Ensure you have all of your drafting tools to hand, including straight and curved rulers, tape, scissors, drafting paper and multi-colour pens (black, red and green recommended).
We are making use of the Mini Templates sheet to demonstrate how to work through the different examples to save paper and simplify what you are looking at. It is a good way to practice increasing/decreasing your drafts before you work on your actual patterns because mistakes can be timely.
You can access the Mini Templates from the Auxiliary Reference Downloads Documents page.
Pattern grading is when you take a draft and change it in all proportions to a different size. Manufacturers do this to a pattern generally to allow a pattern to be sold in multiple sizes. I pattern with different sizes shown can look more complex as you have multiple lines defining the edge of the pattern for each size.
This grading a pattern is a useful method to use if you have a requirement of grading one of your own patterns to a different size. However keep in mind that this is not likely to fit any other body but the body that the pattern was tailored for so I feel that the best use of pattern grading is to alter a pattern for yourself when you have lost or gained weight.
If like me your weight does fluctuate it can be frustrating after all the effort you have made with you patterns but with a little knowledge they can easily be edited up or down in size.
Whilst running my wellness clinic in the UK I realised that usually weight loss starts with the loss in weight and then shows up in inches the following week and continues along those lines and approximately one dress size is lost between 7lb – 10lb (or gained!) so a Base Template/Working Template and consequent Flexible Pattern is good for 10lb in either direction approximately. The difference between dress sizes is around 1” to 2” in the torso measurements for women but can be less for children as they are growing but this amount will differ from person to person as we all gain and loose in different body areas.
I would advise to grade up or down a draft 1 or 2 sizes only. Any more than this and you might find that the body shape has had some significant changes. So any more loss or gain than this and I would be tempted to start from the beginning and create a brand new Base Template and Working Template etc. This way you will get a chance to get a better fit all over and also hone your drafting technique and Test Garment construction to a perfect fit.
This Project will show you how to grade your draft up in size and down in size and you would grade any of your patterns in this way. You should be well on your way to getting the fit back into control doing it this way.
When you get to a point where you wish to grade your actual patterns it is recommended that you create a grading copy of all of the pattern pieces to preserve your original and work on the copy. This way if you do make any mistakes it is easier to back it out, whilst also keeping your old size pattern (just in case!).
When manufacturers create patterns they can have some very complex grading rules and you can read further into this subject if you wish to learn more. From the standpoint of simply reducing your patterns for a weight loss/gain then we can keep things very simple to get the pattern to a point where you can test it. Depending on the amount of grading you can apply some logic and define how you feel you should progress.
Check your measurements. Get out your previous measurement chart and check the measurements for your Bust, Waist, Hip Bone and Low Hip points (you could always grade a sleeve but as I recommend creating new sleeves anyway for any new pattern we are not going to look at sleeves here).
Decide by how much you are going to reduce the pattern by and where.
1 Dress Size
If you look at this example for just one dress size difference. There has been a 10lb weight loss for this client which has resulted in the following measurement changes.
You can see how the weight loss is not equally divided in inches as you go down the body. The decision is yours whether you take out the same amount all the way down the torso or whether you take out only what has been lost in inches at each defined area to get a better fit.
For just one dress size with these small amounts of changes you can get away with simply adding or removing small amounts off the Side Seam Line on both the Front and the Back drafts.
Looking at the Pattern Changes column simply divide each Difference by 4 (as you have 2 pattern pieces for the Front and one for the Back that are either cut separately to make a seam in the Centre or cut on the fold). You then simply take that amount off the side all the way down the Front and all the way down the Back. This is sufficient for amounts up to around ¼”.
This photo shows a Front and Back draft marked down the Side Seam in red reducing the drafts equally all the way down the side.
Obviously if you had differing amounts to reduce by as we can see with the client table above then you would mark each point for Bust, Waist, Hips etc. individually and then join the lines up to create the new shape in the side. So to confirm here you would remove ¼” off the Bust in the Front and Back draft, 1/8” at the Waist in both drafts etc. then redraw the Side Seam Line to join up the dots and create the new shape for the side.
2 Dress Sizes
However when we are dealing with more than one dress size in grading then we should consider a different technique.
Look at the following table where more weight has been lost and we are looking at reducing by around 2 dress sizes.
In this example if you simply removed the whole of the difference of the side seam Front and Back (i.e. Difference divided by 4 as we did for one dress size) you would start to impact the armhole size which would result in an incorrect fit and a requirement for an alteration. There would be no spread of weight across the body and if you think about it when you lose/gain weight you don’t just do it on the side of your body. So it makes sense to spread the difference across the garment.
We not only need to consider spreading the difference across the garment but also vertically down the body, if you think about it you are not flat and the bigger you get the longer the garment needs to be to cover everything up, the thinner you get the shorter your garment needs to be.
There are a number of key places on the draft where you can choose to remove/add space and your decision on placement of these Grading Lines will be affected by Dart position, Style Lines and Guide Lines and also other pattern design features such as Pleats and Tucks.
The following diagram shows an indication of Grading Lines in red on the pattern that you could use both vertically and horizontally on both the Back and the Front for a Bodice and a Skirt.
The decision of how much to take out (or add) both vertically and horizontally is up to you, and a Test Garment will always get you the rest of the way when you fit it.
In order to reduce/increase and spread the difference over the garment you would still divide the difference by 4. That way you can concentrate on just the amount for the draft you are working on.
In this case the 2” Difference for the Bust would be divided by 4. Which gives ½ to reduce the Front by and ½ to reduce the Back.
You would split the ½” four ways for the 3 Grading Lines and the Side which would be 1/8” at point 1, 1/8” at point 2, 1/8” at point 3, 1/8” at the side. If you have decided to also grade horizontally then you could use the same amount 1/8” at point 7 and lastly 1/8” at point 8 as a starting point then revisit this and make an assessment during creation of the Test Garment and fitting.
The process to actually change the draft is as follows and is explained for Bodice drafts and Skirt drafts below.
Mark Grade Lines on the draft, this is where you are going to remove/add space so position vertically and horizontally. It is advisable to choose an outstanding colour pen to do this such as red.
Mark Guidelines, to assist with fitting everything back together once cut, especially important if increasing a draft. Numbering each draft section can also help with putting this little jigsaw back together, in fact any little trick you can think of can help out here. It is advisable to use a different colour pen to your draft lines and Grade Lines to help you differentiate the different kind of lines, Green is used in the sample photos below.
Cutting the Grade Lines to allow for the reduced/extra space.
Sticking and over lapping the draft sections back together for reducing, Spread and sticking the draft sections for increasing the draft.
Reducing the Bodice Draft Size
Mark the Grade lines on the bodice pattern in red as shown above or in a position that you feel does not impact design features or darts etc. These are the lines that you will be cutting along.
Before you cut also mark Guide Lines measured from the Grade Lines indicating the area you are removing, each section will be overlapped and stuck on covering these areas.
You can see here Grade Lines have been marked, Guide Lines have been marked and all vertical lines have been cut. Also the Side Seam has been reduced down by the same amount.
If you have made the decision to reducing each area down the torso by different amounts then take equal amounts off the inside Grade Lines and keep the differing amounts to take off at the Side Seam, this will simplify things substantially.
The pieces can then start to be overlapped and stuck back together again.
Here you can see the first piece stuck down overlapping the Guideline in green that showed the edge of the overlapped piece. Use the horizontal guidelines already on the draft and the Base Line to help lining up the pieces to keep everything in line as you stick each piece down.
Don’t worry about the shape of the draft outline, when you have finished at the end you can tidy everything up a little.
Here is the second piece stuck back together.
Here is the final piece.
Then we have to deal with the horizontal Grading Lines.
Before you cut along the horizontal Grading Lines, consider if you can add Guide Lines to help join everything back together.
Here you can see a green Guide Line added to help join up the pieces, and also the Guidelines for the overlap have been drawn next to the red Grading Lines.
The sections are then stuck down overlapping the excess.
Here is the final draft.
Notice how the outline is checked and marked if there are any breaks in the line to smooth things out, for the neckline split the difference. Redraw the darts and firm up all Guide Lines.
The Back Draft is worked in the same way as the Front.
Draw on the Grading Lines.
Draw on the Guide Lines showing where and the amount of reduction against each Grading Line.
Cut the Vertical Grading Lines.
Re Stick the sections overlapping the excess defined.
Ensure you have a Guideline to help fit together the sections after cutting the Horizontal Grading Lines, then you can happily cut the sections apart.
Then they can be joined back together again overlapping the excess.
Tidy up the Outline, Darts and the Guide Lines.
Increasing the Bodice Draft Size
It is a little more involved to increase the draft as you need to fill the spaces created with paper.
As before mark the Grade Lines in Red.
Add on any Guide Lines in green that may assist with joining pieces back up again afterwards.
You can see in this photo that a Guideline has been drawn vertically down the length of each vertical and horizontal section prior to cutting to help with lining everything back up.
Get a new sheet of paper and position the piece you are going to start with, it can help to start with the Centre Front line to get everything lining up correctly.
Here you can see how the first piece has been positioned and then the Guidelines extended out horizontally and vertically and the excess added across the top of the piece determining the position of the next piece to stick down.
It does help to securely tape each piece as you go.
Here is the next piece taped in place.
You can see how the gap is created and the Guidelines drawn and extended to help position the next piece.
The process continues this way, keep looking for the Guidelines you can extend out to help line everything back up.
Keep Sticking and extending the lines as you go.
Don’t forget to create the gap vertically between the columns as you work across the draft.
Work methodically down each column of pieces working your way down and outwards across the draft.
Until you have all pieces stuck in place.
Then tidy up the draft drawing in the Darts and firming up the outline and Guidelines to fill in the spaces created.
Not forgetting to check that you did in fact extend the Side Seam also by the same amount.
The process is the same to increasing the Back Draft.
Mark on the Grading Lines.
Mark on Guidelines to help line everything back up after cutting.
Then cut the pieces out on both Vertical and Horizontal Grading Lines and start fitting everything back together again with the allocated space drawn in as you go.
Here is the first piece in place with the Guide Line drawn showing the excess that is being added above and to the side of the section. Guidelines are also extended and here the Base Line is extended as this is another Guide Line that can be used to help line everything back up again.
This draft was started on the side, but you could start in Centre Back which is a good place to start if you have never done this before.
Remember that all Guidelines are squared off from each other, vertical from horizontal etc. to use this knowledge when extending line, always square off using the marks on your ruler. You can now see the importance of using a see through quilters ruler marked with every 1/8”.
You can now see the first column in place and Guidelines being extended as each piece goes in.
Here the third column is attached.
Finally all is in place and the Outline, Darts and Guide Lines are firmed up. Also the Side Seam is extended.
Reducing the Skirt Draft Size
The Skirt draft is worked on the same as the bodice for reducing so it’s enough to show just the Front here although don’t forget to do the same with the Back Draft.
Grading Lines are drawn.
Guide Lines are drawn to show the reduction vertically and horizontally from the Grading Lines.
The sections are cut vertically.
Then they are stuck back down and the same is done to the horizontal Grading lines, cut and stuck overlapping to reduce the size down.
Increasing the Skirt Draft Size
Here we can see how the Back Draft is increased, and you would do the same to the Front Draft. It is the same process as for the Bodice.
You can see here how the sections have been numbered to help keep track of the position which is another way to try to keep control over all of the pieces.
Grading Lines have been drawn and Guide Lines added to help line everything back up again.
The sections have then been cut.
Then joined back together again with the extension to the side and Outline and Guide Lines firmed up.
On the whole this way of grading will get you very close to the fit you are looking for and a Test Garment and fitting with alteration will confirm the fit.
If you are altering a pattern with tucks or pleats simply move your cutting adjustment lines out to another section if you can and then you won’t be cutting over these design items. The Test Garment will confirm if anything else needs altering from a proportional point of view.
You will need to adjust any facing pieces in line with any main pattern pieces also.
Don’t forget to true all the pattern pieces at the end of the adjustments.
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