How to Resize a Pattern

By Jennie Chancey

No matter how well designed a pattern may be, it cannot fit each individual perfectly. Each human body has its own quirks, and each person has different fitting needs. You may find that you need to enlarge a pattern beyond the sizes available on the sheet, or you might need to shrink it. Perhaps you would like to reduce a woman’s pattern to fit a little girl. Or maybe you found an out-of-print pattern you’d love to make … but the sizes are too small for you. Anything is possible once you know the basics of resizing patterns! And it isn’t hard at all — it just takes a bit of time and work. I’m here to show you how it is done so that you will never be limited by pre-printed pattern pieces again!
The method for shrinking or enlarging the pattern pieces is similar for each piece. Throughout this section, I will assume you are starting from a size 12 and will show you how to size down one size (to a 10) and up one size (to a 14). From there, you will be able to do all the rest of the sizes!


The Tools of the Trade

Before you begin, I recommend that you have the following tools at hand:

  • Cardboard cutting surface with one-inch grid (available at any fabric store)
  • French curve(s) — plastic curves to help you trace your armholes, necklines and other curves (you can get these from Sew True)
  • Swedish interfacing (available at Birch Street Clothing) or heavy-duty pattern paper (like vellum)
  • Tracing paper (available by the roll from architectural supply stores)
  • Sharpie markers for tracing
  • Pins
  • Scissors

Getting Started: The Bodice

First, let’s start with a bodice front. If you want to enlarge the bodice, first trace the bodice piece onto Swedish interfacing or sturdy tracing paper, so you have a piece you can slash for resizing. To size up to the 14, slash the bodice front like this:


Notice that you are splitting down the center of the underarm, the center of the shoulder and the center of the neckline/bust. You will split the back bodice piece in exactly the same manner. Now, the difference between size 12 and size 14 in the bust area is two inches (12 is 34″; 14 is 36″). You want to add evenly to the front and back bodice pieces, which means adding a total of one inch to each piece. Now half that again, since you are adding to only one half of the bodice, and that means you have a total of 1/2″ to add to the bodice front and back pieces. Here is what the pattern piece will look like when you spread it apart:


In your typical Simplicity pattern, the computer splits up the half inch and adds 1/3 of it at each place where the pattern has been split. I do not recommend this! This method often creates a very bad fit, particularly in the shoulder area. The biggest complaint I hear from women over a size 22 is that shoulders on most modern patterns are way too wide for their size. Just because someone’s bustline is larger does not mean she has linebacker shoulders! So my suggestion is that you size the shoulders up only slightly and only for size 18 or 20 (then just keep that new width for the rest of the big sizes unless you do happen to be particularly broad in the shoulders). Same with sizing down — just make them smaller for sizes 10 and under — and only slightly smaller. I’d recommend that you add nothing to the shoulder split to go from size 12 to size 14 (or 16). Instead, add 1/4″ to the bust split and 1/4″ to the underarm split. For size 18, add 1/8″ to the shoulder split, then 1/8″ to the underarm split and 1/4″ to the bust split. Most women find they need more room in the bust — not in the shoulder area.
To draw the newly sized pattern piece, first roll out your tracing paper (not interfacing) on your grid board. Pin the starter pattern piece (in your starting size) to the tracing paper, using your grid lines to help you keep things straight, like this:


Now trace around it so you have your first piece “set in stone.”


Now split your first pattern piece and spread it as I explained above to go up to your next size:


Here’s a close-up so you can see the 1/4″ spread:


Now trace all the way around the spread piece, omitting the shoulder for now, and you end up with this:


Here’s a close-up of how the shoulder and neckline will look:


Now, most patterns add about an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch to the top of the shoulder and the neckline, since you assume that larger sizes need more room in the bustline and will need more length in the bodice front. Even this small amount at the shoulder adds a helpful amount to the overall fit of the bodice. Now, you add to the neckline because you added to the shoulder — if you didn’t add to the neckline, it would be lower, and you don’t want to do that.
So, adding to the shoulder looks like this:


Adding to the neckline looks like this:

Okay, let’s go ahead and size down before we talk about some other issues around the neckline and shoulder area.
Pin your split pattern down again, this time overlapping where you had spread the pattern last time, like this:


Here’s a close-up of that overlap:


Trace around this pattern, then “shrink” the shoulder and neckline, so your final pattern looks like this:


Okay, now you’re probably wondering about that shoulder area. The shoulder “moves” a bit with each size, as you can see. You end up with a jumble of lines running from the neckline to the shoulder as you go. If you’ve looked at my patterns (and practically any other pattern on the market), you know that I have one smooth line running from the neckline to the shoulder for all sizes together. That’s because doing things “by the numbers” (which is what a computer design program is going to do) always turns out patterns like that. What you want to learn to do is to smoothly blend the pattern pieces together so that you don’t have a neckline that is “all over the map.” The first way to learn to do this is to trace each new pattern size individually (not on top of the last one). When you have all the pattern sizes traced out, you can lay them down, one on top of the other (largest on the bottom, smallest on the top) and line up the neckline edges so they meet. Then you trace your master pattern off this conglomeration, and it will look something like this:


After you’ve been working on pattern sizing for a while, you’ll just get an eye for how sizing works, and you will not even need to split patterns any longer. You will be able to trace your master piece, then add to it at the appropriate places (armhole, shoulder, side seam, neckline). Splitting patterns and spreading will be your “training wheels” until you become confident enough to just draw out the new sizes using your measuring tape and french curves!


Special Help for Long- and Short-Waisted Ladies

If you are as short-waisted as I am (15″ from nape to waist), you already know that the waistline of just about every average pattern hits you on the hipline. To correct this, there is usually a “Miss Petite” line across the pattern to show you where you can shorten the bodice (or lengthen it if you’re long-waisted). You can do this on any pattern with or without the “Miss Petite” line. Just pick a spot about two inches above the waistline and draw a horizontal line across the pattern, like this:


If you are short-waisted, you can just fold the pattern down at this spot to match your waistline (plus 5/8″ for a seam allowance). If you are long-waisted, you just slash and spread like you’ve been doing above.

For bodices of unusual shapes, like the one in my 1940s “Swing” Dress pattern, you’ll need to tweak a few lines after folding down the bodice. I’ve illustrated this below:

This image shows the bodice as-is with the lengthen/shorten line across the center in red (you can click any of these images for a larger version):

In the next image, you see the bodice folded down to accommodate a short waist. I’ve circled the “problem” area this creates:

As you can see, the long line of the bodice front no longer matches. To fix this, simply use a straightedge to redraw the line so that it runs smoothly from above the shorten line to the lower point:

As you see, this shaves off that problem line that is sticking out, but you still have the continuous line of the bodice front from top to bottom. For the bodice back, you’ll do the same thing. First, here’s the bodice back with the fold line in red and the arrow pointing down to show that you’ll fold the bodice down the required amount for your nape-to-waist measurement:

The next image shows the bodice shortened, and I’ve again circled the “problem” area:

The size lines no longer match up at the side seam, so you’ll once again grab your ruler and simply smooth them back out:

That’s it! Always start at the top and work your way down to keep the sizing accurate, since the size just below the armohole hasn’t been altered in any way by shortening the bodice. By the time you reach the bottom of the bodice side seam, your new line matches up perfectly.


Further Tips for Making a Child’s Pattern

To shrink an adult pattern down to fit a child, you will slash and spread not only vertically, but horizontally, as shown here:

The armhole of an adult pattern is going to be far too large for a child, so you will need to shrink it by overlapping the pattern at the upper line (you can fold, but I think it is easier to slash and overlap). To determine the correct depth of the armhole, measure the child from the top of the shoulder down to her underarm “seam.” An easier way to do this is to find a garment that fits the child nicely (a tailored shirt or dress with a comfy armhole), then measure that from the shoulder seam down around to the underarm seam. Add 5/8″ to the shoulder and side seam for your seam allowance, and there is your front armscye (armhole) measurement. You can repeat this for the back, then just double-check to make sure the side seams of the bodice front and back match correctly. Use your french curve to redraw the armhole curve (which will look a bit funny after you’ve overlapped the bodice at this point!). The old armhole will be a guide to help you see where the new curve needs to go…only the new curve will be a miniature of the old.
The rest of the adult bodice is going to be too long-waisted for a small child as well, so that’s where you’ll use the other vertical line. Just shorten the bodice as you would for a short-waisted woman, taking up as much as is necessary to place the waistline at the child’s waist (or empire waist, as the case may be), plus 5/8″ for your seam allowance. Ta-da!


Make Muslin Your Best Friend!

Now, obviously, testing pattern pieces in muslin plays a very important role here. You want to test your new pattern pieces and fit them to a properly sized mannequin (or yourself or the person for whom the new pattern was made). You sometimes discover fitting quirks (like shoulders that are too wide for the average) when you do this, and you can adjust the toile to fit. When the toile is to your liking, you take it apart and trace it as your final pattern piece.


The Rest of the Pattern

Okay, I can close up this section with a few quick instructions on sleeves and skirts. Skirts are easiest to size up, particularly if you are just using a basic two-piece skirt (front and back). You don’t need to split the skirt at all, just add the appropriate amount to the side seam, like this:


Obviously, your french curves will be your best friend on hipline curves!

Now, for a gored skirt, you only need to add to the gores that have the side seams (side front and side back, usually) until you get up around size 22. At that point, it is a good idea to distribute the amount you’ll be adding evenly between the side seam gore and the center front gore (so the center front doesn’t look ridiculously small in comparison).

Now, if you are one size in the bust or waist and another in the hips, you’ll need to “grade” between sizes in order to make the skirt (particularly a more fitted skirt) work properly. This is not at all difficult. Here’s an example using my Regency Gown pattern. Let’s suppose you measure at a size 20 in the bust for this empire-waist style, but you measure at 24 in the hips. My original pattern goes up to size 18, but you can use the 18-26 supplement to give you the larger bodice. From there, you just need to draft the skirt, sizing up from the original. First, measure out from the 18 and mark a line for a 20 “waist”:

Now go down to the hip and measure out to the correct amount for a size 24:

Now use a hipline curve tool to connect the 20 waist to the 24 hip, smoothly transitioning between the two, then following the 24 all the way down to the hem:


What about resizing sleeves?

For sleeves, you split the pattern piece in three to spread it, like this:


You will add to the sleeve only the amount that was added to the side seam of the bodice, since only the armhole enlargement affects the sleeve. Measure that amount (say 1/4″) and divide it into thirds. You need the least amount added at the curve and the most at the underarm/sleeve seams. On the smallest sizes (6-12), you really don’t need to add to the curve at all — you can just add 1/8″ at the splits on each underarm curve. For the larger pieces where you’ve added more to the armhole of the bodice, you can add 1/8″ to the curve, then divide the rest of the amount evenly between the splits at the underarm curves. These rules apply to any kind of sleeve — long, short, fitted, puffed. Whatever you added to the bodice armhole must be added to the sleeve. Obviously, you can get away with fudging a puffed sleeve, but that won’t work on a fitted sleeve! And, obviously, if you’re making a child’s sleeve out of an adult sleeve, you’ll need to slash horizontally as well as vertically to shrink the sleeve overall.

That is it! It really isn’t hard at all — just work. I freely admit that this is the part of pattern drafting I like the least. It is just “grunt work.” But once you have your final pattern, the sense of accomplishment is immense! There is nothing like a custom-fitted pattern to take your sewing to new heights of accomplishment!

Share the love!

Newer comments

232 Comments on How to Resize a Pattern

  1. Raine
    May 16, 2010 at 8:09 am (4 years ago)

    Thanks, this is a great help! I often buy vintage patterns that are beautiful, but just two sizes too small, or vice versa. Now I know how to fit them to me.

    Reply
  2. Your Name Vintage Values at Ebay
    May 16, 2010 at 4:25 pm (4 years ago)

    What a wonderful service to all sewers. It takes the mystery out of re-sizing. I am glad to refer my customers to your site to help them out.

    Reply
  3. Heidi Lange
    May 17, 2010 at 3:06 pm (4 years ago)

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’m upsizing a vintage pattern, and I’ve looked through about fifteen sewing manuals (including old ones from the 1940s) without finding anything nearly as helpful as your website. Thanks again!

    Reply
  4. Jennifer
    May 19, 2010 at 2:40 am (4 years ago)

    This is SO helpful!

    Most women in the thirties through sixties did not wear size eighteen like me. The only question now, is figuring out what the vintage size is in modern terms, before I buy them to upsize. because twelve in the sixties and twelve today are not the same. Hmmm.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      May 19, 2010 at 8:53 am (4 years ago)

      Hi, Jennifer! Vintage sizes changed radically over the years. Back in the 1910s and into the ’20s, the size was your bust measurement, so you could be a size 36! That was later considered off-putting, so measurements were assigned to a number (like a 36 bust to a 12). As with all patterns, check the measurement chart to see where you line up. Then you’ll be ready to resize from there! :-)

      Reply
  5. Corrine Loyola
    May 21, 2010 at 10:13 am (4 years ago)

    I like three quarter sleeves rather than short sleeves. Can you recommend the proper way to lengthen a sleeve? How do you up-size collar pieces at the neckline after you have up-sized the bodice? One more question, how do you properly reduce a waistline in comparison to the hip? When I get patterns that are appropriate for my hip size I always need to drastically reduce the waist. How is this properly completed? Finally, I am having problems finding quality fabrics. It seems that everything is made to be a quilt. Which is fine if you want to make a quilt but not if you want to make a wool suit. Any suggestions? – Thanks

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      May 21, 2010 at 10:58 am (4 years ago)

      Hi, Corrine! Here are answers to your questions in order:

      1. To lengthen a sleeve, you simply slash it in half horizontally through the middle and spread the pieces apart the amount desired.
      2. You size up collar pieces the same way you sized up the bodice — slashing vertically in the center, then vertically at the side curve (which corresponds with the shoulder area). If you have a pattern piece that calls for cutting on the fold, you just back it away from the fold the proper amount, then slash and spread the curved edge (which adds to both sides of the collar, naturally).
      3. To see how to grade a pattern for different sizes in two areas, see my Easy Alterations article. While the method is applied there to a Regency gown, the same principles work on other styles. Very few of us are a single size–most of us are one size in the bust, another in the waist, and sometimes yet another in the hips! Grading between sizes ensures a perfect fit.
      4. Finally, there are wonderful sources of wool online, including Denver Fabrics, which has a wide selection of wool. Also see my Sewing and Fabric Links for more!

      Hope this helps,

      Warmly,
      Jennie

      Reply
  6. Vanessa Peters
    May 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm (4 years ago)

    This is a great site. The re-sizing information is really helpful. I have lots of vintage patterns that are too small that I can now size up.

    Reply
  7. rhiannon
    May 26, 2010 at 10:20 am (4 years ago)

    Wonderful, thanks for this information. Now all those beautiful patterns I have bought can be made to fit me. i am so excited and cannot wait for my order from you to arrive so I can start upsizing and sewing. Wonderful site.

    Reply
  8. Jodieth
    May 28, 2010 at 3:19 pm (4 years ago)

    Thank you so much for this information. I need the upsizing on top, but still same on bottom of my old patterns and vintage ones I have bought

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      May 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm (4 years ago)

      Sure thing! Very few of us fit one standard “size” as-is. Most of us need to make adjustments between bust, waist, and hip. See my “easy alterations” article for how to grade between two different sizes on the same pattern. :)

      Reply
  9. beth
    June 5, 2010 at 2:05 pm (4 years ago)

    How can I resize a child’s pinafore? The vintage pattern I have consists of only two pieces -one for the pinafore and one for some bloomers. I need to size it down. My pattern is a size 3, but the child I’m making it for is age two; however, she is slim, and her measurements are between that of a size 1/2 and a size one. So, I need to keep the length for it that of a size 2, but I need the pinafore a bloomers to fit her measurements. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      June 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm (4 years ago)

      Hello, Beth!

      Without seeing the pattern pieces, it’s a little hard to tell you where to resize, but the principles I’ve given here are the same across all pattern types — you basically just need to take it in by slashing in the center front, shoulder and underarm (then center back, shoulder, and underarm) and overlap the pieces to take up the needed amount. If you’d like to email me some photos, I can give you a little more help on where to slash and overlap.

      Warmly,
      Jennie

      Reply
  10. Leslie
    June 21, 2010 at 9:09 am (4 years ago)

    My local fabric store also sells rolls of that white paper they use at doctor’s offices on the exam table. It’s inexpensive and a good width for tracing patterns. It’s somewhat opaque but sturdy.

    Reply
  11. Marlene Lovett
    June 25, 2010 at 11:09 am (4 years ago)

    I have a size 12 that I wish to reduce to a size 8 only on the neck line, collar, shoulders. It is a vintage pattern #7898 western shirt. If there was a size 10 someplace, that would be great.

    Thanks,

    Marlene

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      June 25, 2010 at 1:32 pm (4 years ago)

      Marlene,

      You can use my instructions to reduce only that area. If you’ll check my tutorial under “Easy Alterations,” you’ll see how to ease between sizes when you need a larger size on bottom than on top (or vice versa).

      Hope this helps!

      Warmly,
      Jennie

      Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      August 7, 2010 at 9:33 am (4 years ago)

      Hello, “Me!”

      I actually have that book and have used flat pattern-making techniques for years. What is in this tutorial is the result of 15 years of pattern resizing, pulling together several vintage and modern approaches to get a process that requires a minimum of fuss or technical expertise. I have further fitting tips to tweak areas that crop up due to particular body shapes and styles, since no two women are identical when it comes to getting a lovely custom fit.

      What I don’t like about a lot of modern pattern sizing techniques is that they add too much room in the shoulders and bust as the sizes go up. This is especially true for plus sizes, which often end up with “linebacker” shoulders–LOL! So the method here is designed to prevent oversizing in key areas. Where ladies do need more room, those adjustments can easily be made during the toile-making process in front of a mirror. I’ve found this especially key for vintage styles that do not fit like conventional modern garments.

      Hope this helps, and book recommendations are always good to share. I also recommend Rene’ Bergh’s book, Make Your Own Patterns.

      Warmly,
      Jennie

      Reply
  12. Moira
    August 8, 2010 at 4:35 am (4 years ago)

    How about resizing for busty ladies?

    Reply
  13. Elaine L. Duerre
    August 9, 2010 at 10:18 pm (4 years ago)

    My Dear Lady, Jennie:
    Thank you for this site. For the past week I have been working on sewing for my Great-grand-daughter who is 5yr. and starting school. I have many vintage patterns (45 years old and older) Is that vintage? The patterns are size 8 and I need to resize down to a size 6…your resizing is very helpful. Thank you. During my week long search I emailed Simplicity and asked them for help, in how to resize a pattern. Today I got a reply that rather shocked me. They told me to take my pattern to Kinko’s and percentage wise make it smaller. I was about to write back and give this adviser a peice of my mind…when I found your site. I think I will still email them back, just so they don’t tell some poor sewer to do that. My gilrs patterns are simple little A line dresses with no waist or sleeves just a simple little dress. Thank you Elaine

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      August 10, 2010 at 1:39 pm (4 years ago)

      Yikes, Elaine! It is illegal to copy copyrighted patterns, so I cannot imagine Simplicity sanctioning that. You are right! I hope you enjoy this tutorial, and have fun sizing your vintage patterns!

      Reply
  14. Sabrina
    August 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm (4 years ago)

    Thank you , thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been struggling to figure out how to properly resize patterns! I make cloth diapers and trainers and other cloth products from my own patterns I have created. I create them for my own child, and have been having such difficulty adjusting the sizes up and down for other children. But reading this over makes me realize what I was doing wrong and where I need to put my cutting lines. THANK YOU!!!! Also, now I understand why every dress I resize for my mom in the top has been very ill fitting in the shoulder area! I was following other resizing instructions and they weren’t quite working. I am going to try this out the next time I make her a dress! THANK YOU! I will be recommending you to all my friends!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      August 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm (4 years ago)

      You’re welcome, Sabrina! I am so happy to help. Be sure to also see my page of fitting tips, because they address other problem areas (like narrow shoulders, low bust-point, and short-waisted silhouettes). Have fun!

      Reply
  15. Peggy
    August 25, 2010 at 11:26 am (4 years ago)

    Thank you for putting this up, but I was wondering how would you make a pants pattern larger or smaller would you cut it in 2, the center of the crotch and the center of the waist?

    Reply
      • Peggy
        September 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm (4 years ago)

        Thank you, I was able to download it. I was wondering if you know how to adjust a pattern that has an elastic waist to a pattern that has a zipper in it? I was told to convert from a zipper to elastic in the pattern you just have to make the waist line bigger, do I just make the waist smaller to convert from a elastic to zipper by putting in darts and reshaping the waist line?

        Reply
  16. Jennie Chancey
    September 3, 2010 at 3:08 pm (4 years ago)

    Hi, Peggy! You definitely do not want to make the waistline bigger if you are moving from elastic to zipper. It needs to be taken in with darts or gentle grading from hipline up to waist. Hope that helps!

    Reply
    • Peggy
      September 4, 2010 at 4:11 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Jennie, thanks for all your help, I appreciate it very much.

      Reply
  17. Laura
    October 9, 2010 at 11:05 pm (4 years ago)

    Can you share instructions on:
    -how to make the long sleeve for the normal regency dress pattern fit an extremely chubby upper arm, yet still fit into the armhole.
    -how to expand the elbow length sleeves for the ELC regency dress for a chubby upper arm as well so it fits the bodice.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      October 10, 2010 at 10:09 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi, Laura! Because the long sleeves are supposed to be gathered, you can just enlarge them by slashing from the upper curve diagonally toward the center of the sleeve just below the bicep area — meaning the slashes will look fan-shaped rather than like stripes. You will slash in the same three places (center of curve and on either side). When you “fan out” the slashes, that will add room to the upper portion of the sleeve and not to the whole sleeve, so you’ll still get a good fit below the elbow. Make a mock-up in muslin and test it by basting it into the bodice. You may have to tweak the slashes a bit to get the perfect fit, but you’ll be glad you did. :)

      The ELC sleeve is a little trickier only because it is not shaped like a conventional sleeve at the top. That just changes where you slash. You need a slash at the center of the big curve then two slashes in the underarm curve (spaced about two inches apart). Again, a bit of experimentation with muslin will show you exactly how the slashes behave. Have fun!

      Reply
  18. Sophie
    October 17, 2010 at 2:32 am (4 years ago)

    Hi Jennie, Thanks so much for this article – I think, in theory, I’ve almost got my head around resizing! Just a query though – you mentioned sizing an adult pattern down for a child, but would you have any tips for resizing a 1960s girls’ size 14 (32-26-35) majorette dress up to a modern adult size 8 (36-28-38)? (I know it’s going to be something of an adventure, probably ill-fated, but really none of the more contemporary patterns appealed to me.) Any tips particular to this venture would be appreciated :)

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      October 17, 2010 at 6:12 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi, Sophie! If the girls’ 14 is designed for a girl who already has a woman’s shape, it will not be very hard to size up, because it already has the shaping in place for the bustline. If it is designed for a real child, though, then it will need significant alterations in the bodice. It would actually be easier in that case to find a similar bodice from an adult pattern and use it instead — then size up the sleeves and skirt to fit. Hope this helps!

      Reply
      • Sophie
        November 3, 2010 at 5:48 am (4 years ago)

        Hi Jennie,
        Thanks for that tip. It ended up being that the majorette dress bodice did already have a woman’s shape, so I just followed your instructions as per above. The dress turned out amazing. Thanks so much for sharing such clear, straight-forward guidelines for resizing! :)

        Reply
        • Jennie Chancey
          November 5, 2010 at 1:10 pm (4 years ago)

          I am so glad, Sophie!

  19. Gina
    October 28, 2010 at 3:23 pm (4 years ago)

    How about princess style, both front and back? I’m working on a 1850s bodice that has the extreme princess cut in back. How do I make it smaller?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      October 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm (4 years ago)

      The same principles apply, Gina, but you have to slash vertically all the way from top to hem if that’s how the gown works. If you want to email me some pictures, I will be able to assist you more accurately. Thanks!

      Reply
  20. debera Morrow
    November 13, 2010 at 3:30 am (4 years ago)

    Hello, I hope you can help me. I am have gone from a size 24 to size 32 and need new clothes. I have lots of size 24 patterns, but I don’t know how to change them so that they
    are size 32. Can this be done???
    Debera from Australia

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      November 16, 2010 at 7:21 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi, Debera! The instructions given here work for any size. Just follow the steps, taking careful measurements of the original pattern and doing the math to see how far up you need to size them. That will do the trick!

      Reply
  21. Jessica
    December 6, 2010 at 11:16 pm (4 years ago)

    Hi,

    Loved the explanations. I would like to sew from 1950′s patterns, however, the waists are too small and the hips too big. So, how do I make a 28 waist, 38 hip into a 31 waist and 36 hip? Thank you!

    Reply
  22. DeAnna
    January 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm (4 years ago)

    Thanks so much! I am currently sewing dresses for our nieces wedding and the candle lighter’s dress pattern needs to be sized down. This really helps!

    Reply
  23. Julia
    February 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm (3 years ago)

    Hello,
    I recently bought a vintage pattern off ebay which is about an inch too small for me in the waist and two inches too small in the bust. The whole bodice/skirt is separated into 4 front and 4 back pieces(vertical)and it has short puffed raglan-like sleeves. What is the best way to enlarge this type of pattern?
    Thanks :)

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      February 10, 2011 at 3:13 am (3 years ago)

      Hello, Julia! Sounds like a princess-line dress. Is it? That means the bodice and skirt pieces are together and the whole dress is joined with vertical seams. You can follow the same directions for enlarging the pattern, but you will need to grade out the bodice section to be larger than the waist. First enlarge each piece to match the correct measurement for your waist. Once you have those new pieces traced, pin-baste them for a try-on, because the bust might actually fit fine once the waist is enlarged (there is often much more ease in the bust area than in the waist). If you still find you need more room in the bust, you can slash the upper portion of each piece from neckline to waist (but not any lower) and widen the slash to make a pie-shaped wedge, adding more room in the bust but not to the shoulders or back. It will take some experimenting, because (depending on your cup size), you may also need to slash horizontally from side seam to bust to add more room there. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  24. Julia
    February 10, 2011 at 11:26 am (3 years ago)

    Yes, it is a princess-line dress then, i was wondering if that was what to call it, but i wasn’t sure. I will try what you said, Thanks alot and blessings :)

    Reply
  25. Heidi
    February 17, 2011 at 8:28 am (3 years ago)

    Thank you, Thank you!!!! This is wonderful to find this help. I am getting so frustrated with sewing and trying to get things to fit!! I will pass your site on to all my friends that sew.

    Reply
  26. margaret
    March 10, 2011 at 5:53 am (3 years ago)

    Hi there, Jennie. I have a modern dress pattern I wish to make, but holding it up to another similar shop-bought dress, the pattern armhole is a lot less deeper than the bought dress, and as I have quite large upper arms I know that the pattern won’t fit. Would it be easy to alter the pattern armhole? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      March 10, 2011 at 9:44 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Margaret! Yes, older patterns do often have very small armholes. Trace out the bodice pieces onto interfacing or heavy paper (so you don’t destroy your original vintage pattern), then flatten the store-bought dress and line up its armhole over each piece (front and back). Trace the shape of the armhole (it will be different front and back), then recut the armholes on the new “master” pattern pieces. Test the fit in muslin to make sure the armholes are comfortable. Once that is done, you’ll need to enlarge the sleeves to fit the new armhole. Measure the difference between the old armhole and the new one, then add that amount to the sleeve curve, using the “slash and spread” method shown in this tutorial. Test-fit one sleeve in muslin to make sure it looks and feels right. That’s all there is to it!

      Reply
      • margaret
        March 10, 2011 at 11:31 am (3 years ago)

        Thank you, Jennie. I did not expect such a quick response to my query; you must have a busy lifestyle being a young mum. I feel a bit more confident tackling my dress. I haven’t done any dressmaking for many years. Thank you once again. I am keeping your website in my favourites column and will recommend it to another sewing forum I came across this week. Best regards, Margaret

        Reply
  27. Jennie Chancey
    March 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm (3 years ago)

    You’re welcome, Margaret! It helps that I am eight hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone and three hours ahead of London. I check the site and answer email after the children are in bed, but everyone else is still in the middle of their day. ;)

    Reply
  28. Liz Hoffman
    March 24, 2011 at 11:14 am (3 years ago)

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I can’t tell you how helpful this tutorial is. As a plus-size costume designer, I have been trying for years to figure out how to resize vintage patterns for myself for costumes. You = godsend

    Reply
  29. Jude Duenweg
    April 2, 2011 at 11:17 am (3 years ago)

    Hi. This was very informative, and I plan to use it to increase a J.P. Ryan Polonaise pattern from a size 8 to a size 12. Right now I’m hunting for a few of the required supplies.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  30. alana Simon
    April 17, 2011 at 9:47 am (3 years ago)

    Thank you so much! this was REALLY informative. I’m still searching for many of the tools you’ve mentioned, but I wonder, could you recommend a good dress form? Thanks so much :)

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 18, 2011 at 3:02 am (3 years ago)

      Alana, any old dressform will work (Twin Fit, Singer, etc.), but I strongly recommend buying Fabulous Fit’s foam fitting system (that works over a conventional mannequin). That will allow you to really get a custom shape on your mannequin (and it’s pinnable!). Hope this helps!

      Reply
      • alana Simon
        April 19, 2011 at 8:30 am (3 years ago)

        WOW! Thank you so much! You have no idea how valuable your expertise and advice is to me. I’ve been waffling back and forth as to which dress form to purchase since I’m in between the small and med. Now with Fabulous Fit I don’t have to knock my head against the wall trying to make a decision.I had no idea this stuff was available..THANK YOU AGAIN! :)

        Reply
  31. Bonnie Corley
    April 21, 2011 at 12:11 am (3 years ago)

    Love this, I have some old patterns my daughter wants dresses from, had no idea how to make them larger till now. But how would you enlarge a collar on a dress? Please could you help with that. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 22, 2011 at 8:49 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Bonnie! It’s actually very simple. Since you enlarge the bodice at center front, shoulder, and center back, you will need to enlarge the collar in the same places. That means slashing the collar in the center, then midway (at shoulder point) and adding width at the front edges. Measure the new neckline curve after enlarging the bodice and double-check the collar’s new measurements against that for accuracy. You’ll also want to double-check the curve to make sure it will match accurately. Just experiment in muslin, and you’ll have it!

      Reply
    • Bonnie Corely
      April 22, 2011 at 11:31 am (3 years ago)

      Thanks so much, sounds like i might be able to make my daughter this wonderful dress after all! with your help. It will be great if it all works out, she loves vintage clothing but its getting harder to find peices that will fit or that or in good enough condition to wear. This is a great site, I will be back!!lol

      Reply
  32. Audrey
    April 21, 2011 at 8:22 am (3 years ago)

    Great article. Very clear and the pictures are especially helpful. Pictures are very rarely included in books that describe this technique. I got the link to this post from an Etsy vendor selling vintage patterns. A good marketing technique on her part since many of the older patterns are in smaller sizes. I have quite a collection of vintage patterns in a variety of sizes. I will definately try this method.

    Reply
  33. Raia Bryan
    April 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm (3 years ago)

    Looks like a great tutorial and I cant wait to try it, although I am confused about the sizing.
    You said the bust for size 12 is 34″. It says on the 50s pattern I have here that size 12 bust is 30″.

    Reply
  34. Raia Bryan
    April 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm (3 years ago)

    P.S.
    I am hoping to change my size 12 pattern (which says bust 30″ waist 25″) into a size 16 pattern (says bust 34″ waist 28″)

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      April 30, 2011 at 6:51 am (3 years ago)

      Raia, pattern sizes were different in the 1950s. Don’t go by size–go by measurements. Just note what measurements you are starting with on the vintage pattern and scale up from there. :-)

      Reply
      • Raia Bryan
        May 4, 2011 at 4:02 pm (3 years ago)

        I was wondering about sizing up the skirt front and back. I am going up two inches in waist size, do I then add one inch to the side seam of both the skirt front and back or just add two inches to the front or back side seam
        thanks!

        Reply
  35. Raia Bryan
    May 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm (3 years ago)

    One more question! :)
    I was wondering about the remaining pattern pieces I have:
    - sleeve facing
    - waist back facing
    - armhole facing front/back
    - and my dress pattern has a “peter pan” collar

    how do I deal with these pieces in terms of resizing?

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      May 5, 2011 at 1:43 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Raia! First, on the skirt, you can just add an inch to each side seam (front and back). If you were adding more than three inches, you’d need to slash and spread the skirt pieces both front and back as shown in the diagrams for the bodice pieces to proportionally enlarge the skirt. But for such a small amount, adding to the side seams is fine. You wouldn’t add the full amount to just front or back, because the skirt would not match the bodice at the side seams. ;)

      For instructions on the collar, jump up to my reply to Bonnie’s comment (second above yours). Instructions are just about identical for facings — you slash and spread in the same places as you do the collar to make the facings match the bodice neckline and armholes.

      Have fun sewing!

      Reply
  36. Sharon
    May 18, 2011 at 8:01 am (3 years ago)

    I am going to try your method to resize a shirt pattern, it is 28 inches chest at the moment and I would like to make it 36″ is that too much of a jump? any tips and I was wondering if I need to add to the sleeve curve and length of the body?
    many thanks

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      May 18, 2011 at 10:48 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Sharon! Ten inches is a big jump, but if you are taking care to check your fit by making a muslin toile, you will be fine. You will definitely need to add to the sleeve curve to fit the larger armhole that will result when you enlarge the bodice. As for length, you will need to check that, as it depends on your bust measurement (cup size). If you’re an “A”, you will not have to add any length. Sometimes you won’t have to add it even for a “B” cup. But for “C” or larger, you will need to add length in a gradual curve from side seam to front to allow for “lift.” Hope this helps!

      Reply
  37. dragonzflame
    May 22, 2011 at 10:44 pm (3 years ago)

    This looks great! I just made a test run of a 1943 DuBarry pattern, which is in several long pieces, and I knew it was going to be a couple of inches too small in the bust. What I didn’t expect was that it actually fits almost right in the bust itself but is incredibly tight in the waist and baggy round the shoulders. Of course, it fits beautifully in the back!

    But this post might be just what I need, so thanks!

    Also – I trace patterns onto that imitation greaseproof paper you can get in the supermarket for wrapping sandwiches. It’s cheap as chips and all you need to do is stick pieces together. It’s also transparent enough that you can trace.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      May 23, 2011 at 6:35 am (3 years ago)

      Thanks for the comment! Resizing princess-lined patterns can be tricky, because it is harder to tweak separate areas. I frequently horizontally slash the long pieces in the center at the waist to allow for grading between bust and waist. You can also treat the shoulder area separately, but that is best done when trying on a fitting toile, as each individual has different shoulder shapes. See my tutorial at “Why Doesn’t This Look Like the Pattern Cover?” for more info. Thanks!

      Reply
  38. Emily
    May 25, 2011 at 6:54 am (3 years ago)

    Hi, this is fantastic help- thank you. I’m taking a vintage dress up a size. I have split the front bodice with verticle lines as you have shown but when I came to split the back bodice the waist tapers in so much that I’m unable to draw a vertical split down from the armhole as it goes off the pattern. Do I draw a line/split parallel to the side seam and just spread it across horizontally please? Hope I’m making sense!
    Many thanks, Emily :)

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      May 25, 2011 at 8:11 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Emily! When you have a very nipped-in waist like that, it is okay to simply redraw the curved line (French curves will be helpful tools for this). So, if you need to add (say) 1/2″ under the arm, just redraw the side seam line 1/2″ away from the original. That does the trick!

      Reply
  39. Amber
    May 30, 2011 at 2:51 pm (3 years ago)

    I know this is an older post, but seriously thank you! I just picked up about 50 vintage patterns from a garage sale, and was wondering if I could resize them. Your directions make sense to me. The pictures help greatly. I am not as worried about this now! Since I just discovered your site, I can’t wait to peek around it more. Thank you so much for posting this tutorial!

    Reply
  40. Tammy
    June 1, 2011 at 11:27 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi, I am making little girls dresses for a festival and was told they were all size 5 to 8. Now I find it is up to hefty girls, young but obese. They are asking for 10 and 12s. The pattern only comes up to size . How do I enlarge that bodice, which is a sleeveless bodice with gathered long skirt, for the extra large little girls. Any help would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • tammy
      June 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm (3 years ago)

      sorry, up to size 8. This could be interesting.

      Reply
      • Jennie Chancey
        June 2, 2011 at 12:02 pm (3 years ago)

        Tammy, all you need are the actual measurements for the sizes they want, and then you can follow my tutorial on this page to go from what you have to what they need. It’s all about measurements–not “size.” :) Have fun!

        Reply
  41. Jessica
    June 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank you soooooooo much for this tutorial! I have a friend who needed a larger size and I was able to use your tutorial to resize the pattern.

    I love how you said it ‘isn’t hard, just work’…you were right :D

    Thanks again!

    Jessica

    p.s. we love your Edwardian apron pattern–six of us have one to two each :D

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      June 30, 2011 at 12:29 am (3 years ago)

      I’m so glad, Jessica! Have fun with all your sewing projects. Sounds like you stay busy stitching! :D

      Reply
  42. Rehanon
    July 6, 2011 at 6:56 am (3 years ago)

    I have a sailor wiggle dress from advance patterns in size 12 I’m a modern size 16 with a fair old bust on me. Is this too much of a change to make? I’ve been sewing since February and I have made quite a few things dresses and separates but I’ve never resized a pattern. Any help gratefully received :)

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      July 6, 2011 at 11:05 am (3 years ago)

      HI, Rehanon! No, that’s not too big of a stretch between sizes. I’ve gone from a 12 to a 22 before. You just need to make fitting muslins and check the fit especially at the shoulder and armhole areas, as those can get a bit out of proportion if not tweaked. If you are over a “D” cup, you will probably also need to add length to the center front of the bodice. I have a tutorial for this in my Romantic Era Dress instructions. Scroll to the bottom for the “DD” appendix. :) Have fun!

      Reply
  43. Kate
    August 7, 2011 at 3:13 am (3 years ago)

    Did a slight resize but the darts aren’t pulling the fabric below the bust in enough. The only way I can see to fix it is to make a set of vertical darts (like the ones in your Romantic Era Dress instructions. The ones in this pattern are the angled side ones.. Can I put a 2nd set of darts or doesn’t it work that way? I can’t make the side ones pull in the right material..

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      August 8, 2011 at 1:45 am (3 years ago)

      Hello, Kate! I don’t know what kind of fabric you are using, but if it’s stretchy, that will affect the darts. Also, if you size up, the darts also need to be a bit wider. There should be no need to run multiple darts below the bust. If you are making for a larger cup size, you can, of course, make some new horizontal darts from the side seam/undearm area over to the bust (like the ones on my 18-26DD Tea Gown pattern supplement). However, adding darts there will lift up the lower edge of the bodice, so you do have to compensate by adding a bit of length. I’d just keep experimenting in muslin (or a fabric similar to your fashion material if that is stretchy). There’s no “wrong” way to add darts as long as you take in the amount of fabric you need to and have them center on the bust point. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  44. Rachel Crosswhite
    August 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm (3 years ago)

    does this work for making a childs size pattern to a ladies size pattern? I have a child pattern I’d love to use for myself but it’s not a ladies pattern!! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      August 10, 2011 at 2:57 am (3 years ago)

      Rachel, that really doesn’t work, because little girls are proportioned completely differently from women (no nipped-in waist, no bustline). It’s better to try to find an adult pattern similar to the child’s in style and tweak it to come closer to the original look you are trying to copy. I mean, you can put in the time and effort if you’re determined, but it means making a significant number of changes to add room for an adult bustline, narrow waistline, and hips. ;)

      Reply
  45. Okay now
    August 14, 2011 at 11:38 am (3 years ago)

    I love to sew, but I’m several different sizes. These tips are simple to read and follow. There are patterns I have that are back in style, but are 4 sizes to small (3 babies did me in). Now I can take them out and reuse them, thank you Jenny

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      August 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm (3 years ago)

      You’re most welcome! You’ll be encouraged to hear that very, very few women fit into one “standard” size. I am three different sizes, depending on what you measure. Being able to custom-fit patterns guarantees a beautiful fit no matter what size you are in which place! ;)

      Reply
  46. Kate
    August 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi, now im resizing a Nehru Jacket pattern which i confusing because it has front, back and side underarm panels, i have lengthened and will add a little to the seam, but i am having trouble resizing the armholes and the sleeves and keeping them matching.. I’m also in a hurry to get this done and have never sewn anything this complicated before.. Is there a trick to resizing armholes and sleeves together?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      August 15, 2011 at 2:59 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Kate! Without seeing a picture, it is a little hard to visualize what you’re doing, but let me take a stab at it. If you add width to the pattern pieces by slashing and spreading, then you will also need to add width to the sleeve piece by slashing and spreading as shown in the illustration above to widen the curve and underarm areas just as you have widened the jacket at the underarm area. If you have widened the jacket at both back and side underarm, then that will affect the sleeve. Just make sure you add identical amounts of width in the sleeve at underarm and back. Test this in muslin to make sure the sleeve still matches nicely at the underarm curve (front and back) and at the top. Resizing sleeves does require careful testing, especially if they are set-in and have to match exactly. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  47. BVelvet5
    August 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm (3 years ago)

    Wow, we think alike. After reading other directions on how to enlarge and thinking that won’t work and was thinking along the same line as this but afraid to put it to use.

    You’ve saved me ty ty ty.

    Reply
  48. Gail
    August 23, 2011 at 4:27 am (3 years ago)

    Hello. I have been trying to enlarge the Regency Gown Pattern size 18 long sleeve to a size 26 long sleeve. Plus I have big upper arms. I have made 4 muslins for fitting but they either come out like mutton-leg sleeves or not fitting into the armhole at the sleeve cap. I’m making this dress to wear to a formal function soon and the sleeves are the only things that need fixing.
    I would appreciate any help or advice.

    Reply
    • Jennie Chancey
      August 23, 2011 at 5:06 am (3 years ago)

      Hi, Gail! If you could send photos, that would be helpful. It sounds like you need to enlarge at the bicep but not so much at the sleeve cap (or you end up with the “leg o’ mutton” look). To do this, you slash the sleeve vertically from bottom almost to top through the middle. Then you’ll spread the lower edge to accommodate a larger bicep without adding so much to the curve. If you *do* still need more room in the cap, then spread the sleeve a little at the top and more at the bottom (making a triangular gap rather than a rectangular gap). That will give more room at the bicep but not so much fullness in the cap. Hope this helps!

      Reply
      • Gail
        August 23, 2011 at 6:57 am (3 years ago)

        Thank you. That makes alot more sense than what I was doing, which was slashing too much at the sleeve cap. Two questions:
        1)To make a size 18 sleeve into a 26 sleeve, I just follow your instructions up above for enlarging the pattern, right?
        2)And can I add more length to the sleeve cap because I can get the top of the sleeve to set into the armhole from the bottom but it seems that I run out of sleeve at the sleeve cap.

        Reply
  49. Jennie Chancey
    August 23, 2011 at 7:06 am (3 years ago)

    Ah ha! (Smacking forehead!) As your armhole is larger, you will need to add length as well as width to your sleeve. Since you mainly seem to need the extra length in the cap, I’d slash the pattern piece horizontally across the cap about two inches below the top of the curve. Then spread the pattern pieces to add the needed length. Do this step AFTER you add the width to the sleeve as explained in my earlier comment, and you should be set! :D

    Reply
    • Gail
      August 23, 2011 at 10:39 am (3 years ago)

      Lol, no need to smack yourself. I’m glad my pic helped. Thank you so much.

      Reply

3Pingbacks & Trackbacks on How to Resize a Pattern

  1. [...] I’m not a 32 inch bust, so I used this tutorial on how to size up patterns. It was incredibly helpful. First I traced the pattern pieces. Then I [...]

  2. [...] once before and, now that I think about, it didn’t go so well that time, either. I used the tutorial found on Sense & Sensibility Patterns. It’s a good tutorial; it makes sense; it’s [...]

  3. [...] My quest for answers brought me to a website which has great instructions on how to resize a pattern. [...]

Leave a Reply