instructions are perfect and very well written. Especially considering your country of origin. I’m from Germany. Don’t sweat the small stuff 🙂

Reply
Betty

Frankly, your comments seem very arrogant. Why criticize someone who is offering assistance? Her instructions are quite simple and easy-to-follow. After all, it was free advice — you didn’t have to use her method if you were unsure about it. No need to criticize.

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Betty

Frankly, your comments seem very arrogant. Why criticize someone who is offering assistance? Her instructions are quite simple and easy-to-follow. After all, it was free advice — you didn’t have to use her method if you were unsure about it. No need to criticize.

Reply
Virginia Severns

I like all ideas to resize patterns. I don’t use actual pattern when need to resize, make a accurate copy on tissue paper and eork on that. The multi size patterns are easy, I use the size I need for bust and size I need for waist when tracing onto tissue. Doing it that eay I always have the original for other people and when I need a different size myself.

Reply
Mary Enos

I need a simple method for pant fitting to the back end of the pants…Fitting is a bummer to the back end…The top of the pant in the back does not seem to reach up to my waist as the front does…Can you help
Mary

Reply
Pauline Alice

Hi Mary,
I think you need to add depth to the sit area of your trousers pattern. Here is an article explaining the main fitting issues with trousers (http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/4244/everyone-can-have-jeans-that-fit), you’ll need to lenghten the back crotch area.
You can also enroll in Sandra Betzina’s “Pant fitting techniques” (http://www.craftsy.com/class/pant-fitting-techniques/125?_ct=sbqii-sqjuweho-dum&_ctp=1&rceId=1425409283022~714j74eq).

Reply
Veronica

Merci, Pauline! J’ai trouvé votre article un guide excéllent! J’ espère que mon commentaire est assez bien écrit!

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Cathy

Errors in English translation or not, just your diagrams are a great explanation in themselves. Thank you.

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shonda Skinner

Great tutorial… How do i apply this to a dress front & back where neither piece is cut on the fold. Trying to upsize from a 16 to an 18 or 20…thanks

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Angela

Explained with simplicity thank you!

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Mary

What do you mean by making a “muslin” of a pattern?

Reply
Harriet Heywood

Making a muslin is a term for making a test pattern, usually accomplished through inexpensive muslin or other fabric that is similar to the fabric envisioned in the final garment.

Reply
Natalia Phillips

Very helpful article! Well written considering it was written in the 2nd language of the author. We’re all here seeking and sharing information on a sewing topic. Let’s just be happy that this person took time out of her sewing to explain it to others in any case!

Reply
Jacqueline Lovorn

To Mary on March 24. The muslin is used to make a sample of whatever you are making so you can catch mistakes and correct them before you cut an expensive material.

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Sherrie Villamil

Merci Pauline!! Wonderful explanation and exactly what I needed. ?

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Jessie

Pauline, I bought a vintage pattern from the 1930s in a very small size. Do you have any tips for sizing up more than 2 sizes?

Reply
Pauline Alice

Hi Jessie, going up more than sizes will most certainly affect the shape and final fit of the pattern. I don’t know of any method that would allow to size up more than 2 sizes but you could try with one of these two and see how the mulsin look. If you love the pattern, it’s worth a try!

Reply
Karen

Thank you so much, Pauline.
This is really helpful and just what I needed today to help with down-sizing a dress pattern.
Best wishes

Karen

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R. Hall

Thank you for your instructions.
I have an old Hallower pattern (no longer being sold) that I would like to resize down. I have the same question Shonda S. mentioned earlier.
How do you resize a piece if the piece is not placed on a center fold line?
Thank you I’ve never resized a pattern before. Want to do it right.

Reply
Andrew

Hi Pauline, Does the bust dart stay the same for each size in method 1 or does it get longer by 3/8″ with each size?
Thankyou!

Reply
Pauline Alice

Hi Andrew, it would be better to add a second horizontal line crossing the dart, that way, the dart length would change as well as the bodice length.

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Mammothy

I would suggest re-setting the bust dart(s) to match the desired body shape and bra. Mostly darts shift considerably for bigger bust (read up on FBA (full bust adjustment)).

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Jen Fernandez

Just bought a bunch of vintage patterns on eBay and didn’t see the small bust size on some. This is perfect! I needed this today. Merci!

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Maryjane

Thank you for this tutorial. I appreciate all of the help I can get.

Reply

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