1950s | Dresses | Mail Order Patterns | Pattern Drafting | Vintage Sewing

Why won’t you just fit?!! And other tales of pattern grading woes

June 14, 2012

I don’t grade patterns as a general rule. If I can just add a bit to the side or take in a bit at a center I won’t mess with it much. That being said I really love this pattern. Love. Unfortunately it’s a size small and it’s yoked so I have no idea how to do it. I only need 3 measly extra inches to make it fit. I measured all the pieces and there is only 1/2 ease at the waist and 3 at the bust. That puts the pattern at a 33 bust and 26 waist. I want it to be around a 29 waist total with ease and 34/35 inch bust total with ease. So, here we go…. I need some ideas as to which option seems best:

Plan A-

Bodice front: slash at yellow line, insert 3/4 inch. Slash at green line running into yellow line, insert 1 inch lengthwise.

Bodice back: slash at each red line inserting 1 inch for length and 3/4 inch for width.

Plan B- all pink lines

Bodice front: and 3/4 inch to the center fronts including the back neck collar seam.

Bodice back: add 3/4 inch to CB

Inherently I like option B because it’s simple and fast. Will it work? Maybe. Option A sounds more technical and makes me think it would work too, maybe. The tricky part is that the yoke is top stitched so I don’t want to mess with taking anything off the seam allowances for the turned under bits bc then it will effect the arm hole. So there it is, in all it’s confusing glory. Either way I’ll make a muslin; drudgingly.

  1. Try Nancy Zieman’s pivot method – you can get her fitting book at the library probably. I’m pretty sure she does a version with a yoke. That way you won’t affect the armhole.

  2. I don’t like the pivot method except for very un-fitted clothes (like, 1980’s boxy).

    I think this is a question of scale and aesthetics, really. Will the yoke look OK with all the extra width added to the middle, or will it mess with the proportions? That’s a lot of extra width to add in one place: I would add part to the center front and part between the neck and shoulder, to keep the yoke proportions more similar to those of the original.

  3. You could wait a little bit and wait for Casey’s (Elegant musings) tutorials to come out!
    I normally do the ‘b’ method BUT it does have one big downside… it enlarges the shoulders, and if you have narrow shoulders like me, that is a BAD thing 😉

  4. I thought about the shoulder thing too but it is a girls size 12 pattern, I figure it may run a touch narrow anyway. I checked out my library (poor poor library) and they zero books on actual sewing. And none of the books I have mention yokes and resizing. Ugh.

  5. I vote no to adding width to the cf and cb also. Because you’ve got such cute details, it’s best to take the time to do it the official way and keep the proportions correct. Adding 3″ is quite a bit, considering that one size is only 1″ difference. Here is a Threads article that should help: http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/4368/making-sense-of-pattern-grading/page/all
    Just think of it as one more step in making yourself capable of all things sewing. If you run into trouble, email me and I’d be happy to help guide. Laura at sewchicpatterns dot com.

    1. I thought about that too bc I only need 3/4 to each seam but it would make the arm holes really big and the body may be too wide. It should fit everywhere but the waist

  6. I’ve used the pivot method with great success for fitted items for both modern and vintage patterns, which I why I recommended it.


    I love vintage patterns, but this is the problem, definitely. I’ve never had a pattern not fit UNTIL I began using vintage patterns & cannot get them in my size. My saga (on hold for now): http://bellaindustries.blogspot.com/search/label/7051

    BTW, pretty well fixed in about 5 mins in a private class with Allison @ http://www.bitsofthread.com; I’m just sick of it & it’s a winter dress, so I’m putting it off a bit longer!

    Great post; thanks!

  8. I’m currently in the middle of an adventure in extreme grading. Don’t know if it’s going to work out yet, so I won’t presume to recommend my method to you or any other!

    One thing though – I had the same problem with ease. I really wanted to start with an even grade all over and THEN alter, but I wound up needing around 10 inches extra in waist and hips, but only 6 in the bust because there’s just soooo much bust ease built into this thing. Ugh. I’m small boobed, so that’s not a blessing.

  9. Grading can be a real mare, even when comparing measurements. I would do method C:

    Make a toile of the original bodice pattern adding enough extra seam allowance to cover the expected differences (so 3″ plus original seam allowances minimum) and press those SAs so they’re not too bulky. I would then fit this on me, letting it out as necessary and then study the shoulders, the back, the bust, the waist etc looking at where seamlines lay, where it pulls, how the fit looks. Usually, I end up letting it out as expected, sometimes more than expected. A lot of times I find the FBA I was planning isn’t necessary thanks to generous ease. For a pound or two of cheap fabric, its is worth doing instead of guesstimating. I draw on changes and notes in pen or pencil (I also sew a running-stitch outline round all my seam lines before sewing together so I can visually see my pattern amendments). When you unpick your toile, you can see a map of adjustments that need doing and which you can copy straight to your pattern.

    With more complicated design elements like this, I actually find it easiest to start with a basic bodice block that fits me and then using the pattern pieces as a guide, draw the shape of the yoke onto that pattern, cut it out, add seam allowances and collar details etc. It is so much quicker, easier and accurate than guessing where to add odd bits of inches!

    You could get away with adding 3/4″ at seams/CF/CB because its not a huge amount to increase by, but I agree it could disturb the proportions of the yoke. You could add a little of it to the side seams and move your upper section of armscye over to compensate, especially since you may want to broaden the shoulders if they are too narrow. I would be very wary about adding extra width to the back chest area and certainly not an equal amount to the front, because most of your extra volume is up front remember and for most people, the extra girth is because they have rounded tums. Generally the back measures narrower than the front and this proportional ratio needs to be preserved too. Let us know what you do and how it works out!

  10. After I looked over my measurements I found the back waist and front waist to be exactly the same. Sigh. I did add just 3/4 to the side and it wasn’t enough. I could get it on but my bust sections didn’t look right. It was like it was too tight in the upper bust which is what I imagined would happen. The shoulders were blessedly not bad. I can add just a smidge and be okay but I do need to lengthen the bodice by at least an inch, I’m pretty long waisted. I’m going to deff try that idea of placing my pieces onto a block. I know I need to add width to the bust but not really in the cup, just in overall width if that makes sense. The darts give enough room it’s just pulls at the pits and across my collarbone area. Making the yoke bigger will be okay aesthetically too since I’m making the rest of the bodice bigger by proportion. The pattern IS for a young girl so I guess it’s good my chest is so flat. Less work!

    I just got a bolt of very nice quality white muslin for $0.50 at an estate sale. It was half off bc it was the last day ( little known fact: most estate sales do half price on their last sale day). Anyway I’m going to just keep doing it till its right. I know how I want it to look and want this pattern badly!

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