Saturday, November 29, 2014

Making Clothes That Fit: 3. Pattern Adjustment - Tops

Time for the final part of this wee blog series on fit and pattern adjustment.  In part 2 I looked at how to adjust a leggings/trousers pattern to fit the measurements you have and in this post I'll look at adjusting a top pattern.  In this post I will be using the Peekaboopocket Mix and Match Outerwear pattern from Little Kiwis Closet as an example (and it is an amazing pattern with loads of options) but the same rules apply to any 'top' pattern whether it's a tank, tee, raglan top, shirt, hoodie, jacket or even dress.

1. Choosing the size
This time I am making a zip up hoodie for Mr A, who is 7yo but quite a slim build.  Because I am making a top this time the main measurements (see part 1 for measuring details) that will be of interest are the chest, height and in some cases a pattern will discuss sleeve length.
Mr A's measurements are:
Chest - 58cm
Height - 121cm 
which on the size chart below make him a size 5 width with 7 length :-)

2. Pattern adjustment - Front/back
I usually start with tracing the front and back pieces and the same technique is used for both.  In this case I am showing it on the front piece of the jacket pattern.  Often a top/shirt/dress pattern will be drawn so the bottom hem is the same for all sizes and the necklines etc are spread out.  First I locate the size I am making (in this case 5) and mark around the neckline, across the shoulder and down the armhole, then I mark about half way down the centre front fold and the side seam to give this.

 Now I trace over this part of the pattern and then slide the pattern up/down to the appropriate size for length (in this case the 7).
 The centre front and side seams should be traced down far enough  join up with the original size and you can trace the bottom part of the pattern around the original size (in this case 5).
 There you have it, you front pattern piece correctly adjusted.
Sometimes you may come across a pattern in which the neckline is nested and the bottom hem is staggered.  In this case simple trace from the neckline down as described above and then extend the side seam line down to meet the new hemline (similar to that used in the pants post).
Now use exactly the same technique to make the back pattern piece.

2. Pattern adjustment - Sleeves
Before tracing the sleeves you need to keep in mind what size the armhole is that you have traced and use that size the sleeve so they will fit in nicely.  In this case I will be using the size 5 sleeve as the base.  This pattern has the sleeve staggered at both the top and bottom which is quite common, don't panic it's fine.
First I mark around the size 5 sleeve and extend the line down to the size 7 length as shown below.
 Now starting at the top of the sleeve trace around the pattern but don't connect up and trace the hem.
 Now slide the traced pattern piece up/down to the size you are using for length matching the fold line (if there is one) and the top of the sleeve arch.
Finally finish tracing down to the bottom of the fold and sleeve seam and across the hem - DONE!

4. Some more considerations
A few final things to consider, mainly any extras that might be on the pattern.
Neckband/hood - make sure you cut these to the same size that you used for the neckline or they won't fit when it comes time for construction.
Pockets - I usually cut straight to the width size but for a kangaroo pocket you may wish to adjust length accordingly if needed.
Cuffs/hemband - cut to the width size of the sleeve and body pieces respectively.
Zip length - This will be the same as the pattern indicates for the length size you have used.
Front bands (for cardigan pattern or snap front band) - cut to the size you used for length of the top.
If you know your child is particularly long/short in the body or sleeve then you can always double check after adjusting the pattern by measuring the actual pattern pieces.  The same goes with the actual fit of the top.  If a tee pattern is quite loose fitting then measure the pieces as you can possibly go down a size for a slimmer fit tee if desired (or up a size for a more loose fit).  Also if you wish to adjust the length of sleeve (to 3/4 or short for example) simply measure the length you want on your child then adjust the sleeve pattern as required measuring down the centre of the sleeve (fold if there is one) and remembering to add a seam allowance at the top ad hem allowance at the bottom.
And finally remember that no matter how much careful measuring and adjusting you do the finished top will only fit like the pattern if you use the seam/hem allowances as given in the instructions.  Also check that the fit of the pattern is what you are hoping to achieve in the desired product, you won't get a slim fit tee using a loose fit pattern or vice versa.

Well that's it.  Thank you for putting up with my rambling over the last 3 posts but I hope they are of use to some of you.  If there are any questions at all please do leave a comment, and likewise if there is anything else you think I've forgotten to cover, I'm happy to do follow-up posts :-)



  1. I found your blog tonight by following a link on the fabric store site and I am so glad I did! Your posts on measuring and adjusting patterns are exactly what I needed, and I didn't know it. I want to try to make a t-shirt for my husband using a free pattern I found. But it only has 1 size, a medium, and he is a lg -xlg. I had a vague idea of what to do, such as cutting the pattern and adding width/height between the cuts and taping back together.etc. Since the pattern I will be using doesn't have any additional size lines on it, this post may not help much but the 1st post on measuring correctly will help with not only the pattern I'm adjusting, but the ones I use for my Grandkids. I learned I had been measuring certain areas totally wrong, such as the hips - by not going around the fullest part of the bottom - and the waist - I was measuring where they wear their pants, rather than their natural waist. None of them have measurements that all fall into one size. Your tip to highlight ea measurement will make it so simple to know where and how to adjust! Thank you so much for your clear, detailed instructions. Now I'm off to read more!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words Trish, I'm so pleased that these posts have been of use to you. It's hard to know when writing posts like this if it is worthwhile or not :-) You have a lucky family to have someone handcrafting things for them. Happy sewing :-)