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Pattern Sizing

crazy2sew | Posted in Fitting on


I am fairly new to this forum.  I have always loved sewing.  One of my biggest problems is finding a pattern that is going to fit me.  I always end up with the pattern way to big or way to small.  Can somebody please explain once and for all how to pick out a pattern size.  How do you account for ease and all that stuff?




  1. stitchagain | | #1

    I'll jump in but I'm sure you will get many other knowledgeable responses.  I have thought about this quite a bit myself.

    Measure yourself (or have a sewing partner do it with you).  The tape measure should be pull around you comfortably, I've always heard of putting two extra fingers in to give a little.

    Go by the chart on the pattern envelope.  If you don't fit into there size criteria, buy the size covered by your largest measurement and you will most have to make alterations.

    Ease has to do more with style and design than with "fit".  There are  built-in guidelines for the amount of ease in styles that are "fitted"  "loose-fitted"  "semi-fitted".  These are the words to look for in the description of the patterns or others (such as oversized) if that is what you prefer.

    As I am beginning to notice the decision of size and pattern is just a starting point and as a seamstress you can make lots of alteration to effect the end fit of the garment.



  2. solosmocker | | #2

    Accurate measuring is critical. Measure your high bust. That is critical to getting the proper pattern, particularly if you are a C or higher bust. I subscribe to the method taught by Nancy Zieman in Fitting Finesse, a book I highly recommend. NAYY...She has you measure from crease to crease in the front high bust area and that measurement determines what size pattern you use. She then teaches the pivot and slide method, very easy to learn, to do any further adjustments. Also, the habit of making "muslins" (which don't have to be made out of muslin) allows you to audition the fit and tweek it. This is an important habit to get into. Hope this starts you off. Fit is an ongoing challenge for all of us and requires constant refinement. Look at it as something that you will work at with each additional garment, not something that you get out of the pattern envelope. solo

  3. stitchagain | | #3


    I looked at my notes and wanted to add to my post.  The New Vogue Sewing Book has a great section on ease.  Their description diferentiates wearing ease and design ease. 

    Understanding Fit and ease seems to me very important.  It makes the difference in whether you are asked the question did you make that?



  4. Teaf5 | | #4

    There  isn't a "once and for all" answer to fitting patterns, as each company has a slightly different basic fit, and different styles have different fit, depending on whether they are fitted, semi-fitted, loose, or one-size-fits-all.  Plus, the same size pattern made in different fabrics will fit completely differently.

    I usually start with a pattern two sizes bigger than what I wear in readymade, and then measure the pattern against the parts of something I already have that resembles the pattern style, is made of a similiar fabric and fits well.  This may be the bodice of one blouse, the sleeve of another, and the collar of another, but it works pretty well.  Cut out the pattern pieces, press them flat, and then lay out an existing garment of the same weight fabric to compare the size and shapes of the different sections.  With a new pattern, it's always worth it to make a muslin, as suggested, of at least the major fitting areas--bust, hips, sleeves--to avoid ruining your good fabric.

    When you are looking at patterns, make sure you read the "recommended fabrics" notation very carefully.  If it recommends a loose, drapey rayon but you're using a stiff cotton or silk, it probably won't fit right, and visa versa. 

  5. sewelegant | | #5

    I would like to emphasize Solosmocker's advice!  Nancy Zieman's book "fitting finesse" is very reasonably priced and very easy to read and decipher.  I have sewn all my life and when I reached the point where I needed to make adjustments in the patterns because of weight gain... nothing fit!!!  I tried all the methods I could find and nothing seemed to satisfy me until I saw Nancy Zieman demonstrating this method on her tv show.

    This method makes you realize if you get the size pattern that fits your neck and shoulders the other alterations can be made without a lot of stress.  She shows you how to measure across your front from armpit crease to armpit crease.  She says it is easy to remember that 14" equates to a size 14.  If the measurement goes up or down, either way... the pattern size goes up or down in 1/2 inch increments... for example if you measure 15 that means you need to go up 2 sizes (18) one size for each 1/2"   Make a sample of the upper bodice and see if this is a good fit in this area for you.

    I buy a roll of paper from a quilt shop in my area, but I see it in Nancy's notions and Clotilde's catalogs.  This way I can trace the pattern and tweak it to my satisfaction.  I think it takes as much time to get the pattern ready and fabric cut out as it takes to sew it up. Maybe more.

    1. jjgg | | #6

      >>>If the measurement goes up or down, either way... the pattern size goes up or down in 1/2 inch increments... for example if you measure 15 that means you need to go up 2 sizes (18) one size for each 1/2" Make a sample of the upper bodice and see if this is a good fit in this area for you.<<<<I don't' have the book Fitting Finesse, but this statement is not actually true if she's talking about pattern grading (going from one pattern size to the next.When patterns are first drafted, they are generally drafted in a mid size such as an misses 8 or 10, then they are made bigger and smaller, this is called "grading" every company has their own 'grading rules' meaning how much bigger or smaller they get from size to size, GENERALLY, when you get into larger sizes, the increments between sizes get bigger ie; a size 20 to a 22 will grow by 1 inch where as a size 14 - 20 can grow by 1/2 inch and a sz 6 - 10 will be by 1/4 inch.If you buy a multi sz pattern in the different size ranges you can see the difference in the grading as the size gets larger. If you study it closely, you will see where the 'length' of a pattern usually only grows by 1/4 inch per size, study how armholes will go out and further down as the size gets larger.

      1. sewelegant | | #7

        I went to my fitting finesse book and copied the text:

        If you purchase a pattern to fit the front armhole measurement, the garment wil fit correctly in the shoulder, neckline and front armhole - the areas the garment hangs from on your figure.  By purchasing the pattern according to the front armhole measurement, the pattern is designed to fit your bone structure, neckline, armhole and shoulder width.

        Front Width Measurement

        *   find the crease in your skin where your arm meets your body

        *   measure above the end of one crease straight across the front of your chest to the end of the other crease.

        *   round off the measurement to the nearest 1/2"

        Even though the front width measurement and its corresponding sizes are not written on the back of the pattern envelope, the sizing is easy to remember.  Misses' size 14 equals 14", and the sizes go up or down with every 1/2".  For example, if your measurement is 13-1/2", buy a size 12.  If you measure 14-1/2", select a size 16.

        There is a chart following the above paragraph and it looks like the 1/2 inch rule in all the sizes from 6 to 22 and womens 38 to 48.  The copywrite (or however you spell that) is 1994 so there could be some new advice around, but this has served me well.

        By the way, this method is adapted from the Sew/Fit Manual, a guide to making patterns fit by pivoting and sliding written by Ruth Oblander and Joan Anderson.  I have the 1993 edition and got it from Clotilde sewing supply catalog in the 90's.

        This is based on Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick and Vogue patterns.  Their patterns are based on a size B bust cup measure and if you are larger and buy a pattern according to your bust or even upper bust measurement you may be working with an impossible to fix pattern.  There is a lot more information, but this is a wonderful system, I think.

        The independent companies have their own sizing methods so these facts do not apply to them.

        Edited 9/26/2007 11:04 am by sewelegant

        Edited 9/26/2007 11:05 am by sewelegant

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