Thursday, 3 April 2014

Choosing the right pattern for your height, and how to adjust it.

We are all individuals, we do not come as a standard package. There is no way that a pattern maker can make a garment that will fit us all. Evan a sack  would need to come in multiple sizes!

Obviously we need to think about our horizontal measurements, you know, the bust/waist/hip stuff. But very often we don't think to check out our height measurements. 

Tops of garments which wrinkle at the waist.

Or, a waistline that is hovering between our bust and our waist but not in the right place.

I am of average height. I am 5' 6". My Daughter inherited her Nana's genes and is shorter, just a bit over 5'. This is something that she very often curses, especially when she is sewing! The top parts of the garments are always too long for her.

Ideally, she should choose petite patterns, and I use normal ones.

If you are taller, usually the only option you have is to lengthen your pattern. Slice the pattern and add an extra piece of paper/tissue to make up to the desired length, and do the same for the front.

 Of course, the option to shorten the pattern is also a feasible one if you don't have a petite pattern. Just fold back the excess fabric and do the same for your front pattern pieces.

The 'big four' pattern companies offer petite patterns,and plus size patterns,  but not often do you see patterns which cater for very tall people.

I have had a quick look at some independent pattern companies. Usually they offer a basic pattern with the obvious bust/waist/hip measurements.

All pattern companies tell us to measure carefully before we cut, and very often this is the first problem with home sewing.

I generally don't sew a muslin, although this is a good way to check if you have the right size. Lazy, I suppose, and as I've worked in the clothing industry for so long, my first sample is usually the 'muslin'. I also don't think calico/muslin reacts very much like a fabric which you are going to use, so how can it reflect the pattern correctly? Much better, if you want to make a trial dress/top first, is to use a similar fabric feel to check on fit. 

If you measure yourself first, and compare the LENGTHS of your back measurement and the pattern, you are halfway to getting a correct fit.

If the measurement of the pattern is longer than your back length measurement, shorten the pattern to be in proportion to your measurement, and vice versa. Of course, not all styles have a waist line, but most patterns show where the waistline should sit, so you have a good guide to help you.

However, the web is full of information about point in reinventing the wheel.

You can read about this on the following blogs
 Casey Brown,
A stitching odyssey and a good YouTube one is Judy Harris.

Thanks ladies!

And don't forget to decide how long you want garments to be. It's a lot easier to cut the correct length on paper than trying to cut fabric, once you have sewn it up.

And of course, sometimes the problem with home sewing is that there is nobody to measure your back measurement. Find a buddy! Ask a friend, a neighbor, your partner, your children! Anyone who can read a tape measure !
If you are big busted, this is a great idea
Or invest in a dressmakers dummy. Or you can make one.... see here, at craftsy

But what do you do if the mistake has already occurred? HOW CAN YOU FIX THIS PROBLEM?

If its a petite style with a waistline seam, its an easy fix, pin out the excess fabric so that the material does not rumple, carefully unpick the seams , trim off the fabric , and resew.

Of course, it is a lot more difficult if the garment is too short in the waist. Could an extra band of fabric at the waist add to the design? Not always! But if it is, then unpick the waistline, and draft and cut a band of fabric,and sew it in.  It will cause problems with sewing in a zipper, as you will now have more than two  seams to match. How to fix this? Mark the zipper with tailors chalk/a fine sliver of soap/marking pen, ALL the seams where they will be sewn up to the zipper, and tack the zip onto the fabric.(I much prefer tacking to using lots of pins as you are able to pull up the zipper easier than if you use pins, which can get stuck on the slider.)

Another thing which you must be aware of, is that our bodies have changed a lot since the 1950's, so all of you out there who love vintage patterns will need to measure very carefully as we are not the same as our mothers or grandmothers were.           

Enough on this post.....

So, basically, to be a successful sewist, you need to become your own pattern maker.
 None of us are the same.
 Pattern makers are not magicians.


  1. Thanks.mI'm always too busy adjusting waist width and forget about length.

  2. It's a pleasure. We do all worry about the bust thing more than the height.