June 17, 2012

2-in-1 Sewalong: Pick Your Pattern Size

Today, we'll have a chat about picking the correct pattern size for you. I'm pretty sure most of you all know how to do this, and if you've been sewing for any length of time, you'll know what size fits you best. So let me just touch on a few things here.

Pick your bust size based on your upper bust measurement. What's your upper bust measurement? It's the measurement that's pictured above - taken right across your upper bust, back and armpit. Why use this measurement? Because we ladies are all different cup sizes and if you take this measurement across your full bust, which would include your cup size - which may or may not be full - you might fall into a completely different bust pattern size range. When that happens, the bust area might fit you (probably won't though) when you go to make up your pattern, but nothing else will, ie shoulders, waist, armscye, sleeves, etc. So best advice is definitely to start with your upper bust measurement ladies!

"Help! My measurements don't fall into just one size (neither do mine, honey)! What do I do?" Pick the multisized pattern that includes all three main measurements (bust, waist & hip) and then blend your size just like this little tutorial I did for the Ginger Sewalong. For me, I have a 34" upper bust, a 29" waist and a 39" hip. That's pattern sizes 12 & 14 (though size 14 has a 1 inch smaller waist and hip measurement, but I'll talk about that in a minute). So I take a red pencil and blend from my size 12 bust to my size 14 waist. Make sense?

Next, let's talk about pattern ease. Gretchen posted a great article on this very subject, not too long ago. There is quite a bit of ease in today's commercial patterns. I'm talking the Big 4 patterns here too, because its different with indie designer patterns. So instead of taking my pattern size 14 waist and hip - which is already 1" smaller than my own measurements - I just go with a straight size 12 every time and even then, I usually end up taking a good chunk out of the waist and hip. It's actually really crazy. Anyway, with all this crazy pattern ease, how do you know what to expect? Take a look at your pattern envelope back. At the bottom there's "Finished Garment Measurements" and you can see the finished measurements for the dress bust, dress length and dress width - which btw is the finished measurement for the flare of the skirt. But take a look at that finished bust measurement - my size 12 has 4 1/2 inches of ease! That's a pretty good chunk.

There's another place to look for the finished measurements and that's on the pattern pieces themselves. You can either measure the pattern pieces and subtract out the seam allowances for say something like your waist, and/or many times that finished measurement is written directly on the pieces.

How do you make sense of all these finished garment measurements though? Here's my rundown of some general ease guidelines for your 3 basic measurements (btw, ease is the amount added to a pattern to make it wearable, you know so you can move in it):

To use these guidelines, you would tack on the amount above to your body measurement and then add the seam allowances you'll need. These are all ease measurements that I've found in my sewing travels and for more fitted styles I go with less ease and for looser styles I go with more ease.

OK, hopefully this was a bit informational for you guys. How do you deal with picking your pattern size? Any guidelines you follow? Leave your tips in the comments! We would all love to know!

off to cut my pattern size, wish me luck!
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