1940s | 1950s | Pattern Sizing | Vintage Sewing

Sorry, But I Have a Question

October 15, 2013

I have just recently started sewing vintage again and unfortunately I am a bigger girl so all patterns are going to need to be graded up.  Now I know how to do the slash and spread method, however they only tell you how to spread it from left to right.  I don’t quite understand how to do the measurements to add length.  How many inches or quarter inches or whatever do you need to add per size.  I have looked at a dozen tutorials and no one gives you solid numbers.  Thanks for your attention.

Andrea S.

  1. Add length according to your own measurements.If the bodice is separate, you can add at the waist. Some vintage patterns have “Lengthen or Shorten here” lines marked on them, generally between thigh and calf, about 2 inches above the knee. The lengthen or shorten lines on sleeve were found about 5 inches above the wrist. These are suggested places, not cast in stone. Some patterns are simple enough that you can just add to the bottom.

  2. I have a couple of (vintage) grading books– you actually need to add length at more places than just the lengthen and shorten lines. It is probably too complicated to explain without a picture, but if you email me (I think you can see my email since you are an author, if not I will check back here) I can scan in the diagrams that show you what to do or figure out some other way to get them to you.

  3. I always have a hard time grading vintage patterns. Jen, can you post the names of the vintage grading books, I have a couple of sources where I might be able to locate them and would love to have them in my library.

  4. The two I have are “Grading Techniques for Modern Design” by Jeanne Price and Bernard Zamkoff (1975) and “Pattern Drafting & Grading: Women’s and Misses’ Garment Design Including Girls’ Foundation Dressing” by M. Rohr (1945). I actually prefer the Rohr, because it uses the 2″ grade and Price and Zamkoff use 1.5,” but since Rohr is early it doesn’t include slacks. Both have the basic bodice/skirt, and some variations (princess, etc).

  5. Threads magazine, and Threads quick reference. You will notice that these both add length as well as width. I use this method and it’s worked very well for me in general. However, since body proportions are going to be different for everyone, you’ll still likely need to do extra adjustments that are not necessarily the same as grading to achieve fit. Do look for serious book-based references, though.

    I’m not big overall, but my hips are a size or two bigger than the rest of me and I have a long torso and low bust point. Technically, I wear a vintage 16, but my hips will always be an 18 or 20, I’ll have to lower the bust darts, and I usually need to add an inch of length to the bodice beyond even the length I would add if, say, I had graded the pattern up.

    This sounds like a lot of bother, but it’s totally, absolutely, worth learning to do, and it’s not as intimidating as it sounds if you take it in pieces. I grade up first, then fix the bust, bodice length, and hips one at a time (that includes separating the pattern at the waist and then grafting it back together if I have to).

  6. Do not worry about “size.” Measure the pattern and compare to your measurements. Add (or subtract) length, in the same manner you do for width, to account for the difference

  7. I agree with Bry. There is no set grade per size amount. In fact I have worked for different fashion companies for the last 10 years and none of them grade in length. If you think about it, it makes sense. Just because you’re thin doesn’t mean you’re short or larger doesn’t mean you’re taller. What you need to do is measure your body and compair it to the pattern. It depends on the style you’re sewing but I would usually measure between your waist and bust point and your waist and hip – both of theses should be marked or obvious on the pattern. Then if you need to lengthen or shorten I would do it half way between the two point that you’re measuring from. Does that make sense?

  8. I agree with previous commenters: Although there actually are standard amounts to add per size, those will only take you to another standard size which is not necessarily what you need. How much length you will need to add and where depends entirely on your body shape. Normally, back length is increased a little bit (about 0.5 cm) per size, but if you’re fairly short you really don’t want to do that. If you have a larger bust size, you will have to add both width and length at the bust (also known as a full bust adjustment). In the logic of most pattern companies, anything over a B or C cup should be considered “larger”. And don’t forget shoulders and armscyes. A lot of vintage patterns have narrow shoulders and small, high holes for the sleeves. It’s very likely you’ll have to either add length to the bodice above the chest or make the armscyes deeper. The problem is that it all depends on your measuements and the style you want to sew.
    I would recommend either drafting a bodice sloper to your measurements or finding a pattern for a simple, fitted garment which you know fits you well and use that to compare to any vintage pattern which you are grading up. This will give you a good idea of where you are going.

  9. Thank you all so much, today is the day that I’m going to be trying out the grading and I think that I’m going to try and make it using my measurements. Wish me luck. I have to admit that I have some trepidation going into this. I have always tried to make do with the patterns that were already my size and they just don’t exist in the vintage world so here goes nothing. Thanks again.

  10. If you are looking for a multiple-sized garment and want to be accurate i.e. follow set measurements for sizes etc what I have taken to doing is drafting a basic block, then ‘tracing’ the Vintage Pattern on to it. I find it is often the quickest way to get accurate results with added advantages- you can add in more details, employ fab fan darts, alter neck and collar lines slightly to suit etc etc. Whatever you decide, one of the best Pattern Books out there is Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern one. I have just gotten off running a ‘Pattern Month’ through my blog and talk about both drafting and grading… http://lauraaftermidnight.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/pattern-month/ Hope this helps and I shall definitely be looking out for those books Jen! Thank you so much!!

  11. On a traditional Missy size everything grades 1/4”. For example, a top will grade 1/4” down, as will a skirt, while a dress will add 1/2” (the 1/4”+1/4”).
    But as I said that’s the standard for Missy. The great thing about making your own garments is that it can be completely tailored for your body. I would start with measuring yourself and the total measurements of the pattern as is and add the difference!
    Good luck! 🙂

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