12 November 2020

Fitting the Billie Sweatshirt and Sweater Dress

Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons






Making the Billie sweatshirt and sweater dress and want some extra tips on fitting? Then this post is for you! In it, you'll find some shiny pearls of wisdom regarding fitting your sweatshirt or dress :)

The great news is Billie is relatively simple to fit - wahoo! The combination of the casual shape and knit fabric means that there's a lot more room to manoeuvre when it comes to fitting than a closer-fit woven garment. This post will cover the most common fitting adjustments you may need when sewing Billie. However, don't think you have to try all of them, or even any at all! We think sharing is caring, so the information is here for you just in case you need it. 

We sometimes recommend that you make a "toile" (or "muslin") before you cut into your main fabric - a practice garment in cheap or spare fabric in a similar weight to the fabric you're going to use for the final garment to test the fit. As it's an easy-fitting top and dress, it's not necessary to do this with Billie. Sure, if you have some jaw-droppingly stunning and unique fabric that you're a bit nervous about using, or want to check if you need a full bust adjutsment, then by all means make a quick practice garment first to see how it fits on you. Otherwise, go for it! 

 In this post we're going to cover:

  • Choosing your size
  • Lengthening or shortening the bodice or sleeve
  • Lengthening or shortening the dress
  • How to combine different bust, waist and/or hip sizes
  • How to adjust the pocket to match graded side seams

Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Choosing your size 

Using a flexible tape measure, find the circumference of your: 
  • Bust - take the measurement at the fullest point i.e. around your nipples 
  • Waist - where you bend at the side 
  • Hips - the fullest part - it helps to turn to the side and look in a mirror to see where this is 
Check the tape measure is sitting level with the floor all the way around. It can help to turn to the side and look in a mirror to check.

Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Circle your measurements on the ‘Body Measurements’ chart in the pattern instructions. If a measurement falls between two sizes (for example, if your bust is 37in rather than 36in or 38in), it’s usually better to choose the larger size as you can take it in more easily than you can let it out. 

If your bust, waist and hip measurements all fall into one size on the body measurements chart, that is your size. Take a look at the size key on the pattern sheets and find the corresponding size line. Each size has its own solid or dashed line to make it easy to spot and help you follow it easily.

If your bust, waist and/or hip measurements fall into different sizes, you can combine pattern sizes to create tailored pattern pieces that will fit your unique measurements - yay! This is super easy to do - see 'How to combine pattern sizes' below for more details. But, before you excitedly jump in and do this, you might want to consider...

Lengthening or shortening the bodice or sleeve

The best thing about sewing (aside from matching the perfect pattern with the dreamiest fabric) is that you can lengthen or shorten your garments so that they're the perfect length for your height, body and limbs. Our patterns are drafted for a height of around 5"5 (165cm), so if you're particularly taller or shorter than this, or if you have particularly long or short arms, legs or torso, then you might want to adjust your pattern pieces.

We have a dedicated blog post dedicated to explaining how to lengthen or shorten pattern pieces. It talks you through the process, step by step, so go check it out.

If you're lengthening or shortening the bodice pattern pieces, remember to adjust both the front and back bodices. 

We have included the following sets of lengthen or shorten lines on the Billie pattern pieces:

Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons



1) Bodice

If you often find that tops and dresses  are a bit too long or short for you in the bodice, you can lengthen or shorten the front and back bodice pattern pieces using the lengthen or shorten lines. We've included the nape (nobbly bit at the bottom of your neck) to hem measurements for the top and dress in the finished garment measurements section of the booklet so you can compare them against your own measurements. 

The lengthen or shorten lines on the Billie sweatshirt are located between the bust and waist notch. You can adjust your pattern here if you feel like you need a bit more length, or conversely a bit less length - in the torso. If you'd like to alter the length of the dress (i.e. where it sits on the legs), check out the 'How to adjust the dress length' section below. 

Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

2) Sleeves (both versions)

Whether you're keeping it classic with the regular sleeves or adding some drama with the balloon sleeves, the process for altering the length is exactly the same. Both long sleeves are designed to sit just past the wrist, between the bottom of the hand and base of the thumb, and the three-quarter length sleeve sits midway between the elbow and wrist.  

We've included the arm length (from tip of the shoulder to the wrist) in the body measurements chart in the instructions booklet. You can compare this length to your own shoulder to wrist measurement to see whether you think the sleeve will need adjusting.  

Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons



How to adjust the dress length

The dress is designed to sit 10cm (4in) above the knee. As the side seams at the bottom of the dress are straight, if you want to lengthen or shorten the dress to better suit your height or personal style, you can simply remove or add length to/from the bottom - it's as easy as that! We've included the nape the hem measurement for each size in the finished measurements chart in the instructions booklet so you can compare to your own measurements. 

If you want to shorten the dress, work out how much you'd like to remove and draw a horizontal line parallel to the hem, then fold it under or tuck it away. If you'd like to add length, stick the bottom of the bodice pattern pieces to a piece of paper and draw a new hemline. Easy peasy :)

Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

How to combine different bust, waist and/or hip sizes

If your bust, waist and/or hip measurements fall into different pattern sizes, you can draw a new line ("grade") between pattern sizes to get a bespoke fit for your exact body measurements. We have a blog post with step-by-step instructions and diagrams to show you how to do this is more detail, but keep on reading for some info specific to Billie.

As the Billie sweatshirt has a casual shape, there is a bit of leeway when it comes to fitting, especially at the waist. For example, if you're a size 7 at the bust and hips and a size 6 at the waist, it'd be simplest to cut a straight size 7. If you did want to take it in at the waist later, you could do that at the sewing stage.

If you feel like you need to do a full bust adjustment and are a little unsure how to do it, then check out our blog post that's just landed all about how to do a full bust adjustment on knit fabric sewing patterns

If you're making the dress with pockets and combine sizes at the side seams, you'll also need to adjust the pocket side seams to match. Scroll down a teensy bit to find out how...

Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

How to adjust the pocket to match adjusted side seams

As the cutaway pockets sit at the side seam, if you're changing the shape of the side seams then the pocket shape will need to change too. 

Let's pick up from where we left off above, after you've drawn a new side seam line. The green line in the above picture shows a grade from a size 7 at the bust and waist to a size 9 at the hips. 

Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons


Stick a bit of transparent-ish paper to the bottom left-hand corner of the pocket facing - we're going to draw new side seams on the pocket and need to be able to see the shape of the bodice to do this. 

Lay the pocket facing piece over the front bodice, with the side seams above the waist notch lining up with the size that corresponds to your waist size. Line up the pocket opening on the pocket facing with the red line on the front bodice, matching notches, and pin it in place. 

You'll see that the edge of the pocket bag lines up with original size 7 side seam in this example, and not the new size 9 line in green. 

Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons


Draw two new lines to extend the pocket bag side seam to meet the new side seam on your bodice. You'll see in the above example that I didn't quite follow the pocket opening seam and created a new line, as following this line until the side seam would make the pocket quite low. If you make any adjustments to the pocket opening seam on the pocket bag, transfer the new line to the front bodice piece so they'll match up. 


Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons

Fitting the Billie sweatshirt and dress sewing pattern - Tilly and the Buttons


We're on to the last stretch! Stick another bit of paper to the left side of the pocket bag piece. Lay the pocket bag over the bodice and pocket facing, lining up the waist notch and the original outside edge. 

Following the new side seam on the bodice and bottom left outside edge on the pocket bag, draw a new pocket bag shape to match the adjustments you've made.

Trim away the excess from your new pocket pattern pieces, and you're good to go :)

And that's it! I hope you've found this post useful and feel confident about fiting your Billie sweatshirt and sweater dress. We love seeing your finished makes and progress shots. Tag us on Insta @TillyButtons using the hashtag #SewingBillie. 

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Author: Nikki Hoar
Photography: Jane Looker
Makeup: Laura Anne
Model: Marcela Solarte
Pink grid See You at Six French terry: Lamazi Fabrics (gifted)