Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Upsizing a Pattern Tutorial

So I'm actually pretty new to sewing. Two years ago I'd never used a sewing machine. So there are things I've never attempted, and one of them was significantly increasing the size of a complicated pattern. But I fell in love with the New Look 6599 short-sleeved Victorian blouse pattern and it only went up to size 18. That wasn't going to work for my bust, so I needed to make it bigger.

I wasn't really sure how to go about that, so I asked my friend Linda of Rosewood Stitches. She quickly explained the technique shown in this post.

The idea is simple: cut your pattern pieces down the middle and add a strip of paper to make the pattern wider. I started by taking some careful measurements and figuring out how many inches I needed to add. Forgive me, because it's been a while since I did this, but I think I needed to add 6 inches in the hip, and slightly less at waist and bust. Anyway, I decided I needed to add 6 inches around. Since most of the room I needed was in the front for the bust, I decided to add 1 inch to the back pattern pieces and 2 inches to the front.

Here is the back piece after I added a one inch strip. (The weird black notch at the center back is actually just my corset getting in the way. Yes, I wear a corset to sew in.)

I'll show you more in-depth how I did this with the front piece. Here is the pattern piece for the front copied directly onto a new paper:

I didn't want to have to reposition the darts or mess with them, so I chose a spot just to the side of the dart to make my increase. I used my quilting ruler to draw a line.

I cut and spread the pattern piece along this line. (Actually, I think I just used my rotary cutter for this.

Then I made a strip of paper three inches wide and carefully marked off the 2 inches I needed to add to the pattern, with 1/2" on either side to tape to the back.

I carefully placed the pieces on top of this strip and taped them down.

Because I'm tall and long-waisted, I almost always have to add length to tops, so I did that as well. Sometimes I will cut and spread the pattern at the waist as I did above, but in this case I didn't want to interfere with all my complicated stuff already going on in this pattern, so I just added an inch to the bottom of the pattern piece.

I used my ruler to carefully mark 1 inch out all along the piece at one inch intervals.

Then I drew in the curve and cut along this. So here is my finished pattern piece:

But wait! We're not done! Because this pattern has a separate yoke pattern piece. So we have a problem:

So I added two inches to this piece, too:

But you can see that now this piece is something of a weird shape and all the lines on it no longer match up. Basically I just did my best to make the lines smooth and straight when I was sewing the pieces together. Here is the body of the blouse sewn together:

At this point I tried it on and it fit pretty well! The body was a decent fit for a blouse. If I had been ambitious, I could have taken some in at the waist to make it more tailored, but I'm the queen of "close enough." But I had a problem: the sleeves didn't come close to fitting. Increasing the size of the back and front had made the armscye or opening of the sleeve too small. And I have HUGE shoulders anyway that are hard to fit. So I took the sleeve off, cut back, put it back on, cut more off, put it back, etc. I just could NOT get the sleeve to be comfortable. Eventually I put the project to the side out of frustration.

About two months went by and then I approached the shirt DETERMINED to make it wearable. I tried the sleeves yet again. I referred to my new book on clothes fitting and construction. According to the book, the armscye was about the size it should be. Finally, I resorted to desperate measures. I threw out the small pouf sleeves and went with the larger pouf sleeves from the pattern. I'd used these sleeves before when my shoulders didn't fit in a sleeve, so I knew they worked for me. Since I had wanted smaller sleeves, I cut down the length of the large sleeves and used the small cuff from the small sleeves. Finally, the damn things fit. I could finish the rest of the blouse.

The only other problem I had was the collar. I wanted a plain standing collar and just went ahead and attached it as drawn in the pattern. I didn't think about the fact that the neckline was larger due to my adjustments. But since I already had the collar on, I decided I could totally live with the way it looked. And here is the finished blouse:

If I ever find my vintage lace again, I'll add some to the sleeve cuff. I need to reorganize my sewing area SO BAD. Here is a photo of the shirt with a steampunk outfit:

From Clockwork Con 2012

(Also pictured: my crew's bartender (check out the shot glass bandolier), and my captain in the background photobombing us.)

Ok, so that's done. Hope it helps someone!


  1. Great tutorial, I'm a backseat sewer, in that I watch other peoples lovely sewing creations and I wish I could do it. I knit and craft so it's not so bad. I would love to learn to make my own clothes though. Your blouse looks fabulous!


    1. Thanks! I've been knitting a lot longer than I've been sewing, and I think that was why I picked it up so easily. Compared to knitting, sewing is EASY. And so FAST, it's like instant gratification. I still knit, but only while I'm doing other things, like watching TV or riding in the car.

  2. Beware -- this may work for people with large shoulders. The fit of a garment depends on how it hangs from the shoulders. The pivot method (I learned this from Nancy Zieman -- the Busy Woman's fitting book) will work better for those of us with normal shoulders.