Sizing up success: Measuring your body to find your pattern size
You’ve discovered the pattern of your dreams and you’re ready to bring your vision to life.
But wait – there’s a familiar challenge ahead. What size should you choose? You glance at your off-the-rack clothing, which labels you a size 12. Naturally, you reach for a pattern size 12, but let’s pause for a moment. Do you sense a plot twist?
The size on a pattern is not necessarily the size on off-the-rack clothing, and as we all know, those sizes are not even consistent from store to store.
How to find your pattern size
When it comes to sewing, precision matters. Every clothing pattern shows sizing according to body measurements. You need accurate measurements to select the correct pattern size, which will result in a well-fitted garment.
The secret to getting your measurements right
The more accurate you are, the better tailored your fit will be. Allow me to share a pearl of wisdom: a measuring buddy is the key to your quest for accurate measurements. It’s difficult to measure yourself correctly because holding the tape measure and straining to see it throws off your body alignment.
Along with your measuring buddy, you’ll need a flexible tape measure. No, the one from the hardware store doesn’t count. The simple, inexpensive one shown here, from Dritz, is perfect.
Consult your pattern
First, consult your pattern to see which measurements are required for sizing. Measurements for pattern sizes depend on the pattern company.
Each pattern company has unique sizing. They have their own chart and, their own rules. The idea of consistently wearing the same size across different brands? It’s a lovely idea, but just as in off-the-rack clothing, not likely.
Whenever you use a design from a pattern maker that’s new to you, study their sizing chart and align it with your measurements. Take into account the fabric you’ll use to arrive at the correct size. For example, a stretchy knit has more give than a cotton poplin.
Take your measurements
Stand in your natural posture and distribute your weight evenly – this is your canvas.
Keep the tape parallel to the ground. It should hug your body without tugging too tightly or sagging.
Measure key areas: bust, waist, and hips. If you are making a top, measure shoulder width and arm length. If you are making pants, measure your inseam.
Finding the right pattern size for a blouse is relatively easy, you take a bust measurement and generally fit to that (unless it’s a tighter fit at the hip). But say you are making pants. How do you like your pants to fit? Tight or loose through the bum? Are you using a woven with or without stretch? Consider that the sizing using your exact body measurement might be too relaxed a fit for you.
Do a test garment – create a muslin
So, when you are unsure, how do you figure out the correct pattern size before you pull out your good fabric?
The answer: create a muslin. A “muslin” is a test garment fashioned from inexpensive fabric. Think of it as your dress rehearsal, a chance to fine-tune the fit before cutting into more expensive fabric.
Now, this might not be worth the trouble if you are making a simple garment and you don’t mind putting a bit of fabric at risk if you choose the wrong size. Otherwise, find a pattern you’d really like to work with more than once and create a muslin.
Stitch this muslin with care, trying it on for size. Pinch, tuck, and adjust as needed. This process reveals the fit you truly desire, and can transform a good pattern into a tailored piece of clothing.
Armed with the insights from your muslin, you’ll enter your main project with the confidence of a seasoned pro, knowing that the fit you achieve will be the fit you love.
The path to a perfect fit may have its twists, but each detour is a lesson, and every adjustment is a step closer to a garment that flatters, fits, and makes your creativity shine.
We’ll help you find your perfect fit
Take a class with us at ABQ Sewing Studio, and we’ll help you find your perfect fit. Our experienced instructor will guide you through the art of measuring, fitting, and pattern selection. With her expertise, you’ll unlock the secrets of sewing success and discover how to get every detail just right.