Understanding patterns: Check your own measurements on the pattern
Last week I showed you what I pay attention to in order to determine the right size for a pattern that I have bought and to be able to assess the fit as far as possible so that my sewing project does not contain any big surprises in the end. In addition, I sometimes check my size directly on the cut, e.g. for pattern labels that are still unknown to me or when I e.g. I’m between two sizes and I’m unsure. Since I often get questions about how to do it, this post has been on my to-do list for a long time. Today is the day!
At the very beginning of my “sewing career”, a pattern for me was simply an abstract piece of paper that I used as a template for clothes and if I was lucky, in the end everything would fit or not. With the latter, I just peppered it in the corner or tried to adapt the finished piece. I knew that the paper cut is the flat image of the respective parts of the body and that all information about features such as curves and dimensions is on this piece of paper. But I didn’t really know WHERE. How and where could you read this information exactly?
Let’s briefly analyze such a pattern: What information do you get from it? Which parts of the body are at which height of a cut piece? And how can you measure the width and length of an existing pattern and compare it with your own measurements?
I just think it’s important to understand that first so that further change measures can be drawn from it. That’s why we only look at the features of the cut and what we can read from a cut. Today it’s not about the possibilities to change a pattern, but I start one step ahead. The subject of cut adjustment is then another topic in itself.
Example: sewing pattern top with darts
Let’s take a look at a pattern for a simple tailored top with bust darts as an example.
A pattern for a top usually consists mainly of 3 pattern parts + 2 pattern parts for receipts:
Front part (is cut 1x in the fabric fold)
Back part (is cut 1x in the fabric fold)
Sleeves (are cut twice mirror-inverted)
Document front part (is cut 1x in the fabric fold)
Back part cover (is cut once in the fabric fold)
In the following, we will concentrate on the front and back pieces as well as sleeves.
What information is on the front and back section?
The pattern for a front and back piece usually consists of half a cut of the upper body. The cut is cut in the fabric break and so the second half of the top is created by mirroring. The process comes from industry and saves time when cutting.
Darts, what do they mean?
Whenever there are darts on the cut, this means that there is a curve at this point on the body and fabric must be removed so that the fabric adapts to this curve: the fullness must therefore be reduced. The tips of darts are always directed to the highest point on a body.
In the case of a front part, this highest point is the tip of the breast. Depending on the desired design, front darts can be placed at different points of a front cut, the dart tip always points towards the tip of the chest. The actual breast tip is 1 – 4 cm away from the tip of the dart, depending on the cup size that was used as a reference size for this cut. Some patterns contain a symbol in the form of a circle with a cross where the tip of the breast should be. Then it is easy to determine the chest height. Otherwise the height must be determined by measuring (more on this later).
Darts in the back always end with the point at the shoulder blades. Since shoulder blades do not have only one point like the chest, but rather form a long triangle, there can be shoulder darts that meet with the point at the upper highest point or waist darts that meet the lower point of the shoulder blades from below.
The registration marks on a pattern can often be seen as small lines or triangles and show where certain points have to meet when sewing. This is helpful for curves, for example, when sewing the armhole and the arm ball of the sleeve cut together. The front of a sleeve usually consists of a single passport mark, the back of two passport marks.
But they also show the height of points on the body, for example the waist height for tops and dress cuts, or the hip or knee height for trousers and skirts.
Armholes on the front and back are often of different sizes. The back armhole is slightly larger than the front part because the shoulder blades form a curve at the back and more freedom of movement is required. The sides of the armholes under the arm always start at the same height.
The front and back parts often have a short line on the side seam in the area of the waist, a registration mark so that you know that the two sides have to be sewn together at this point when sewing. The passport symbol is also the place where the waist is located. If there is no registration mark at this point, it is the narrowest point in the case of a tailored cut. If it is not a fitted cut, the height of the waist must be determined by measuring it on the cut.
What information can be drawn from this to determine the size?
A section of the front or back part therefore always depicts half of a body front or back part. Depending on the desired design, the front and back parts can be different or the same width. If you want to know how wide the finished garment will be, you add the width of the two patterns at a relevant point (e.g. chest, waist or hip height), add the seam allowance (if included in the pattern) and, if necessary, the dart width at this point and doubles this amount. Then the outline dimension of the finished garment results at this relevant point. This measurement can be compared with your own body measurements. Since fullness is planned in a garment for freedom of movement, it is normal if the determined size is 6 to 7 cm wider than the body measurements.
Which points do I use when I want to compare my measurements with those of the front and back?
Let’s say you want to check the following dimensions:
Chest circumference waist circumference hip circumference
Compare to 1. Chest size:
In order to compare your chest circumference with the measurements on the cut, you need to know at what height the tip of the chest is on the cut. This is easy with a bust dart that goes under the arm towards the chest, as the dart is at the same height as the tip of the breast.
But do you still want to check whether the chest height in the cut also corresponds to your chest height, or if the dart sits on a place other than chest height e.g. on the waist, you have to find out where your chest height is on the pattern.
To do this, you need your measurements for the chest height (I explained in detail last week how measurements are taken). To do this, measure with the tape measure from your shoulder point at the neckline down to the tip of your chest. On the pattern you also place the measuring tape at this point and measure down vertically. Mark the chest point on the pattern with a cross.
At this determined chest height you measure from the center front to the side seam. Write down the number.
Where can I find the chest height on the back of the pattern?
To find out where the chest height is on the back piece, draw a line that runs perpendicularly from the center front to the side seam. You mark the distance between the armhole and this line on the back, this is the height of the chest there. Again, measure the width from the center front to the side seam.
Determine the total width of the finished garment at chest height
Since the pattern pieces represent half a top, you have to double the measured numbers. If there is a seam allowance of e.g. 1 cm, you have to pull it off:
Width front part: (Measured size in cm – 1 cm NZ) x 2
Width back part: (Measured size in cm – 1 cm NZ) x 2
Total width of the finished garment: width front + width back
Compare to 2nd waist size:
These measurements are often easy to determine for both the front and back, because most purchase cuts at the waist height have signs of fit for notches or even drawn waist lines. In Burda cuts, for example, the waist is even drawn. If not, find your waist height on the pattern the same way you found your chest height.
On the pattern example at hand, the waist height is marked on the pattern. The pattern has a waist dart, I have to subtract the width of this dart from the dimensions of the finished garment, as fabric is removed there.
I measure from the center front to the left leg of the dart and then from the right leg to the side seam and add the two values. Now I have the width of the finished garment for the front.
Note: If darts are drawn in at the height, you subtract the dimensions of the darts at the respective height.
My pattern has no darts on the back, here I measure the width from the center back to the side seam.
Determine the total width of the finished garment at waist height
As with the chest height, the total width can be determined as follows:
Width front part: (Measured size in cm – 1 cm NZ – dart width) x 2
Width back part: (Measured size in cm – 1 cm NZ) x 2
Total width of the finished garment: width front + width back
If your pattern contains box pleats or buttonhole strips, this width must also be deducted.
Compare the length of the cut piece
To determine how long your top will be, proceed as you did when determining your chest height. Measure your front or back height from the shoulder attachment point at the neck to your waist or to the point where you want your top to be. Apply the determined measurements from the shoulder point vertically downwards.
Compare sleeve measurements
If there is only one pattern for the sleeve, it consists of the front and back. Usually the front part can be recognized by the simple snap on the arm ball above. The rear part usually contains two notches on the arm ball. The rear arm ball is often wider than the front arm ball. A sleeve cut is always mirrored and cut twice on the fabric.
The widest point on the sleeve just below the arm ball is the point at the level of our biceps. In addition, there are often notches on the sides of the cut at about mid-height of the sleeve cut, that is the elbow height. From the measurements you determine, you simply draw the seam allowance and, if necessary, folds or similar. and get the measurements of the finished sleeve.
Examples of pants and skirts
Comparing the dimensions of trousers and tops is the same principle as for a top, so I won’t go into it so deeply here.
Trousers and skirts usually have registration marks or notches on the hips and knees that make orientation easier.
Waist size (pants or skirt without waistband):
Measure the width from the top edge from the side seam to the front or center back. Darts and seam allowances are subtracted. The amount is doubled and the measurements of the front and back are added.
Waist size (pants or skirt with waistband):
If there is a waistband, the waistband width is used as a guide for the waist. The procedure is the same. No darts are taken into account here because the waistband already contains the reduced width due to the darts. Seam allowances are still subtracted, the amount is doubled and the dimensions of the front and back are added.
The width is measured on the pass mark or hip clip from the side seam to the front or center back. Darts and seam allowances are subtracted. The amount is doubled and the measurements of the front and back are added.
Length and leg circumference
Length and leg circumference are measured in the same way. At the end of the day, you just have to remember to deduct seam and hem allowances if they are included in the pattern.
So, dear ones, I hope I was able to show you at which points you can start to check the dimensions on a pattern with your measurements. The blog posts for corresponding change measures are available another time. I just wanted to show you this procedure because it is a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with sewing patterns. So that they are no longer just abstract pieces of paper, which in the end just happen to be pieces of clothing.
I wish you a wonderful Sunday!
For sewing beginners: Check your own measurements on the pattern. Where are the body features on a pattern?