How to Choose a Sewing Pattern Size

Sometimes it can be really difficult to figure out which size you should make your new garment - you may have even found that you’ve sewn something up in your ‘usual’ size and that it doesn’t fit!

This is because many commercial sewing patterns follow a ready-to-wear sizing system, which hasn’t been updated in a long time, and is based around measurements that vary between country, shop and pattern company!

In this guide, we show you how to ignore these ready-to-wear sizes, and find a pattern with the perfect fit, based on your measurements, rather than a clothing size. This way you have more control over the fit of the garment, and will make something that you love!

You Will Need:

  • Tape measure
  • Notepad and pen to record measurements

Take Your Measurements

There is a full guide on how to do this here. You need to measure yourself wearing the underwear that you’d expect to wear with the garment you’re making, or get a trusted friend to do so!

The full measurement guide tells you how to measure all different body parts, but for most commercial patterns you need your;

  • Bust
  • Hips
  • Waist

Find Your (Actual!) Pattern Size

In 99.9% of cases this is not the size you buy in the shops! Find the Bust, Waist and Hip measurements on the pattern packet, and circle the ones which you comfortably fit into, give or take less than a cm. If you find that you lie between several sizes, opt for the larger size, as you can always alter something to be smaller, but it is a lot harder to make something bigger!

If your Bust-Waist-Hip ratio fits into one size group comfortably, then luckily there’s little else to do! In this case, check all your pattern pieces and identify the shape and size of the pieces you will be cutting. Be sure to not accidentally cut out another size if you are sewing something that doesn’t correlate with your ‘usual’ high-street size!

Combine Several Sizes

As pretty much all patterns come with several sizes printed on the same sheet, you can easily blend different sizes together for the perfect fit.

If your bust is a smaller size than your hip size would be, maybe your bust comes up at a size 12 and your hips a 14, then you can refer to your pattern pieces on how to connect them to combine the sizes.

Use a different coloured pen to connect the end points of the style lines between the sizes. If the pattern is straight, use a long ruler. If it’s curved, use a French curve, or create a gentle gradient between the two sizes.

If your pattern contains darts, you will need to close the dart temporarily using tape or pins, to get an accurate line - you put this back later!

You will also need to make sure that you do the same changes to both the front and the back!

Extra Tips

There are many other adjustments you can make to get the perfect fit - here are but a few!

  • Bust Darts -For a looser or tighter fit, move the darts upwards or down towards the nipple.
  • Shoulder -For narrow, or wide shoulders, the shoulder measurement can be extended or shortened. The sleeves may need to be repositioned when sewing.
  • Hemline -Alter this depending on how short or long you want the garment to be! This is probably the easiest way to alter your pattern for the perfect fit and for several new looks from the same pattern. 

These are a few ways to make sure you’re in the right ballpark when choosing a pattern size to make! It can be frustrating to find out you haven’t purchased enough fabric or to make a garment that doesn’t fit properly.

Take a look at our patterns here

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