24 February 2014

Choosing Your Size + Adjusting the Coco Pattern

Ordered your Coco sewing pattern? Great! Let’s talk about how to choose your size, what to do if your proportions span multiple sizes, and how to lengthen or shorten the pattern if that's what you want to do.

The Coco sewing pattern is deliberately designed to be really easy to fit – hooray! The pattern has so few pieces that for most people fitting will simply involve checking you’re happy with the positioning of the side seams and underarm seams, which are super simple to change. Moreover, knit fabrics are very forgiving – firstly because they will stretch over any tight areas, and secondly because they’re supposed to hang casually and comfortably rather than perfectly mould to every curve of the body. Particularly on the Coco pattern, which is an easy-fitting style. Awesome!

Finding your pattern size

The first thing to do is to measure the circumference of 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 do this in your undies, the kind you would normally wear under the garment. Make sure you (or a helper) are holding the tape measure parallel to the floor all the way round. No cheating now – no breathing in or sticking your chest out!

Circle your measurements on the pattern size chart:
If your measurements match the proportions of one of the pattern sizes, then hey presto, that’s your size! Each size has a different style of solid/dotted/dashed line on the pattern sheets, and there’s a key which tells you which lines are your size.

If your measurements fall between the sizes, it’s always a good idea to go for the larger one, because it’s much easier to take in a garment than it is to loosen it.

What about if your measurements span two or more sizes? That’s totally normal, our bodies are all different proportions. Take a look at the section below on combining pattern sizes.

In case you’re wondering exactly what size the finished garment will be, you can take a look in the chart below. If you compare the finished garment measurements to the body measurements chart, you’ll notice that Coco is relatively fitted at the bust (and remember the fabric includes stretch so it won’t feel too tight), easy on the waist and skims over the hips:

Combining two or more pattern sizes

What to do if your measurements span two or more sizes? Coco is a multisized pattern, so it’s easy to combine different bust, waist and hip measurements to match your proportions by redrawing the side seams. Let’s say your bust is size 2, your waist is size 3 and your hips are size 4. On the front bodice pattern piece, draw a diagonal line from the top of the size 2 side seam to the size 3 waist – which is marked by the little horizontal notch – and another line from the size 3 waist to the size 4 line at the hem. Use a curved ruler or gentle hand to draw in the curve at the waist. Repeat the process on the back bodice (or you could trace one onto the other) and add in the waist notch if it has moved.

Lengthening and shortening the pattern

The finished garment measurements chart above also tells you the length of the finished top or dress, measured from the nape of your neck. If you want to shorten Coco by a couple of cm or so, you can just trim off the bottom of the garment before you hem it. But if you want to lengthen or shorten it by more than this, it’s best to adjust the pattern before you cut out the fabric.

Roughly cut around the front and back bodice pattern pieces with paper scissors – or, if you want to keep them intact, trace them off onto a new sheet of paper. Find the set of lines running horizontally across the front bodice piece that says “lengthen or shorten here” and cut along one of these lines.

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 (for example, if you want to make it two inches longer, draw two horizontal lines, one of them two inches above the other), and draw a vertical line exactly perpendicular to these lines close to one edge. Tape or glue the cut lines of the pattern pieces onto the horizontal lines you’ve drawn, lining up the ‘place on fold’ lines of the pattern with the vertical line you’ve drawn. Use a ruler to redraw the side seam of your pattern size – from waist to hem – to neaten it out. Repeat on the back bodice piece.

To shorten the pattern, measure up from the “lengthen/shorten here” lines 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 two inches shorter, draw a horizontal line two inches above the “lengthen/shorten here” lines). Overlap the bottom piece of the pattern on top of the top piece, aligning the cut line with the new line you’ve drawn in, and glue or tape it in place. Use a ruler to redraw the side seam of your pattern size – from waist to hem – to neaten it out. Repeat on the back bodice piece.

Fitting Coco

As I say, Coco isn’t a tricky pattern to fit, so you don’t need to make a toile or spend lots of time fitting it. What I would recommend is pinning along the seam line (15mm / 5/8in) from the raw edge on the side seams, shoulder and hem just before you stitch them, so you can try it on and check you’re happy with the fit. But you don't need to think about that just yet...

In the next post we’ll talk about cutting out your fabric, followed by an introduction to sewing knit fabric on a regular sewing machine. And then next week we'll sew Coco!


  1. Aha! you have replied to one of my questions - to do with ease and how easy it is to grade the pattern up if you need to. Guess that's two questions:)
    I just bought your printed pattern. Looks gorgeous and a lovely quick make too. And I must thank you for the online knit fabric sources - that was a push to get the pattern - especially once they're in the UK and I'm in Malta - saves the hassle with customs that sometimes happens when I buy from the States.
    I do have one more question though - I am about to order some fabric through one of your links and i am wondering if the amount you state on the pattern page is for the dress or for the tops? please?

    1. You're welcome! If you're making the plain top version, without the funnel neck and cuffs, it uses about half a metre less fabric. Enjoy!

  2. I put together the pdf pattern yesterday :)

  3. Tilly, if I were to put a zip in the dress, could I then use a non-stretch fabric with this pattern?

    1. I wouldn't recommend using a woven fabric on Coco, as the proportions and shaping of the pattern, as well as the sewing instructions, are designed for fabrics with stretch (for example, woven fabrics would end up too tight on the bust and there are no darts for shaping). Better to get a simple shift dress pattern, such as Laurel from Colette Patterns.

  4. Hello Lovely Tilly just catching up with everyone before setting off for a conference. I adore this pattern Tilly and am really tempted to have a go as I know my sewing teacher would help me.......I am already thinking about the style. Thanks for a fabulous post, as always you hit the right buttons every time. I can't wait for your book to come out. Have a fabulous day Tilly, was going to take a photograph of my 'sewing room' which is more like a broom cupboard and give you all a big laugh but have to tidy it first! Sending you lots of loves and hugs Tilly.

    1. Haha, mine is a mess too at the moment!

  5. Your blog has been very useful to me, I am delighted!
    I really wanted to adapt a pattern to my body! lol

  6. The pattern looks great! I've never sewn with knits before but I might have to have a go with this!

  7. Tilly, can I ask, why do you lengthen/shorten patterns at the middle part of the pattern and not just add a bit or take a bit off the bottom?
    Just curious. :)

    1. The side seam of the pattern is a diagonal line, flaring out at the hem, so if you add extra at the bottom it'll make the hem much wider and change the silhouette of the garment. Does that make sense?

    2. Yes! Doh. When I saw the pattern laid out it did.
      My friend saw Coco when she popped over and wants a version. She's looking for fabric and I've taken her measurements. Quite excited to be making something for somebody else.

  8. Hi Tilly!
    I'm really looking forward to making the Coco. I wondered if I could ask you about fit around arms and shoulders.

    In the past, I have experienced tightness in the front of the shoulder/where the armhole is. I think perhaps this is due to having slightly broader shoulders in relation to my petite frame (30/31" bust, 25" waist, 35" hips and 5' 4" height). Do you think this will affect which Coco size I should make? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    Carly :)

    1. Oh and P.S. I have a longer torso proportionally to my leg length, so perhaps this means the bodice should be lengthened a bit...

  9. I'm unsure if you read this, so I'll try to email this as well.

    I chose my size based on my full bust, which is 39". My waist is 28" and my butt/hips are 39". I chose a 4 and will do a full busy adjustment. How the heck do I bring in the waist on this or anything? I can't find any info on how to bring in the waist on this, my other dress and shirt patterns, and my jacket patterns. Please help!

    1. Hi Jennifer, the easiest way to take in the waistline is to simply redraw the side seams. So if you want to take the waist in by 2in, for example, you divide by four (for each side seam) and redraw the side seam 1/2in smaller, blending the line smoothly into the bust and waist line. I hope that helps.

  10. Hi Tilly, any tips for doing a full bust adjustment?

    1. Hi! If your fabric is quite stretchy and you only usually need to increase the bust size by a bit, you may not need to make a full bust adjustment at all. But if you do think you need one, you can draw in cutting lines like you usually would for a bodice adjustment and pivot the pieces out as normal. Good luck!

  11. I want to make my first Contrast Yoke Coco. How much fabric do I need for the lower part, how much for the upper one?

    Thank you so much for your help!



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