Making changes to a pattern from pinned alterations


I’m currently In Hong Kong and found this draft in my WordPress account. BONUS! DING! DING! Its like finding a chocolate on your pillow! Hope its helpful to more folks than just me!

Since my skirt block had a pinned adjustment that was very clear to follow I thought I’d just demo here how to apply those changes to a pattern. When I returned to sewing, fit changes were the most difficult concept to grasp. There seemed to be a secret society holding the key to transferring fit changes on a garment to a paper pattern. Kenneth King debunked that for me via his fitting videos. Sometimes you just need someone to show you and then “eureka”! He calls this method ‘the grid’ but I’m certain its not his invention! The Smart Fitting series is great BTW!


Mark front and back of each pin with pencil or pen. Remove the pins, now you can clearly see the amount to be removed.


Where to remove the excess is part of the art and science of sewing. Sometimes its apparent when you look at the flat pattern and see a big curve where your body doesn’t actually have one. You know, like when a pattern looks like johpurs when what you really want is a some semblance of the straight leg pant on the envelope picture?

Now place your toile/muslin on your pattern piece aiming for some degree of accuracy. Using your tracing wheel and tracing paper face down on the paper, mark through the toile to transfer the adjustments. Don’t forget the pattern’s seam allowance will sit beyond your toile at this point.


This is what your pattern will look like. Anita made sure to mark the end of the adjustment where the adjustment equals zero, because she really doesn’t want any more reduction above and below zero.

By now some of you will notice that I am not over endowed with grey matter. I marked all those damned changes onto the front, but the changes were actually pinned on my back skirt. Sometimes I can work fast, mostly I can’t. I was rushing to get this done before a meeting so you have to pity my muddleheadedness!

Ahem, make sure you mark the alteration exactly where it occurs on the garment. Take 2!


Yes, yes, yes, I still didn’t get it right. The alteration was meant to be on the lateral (side seam) side of the dart, but I mocked up this redo for the purposes of … losing interest fast – send chocolate or Ritalin!


Now mark horizontal lines perpendicular to the grainline and measure each reduction, maintaining the ruler in place, transfer those measurements to the place you will reduce. In this case its the side seam. We’re talking millimetres here, 2-7mm. The pencil marks transferred to the left of the skirt are equivalent to the amount to be removed within the pinned marks on the right. I took my curved rulers (I tried more than one) and looked for a line of best fit to link up all those pencil marks. The shaded green part at the side will be removed to tighten the fit as per the pinned adjustment.

I simply didn’t feel I could compromise the side seam line to remove all the excess in one go. But, lo and behold… what couldn’t be removed from the side sesam looked like it could come out of the dart if I just bowed it a little – using the remaining measurements of course.

shaded green area removed from side seam

I think this method is useful in complex pattern adjustments. I wouldn’t normally use this where the pattern piece and alteration were so simple. Take an armscye on a jacket for instance. There are crucial curves you probably don’t want to mess around with willy nilly. I’ve used ‘the grid’ when I had a lot of excess fabric between centre front and armscye. I essentially moved the armscye in and it worked well, while maintaining the integrity of the curve.
Normally if there is bagginess ion the upper chest I’d fold out the excess vertically. The grid method would be best if there are other design details you don’t want to move though.


Do you have a different way of altering patterns/clothes?







Add yours →

  1. You’re in Hong Kong! I’m assuming that you’re on your way to England. Yay! Have a wonderful time.

    I do something somewhat similar for pattern reductions but in all honesty, I am sufficiently ridiculous that I might do it “freestyle,” by sizing things up with my eye and drawing. I have taken courses in sight size drawing though so that might explain the approach.

    Hope you can rest in flight.

    • Couldn’t even knit on my last flight, squashed between 2 people who weren’t that large, but I swear the seats are tighter than i recall! Kudos to you, ya freestylin’ lady! Me, not so much. I need rules!

  2. I have not heard of the grid or this level of “science” before. I would not have pinned as you did. I would have altered the dart and side seam a smidge until I had a good fit. I actually think that pinned dart slightly pulled the side seam to the back, but it may be the photograph.

    But I think my “good enough” fit is somewhat different to your sense of perfection. I don’t actually want fits like a glove in any event. So I feel a bit like a first grader compared to your college standard, but as you say you want rules….

    • I can’t take the credit for the pinning – that was the work of the patternmaking teacher. The toile follwing this one was pretty good, no itinerant wrinkles to speak of. Of course a block, by definition is a fairly close fit. I’d add some ease in the next style.

  3. I like to loose the excess fabric where I’ve pinned it away, so if possible I redraw round the toile onto paper!
    If you’re in Britain soon you may only have to wear the duffle coat at night, its actually warm here! Don’t forget the queuing protocol and enjoy.

  4. That’s so helpful, thank you. I admit I haven’t had to do much of this [yet] as the alterations have been straightforward but you make a lot of sense and when something’s clear and sensible, I tend to absorb it very well.

    Good luck with the rest of your journey. I can’t believe they let you onto a plane with knitting needles. Aren’t they a hijackers’ most notorious stealth weapon?

    • Walking through Heathrow I couldn’t believe my blurry eyes. I saw an official poster saying scissors with blades under ?4″ or was it ?6″ allowed. Has the world gone mad. Suppose it will keep the paper crafters happy, I can just see cabin crew lining up to have their silhouettes snipped victorian style!

  5. Oh dear – my pinned/marked calicos are still sitting in my bag after that motivation sucking session we had. Happily i have still been sewing and am loving things that aren’t so fitted. I need to give it another shot I think! Happy trails. A

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: