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.
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.