Pattern Grading – How to Scale a Pattern Up and Down!

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One of the reasons I love sewing is that there is so much to learn. Today on HappiestCamper, we are going to talk about Pattern Grading – How To Scale A Pattern Up And Down! If you’ve been a part of our community for long, you know that I love making my own DIY clothing. From making dresses and skirts to joggers, blouses, and even swimwear, it is so rewarding sewing your own super cute clothing. Using a pattern makes it super easy to cut out your fabric to the correct shapes you need. Sometimes, the pattern listed isn’t quite the size that fits you best. Many of you have messaged me about it, so I thought I would finally share in detail how to size a pattern up or down to best fit you. This is a great skill to have that you can pass down to other sewists in your family. Once you know how to grade a pattern, you’ll be able to use any clothing pattern you want, regardless of the size it comes in. Be sure to check out all the free sewing patterns on our site and pick out one to practice pattern grading on.

You’ll only need a few basic supplies for this process. I like to use several different color gel pens (you’ll see why below) and a basic ruler. I highly recommend using a rotary cutter to do your cutting with as it is much easier to get precise cuts with than standard scissors. Gather the rest of your supplies from the list below and lets get started!

Pattern Grading - How To Scale A Pattern Up And Down

What You’ll Need:

Pattern Grading – How To Scale A Pattern Up And Down

For this example, I am grading the bottoms of a short jumper using the dot and trace out to scale up or down.

The first thing you want to do when it comes to pattern grading and how to scale a pattern up and down is to pick out a pattern you want to plot. Once you have done that, you need to determine how many sizes you need to go up or down. I decided to go up 3 and down 3. Cut out a large area around your pattern piece to make it easier to work.

On the pattern, find your “corner points” and draw a straight line through them. Measure the amount between sizes along each line. Mine was ¼” or 0.635 cm.

Beginning with the last line on the outside of the pattern, using a different color for each, plot (mark) each size up you want to grade up for your pattern. My pattern ended with a size 18. I am evenly grading up a size 20, 22, and 24. Do the same for the inside of the pattern and grade down your pattern. My pattern started with a size 6. I am evenly grading down to a size 4, 2, and a 0.

Like you did in Step 2 with your “corner points”, draw a straight line through the 6 marks you made in the previous step.

Now, you can stop at Step 5, but I like to do something my mom taught me in grading a pattern using a dinner plate and a ruler 😊 Using the same gel pen color as you used for each grading up and down, I make a solid connecting line using a ruler for the straight lines and a dinner plate on the curve, making it easier for me to cut the pattern. I hope it makes it easier for you too. Thanks, mom! Now once all lines are connected making it smaller or bigger you can now fully cut out the pattern.

Cutting the Pattern (Slash and Spread):

For another way to grade a pattern, I use the slash and spread method. This one doesn’t take as much line drawing and dot plotting to make it happen. In this example, I am grading the bodice of a short jumper.

The first step is to take your measurements. Compare your measurements to the measurements on the pattern and determine how much you need to increase or decrease the size. For instance:

Your bust is 42”, and the pattern is 38”, the difference is 4”. Because a bodice is divided into 4 sections, you are only going to increase the pattern by 1”. Because most standard women’s patterns differ by a maximum of 2”, you are only going to want to spread your pattern by ½” (2”/4)

Take your ruler and cut your pattern horizontally and vertically. Use the lines as a guide. For example, if you need to scale the pattern up one inch, you would cut the pattern and spread the pieces 1/2″ on each side. If you need to scale it down, you would overlap the pieces instead. To keep the integrity of the pattern, you may want to trace the pattern onto tracing paper instead of cutting the actual pattern. For this example, I am using the actual pattern and pinning it onto muslin.

Place your 6 pattern pieces on the muslin like a puzzle. Secure your bottom piece of the pattern about ½” from the bottom of the muslin. 

Next, using a fabric marker or chalk, measure 1/8” out from either side of the bottom piece. Place the two pieces that go on either side of the bottom piece and pin in place. You are basically spacing the pattern out equally to create the next size.

Repeat the last step with the remaining 3 pieces. Although we don’t grow as we age as kids do, so as not to distort the pattern, we are going to add 3/8” (0.1cm) to the pattern. Do this by spreading up 0.5cm at each corner and pinning back into place. This will prevent you from having a pattern that is too short in height.

Decrease/Shifting The Pattern

If you are grading your pattern down, you are simply going to do the opposite of what you did in the steps above. Instead of spreading out the pieces of the patterns, you will overlap them to make it smaller to downgrade the pattern. For this example, we are going to decrease the pattern by 1/4”.  

Step 7: Place your 6 pattern pieces on the muslin like a puzzle. Secure your bottom piece of the pattern about ½” from the bottom of the muslin. 

Next, using a fabric marker or chalk, measure 1/8” onto either side of the bottom piece of the pattern. Place the two pieces that go on either side of the bottom piece onto the pattern and pin in place.

Just repeat the last step with the remaining 3 pieces and you are done! Wasn’t that easy? Just make sure you line it all up properly. I have used these methods for decades in sewing and it always works out well and you save money by not having to buy a smaller size or large size pattern. Now you know about pattern grading – how to scale a pattern up and down!

Scale A Pattern Up Or Down The Easy Way

If you liked learning about pattern grading – how to scale a pattern up and down, make sure to pin it to your favorite Pinterest board or share it with friends on social media. If you decide to make this simple project on your own, make certain that you take a picture afterward and tag us on social media as we love seeing the fabrics and color choices that people use!

Yield: 1

Pattern Grading - How to Scale a Pattern Up and Down!

Pattern Grading Create Card

Learn the ins and outs of pattern grading and scaling a sewing pattern up and down! Get the perfect fit on your DIY clothing!

Tools

Instructions

    1. Plotting on the Pattern:

    For this example, I am grading the bottoms of a short jumper.

    1. Determine how many sizes you need to go up or down. I decided to go up 3 and down 3. Cut out a large area around your pattern piece to make it easier to work.
    2. On the pattern, find your “corner points” and draw a straight line through them. 
    3. Measure the amount between sizes along each line. Mine was ¼” or 0.635 cm
    4. Beginning with the last line on the outside of the pattern, using a different color for each, plot (mark) each size up you want to grade up for your pattern. My pattern ended with a size 18. I am evenly grading up a size 20, 22, and 24. Do the same for the inside of the pattern and grade down your pattern. My pattern started with a size 6. I am evenly grading down to a size 4, 2, and a 0.
    5. Like you did in Step 2 with your “corner points”, draw a straight line through the 6 marks you made in step 4.
    6. Now, you can stop at Step 5, but I like to do something my mom taught me in grading a pattern using a dinner plate and a ruler 😊 Using the same gel pen color as you used for each grading up and down, I make a solid connecting line using a ruler for the straight lines and a dinner plate on the curve, making it easier for me to cut the pattern.

    Cutting the Pattern (Slash and Spread):

    For this example, I am grading the bodice of a short jumper.

    1. Take your measurements. Compare your measurements to the measurements on the pattern and determine how much you need to increase or decrease the size.
    2. Take your ruler and cut your pattern horizontally and vertically as directed here. To keep the integrity of the pattern, you may want to trace the pattern onto tracing paper instead of cutting the actual pattern. For this example, I am using the actual pattern and pinning it onto muslin.
    3. Place your 6 pattern pieces on the muslin like a puzzle. Secure your bottom piece of the pattern about ½” from the bottom of the muslin. 
    4. Next, using a fabric marker or chalk, measure 1/8” out from either side of the bottom piece. Place the two pieces that go on either side of the bottom piece and pin in place.
    5. Repeat Step 4 with the remaining 3 pieces.
    6. Although we don’t grow as we age as kids do, so as not to distort the pattern, we are going to add 3/8” (0.1cm) to the pattern. Do this by spreading up 0.5cm at each corner and pinning back into place.

    Decrease/Shifting The Pattern

    1. If you are grading your pattern down, you are simply going to do the opposite of what you did in the steps above. For this example, we are going to decrease the pattern by 4”.  
    2. Place your 6 pattern pieces on the muslin like a puzzle. Secure your bottom piece of the pattern about ½” from the bottom of the muslin. 
    3. Next, using a fabric marker or chalk, measure 1/8” onto either side of the bottom piece of the pattern. Place the two pieces that go on either side of the bottom piece onto the pattern and pin in place.
    4. Repeat the previous step with the remaining 3 pieces.

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