Part 3: Selecting the Right Size Pattern.

Hi Everyone!!  Once Again Thank You All So Much!!  I’m completely overwhelmed by the amount of kind remarks, support and questions I’ve received about Part 1 and 2 in my Pattern Fitting Series. It gives me such a wonderful feeling to know that I’ve given you information that has been so helpful!!  I wanted to let you know that I did a FAQ blog post to answer additional questions I’ve received since I started this series.  You can read it here, FAQ, if you missed it.   I hope you find it helpful.  Please continue to send me questions!!

Welcome to Part 3:  Selecting the Right Size Pattern, in my series on Pattern Fitting, “My Approach to Successful Pattern Fitting”.

It’s time to start demystifying pattern sizing.  In a perfect world, we would all be able to rely on the size measurement chart on the back of a pattern envelope and they would all be standardized.  We all know that’s just not the case.  It’s so disappointing to rely on those measurements then put your time, effort and money into a garment to find in the end that it just doesn’t fit properly.  Even if there was some sort  of “standardization”, we would all still need to know how much ease they add before committing to a particular size pattern.  The pattern companies use descriptions on their pattern envelopes as being “Loose Fitting” or “Today’s Fit” or “Amazing Fit”.  Honestly, what the heck does that all mean??  Am I considered an “Amazing Fit” or what??  We’re all a “Unique Fit”, that’s it!!  This is the major reason I’m teaching you how to measure your patterns because you can rely on measurements.  The tape measure doesn’t lie!!  Choosing the right size pattern is one of the biggest complaints I hear most often from people.  I’m speaking about the big 4 pattern companies, Butterick, McCall’s, Simplicity and Vogue.  I’ve not used some of the wonderful patterns from a variety of independent pattern companies on the market so I can’t speak about their size measurement ranges.  If you’ve had success with those patterns, stick with it!!  You’re ahead of many others.  If you’ve come this far with me, doing your measurement chart and spending time figuring out how to add ease, then it’s time to put those measurements to the test.
I’d like you to select a semi-fitted blouse pattern for continuing on with this pattern fitting series with me.  It can be a one piece front and back with darts or not.  It can also be a princess line pattern if you choose with either center shoulder or arm hole princess seams.  I’m going to suggest you purchase or possibly already own a pattern with multiple sizes included.  It’s much easier to explain how to adjust and alter a pattern if there is a basis and variety of sizes for you to follow.  I’m trying to explain everything in the most user friendly terms.  So select a pattern where you fall within the range of the sizing offered.  I find it helpful to choose a pattern based on an area that needs special attention.  For example, if you do an adjustment for a full bust on most patterns, this time choose a pattern that fits your bust.  I find it easier to illustrate and explain how to taper and “true” seams in other areas than to make the bust larger.   Please make sure when you select a pattern that you open the pattern and look at the measurements on the front pattern piece.  Most patterns will have the bust and waist measurements printed right on the pattern.  Make sure your “working measurements” fall within the range.

Butterick 5300 Front showing bust measurements.

Butterick 5300 Front showing waistline measurements.

Butterick 5300 Sleeve showing measurements.

Selecting the right size pattern is only half the battle.  It’s also important to choose the right pattern for your particular figure type.  First I’d like you to take a moment to think about your shape.  Think about what your body type is and what fitting issues you’ve needed to address in the past.  Now think about a garment you’ve made or purchased that looks nice on you.  Something you may have received compliments on from others when worn.  No, it doesn’t have to fit perfectly.  I understand that you could just copy it and move on.  I just want you to be aware of your figure and what looks best on your shape.  For me to explain pattern fitting, it’s a complete package.  Why bother to help you get a better fit if it’s not a silhouette that will flatter your shape??  It’s hard sometimes to imagine yourself in a particular garment.  Pattern companies do very good job at illustrating a design on a tall thin model which makes it look beautiful, but don’t necessarily resemble our shapes at all or how it would look on other body shapes.  More and more patterns companies are realizing the importance of their styles being illustrated on “real women”.  Women have shape and curves.  Let’s find out what flatters your shape and fit it with perfection!!


As you continue on with this series, I will be making suggestions for fitting a semi-fitted blouse pattern.  It can have a collar or not.  You can make that call.  I will do my best to include each body shape and make pattern suggestions for you.  I would however like you to select a blouse pattern drafted for a medium weight woven fabric. The fiber content is not important as far as cotton, poly, or blends etc.  Possibly a piece of fabric from your stash.  Drag out those bags you had hidden away and forgotten about long ago.  If you are going to use a woven with Lycra content, then you may have to adjust the amount of ease you added from Part 2 in the series.   Now I’m going to describe different body types for you to relate to.  With each body type I will be offering pattern suggestions.  Butterick 5300 is one of the patterns I will measuring for demonstration.  It’s a basic blouse pattern with a semi-fitted silhouette.  It’s also offered in cup sizing.

Butterick 5300

For those of you with a small bust line, with a straight shape without a very defined waistline, I would select a pattern without much shaping.  Why try to build in and alter darts and fitting seams when you just may not need to.  Here is a pattern with center front shirring.  Shirring in this area of the front will make the bust appear larger.  I would suggest type of pattern for your silhouette.  If you’re more shapely than straight, the first pattern has princess line seams and can be fitted easily.

For those of you with a very curvy shape, I would select a pattern with more shaping darts or princess lines.  If we think of ourselves in three dimensional terms, we can visualize how a flat piece of fabric must be shaped with darts and seams to accommodate our shapes.  The more shape we have, the more darts, seams and shaping we need.
McCall’s 6750
For those of you that have a very shaped center back (dowagers hump or sway back), I suggest you select a pattern that has a center back seam or a yoke.  This will make adding that alteration to your pattern easier.  Just keep in mind if you do add shape to a center back seam and you choose a pattern with a collar, the collar will need an alteration as well.  A shaping of the back alteration can also be achieved by having shoulder darts as well.
For those of you with a full bust and a small waistline, I suggest a princess line pattern or a pattern with multiple darts in the front and back.  The princess lines can start at the center of the shoulder or the armhole.  The choice is yours.  Patterns that offer cup sizing as a feature would be a good option for those with a full bust as well.
Butterick 5721
For those of you have with a very narrow shoulder line, I would suggest a sleeve with a little bit of shirring.  Not a full on puffed sleeve, but one with some pleating or gathers at the top.  If that’s just not your style, a regular set in sleeve with a small shoulder pad will work fine an well to build the shoulder out a bit.  Not a pair of pads designed for a linebacker of course (80’s horror).  A small shoulder pad can be a good friend for those of us with narrow shoulders especially if the shoulder line is narrower than our hips.  A modified dolman as in the Vogue Pattern below would also be a good option.  Notice how the shoulder and sleeve are in one piece.  This means there is no break in the should line and will create the illusion of a larger more proportioned shoulder.  I would not suggest this square design details on anyone with a fuller bust line.
Vogue 8855
For those of you with very broad shoulders,  I would suggest a raglan sleeve.  The seam lines created with a Raglan sleeve naturally bring the eye in toward the center of the body therefore narrowing the shoulder line.  This pattern offers princess line seaming which would work well for many silhouettes.  A princess line seam starting at the center of the shoulder would also be a good choice because it would break the line of a broad shoulder.
Simplicity 2151

For those of you that are full in the bust, waist and hips, I would suggest a tunic style top.  You may have narrow hips also so this style should work well for you.  With this type of body shape, the most important area to fit is usually the shoulder line.  Many times even though the body is full figured, the shoulder line of patterns are too wide and can hang off the shoulder in an uncomfortable way.  This is not a flattering look and can be improved.

You may find yourself fitting into one or more of the categories I’ve suggested.  Please remember of course that these are just my suggestions.  I can’t see you so these are just points for you to take into consideration.  Below each picture I’ve provided the link to each pattern.  Take a look and notice the line drawing for each that appeals to you.  If you have a pattern for a silhouette that basically works for you but you just need a better fit, by all means use it.  I can’t help but feel when I read a pattern review where the maker didn’t think the pattern “worked for her”, part of the problem was that the pattern was wrong for her body type. Years ago my first job was working in a Bridal Shop.   I learned a valuable lesson early starting my career in that shop.  Brides would come in with a particular photo of a gown they were “in love with” frequently.  If we had the sample gown in stock we would pull the dress for them to try on.  In most cases the gown they were “in love with” didn’t flatter them at all and a dress they didn’t really care for on the hanger ended up being “the dress”.  Hopefully in this series you will merge what looks best and fits well also.  Once you can achieve a well fitting blouse pattern, it can be modified in many ways for different looks that will always flatter and fit YOU!!  The skies the limit Creatively!!

I realized early on in this series that many of you following along with me are not “sewing challenged”.  The sewing skill level is certainly there, it’s just your fitting skills that need improvement.  I hope that I can also appeal to a newer sewist/sewer as well and help them start out with good information about fitting.  I think this is the main reason why people leave sewing or move on to quilting or crafting.  It’s just too discouraging to end up with disappointment after disappointment with fitting a garment for yourself. 

Don’t forget I will conclude this series with a Give Away!! In order to qualify for the prize you will need to become a registered “follower” of my blog AND “like” my Facebook Page.  Thanks!!

I hope you will find this information helpful as you continue on with this series.  Thank You All for your continued support with all the emails, kind comments, pinning on Pinterest and sharing my links with your Sewing Groups.

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This entry was posted in body measurements, Everything Sewing, fitting class, fitting patterns, measurements, Pattern Fitting Series, Pattern Review, pattern sizing, Strikes My Fancy, tape measure. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Part 3: Selecting the Right Size Pattern.

  1. Anonymous says:

    the idea of choosing a pattern for my shape as well as meaurements makes good sense to me. thanks

  2. Virginia says:

    I've always tried to pick a pattern by the bust size but the back and shoulders are always way to big. I will be 'fittin-a-long' to see how you adjust for a larger bust and narrow shoulders. I do have a question, how do you determine if you have a sway back? This is probably a very basic question. I've given up on sewing clothes for me because of fit issues especially now that I've put on a few extra pounds. I used to make all my clothes when I was younger but the patterns fit without any adjustments that is no longer the case. Thanks

  3. Glad you found this information helpful!!

  4. Hi Virginia! Sounds like a pattern with "cup sizing" would work well for you. Just make sure to use your measurements compared with those written on the front pattern piece and NOT the pattern envelope. "Sway back" is having a "shaped back". Where ever the body has shape, we need to build shape into the fabric by altering darts and seams.

  5. Virginia says:

    I don't think I have any patterns with cup sizing but I'll check first before purchasing a new pattern with that option. I know in RTW when I purchase the size to fit the bust the shoulder seam is usually 1" down my arm. I normally try to purchase knits, tshirts, etc rather than tops that button. Thanks for the clarification on sway back. I look forward to this exciting 'journey' of making clothes which will fit. Thanks again.

  6. This is a common issue. RTW fits in the bust, but then the shoulder line is off. I will be showing you how to fix this later on in the series. I'm glad you're excited to begin your "journey" back to sewing clothing.

  7. Mary says:

    I need a few summer tops and am happy to sew along on this journey. I ventured into shapeless territory last year and am back to fitted clothes now.
    The above pattern is perfect for narrow shoulders and curvy body.

  8. Jenny Jo says:

    So you said to select a pattern where my measurements fall within the range. But how do I select the exact size within that range? Are you going to cover that in a future post? Also, I've never made a garment for myself, or any adult, so I don't know if I "usually" do a full bust adjustment.

  9. Hi Mary, Thanks for sharing your pattern suggestion for a narrow shoulder, curvy body. Many of us fall into this category.

  10. Hi Jenny Jo!! Select a pattern where you fall into the range of the measurements printed on the front piece of the pattern. This is illustrated in the first 3 pictures. Most people following have sewn garments before and know where they need to alter. If you haven't done this before please follow part 1 and take your measurements, and part 2 add ease to your measurements. This is where you start to determine the size range pattern you will need. In the next segment I will be showing you exactly on the pattern where to measure to apply your measurements. I hope that even if you're brand new to sewing that you will give this series a try. I will always do my best to answer any questions along the way.

  11. Jenny Jo says:

    No, I'm not new to sewing, only new to sewing for adults. And I don't have any experience making complicated alterations. Yes, I did take my measurements and whatnot as you directed. Sounds like I just need to wait for the next installment.

  12. Anonymous says:

    So, you are saying to choose the pattern by bust measurement OR choose the size that will fit according to the measurement on the front pattern piece (which has ease added) I am 38 bust which is a size 16, but according to your first picture, I would almost fit into the size small bust as marked on the pattern.

  13. Is your bust measurement 38" with ease added or not? The measurements on the front of the pattern are the actual pattern measurements. Please choose your size by your "working measurement".

  14. Your "working measurements" are those that have ease added.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I understand. So my bust of 38 plus ease of 1 and a 1/2 makes 39 and a 1/2 inches working measurement which I should look for on the front pattern piece as a starting point. Thanks for these tutorials!

  16. Yes! You have it perfectly. Now try to find your "working measurement" for your waistline also. This is the reason I suggest using the multi sized patterns for this tutorial. We all should be able to find something close even if it's between a couple of sizes. Stay tuned. It will be much clearer in Part 4 when I illustrate in photos exactly where to measure on the pattern for each measurement.

  17. Anonymous says:

    My daughter and I are following along to learn how to fit clothing. We are looking at patterns to choose and are struggling to find one for her. Typically a size 6 is too big for her. Can we get a 6 and rework it enough to fit? I'm finding that most patterns start at 8. Do you have any suggestions?

  18. First of all, Welcome to you both!! How are you determining that your daughter is a size 6? Thanks

  19. Anonymous says:

    We did your measurement sheet and she is a 29.5 bust measurement. We started out by signing up for the Sew the Perfect Fit class and quickly realized we were not quite at that level of understanding. The muslin she made in a size 6 was swimming on her. It needed about 4 inches taken out. That class never talks about making things smaller, only larger. What I've learned from you so far is much more helpful. The pattern companies don't seem to go smaller than a 6.

  20. Is her bust measurement 29 1/2" with or without the ease added? I'm suspecting that it's without ease. Is your daughter a child with a child's shape or just a petite young women?
    You will need to look for a pattern with a bust measurement on the front pattern piece of 31"-32". That would be adding 1 1/2" to 2 1/2" of ease to your bust measurement. Butterick #5627 is a very basic sloper dress pattern. I own this pattern so I was able to check the front pattern piece for you and the size 6 measures 33 1/2" which is only 1 1/2"- 2 1/2" that will need adjustment. If you'd like to adjust your pattern to fit closer to the body (less ease) then you will need to adjust your pattern by 2 1/2" around the body. This is reasonable and you shouldn't have any problems. That's only removing 5/8" in each of the 4 sections of the pattern. Right front, left front, right back and left back. Now lets divide those sections in half again. You will be removing 5/16" in the center of the each section vertically on all 4 pattern pieces and 5/16" at the side seams. In doing so, make sure your apex is in the correct position and the front and back darts are still in the correct position. I hope this all make sense to you and that you can precede from here as a starting point.

  21. This was all assuming that the waist and shoulder width also needed the same amount of adjustment. If not, only adjust where necessary. I also wanted to clarify that you will not be removing 5/16" in the center front or center back of the pattern but in the center of each section of each pattern piece.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Yes, it does make sense to me (amazingly)! Thank you so much. We were wanting to make a sloper she'll after we finished your tutorial. Our goal is to learn how our shapes work with patterns so we can sew for ourselves more. My daughter is very tall and slim, so knowing how to adjust for her is wonderful. I was unable to figure it out. She did find a simplicity pattern for a shirt that goes down to size 4. It's 2255. We may start with that follow along with your tutorial, it will have some of the size difference you suggest, then create the sloper shell. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge.

  23. I'm so happy to hear that my suggestions made sense. It's so much easier to make a pattern smaller. I only suggested that Butterick pattern because I wanted you to know that there were sizes that could work for your daughter. I'm glad you were able to find another pattern, but it's less about size and more about the measurements. You're very lucky that you can be each others fitting partners. That's the most common issue I hear all the time is that people don't have anyone to help them. Some of the measurements can be done on your own, however it will never be as accurate. Good luck!!

  24. Pingback: How to select the right size pattern - Sewing 4 Free

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