Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pattern Resizing Part 2 - Large to Small

If you've read or followed my Pattern Resizing Tutorial - Small to large, (which shows you how to make your pattern bigger) this will be simple. We will be doing the same thing, but in reverse! This tutorial will teach you how to make your pattern SMALLER that the sizes marked on your pattern. If you mean to make your pattern LARGER,  then click here to go to the tutorial part 1 for that instruction:

If this is your first attempt to resize, don't worry! Using my Southern Belle pattern, #LN8503 (buy the pattern here: you can follow along with me and before long you will have a perfectly-sized piece.

Here is what you will need:

  • Your chosen pattern.
  • Any pattern paper of your choice (or use the paper cut from the edges of your pattern sheet).
  • A long see-thru ruler with a grid
  • A curved ruler is nice, but optional
  • Your personal measurements 
 1. Measure and Math
 Use this chart to record your measurements and then we'll do some math.

Most of my patterns range from a size 2 to 18, and as an early design the Southern Belle only reaches to size 6- not small enough for my imaginary figure!  Let's fix that. Put your measurements in the first column, and the smallest pattern measurements from the pattern in the second column. Subtract the small from the large, and put that number in the third column. This is the overall decrease, but we need to disperse this measurement evenly on all 4 sides (divided between our front, back, right and left side). Now divide that overall number by 4 and put that in the last column. This smaller number is how much we will subtract from each of the side seams, front and back. Check your math!
The changes in the pattern chart sizes include both width and height to make the sizes proportionate. Keep this in mind as you make your reductions. Maybe you need to reduce the width, but keep or even add some length (see Small to Large tutorial). No problem. This is why you've taken your measurements. 

Exceptions to this divide by 4 math rule:  -- i.e. a princess seam. However this number may not be divided 6 ways equally.  Plan it out so that the princess line will land just to the outside of the bust point, and put the rest at the side seam.)

2. Draw extension lines
For this example, I'm using the Southern Belle #LN8503, pieces 1 (bodice front) and piece 2 (midriff yoke). Cut out the pattern pieces that you will need for your project. Because we are going to reduce our pattern we will be drawing some new lines on the pattern pieces -- extension lines. Even though we are reducing, you may still need some extra pattern paper for changes.

  Use a ruler to draw a grading point through the inside corner points of every edge. There will be exceptions where you draw outside of the pattern. This allows us to follow the pattern shape while at the same time shrinking it down.

For the moment, ignore the vertical side seam line we've drawn in. What I want you to notice is the grading line at the outside waist from the 18 to the 6, that it's outside the pattern piece. Tape paper here if you need to. See how the outside edge of the pattern drops at the waist for all sizes? We want to maintaining this shape for our size too. We will be also be redrawing this line, but to match our measurement.

3. Start at the side seam

First we will concern ourselves with the width changes. Using the reduced measurements from my chart, I need to subtract a total of 3" from the waist, and divided by 4, the change will be -3/4" from the size 6 mark on the piece. Using a ruler I drew a line 3/4" in from the size 6 mark, then matched it up with the waistline.

4. Work your way around the pattern

Working your way around the pattern piece, measure and mark your new lines, keeping in mind which reduction goes where!

We've used a ruler to mark 1/2" all the way around this pattern piece, matching the reduction for our bust, changing direction at the grading points.

At the curves, keep the transition from wide to narrow the same as the other sizes are. Use a curved ruler, trace (the neckline above onto a piece of paper then with that tracing underneath, redraw it in the correct position, or neatly free-hand that line.
On this pattern, although my waist needs to be reduced by a total of 3", the bust only needs to be reduced by only 2".
This means we are going to have to correct that transition between pattern pieces with different width adjustments (narrow waist, wider hips for example). For now, draw the new new measurement lines for each piece and we'll tackle this step a little later in this tutorial.

5. Lengthen or Shorten

Looking at my imaginary person's measurements, we see that although the bust and waist need to be reduced, her back waist measurement needs to be lengthened. There are two places to lengthen: above and below the bust point. If you need to lengthen the bodice area, you'll need to take into consideration any darts and your bust point. With our pattern we will make the adjustment on piece 2.

Rule of thumb for lengthening is to cut the pattern piece perpendicular to the center front or back. We did this and then placing it over our pattern paper spaced it apart the extra 1/2" (use a ruler to mark!) our lady needs and taped it down.

This pattern doesn't have a dart, but if yours does, you may need to move it. Measure yourself from bust point to point. Divide that measurement in half. Measure from the waist up to your bust point. Measuring the pattern over and down to the waist, find your bust point. Transfer that information to the pattern and mark your bust point.  Use a ruler to draw a new line the corrected distance from the dart marked on the pattern. This is a cut line, not a sewing line. The bigger a dart is, the nearer to the bust point your dart should end. Assuming a good quality bra that keeps you nice and high, draw an arbitrary double line above and below the bust point. Measuring from the waist, vertically up to the bust point you can determine if and how much should be lengthened below and anything left over should be lengthened above.

If you need to shorten your pattern, I will refer you to this tutorial on Shortening a pattern:

6. Matching the pattern piece seams

This is where we make the newly marked pieces match! Remember how our lady's waist and chest have different reductions? Well, those pieces have now been altered accordingly and won't match up -- until we work our magic.

In our example we need to align the bodice front (reduced 1/2") with the midriff yoke (reduced 3/4"). 
Mark your seam line at the bottom of the bodice and the top of the midriff and overlap them, one on top of the other, with the size 6 cut line touching. My red pencil is pointing to that overlap/match point.
I've pinned my pattern so that it won't shift.
I've made an X at the bottom and top of the side seam. These two points I will match up with my ruler, drawing a line between them. This is called truing. This will be my new cut line.
This side seam is not straight, so I am using a curved ruler to guide me from that bottom X to the top X. Use a tracing wheel to mark this new cutting line on the paper below. The tracing wheel punches tiny holes into the paper so you can see it. Mark over that line with your writing implement.

 8. Complete other pattern pieces

Continue on with the other pattern pieces, customizing the darts, subtracting from the side seams and redrawing the pattern shape as before until all pattern changes have been made. Don't forget the facings. Keep a notebook or use a diagram to help you keep track, but always walk (match your pattern pieces at the sewing lines) your pattern to be sure you haven't forgotten anything. Make a check mark on each seam that has been walked to partner so you don't have to worry. Checking this now will save your time, money and hassle down the road. If your chosen pattern has more pieces to it, such as the Tia dress, remember that the concept is the exactly the same. Make your marks at the side seam to personalize, and resize the pattern using the same grading lines, tapering as was done on the sizes before. Keep measurement changes the same throughout so that all the pieces will sew correctly to each other, walk your seams, and that's all you need to resize your pattern from what you have to what you need!

Have a great sewing day!
~ Laura


  1. Invaluable information thank you! I will be using this tutorial for sure! I never did trust the cut and spread method for resizing patterns.

    1. Thank you for your comment. You bring up a good point. This technique doesn't replace the cut and spread/reduce method, which is more accurate, and is the industry standard for grading/sizing. However, this method is quicker for the home sewist and doesn't destroy your original in the process. We assume that you'll be testing and correcting for fit anyway, so getting close to the mark is enough. I'm glad to know this post will be helpful to you.


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