And now another way to grade your patterns!
Disclaimer: This is how I grade up patterns. I am by no means an expert. Take caution when grading up a pattern.
Pattern Grading series
Ah, pattern grading. Definitely not my favorite thing to do, but it’s sometimes a necessary evil. This method is a relatively quick and easy way to grade a pattern up. I would not say that it’s the best way. I would find whatever method works best for you and utilize that, but sometimes you have to change the way you do things, and this is one reason why I will use the shift method.
To demonstrate the shift method, I’m using a one size vintage pattern.
This simple dress pattern is not fitted, so there’s a bit more leeway when grading it up as opposed to a more complicated, fitted garment.
I am grading this pattern up several sizes, but many sources suggest only grading up one or two sizes.
Honestly, this particular pattern sat in my sewing room for about a year before I got around to grading it up. I pretty much will only sew a vintage pattern for myself if it is one that has not been reissued. I much prefer a pattern reissue (like Vintage Vogue or Retro Butterick) as I don’t have to worry about ruining an antique and I like the fact that the sizes are larger and that they usually come in a multi-size range so it’s easier to get a good fit. That being said, sometimes there just aren’t any reissues like vintage patterns and for this project — it’s the way to go!
These are the tools I used to grade up this pattern:
- Swedish tracing paper
- Design curve ruler
- Pattern weights
I like to use Swedish tracing paper for vintage patterns. You can use whatever kind of paper you have on hand. I also used a solid ruler (not pictured). I use the sharpie to make permanent markings on my tracing paper. I also made my pattern weights (tutorial here). I use those to hold the tissue paper down when tracing.
The Pattern I’m Using
This is a vintage 1950’s peasant dress pattern that pretty much looks like a big old tent without a belt. I haven’t quite decided whether I’m going to make an elastic waistline or just rely on a belt. Without a belt it reminds me of a mumu.
As you can see, it’s a pretty simple design, which made it a good contender for this grading method.
Find Your Size
Yes, this is a small pattern, so obviously it’s not going to work for me. When I was searching online for a 50’s peasant dress pattern last year, this was the largest one I could find.
Now we need to figure out how much we’re going to grade this pattern up. Take your measurements and compare them to the measurements on the pattern envelope. Then subtract your measurements for each area (B-W-H) and record the difference (example: 48-36=12) and you have the difference in inches between you and the size of your pattern. Now take those measurements and divide each one by 4 and you have the amount that you will grade your pattern up (example: 12/4=3). I have no idea why you divide by 4…. various sources I’ve read in the past for this method suggest this route. Addendum by GMarie: “It’s because that’s how many seams you have in this particular pattern. If you were trying to grade up a princess seamed pencil skirt you would divide the difference by 12 – because there are 12 seams around the skirt. That way the increase is evenly divided. ” Now that makes sense!!! I’ve never graded up a princess seam or anything very complicated using this method, so glad I’ve never had a problem! In the fashion industry they use a special ruler to do this that takes out the guesswork.
Lay your tissue pattern on your tracing paper. You may not have to use pattern weights, but I find that it helps me, especially since I have a ceiling fan going in my sewing room. Also, you don’t have to make or buy pattern weights. Use whatever you have lying around like a tv remote, your phone, a pin box, etc.
Next, trace the center and bottom edges of your pattern. For my main dress area, I didn’t trace it as I lined it up with the edge of my tracing paper. My pattern has center seams and I decided to omit them, so placed my pattern where the center seam would be, getting rid of the seam allowance. My pattern has the 5/8″ seam allowances printed on the tissue, so I just folded along those lines.
Measure the distance you need to shift your pattern from the original pattern using your numbers from Step One and move your pattern inwards from the bottom right corner. I went around with my ruler and measured each area to make sure it all matched up as I’m grading up this pattern significantly.
Trace the upper edges and the rest of the pattern and connect lines. I like to use my design curve to draw the curves. You don’t necessarily need one for this, but it makes your life easier. Yes… I used a different pencil, only for the fact that I could not find the pencil sharpener and had to switch…
After you prettied up your tracing lines, cut your pattern out and trace any markings you need. My pattern is pretty simple, so I didn’t have to do much. After this step, I pinned my pattern on my dressform and tested the fit. Yep, it was a big tent, but hey — it fit! This method doesn’t take into account things like armscyes, so if your pattern is more fitted, you will probably have to test out things like that that may have issues. With a fitted, more complicated garment, you’d probably want to make a muslin first to check the fit of your graded pattern. Yes, there are notches on my fold line…. I forgot that I took out the center seams when I was adding the markings.
I understand that it’s difficult to see the tracing paper on my white sewing table, so here is my graded pattern all cut out. You may also notice that the corner of the skirt pattern does not extend out. That’s due to the width of my tracing paper. If I was grading this pattern for someone other than myself, I probably would have taped or sewn on another piece of tracing paper to finish the pattern. As this is only for my use, I just added a note and did that with my fashion fabric.
Also, as my pattern does not have a regular bodice, I drew this diagram so you could easily see the process for the shift method.
A few more things… as my pattern is basically just a big gathered tent dress with few pattern pieces, I did not spend the time to adjust the sizes between my measurements like I would do with a fitted pattern. The best way to do this would probably be to grade the pattern up in different places — like the bodice, midriff, skirt, etc — and then blend those lines together to create your new pattern following your shape. It can also be made easier by using a pattern sloper. You would also need to take into account alterations like a full bust adjustment, armscyes/sleeves, etc — just as you would do with any pattern. The method that is probably the best for grading up patterns is the slash/spread method, which I will get around documenting when I work on a vintage 50’s dress I have on my sewing list.
I hope this helps to show you that any pattern can fit you! This particular dress probably won’t be shown for a while on my blog. It’s not because it will take long to make it, but due to the fact that I’m going to be doing a lot of floral embroidery on it, which may take me a while. Especially since I haven’t embroidered anything for a long time!
UPDATE: Here is my finished 1950’s peasant dress.
Happy Pattern Grading!