11 September 2019

How to Lengthen or Shorten a Sewing Pattern

How to Lengthen or Shorten a Sewing Pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Do you have a particularly long or short torso, legs or arms? If this sounds like you, you might want to consider lengthening or shortening your sewing patterns to get a better fit.

It's Nikki here, and today I'm going to talk you through lengthening or shortening pattern pieces. The first set of diagrams below show a bodice, which you can adjust if you have a long or short upper body, but you can use the same technique on loads of pattern pieces - trouser legs or skirts if you have long or short legs, sleeves if you have long or short arms, you name it. I’ll also talk you through how to lengthen or shorten the rise on trouser and shorts patterns. This is one of the great things about sewing - you can adjust just the parts you need to get a garment to fit your unique shape.

If you are lengthening a pattern piece that has a matching pair or facing that will be affected by the length - for example, a front bodice will often join a back bodice and sometimes a front opening facing - make the same adjustment to the matching pattern pieces, else you'll end up with a wonky garment (not cool).

Ready? Let's get stuck in to...

How to lengthen a sewing pattern
How to Lengthen or Shorten a Sewing Pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

If you want to lengthen your pattern piece, cut along the bottom "lengthen or shorten" line, to separate your pattern pieces into two.

How to Lengthen or Shorten a Sewing Pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Get a piece of paper a bit wider than the pattern piece you are lengthening, and draw two parallel lines. The distance between the lines should be the amount you want to lengthen the pattern piece by. Place the piece of paper underneath the top part of the pattern, align the newly cut edge with the upper horizontal line, and stick it down with tape or a glue stick.

We need to extend a straight line down from the top pattern piece so we can correctly match it up with the bottom pattern piece. In this example, using a ruler, extend the centre front edge (the long vertical edge) and draw a line to the bottom of the bit of paper. 

If you're using something without a straight vertical edge, you can extend the grainline arrow if it's vertical. With a ruler, extend the grainline arrow from the top pattern piece right down through the paper you just attached. 

Now align the lengthen/shorten line on the bottom piece with the lower horizontal line, matching up the vertical lines or grainline arrow. Lastly, fill in the missing part of the side seam line and cut away any excess paper. 

Don't forget to repeat the above processes for any matching pieces, like the back bodice :)

How to shorten a sewing pattern

How to Lengthen or Shorten a Sewing Pattern - Tilly and the Buttons


To shorten your pattern pieces, draw a parallel line underneath the "lengthen or shorten here" line - the distance between the two lines should be how much you want to shorten it by. I've shown this here in the above diagram in red. 
How to Lengthen or Shorten a Sewing Pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Cut along the lower "lengthen or shorten here" line and move the lower pattern piece straight up until the "lengthen or shorten here" line meets the line you drew in the previous step. Align the straight centre front or centre back edges if you are adjusting the bodice or skirt, or the grainline arrows if the pattern has one running straight down the piece, to make sure the pieces don't shift to either side. Tape or glue the pieces together. 

Get a little piece of paper and stick it underneath the pattern piece at the side seam. Redraw the side seams so they're smooth.

Make the same changes to any matching pieces, such as a back bodice.



Lengthening or shortening the rise on trousers (pants)

There are usually two different "lengthen or shorten here" lines on trouser leg pattern pieces. The top lines on the trouser legs, serve to help you lengthen or shorten the rise of your trousers or shorts. The lower lines on the trouser legs, between the crotch and the knee, are to be used if you want to add or remove length to the legs, using the method outlined above.

If you want to lengthen the rise then you follow exactly the same steps as above, but using the "lengthen or shorten here" lines above the hip. Again, make sure that whatever length you add to the rise on the front legs, you also add to the back legs, else they won't match up at the side seams.


If you have added length to the rise you must also add the same length to any matching pieces, for example a zip guard or zip facing if applicable. If these pieces are included in your pattern, make sure all the zip notches match up on all pieces otherwise you'll get into a bit of a pickle when you're sewing the zip fly.

Et voilà, you've successfully lengthened or shortened a pattern piece! We've got loads more fitting resources coming over the next few weeks so make sure you come back soon.