Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tutorial: Altering a Commercial Pattern for Petite Frames

I have the same problem with off-the-rack garments as I do with commercial patterns - the shoulders / neck are too wide and the waist often sits too low.  After some trial and error, I wanted to share a very easy (and non-permanent) modification you can make to your patterns to address these issues.

Trial and error sewing w/ commercial patterns

How to narrow the shoulders and raise the waist:
Just move the pattern inwards!  Rather than aligning the edge of the pattern to the fold, pull it over the edge.  I usually go for a little over an inch.

Cut the neck, shoulder, and armhole.  Stop.

Because my ribs and waist are not in proportion to my shoulders, I move the pattern back to the normal position of edge aligned to center front fold.  Resume cutting the armhole and then down the side.

I didn't take a picture of this, but to raise the waist, you do the same thing.  Simply slide your pattern up to the correct position and cut the bottom.  For me, I raise it 1/2".

Easy right?  Happy sewing!

P.S.  Yes, instead of pretty pattern weights, I use canned goods :)

On a personal note (because I have the best luck in the world) I am sick again.  That means I had 2 relatively healthy days this month, haha!  

Moms - how do / did you battle germs your kiddo brought home from school?


  1. Oh such an informative post! Thanks for posting the step by step instructions! Love the that's resourcefulness. :D
    Oh now hope you feel better soon just in time for the holidays!! xoxo, Phoebe

  2. omg, that's a genius method to alter the patterns without destroying them in the process! Thanks for sharing!

  3. this is awesome.. and daunting. :) you're so resourceful - love it!

    if it helps, it improves when the kids get older. seems baby/toddler daycare germs are the most toxic! just keep washing your hands, theirs and get plenty of rest. hope you feel better soon!! xox P

  4. Love the soda can weights! And great tips on changing a pattern to fit your needs, with much trial and error of course! How do I handle germs? With lots of vitamin C and water. Unfortunately, those germs are powerful!

  5. I'm a newbie sewer but will tey this when I venture into patterns! As for kids and germs I'm in the trenches big time. My oldest is in elementary school and my youngest goes to a part time day care. I always have purell in the car. I am pushing for more hand washing. We also binge on those cutie mandarins which I think help.
    But the number one way to keep well is getting enough sleep. I am sick this week because I've been sleeping poorly. Rest up and I hope you feel better!

  6. Just came back to this post because I'm actually going to try to be brave enough and adjust a dress pattern. With your method, doesn't the armhole end up too big? (Since you're cutting it, and then extending it some more)
    I love the dresses you make, btw! I wish I could sew like you :)

    1. Hi Esther! It weirdly doesn't (though I'm not sure why)! Here are some slightly better underarm photos using this method:

    2. Thanks! I think I'll try this first on a muslin to see how it works for me.

  7. is there any way that I can print your dress pattern? I am a newbie in sewing and still looking for best patter for my lil body.

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Adriani! I'm using a McCall's M5972 pattern in this post and you can purchase it on the McCall's site here:


I'm the type of gal who gets giddy when I receive mail - it's no different with comments! I really appreciate the feedback and love hearing from you :)


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