So let’s just say, for the sake of discussion, that you want to sew for yourself. You look at the size chart to determine which size to sew and–gasp–your measurements don’t exactly match the chart! Believe it or not, you’re not alone. But what should you do?
As I mentioned in my last post about finding your size, when you’re making dresses and blouses you’ll get the best fit if you take your high bust measurement and make adjustments from there. If you’re making fitted skirts and pants, you’ll want to use your hip measurement–the widest part of your hips–to find your size. And for a full skirt where the hip isn’t fitted, use your waist measurement to find your size.
So what do you do if you’re making a straight or fitted dress and your bust measures size 4 while your hip measures a size 6? Or even a size 8? (I’m asking for a really good friend.) Or what about when your waist is smaller than the skirt pattern size you’ve selected?
Many of us are different sizes at different parts of our bodies. (It adds to our charm.) And it’s surprisingly easy to adjust for various proportions when you sew, especially when you have a sewing pattern with multiple sizes. (When the different sizes sit inside each other it’s called a nested pattern and multi-sized patterns are really useful for precisely this reason.) It’s simply a matter of blending between sizes. Here’s an example that I think will make this step clear. Click to enlarge.
See that pink/red line on the side seam of my pattern? My friend (yeah, ok, my friend is me…) is a bit pear-shaped, and when I sew the Weekend Getaway Dress for her she needs a little extra room through the hips so the dress will hang properly and won’t cling. To give her a little extra fabric at the hips, I gently blend the side seam from the smaller size to the larger, staying true to the smooth curve of the original side seam but adding a little extra room as needed. Use a little common sense here. You don’t want a sudden increase because it will visually add width and be unflattering. On the Weekend Getaway Dress I started adding just below the waist and gradually increased until I reach the wider size 6 hip line. (I could have even been a little gentler and started blending a bit higher, now that I step back and look at it.) You’ll then make the very same change to the back pattern piece. Here it is. I did a better job of the gentle blend here, I think.
Do you see how easy that is? Then you’ll simply cut out your new pattern piece with the extra width or reduced width where it’s needed, and you’ll proceed as usual. No sweat.
Here are a few additional pointers for you:
- Any increase or decrease that you make will be doubled for each seam and then doubled again for each side of the body. In other words, if I add 1/4″ to the front hip pattern piece, that increase will be doubled to 1/2″ when I make the same change to the back hip pattern piece. And since I have two side seams, my total increase will be 1″. Does that make sense? So don’t go crazy here–a small change can make a big impact. And math can be your friend, so don’t be afraid to use it! (And just imagine what you can do with princess seams! All those extra places to add or subtract width–dreamy. That’s why I love to fit anything with princess seams.)
- Also, keep in mind that if any part of you is more than a couple of sizes different from the rest of you, you may need to make additional alterations at other points of the pattern as well. That’s what darts and pleats and all those great things are for.
- You’ll want to use your best judgement to determine where to do the blending. For really precise fitting and help with getting a gently blended seam, I will often turn a garment inside out and try it on so I can pin the side seams directly on my body until I’m pleased with the results. Then take it off, baste the seams, and try it on right side out to confirm that I’m happy with the results before stitching the seams. Don’t be afraid to try this on yourself. I often do this with clothing I’ve purchased and want to alter, too; it’s really easy, and I can control the results better than if I bring it to the tailor.
- And one final tip for you: don’t be afraid of a little extra ease in some places! If you find that you’re quite a bit wider on bottom than on top, sometimes it can be more flattering to give yourself a little extra ease on top to balance things out. I really want to talk to you in depth about this, and I’ll try to write another post about it very soon. Stay tuned.