Monday, May 28, 2012

Making a pattern larger

First part of the making your own patterns series is how to make your existing patterns larger.  What if you have a child who is too large for the pattern you want to use? Or too small? Or, too wide or too narrow? You can easily alter the pattern yourself!  Here's how.

First of all, you need to take good measurements of the person you are sewing for.  This is the person I am sewing for. She is 9 years old and no longer fits into dresses in size 8. She needs a size 9 or 10 and I need to pay particular attention to her shoulders, for they are broad.  I start off taking good measurements of her waist, chest, shoulders to waist, and waist to where I want the skirt of the dress to fall, in this case just below the knee.  If I were making a shirt with sleeves, I would also take her neck to shoulder measurement.  Basically, take all the measurements you think you will need.  You CAN take too few, but not too many. By looking at the size chart on the pattern, I know this girl is too large for it by a few inches. This pattern shows a size 8 girl as having a 23.75 inch waist.  She misses it by one quarter of an inch! And, because her shoulders are wide, I know it would be best to go up a size.  So, I will!

 Today, I will show you how to take a simple dress pattern and enlarge it.  This pattern is a paper pattern I bought at a quilt shop but this technique could also be applied to a pdf pattern.  This simple technique will not work on complicated patterns.

Step one: Take your basic pattern piece. In this case, you are looking at the back bodice. You are going to follow this technique to edit the front and back bodice pieces.

 Notice the intervals between sizes. Can you how it goes from one size to another. Use your ruler.  See the picture below? Each size is one quarter inch difference in size in width and length. Therefore, this pattern can be adjusted up a size or two. 


Step two:  Trace the pattern onto a piece of paper, leaving room all around for adding width and length. If you need to, tape two or three pieces together to get the size you need.

Now, you have already figured out that each size is a quarter inch apart on the pattern piece so simply add more sizes.  This can work either way, going up a size or two or going down a size or two.


Here is the finished pattern piece with sizes 9 and 10 shown drawn in.


Step three:  Make sure your pattern is going to fit before you cut out the fabric.  A size 10 measures 8 1/4 inch wide.  Since my daughter has a 24 inch waist, I know for sure this is not going to be too small.  (because 8.25 X 4 is 33 which leaves me plenty of room for seam allowances)  So, now I can cut out the fabric.

Step four: I do not have pictures of this step, but this is the most important part. Make a muslin of the part you are editing. Sew it together and make sure it is going to fit the person's body. In this case, I judged that a size 10 was going to be better for my daughter than a size 9 and I was right.  The practice piece showed me that it was going to work fine.

Here is the finished bodice! For shoulder pieces, I simply added an inch to each piece and then adjusted them on her body as I sewed. 

For the skirt length on this piece, I simple added a third tier to a two-tier dress.  


This technique can also be used to adjust a pattern to fit a body that is wider or more narrow than the pattern.  A narrow body does not necessarily need a smaller size, as that might be too short. And a wider body does not need a larger size as that would be too long. So, next up in this series, I will show you how to edit a pattern to fit a body that does not work with the size chart.


  1. This is a great post Kathy!! I sorely need to learn doing this, so many of my customers asked for larger sizes out of the purchased pattern range and I had to decline countless times! This is perfect I gotta try it, thank you so much Kathy! :)

  2. This is very helpful. I have also sized down using this method, and it seems to work for any multi-sized pattern - I've used it with Burda magazines.
    Your daughter looks like she loves her dress :-)

  3. Your technique worked perfect! Many patterns don't make their sizes large enough to fit me in the chest, and this offered a better solution than purchasing a dress. Thanks for posting it!

  4. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I've ripped the internet apart to find this information! I can't wait to adjust a dress pattern that I have!

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  6. Oh my gosh! Thank you! I have been wanting to make my wedding gown and I found a pattern that I adore, but I realized by their measurements that it's just one size too small. Then I found your website and I'm super happy that I can just adjust it that one size! You are a lifesaver!!

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    1. I just found your comment in my spam section. So sorry it took me months to response. I tried going to your blog but there is no place to comment. If you look in my about/comment section, you can now contact me. I do plan to add to this series very soon. Thanks again for your interest.

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  9. Could this trick be used to go from a size 18 waist to a Size 24 waist pattern?

    1. You can always try it but with women we have to account for more curves than children do. I would make a muslim from the pattern first and see if your adjustment works. Then, sew with your nice fabric.

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