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PLEASE help with selecting pattern size

MMM1 | Posted in General Discussion on

Hello Ladies (& Gents)

I need help with selecting the correct pattern size. My measurements are: Bust 36.5″ Cup size C, High Bust 33.5, Waist 28, Hip 40 Height 5’9″ sleeve 24.5″.

I have done some Home Dec projects with success and decided that I wanted to begin to make my own clothes.  I have a great deal of trouble finding clothes that are long enough for me but I am not tall enough to need to shop in the “tall shop” like my mom (she is 6′). I have a small frame — though wide hips.

I recently purchased quite a few Butterick and Vogue patterns at JoAnn’s sale but now fear that I bought the wrong size.  I prefer clothes that are more fitted.

Hope this is enough info to get some help.

Thank you 🙂


  1. moushka | | #1

    Congratulations on your home dec sucesses. You'll love sewing for yourself.

    Since you have more than 2" difference between your high bust and your full bust, the smaller size will probably fit you best in the neck and shoulders. These areas are harder to adjust than the bustline. If you are using a Misses pattern, you will have to make a full bust adjustment in fitted styles, as standard misses sizes are designed for a "B" cup. Depending on your neck and shoulder size, you could start with either a 10 or a 12 in McCall's, Vogue, etc. 

    Pati Palmer publishes two excellent fitting books: Fit for Real People and Pants for Real People. If you are serious about learning to fit yourself from standard patterns, these books will tell you exactly how to do it.  McCalls publishes Palmer/Pletsch patterns that have lots of special fitting tips and instructions. You could start with your favourite type of garment (pants or a top) or one of their coordinates patterns to see their fitting method.  The patterns usually come in three sizes (e.g.,10-12-14, 12-14-16).  Fit for Real People or the pattern instructions themselves will give you more guidance on which size to choose.

    There are two ways to avoid the issue of restricted sizing. The first is to buy a pattern from Burda or KwikSew that have all sizes included.  You take your measurements and trace around the pattern, blending smoothly where you change sizes. Burda generally offers slighly less ease than American pattern companies, so if you like fitted styles, you may be happiest with Burda. They are also very fashion forward. There are also several small independent pattern companies (look at the ads in "Threads" or "Sew News") that include all sizes in one patterns. Some of the best are http://www.loeshinse.com  http://www.fashionsewing.com , http://www.cjpatterns.com  , http://www.lafred.com 

    The second way to get great fitting patterns is to use a software program like those available from  http://www.wildginger.com  or  http://www.livingsoft.com  I use (and love) Dress Shop from Livingsoft but PatternMasterBoutique (WG) has many enthusiastic users, too.  While software provides excellent fit and unlimited styling options, construction techniques are somewhat limited. A good sewing guide (Reader's Digest is one) will provide a basic and invaluable reference tool. Any book by Claire Schaffer, Roberta Carr, or Sandra Betzina, to name just a few, is worth adding to your sewing library.

    Check out http://www.sewingworld.com and http://www.patternreview.com as well. Both are bulletin boards offering a wealth of information. It's a very exciting time to be sewing.  With computers, the internet, and the fabulous sewing machines that embroider as well as sew, there are more and more ways to create clothing that expresses who you are and fits you perfectly. NAYY to all the foregoing. HTH.


    1. MMM1 | | #2

      Thank you so much for your kind reply. I have the Reader's Digest book that you suggested (great price at Costco). I will go out and look for the books you recommended.

      I have seen the Burda patterns listed on Pattern Review but did not know that they included all sizes. That makes things very interesting. I took a quick glance at the web sites you listed and LOVED them. I almost can't wait. Is there a way to get a great deal like the $0.99 days at JoAnns?

      I called Vogue's tech help line and they told me to go with size 14. But that just doesn't jive with what I have read on this site and others.

      I am very excited about begining to sew clothing. (My husband gave me a serger right after Christmas! )

      1. SewTruTerry | | #3

        Congratulations. You have just made the best use of your time concerning sewing.  Asking questions and taking the time to get the information that you need.  If you look at the back of the pattern there should be information on there regarding the sizing and the measurements that correspond to that size for that pattern company.  I would also suggest that you start with some simple T-shirts and dresses that are not too fitted. Even if you like them more fitted it is better to have to take it in a little than have too little fabric.  The biggest mistake most new sewers make is confusing "mall" sizes for pattern sizes and/or buying all patterns in the same size regardless of styling or pattern company.  Then I would suggest that you take one of the most basic patterns that you have and working it up in the type of fabric that is recommended on the back of the pattern.  Now do not go out and get top of the line expensive material that you will be in tears if something happens to it but also do not buy the bottom of the bin material either.  Try to find fabric that is a good color and feels nice to the touch and that is a good price. That way when you have everything fitted the way you want if to fit and you have transferred all of the changes to your pattern that fitting piece may actually be able to be worn and you can feel proud of yourself.

      2. moushka | | #4

        Thanks. Happy to help. How nice of your DH to support your hobby.

        Don't get the 14! I think you should try a 12 or even a 10. Generally, American companies give you enough room in each size to fit until you actually reach the next size up. One of the things I like about Burda is that they include ALL the measurements [neck, shoulder length (crucial), sleeve length, bust point, etc.] for each size on the instruction sheet.  You only have to calculate the differences between your body measurements and the pattern to know exactly where you have to adjust. Don't forget to subtract the seam allowances from your width calculations! Burda didn't used to include seam allowances on its patterns and suffered because Americans weren't used to adding the s.a. themselves. Personally, I trim all enclosed seams to 1/4" and the armscye/sleevecap to 3/8" before I sew them. Saves grading and clipping time, and a 3/8" seam allowance in a sleeve is much, much easier to set in than 5/8". JMHO.

        Glad you liked the sites. Most independent designers don't have the volume to give discounts like McCall's and Simplicity do, so I doubt very much that you will find them at substantial savings. BUT, and I think this is very important, most of the independents are very responsive to their customers. You can often email or phone them for help and they are usually happy to oblige. Also, their styles tend to be elegant and versatile, allowing you to make them over and over in different fabrics. Because they sell fewer styles, each style has been much more thoroughly tested than is possible for the Vogue/McCall's crowd. Loes Hinse, for example, is a master of proportion. Her patterns, although simple in design, have just the right amount of length and ease to look good on many types of figures.  Both Loes and Christine Jonson have experience in RTW and use fast and professional techniques that keep their garments from having that homemade look.  McCall's (which also owns Butterick/Vogue) and Simplicity use "generic" instructions that may or may not be exactly what's needed for a particular design. The exceptions are the Palmer/Pletsch patterns I mentioned before (McCall's), and Sandra Betzina's "Today's Fit" patterns for Vogue.  Pati and Sandra both write the instructions for their pattern lines.  Sandra's patterns are designed for a more mature figure than the 20-year-old fit model that McCall's, et al, use. Pati includes "fit as you sew" instructions that ensure good results.

        Do try a Burda pattern. Follow the measurements carefully, changing sizes as needed. I find the Burda pants patterns require much less fitting than the others.  This was true even before I gained weight and needed a plus-size. Many women, including Sandra Betzina, swear by Burda pants. I just replaced a simple "Start" Burda pants pattern today for $4.99, only twelve cents more than a McCall's pattern would cost me, and $1 less than I usually pay for Vogue.  For the finesse of the style, it was more than worth it.  Kwik Sew is another pattern line that consistently gets rave reviews on http://www.patternreview.com  I have a cute KS summer pattern (2929) that I haven't tried yet, but I'm hoping it will live up to the reviews. KS also has a line of "learn to sew" patterns and a book that are worth considering.

        Pattern Review has a good message board and lots of tips and techniques. Don't hesitate to ask questions. Most sewers are happy to share their knowledge. Above all, have fun!


        P.S. Burda World of Fashion can be found on many newsstands for about $10. It contains 30+ patterns per issue that are traced from the pattern insert. The designs are very stylish although the instructions do assume a certain level of sewing knowledge.  If you are able to find a copy, it will give you lots of inspiration, and a chance to try out several (many!) Burda patterns without spending much money. You will need tracing paper, coloured pencils and patience to use the patterns, but the styles are so chic, millions of women find it worth the effort. HTH.

        1. ElonaM | | #5


          In patterns, you will not find a better-fitting crotch curve on the planet. Well, maybe Neue Mode, but they're German, too.

  2. Bernie1 | | #6

    I would like to recommend you check out Nancy Zieman's book on fitting (don't remember the title but it's the only one she's done). It uses a pivot and slide method and you select your pattern based on a measurement across your chest from one crease under the armpit to the other. She gives a chart to select the correct size from that measurement. Then you learn how to pivot and slide the pattern to increase or decrease wherever you need it based on other measurements. This is by far the easiest system I have ever used and it works. I've sewn for others using this method. It's foolproof and it doesn't require a degree in math to figure it out. Best wishes.

    1. PLW1017 | | #7

      Thank you so much!  I've been struggling with trying to get a skirt pattern resized so I can make it and I had totally forgotten about Nancy's book -- which is on my shelf!  Duh! 

      Of all the things I've lost -- I miss my mind the most.


  3. kayl | | #8

    Yet another resource to consider: Peggy Sagers' Silhouettes patterns

    include the changes for B, C, and D cup sizes -- it might be instructive

    to look one of the patterns over and compare the bodices for each

    cup size if you've never done a bust alteration before.

    One place to look at these patterns:


    I've not sewn with Sagers' patterns, but I've got several friends

    who like them a lot.

    Another good source of data for determining pattern size: Do you have

    some ready to wear garments that you really like the fit of? If so,

    measure them carefully and compare them to the pattern paper measurements (minus the seam allowances).

    Kay Lancaster [email protected]

    1. MMM1 | | #9

      Thanks for your feedback. I went to the library and picked up all of the fitting books that they had (didn't have Nancy's but had a Tauton Press book that had an article by her).

      Thanks for the idea of measuring one of my outfits! That should help a lot.

      I am still a little stuck between deciding if I should try a size 12 or a 10. My front width measurement is 13 so that relates to a size 10. But with your idea to measure an existing garment maybe I can decide on a size to start with  -- and give sewing for myself a whirl!

      I am a little apprehensive at this point. All of my research has made me realize that garment fitting is going to be more challenging than I had thought.

      Wish me luck!

      1. Bernie1 | | #10

        I would go with the 10 - because you can always add. I'm in between so I go to either a 10 or 12 depending on whether it's loose or close fitting. Good luck with your project.

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