easy pattern grading – the “quick and dirty” method

October 21st, 2011


By special request, I’m reposting this tutorial I made a few years ago – it’s cleaned up a bit, and has a few more diagrams – so hopefully easier to follow!
There are obviously a number of methods for pattern grading. The most professional and accurate (for the home sewer) is probably the slash & spread method. But I find this a little painful for casual projects as it takes more time, and involves cutting the pattern in numerous places and shifting it out.
My preference if I’m short on time, and I’m not worried about it being “perfect” is to simply shift the pattern, tracing as I go. I know it probably isn’t the most “text book” method, but it’s easy, fast & it works…


For this tutorial I am using the example of a pattern I recently graded down.

Determine how much you need to grade your pattern by. Compare your measurements to the pattern’s. As a side note, my pattern was a size 14 to fit bust 36”, which would appear to be perfect for me as I have a 36” bust.
But I find that commercial patterns have too much ease for my taste, so I always go down a size. So I wanted to grade down to a size 12, ie 34” bust. Which meant I needed to grade down by 2”. Divide this measurement by 4 to determine how much to shift each pattern piece. For me this was ½” (ie 2 divided by 4)

Lay the pattern piece on some pattern paper (I’m using the bodice front), and trace the centre & bottom edges.

Then shift the pattern outwards by ½” from the bottom right corner edge

Trace the rest of the pattern

Neaten up the edges, and now you have a smaller bodice front pattern. Follow the steps for the other pattern pieces as well, and then you are done!


Determine how much you need to grade your pattern by. Compare your measurements to the pattern’s. Let’s continue using the example from above, but this time lets assume we need to grade up by 2”. Divide this measurement by 4 to determine how much to shift each pattern piece. For me this was ½” (ie 2 divided by 4)

Lay the pattern piece on some pattern paper (I’m using the bodice front), and trace the centre & bottom edges.

Then shift the pattern inwards by ½” from the bottom right corner edge

Trace the rest of the pattern

Neaten up the edges, and now you have a larger bodice front pattern. Follow the steps for the other pattern pieces as well, and then you are done!

Note:

  • If you need to grade the pattern by an uneven amount (ie the difference between your size and the pattern is not the same in the bust waist & hip- this is probably the case if you are pear shaped), I find the easiest way is to separate the pattern & grade the areas separately, then blend the two sections together
  • Another thing to keep in mind is your cup size. Commercial patterns are based on a B cup, so if you are smaller or large than that, you will probably need to do a bust adjustment (not covered in this tutorial).
  • Also this method is just as easily adapted to grading a skirt or any other pattern piece

23 Responses

  1. sandra says:

    Megan, we seriously need to become bff’s. You are so informative and inspiring. Thank you!

  2. Deborah says:

    Isn’t it bigger, not smaller?

    • Meg says:

      oooo Deborah!! Good pick up! Thank you!!! Gosh i hate it when i accidentally use the wrong word!!! You’re the best XOXO

  3. angelina says:

    How do you grade the bust size up?? I’m a DD- you see why I have issues…. :P

    • Meg says:

      I can totally understand that problem! (well not right now, but there was a time hehehe)

      Anyway, I’m planning on doing a dedicated tutorial for that very soon! It just seemed like a little too much info to try and cram into one tutorial :)

      XOXO

  4. Shelly says:

    Megan, I’m definitely giving this method a try. It looks simple enough for me to get my head around. Thanks

  5. deirdre_lyon says:

    Not to overstate, but this could be a real gamechanger in terms of things I’m willing to try. Thank you so much, Megan!

  6. [...] perfect, if only they were just a little bit bigger or a teeny bit smaller. Well, this simplified pattern grading tutorial from Megan at Megan Nielsen Design Diary will show you a fast method for sizing a top pattern up or [...]

  7. Ashley Win says:

    Great Tutorial Im interested in grading the bust up as well…. DD club here as well lol.

  8. Meghan says:

    This is so fabulous!

  9. Manisha Mishra says:

    Hi!Megan, I’m trying to find the follow up tutorial for up-grading a bra pattern to DD or above. please could you mention the link?

  10. Jan says:

    This is great information! I can’t wait to try it on a blouse for my daughter. The smallest size the pattern came in was a 10 and she needs a 6-8.

  11. Sergio M. Arroyo says:

    Thank you very much for this clear tutorial. I’m going to grade up and down a children’s pattern and this tutorial helped a lot.

  12. Lynn Whittington says:

    Thankyou so much, this is SO quick and simple. Id forgotten everything Id previously learnt a few years back and was seriously stuck, I googled ‘easy pattern grading’ and found this instantly. :-)

  13. Lynn Whittington says:

    Had to grade a size 8 to a size 12,14 and 16 and using this method, the armhole stayed the same size and the neck became massive…am I doing something wrong?

    • Meg says:

      Hi Lynn – the short answer is that this method as a “quick and dirty” method is never going to be very accurate, and is only really good when grading one or two sizes in either direction. If you try grading out as many sizes as you have then the pattern won’t be at all correct for the larger sizes. Basically with true pattern grading each point in the pattern is moved out by a set rule – so everything moves by the correct amount. With this method we’re really just increasing the pattern at the centre front and centre back as a quick and easy method. So though you didn’t do anything wrong when executing the method – it’s just not appropriate for what you were doing. I hope that makes sense? I would recommend using a traditional grading technique for going out that many sizes :)

      Hope that helps!!!

      xoxo

  14. [...] at InstructablesThe Seam Method of Pattern Alteration by Judith Rasband, author of Fabulous FitEasy Pattern Grading by megan nielsen design diaryPattern Grading by Elegant MusingsSmall Bust Adjustment by [...]

  15. nymph says:

    thank you very much and happy halloween :)

  16. Michelle says:

    But don’t the armholes/neck/shoulders need to be graded as well? Someone that is smaller will need smaller arm/neckholes/shoulders than someone who is larger…

    • Meg says:

      Hi Michelle! Yes you’re 100% right, they would need to be graded as well – if we were grading properly. But this is just a “quick and dirty” cheat method. It’s never going to give the same result as taking the time to grade properly :)

  17. Dee Dee says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial!
    I am trying to down grade a very simple top and skirt for to fit my 15-year old daughter.

    This is perfect!

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