Do I need to make pattern adjustments?
You do if you find that conventional patterns don’t fit you properly in some areas. An example is if your bust is much bigger in proportion with the rest of your body, and choosing a bigger size to accommodate your bust results in a garment oversized in other areas.
You might also find that you match the measurements well enough, but you are much taller or shorter than the height the pattern was designed for.
You can also make adjustments when you want to alter the fit of a garment. A good example is our Audrey Shift Dress. Because the dress is quite loose fitting and has a lot of ease, you might find that you love the pattern but would prefer a more fitted version.
We are going to use the Audrey Shift Dress as our pattern example, but you can apply the same principles to a similar pattern you have on hand.
We are going to be covering:
- Adjusting the length of the pattern (bodice and skirt)
- Combining sizes
- Making a Small Bust Adjustment
- Making a Full Bust Adjustment
Always make a muslin/toile of the pattern with inexpensive fabric so you can make sure about the amounts you need to use in your adjustments.
Adjusting The Length
Pattern Sewciety’s patterns feature Adjustment Lines on the patterns making it easy to know where to make your adjustments. You generally either want to lengthen or shorten your bodice or the hem length of your garment. For this purpose me made adjustment lines above the waist, but below the dart to adjust the bodice length, and below the hip to adjust the hem length.
Step 1: Make sure you have a vertical grainline running over your adjustment line.
Step 2: Cut on your chosen adjustment line to have two separate pattern pieces.
Step 3: Place a piece of paper under the two pattern pieces and move them apart the desired amount, keeping the grainline aligned.
Step 4: Tape your pattern pieces in place and connect and true your side seams.
Step 1: Draw a line the desired amount your want to subtract above the adjustment line.
Step 2: Make sure you have a vertical grainline running over your adjustment line.
Step 3: Fold your adjustment line to meet your new line above, keeping the grainline aligned. I like to perforate my line with my tracing wheel to make this easier.
Step 4: Tape in place and true up your side seam.
You can combine sizes when all your measurements fall within the Body Measurement chart, but they are scattered throughout different sizes.
As you can see by the size chart above, my measurements are all over the place, making this the perfect scenario to combine sizes. Just a note on this. You don’t have to combine sizes if you do not fit the measurements of a specific size exactly. Always look at the ease of a garment and base your decision on that. The Audrey Shift dress has plenty of ease, so I don’t need to combine sizes. Because it is a loose fitting dress I choose the Medium to keep closer to my bust measurement. This is really a personal preference and makes this a great dress to play around with. Ok, back to combining sizes.
In the image below you can see that you basically connect the bust, waist and hip points of the respective sizes. Smooth out any angular curves or lines.
If you feel you fall to much in between sizes stated in size chart, you can also find your “custom” place on pattern to draw your side seam. Lets use these measurements as our example:
Bust – 35″ Waist – 29″ Hip – 39″
Step 1: First compare the Finished Garment Size Chart with the Body Measurement chart to determine the amount of ease used. If your pattern does not have a Finished Garment Chart you can decide for yourself the amount of ease you want to add. My bust corresponds with the chart, so I will only be adjusting the waist and hip.
Pattern’s Waist: 37.5 – 27.5 = 10″ ease
Step 2: After I have established the ease used I can add it to my personal measurement.
My Waist: 29″ + 10″ease = 39″
Step 3: I then divide this amount by 4 because this pattern piece only represents a quarter of my garment.
39″ / 4 = 9.75″
Step 4: Because this pattern includes a 0.5″ seam allowance I need to add this as well to get the my total amount.
9.75″+0.5″ seam allowance = 10.25″
Step 5: Take your measurement, in this case 10.25″, and measure it over from your CF/CB. I will be using the marked waist of size Small as my guide since this matches my bust measurement. Mark.
Step 6: After applying this method to your hip as well, you will blend the side seams
We are going to look at how to make a Small and Full Bust Adjustment.
Most pattern companies base all their sizes on a B cup as this is the most common cup size, so it is not unlikely that you will need to make adjustments to the bust.
You will want to make a Small Bust Adjustment when you want to make the bust dart smaller, and thus have the bust fit tighter. Just as the name implies, this adjustment is usually just for a small amount. As a guide, there is roughly a 1″ difference in cup sizes, so if you want to adjust your pattern from a B cup to an A cup you would need to do a 1″ adjustment which means you will need to move your pattern pieces over 0.5″.
You will need to do a Full Bust Adjustments when your bust measurement is proportionally larger than the rest of your measurements.
To make a Full Bust Adjustment you will first want to measure your bust in two ways to determine your size. Measure your High Bust which is the measurement under your armpits just above your bust, and your Full Bust which is the measurement around the fullest part of your bust. Note the difference between these two measurements, and this will determine the cup size you need. This may or may not be correspondent to your bra cup size. Here is a guide:
- 2″ Difference: B cup
- 3″ Difference: C cup
- 4″ Difference: D cup
- 5″ Difference: DD cup etc
To determine the amount you have to shift pattern pieces over:
- 0.5″ for C cup
- 0.75″ for D cup
- 1″ for DD cup
- 1.25″ for E cup
I like to cut my pattern at the waist to make adjustments to the bust. You will follow the same first steps for both type of adjustments.
Step 1: Identify the bust apex on the pattern piece. The bust apex is the most prominent and widest part of the breast. The Audrey Shift dress’s bust apex can be found by simply drawing a line through the middle of the dart and extending it by 1″ (as seen in image below). Another way to identify the apex is to hold the pattern up against you and marking your apex.
Step 2: Draw the following lines on your pattern:
- Through the center of the dart to the apex
- From the apex down to the bottom edge
- From the apex to armhole (about 1/3 of the way up)
- A horizontal line near the bottom connecting vertical line to the CF. In this pattern we use the Bodice Adjustment Line
Step 3: Cut along the lines as indicated in image below. Make sure to leave hinges at armhole and dart point.
Small Bust Adjustment –
Step 4: Draw a line parallel to your vertical line that is now cut open (see pic above), spaced out the amount you want to adjust the bust. In this example we are adjusting it with 0.5″ which will give us 1″ in total.
Step 5: Shift your pattern pieces over to line up with your new line and use the line as a guide to keep your pieces parallel. You will see that your dart closes partially and decreases in width. Tape in place.
Full Bust Adjustment –
Step 4: Place paper beneath the pattern pieces and tape in place and shift pattern pieces apart the desired amount at the vertical line. Make sure to keep the vertical lines parallel. Your dart will increase in width.
Step 5: Draw a horizontal line from your original apex to the side seam. Measure over 1″ to determine your new apex and mark. Measure the new dart opening created from shifting pattern pieces apart, and use that measurement to determine where new bottom dart leg should go.
Both Adjustments –
Step 6: Move the remaining small square piece to line up with the bottom of your pattern.
Step 7: Draw in and smooth out new side seam.
We hope you found this tutorial helpful, and that you will enjoy your new perfect fitting garments 🙂