Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grading a pattern: Depew 3009

Good morning beautiful readers. Today I got an email from a customer asking me if there was a way to make one of my patterns smaller to fit her much more petite figure. I proceeded to try and explain how in an email and realized half way through that it would be much easier to do so in a blog post!
Not to mention, some of you may find this handy in the future.
~the following tutorial can be applied to just about any dress, blouse or skirt pattern and can be used to grade the size up or down~

The pattern in question is Depew 3009, a beach dress cover-up pattern based off a vintage French pattern.

Beach Dress Cover-Up
The pattern is only in one size, Medium/ Large with a 30" waist and 38" bust.

And the customer, we'll call her Miss S, needs to size the pattern down to a 25" waist and a 32" bust.
So, we need to subtract 5" from the waist and 6" from the bust.

These subractions need to be evenly distributed between 4 spots for the bodice and the skirt. Here's where we do the math:
Bodice Reduction = 6"÷ 2 (cutting two of each pattern piece) = 3".  And 3" ÷ 4 (front, back, and both side seams) = 3/4". Doing the same for the skirt (5" ÷ 2 = 2.5" then 2.5" ÷ 4 = 5/8")

BODICE:                                        SKIRT
Center Front:        3/4"                                 Center Front          5/8"
Center Back:         3/4"                                Center Back           5/8"
Left Side Seam:     3/4"                               Left Side Seam       5/8"
Right Side Seam:   3/4"                              Right Side Seam      5/8"

This might help.
The portions highlighted in yellow will be where you'll make your subtractions. First trace each pattern piece off of the pattern sheet. (Don't trace them double as they are laid out for cutting, just do the halves as they appear on your pattern sheet. Make your reductions and be sure to graduate a bit on the bodice pieces between the 3/4" at the bust and the 5/8" at the waist.

Now for the red. On the bodice front you'll need to redraft your darts. (simply copy the old ones from the pattern sheet, centering the dart over the line that you reduced the bust front at). Do the same for the bodice back.

At the skirt, you'll want to move your pleat lines towards the side seams. You removed 5/8" from the center front so move your pleat lines over 5/8" each. Do some measuring and make sure that your closed darts at the bodice front will match up perfectly with the side pleats on the skirt front as they do in the pattern illustration.

Now since these proportions are much smaller than the original pattern, we can assume that Miss S is a bit shorter too. The bodice may need to be shortened a bit to match... the same may go for the the straps as well. And lastly, the belt will need to be shortened by 5".

That about sums it up. As with any pattern that has been heavily altered, make a muslin version first so that you can test the fit before cutting into your more expensive fabrics.

Whew! I got so into this that I forgot to eat breakfast! I'm going to take my over caffeinated shaky self downstairs for some food before I break something expensive :)


  1. Great post!
    I pinned it:

  2. Perfectly timed post! I got a huge lot of patterns from ebay that I'll need to grade up/down to fit! Thanks!

  3. great tutorial!! I knew how to resize on multi sized patterns but so many vintage ones are not - I'm sure lots of vintage pattern owners will find this very handy, including me! Thanks!

  4. Great idea for a tutorial and love the clear diagrams. There's some very helpful Threads articles online you may like to point your punters towards too :) A few extra, easy pointers I'd like to put forward, if I may:
    3/4" is the maximum that should be added or removed at each seam allowance, ideally not more than 1/2". If grading above this, do it in stages (e.g. grade up by 1/2" then by another 1/2" to add 1" at each seam) otherwise ugly fitting issues start raising their heads.

    Regardless of whether a person is petite or not, the larger the width added, the more length that needs adding too and vice versa (as is normal when doing FBA/SBA).

    When lengthening/shortening, try to do it at the horizontal adjustment line (if the pattern has one - it will say "cut/fold here to lengthen/shorten") as this is the "balance line" for the bodice / hip and keeps the pattern in proportion, level to the ground and the correct shape. If it hasn't got an adjustment line, add one about 1" above the natural waistline in a bodice or at the hipline.

    Remember that the waist measurement is for the natural waistline - this is a lot higher than most people think it is, especially since modern patterns/fashion place waistlines about 1 1/2" below the natural position.

    If adding/subtracting width at the bodice side seams, the armscye has to be redrawn, otherwise it will end up too big/small (Not a problem on strapless like above of course when there is no armscye!). The shoulder slope usually needs redrawing to add/remove excess shoulder length/depth and should be done before redrawing the armscye. This is important to remove pulling/excess fabric in the upper chest area.
    Where the amount added/subtracted is different at bust vs waist or waist vs hip, the seamlines need to be blended / "trued" to retain the original shape.

    Bear in mind that if the major adjustment is several inches on the waist and not much elsewhere, the garment is not going to look like the original design if it started off as those typical '50s wasp waists!

    Before redrawing the darts, hold the paper pattern against the body and work out where the bust point/apex is and mark that, then make sure the centre of waist and bust darts point to and end 5/8" away from that point.

    If you have a bust below a B cup, make the front waist dart(s) slightly smaller (1/8" - 1/4" in total for each half side), if you have bigger than B cup, swing the dart out wider (about 1/8" for each cup increment), this can often help avoid an S/FBA.

    A lot of vintage patterns have very high bust points - and bra styles at the time complemented that. Our modern bra styles now make our breasts much rounder and therefore our bust points are lower and the width between them wider (in a more natural position). The majority of people I measure have a bust point lower than the pattern standard.

    Hope these points are of some help too.