18 November 2014

#SewingFrancoise: Choose Your Size + Adjust the Pattern


Sewing the Francoise dress? Let’s talk sizing. In this post, we’re going to cover choosing your pattern size and some simple flat pattern adjustments that you may or may not choose to do – lengthening the pattern, shortening the pattern, and combining different pattern sizes (also known as “grading between sizes”). Later this week we’ll talk about other fitting adjustments you might need depending on the shape of your body.


Tilly and the Buttons patterns are multisized, covering eight different sizes (take a look at the full size chart).


To select your size, start by measuring the circumference around your bust, waist and hips:
- Bust – we’re talking the fullest part of your bust, ie. around your nipples
- Waist – the point at which you bend to the side
- Hips – the fullest part of your hips

It’s best to measure yourself in your undies, the kind you would normally wear under this kind of dress. Make sure you (or a helper) are holding the tape measure parallel to the floor all the way round.

Circle your measurements on the pattern size chart. If a measurement lands between sizes (for example, if it's 37in rather than 36in or 38in), it’s nearly always better to choose the larger size, as it’s easier to take the dress in if it’s too big than to let it out if it’s too small.

I just want to talk about ease for a minute - in case you're wondering what size the finished garment is going to be. The pattern includes ease, meaning that the finished garment will be bigger than your body. Part of this ease is so you can eat your dinner, sit down comfortably and (mercifully) breathe. And of course some of it is "design ease", in other words a feature of the garment design. If you compare the body measurements chart with the finished garment measurements chart (both included with the pattern instructions), you can see that there is 5cm / 2in ease at the bust (the dress is fitted at the bust and includes the minimum ease you need in woven fabrics to breathe normally), 6.5-7cm / 2 1/2in ease at the waist (the dress skims the waist without being tight), and 8 1/2cm / 3 1/2in ease at the hips (the design is an exaggerated A-shape skirt).

Right, back to finding your size. Do your bust, waist and hip measurements all correspond to the same pattern size, listed on the left side of the chart? Great – that’s the size you need to go for. On the pattern sheets, the size you need to cut fabric from is marked with both numbers and a particular style of dashed/dotted/solid line – the pattern size key tells you which is yours.

It’s totally normal if your measurements span two or more pattern sizes though. The size chart is based on common UK body proportions, however since we’re all different shapes, many of us (me included) are going to need to mix and match different bust, waist and hip sizes to get a bespoke fit (part of the beauty of dressmaking - hooray!). I’ll show you how to do that below – under ‘How to combine pattern sizes’. But before we do that…


Do you want to lengthen or shorten the pattern? Go back to the finished garment measurements chart and you’ll see that the length of the dress is listed for each size – measured from the nape of your neck to the hemline. The dress is designed to fall mid-thigh on an average height person. If you’re particularly tall or mini (like me), or if you prefer your dresses longer or shorter, you might want to lengthen or shorten the pattern. You can of course adjust the hemline just before you sew it, but if you want to change the length by more than a couple of cm or an inch or so, then it’s better to do so on the pattern before you cut the dress out.

Roughly cut around the front and back dress pattern pieces with paper scissors – or, if you want to keep them intact, trace them off onto a new sheet of paper, along with the markings, including the “lengthen or shorten here” lines.


There are two sets of horizontal lines on the pattern pieces that say “lengthen or shorten here” – one set near the waist, another set at the hip. If you know that you have a particularly tall or short torso, cut along the waist lines; if it’s the skirt you want to lengthen or shorten, cut along the hip lines. Alternatively you can draw your own set of lines wherever you feel you need to lengthen or shorten the pattern to fit your body (for example, I usually shorten patterns above my armpits as well as at the waist because I have a small torso). Just make sure you draw the lines at the same level on the back dress pattern as well as the front.

To lengthen the pattern:


To lengthen the pattern, cut a new piece of paper and draw two horizontal lines on it parallel to each other, the distance between them being the amount you want to lengthen the pattern by – so if you want to make it two inches longer, draw two horizontal lines, one of them two inches above the other. Draw a vertical line exactly perpendicular to these lines on the right side.


Cut along one of the “lengthen or shorten here” lines. Pull the pieces apart and tape or glue them to the new piece of paper, lining up the cutting lines with the horizontal lines you’ve drawn, and lining up the centre front line of the pattern (the straight one on the right side) with the vertical line.


Use a ruler to redraw the side seam of your pattern size (I’ve redrawn size 3 here) – from waist to hem – to neaten it out. You can use a straight ruler if you’ve cut the lines at the hip, or if you’re lengthening at the waist (like in the photo) use a curved ruler or a gentle hand to draw the gentle waist curve.


If you’ve lengthened the pattern at the waist, you will have cut through the waist dart – the long French dart that runs diagonally down the front dress. Redraw the shape of the dart – it’s almost straight with a curved top end.

Repeat the lengthening process on the back dress piece, lengthening the back by the same amount as the front.

To shorten the pattern:


To shorten the pattern, measure up from the “lengthen/shorten here” lines on the front dress pattern piece by the amount you want to shorten it by and draw a horizontal line parallel to this point - for example, if you want to make it one inch shorter, draw a horizontal line one inch above the “lengthen/shorten here” lines. Cut along one of the “lengthen or shorten here” lines.


Overlap the bottom piece of the pattern on the top piece, aligning the cutting line with the new line you’ve drawn in, and keeping the centre front line (the straight vertical line on the right of the pattern) aligned. Glue or tape it in place.


Redraw the side seam as a smooth line. You can use a straight ruler if you’ve cut the lines at the hip, or if you’re lengthening at the waist (like in the photo) use a curved ruler or a gentle hand to draw the gentle waist curve.


If you’ve shortened the pattern at the waist, you will have cut through the waist dart – the long French dart that runs diagonal down the front dress. Redraw the shape of the dart – it’s almost straight with a curved top end.

Repeat the shortening process on the back bodice piece, shortening the back by the same amount as the front.

How to combine pattern sizes:

Our sewing patterns are multisized, making it easy to combine bust, waist and/or hip measurements from different pattern sizes. You can do this process once you’ve lengthened or shortened your pattern – I’m demonstrating here on the pattern piece I just shortened, so ignore the red lines and pay attention to the green ones.


Let’s say your bust is size 2 and your waist is size 3. As we’re changing the side seam at the bust in this example, start by folding the bust dart on the front dress pattern closed temporarily – bring the two dart lines for size 2 together, fold the dart downwards and tape in place. Using a curved ruler or a gentle hand, redraw the side seam from the top of size 2 to the waistline at size 3.



Now to redraw the side seam at the dart. Roll a tracing wheel over the folded dart at the side seam line you’ve just drawn. Untape and unfold the dart and you should see the perforations made by the tracing wheel – draw over these lines to make the side seams of your dart.

Repeat the process of combining sizes on the back dress. Mark in any notches that you may have moved too.

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So there you have it – some simple ways to adapt the pattern for your body shape. I hope that was helpful. Do remember that a sewing pattern is simply a template, and since we’re all shaped differently you may need to make some other tweaks to get your preferred fit. In the next post we’re going to talk about making a toile, AKA muslin, which is a highly recommended step for making a fitted dress like Francoise

30 comments:

  1. Dear Tilly , will you cover a FBA?

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  2. Hi Tilly, which cup do you cover in your pattern? I was once try to sew Mathilde based on my bust and waist size, but turns out too small on the armsyche, perhaps I should do an SBA?

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    1. Hi NennyS, the patterns are drafted for a B cup. Take a look at today's post for SBAs and FBAs :)

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  3. This is fantastic - thank you so very much! I was wondering if I may clarify one detail. When I'm grading between two sizes, should I use the smaller size for the bust dart and the larger size for the waist dart? The illustration of combining two sizes does appear to show using the smaller size for the bust dart. Apologies if I'm being dense :) Thank you for all the extra instruction on the blog; it makes starting a new pattern so much less intimidating - especially in regards to fit issues.

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    1. If you're grading between a smaller bust and larger waist, then yes that's correct. It's a good question because it looks like the new seam line is halfway between sizes 2 and 3 when it hits the bust dart - but if it's a size 2 bust, then just use that dart. I cover more about bust adjustments in today's post if you need extra help there.

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  4. Thanks so much for all these adjustment tutorials, they are soooo easy to follow.
    I'm not making the Francoise (I'm a trouser girl!), but they will come in very handy when adjusting anything else as my eyes glaze over by the second sentence of any adjustment tutorials!
    But just one question on lengthening, if it's a top can the length also be added at the bottom using a French ruler to continue any curve?

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    1. Hi Janette, I'm so glad you like the tutorials. I'm not sure I understand your question (I need more coffee today!). Do you mean add the length at the hemline? You can do, but it may increase the width if the side seams are diagonal. That's why it's a good idea to make any significant lengthening changes further up the bodice, so the bottom width stays the same proportion to the original pattern. Does that make sense?

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    2. I know what I meant but couldn't put it into words, but you've understood perfectly - thanks so much Tilly!
      I'm going off to have a crack of lengthening at the bodice :-)

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  5. Hi Tilly,

    I have a question, my size is between 3 and 5, 3 on the bust and 5 on the waist. I've already made the adjustments for the bust part based on your tutorial above but for the waist dart, do I just use the darts for a size 5 or to i combine 3 and 5 again. If it's the latter, how do I do that?

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    1. What you could do is redraw the waist dart between size 3 at the top and size 5 at the bottom (are you size 5 hips too?). Or you might find it more intuitive to make the adjustment on the toile, pinching out the dart between under your bust and the bottom of the dart. Good luck!

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  6. Hi tilly, could I ask for your help please? I'm a size 5 bust, 4 waist and a 5 hips. Should I alter the pattern like you do here but swap the sizing round or do a full bust alteration thingy?
    I've drafted it out like you do here but it appears to take fabric off the boob area which seems counter intuitive!
    It's making my brain hurt! Any help would be gratefully received.

    Caitlin

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    1. Hi Caitlin, you could start with a size 5 and redraw the side seams so that they go in to a size 4 at the waist. As you say, the diagonal line will take a little room off the bust and hips. Alternatively, you might find it easier to cut a size 5 and adjust the waist side seams at the pinning stage - that way you can take it in exactly where you need it and by the amount you need it. I hope this helps!

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  7. Hi Tilly,

    I'm about to make the Megan dress but I would like to lengthen it a bit as I find that the Françoise dress I've already made is slightly to short.

    Do I need to lengthen the skirt only or do I did to lengthen both the bodice and skirt?

    Thanks a lot for coming up with such great designs! I'm reinventing my wardrobe thanks to you :-)

    Marion

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    1. Hi Marion, if you have a relatively long torso, then you could lengthen the bodice, otherwise you can probably get away with simply lengthening the skirt.

      Thanks so much for your kind words, that's really lovely to hear :)

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  8. Hi Tilly,

    Could I ask a related question about the Megan dress? I'm a bust 3, waist 4, hip 6. Should I redraw the long waist darts to move in a straight line from 3 at the top to 6 at the bottom, or should they go 'via' 4 at the waist (ie change direction in the middle)? Do I apply the same method to the front darts? Thanks a lot, Kathryn.

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    1. Hi Kathryn, yes in theory that's what you should do. I'd recommend making a toile as well since you're combining four sizes (3 to 6), so you can adjust the darts and side seams to your exact body shape. I hope this helps!

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    2. Thanks for your help, I'll give that a go. Definitely making a muslin yes!

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  9. Hi Tilly I am having some real troubles with adjusting my bodice to fit my bust, the rest fits fine but I can't seem to remove the excess fabric under my bust when I move/alter the darts. Do you have any tips for altering French darts or know of any resources that could help?
    Thanks
    Tash

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    1. Hi Tash, the best way to do it would be to make a toile and pinch out the excess - either add it to the dart or slash and overlap the toile to get rid of it, depending on where exactly the excess is. And then transfer those changes back to the pattern. I hope this helps. Good luck!

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  10. Hi Tilly, I am making the Francoise dress. I am a size 5 bust and waist, and a size 6 hip. I can see how you adjust the size between bust and waist, but where do I start drawing the new line between waist and hip? Do I start from the lengthen/shorten line? I realise I will have to adjust the waist dart too?
    Thanks, Alison

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    1. Hi Alison, yes the lengthen/shorten here line is just underneath where the side seam curves in slightly for the waist so is a good place to begin the new line.

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    2. This is precisely what I'm going to attempt! Though I did the same size grading on my delphine skirt and found the a-line was a bit wide once I did that. We shall see!

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  11. Hoping you can help. Do you have a tutorial for adjusting a pattern with a princess line top but the bust area fits the pattern size 10 and the hips for a pattern size 16! Also, the hips are a pattern size 16. Because of the great disparity between size 10 and 16 I wonder how this is going to work.

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    1. I'm so sorry for not replying sooner, I only just spotted this comment! We've got a tutorial on fitting our Martha sewing pattern, which might help you if what you're making is similar.

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  12. Hello, I have just started the Francoise! Just a question as I am cutting the pattern. I am making size 2 which I need to shorten. The finished garment length in the notes is 85.5 but when I measure my pattern, before shortening, from the nape to the bottom it is only 84. Should I ignore this and use the finished garment size to work out how much to shorten by, or should I use the 84 minus the seam allowance? Thank you!

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    1. Hello! The nape is a bit higher than the bottom of the neckline, hence the difference. It is quite a short dress in general though - if you're only shortening it by a couple of cm, you could wait until the hemming stage as it shouldn't change the shape of the dress too much :)

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  13. I have another question! I am shortening at the hip and have cut through the waist dart. The details for shortening at the waist mention this and explain to redraw the dart. Can I assume this is the same for shortening at the hip? I am unsure if the waist dart should also be shortened seeing as the dress is shortened (by 8cm). Thank you!

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    1. In case you think I am making an ultra mini mini skirt, the original pattern is below my knee, hence the 8cm shorten, I am little :)

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    2. Yes that's right, if you're shortening through the waist dart, you'll need to redraw it slightly. Good luck!

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