A quick apology, readers: I misspoke. There is nothing sexy about pattern grading. You could do it in the nude, and there would still be nothing sexy about pattern grading. Have you ever tried it -- either way?
Cathy's 1940's swimsuit and beach jacket pattern is a 34" chest (vintage size 16), she wears a 36" (vintage size 18). So I figured I'd grade up -- nobody wants to have to squeeze themselves into beachwear, least of all my cousin for reasons best left unstated.
Now, before I continue, you know when you have, like, fifty sewing books, and you recall a really good passage about a sewing technique, or an excellent illustration, and then when you want to refer to it, you can't remember which book it's in? How do you address this problem, readers?
It took me twenty minutes to find out which of my sewing books had clear instructions about pattern grading. It turned out a few did -- and wouldn't you know they were all just different enough to have you pulling the hair out your head, if you have any?
|From "How To Make Clothes That Fit and Flatter", Adele Margolis|
|From "Fit For Real People", Palmer & Alto|
There are two popular techniques -- the slash and spread method, and the shift method. Since I was working from delicate vintage pattern paper and didn't want to have to trace it, slash it, and then trace it again, I decided to try the shift method, as outlined in Adele Marolis' How to Make Clothes That Fit and Flatter (Doubleday, 1969), hoping this way I could trace just once, and never have to slash.
Here's the thing about grading up a size -- you're shifting (or alternately, spreading) teensy amounts: 1/8 of an inch here, 1/4 of an inch there. It's not hard, exactly, but you really need to work with great accuracy. Anyway, more than an hour later, I had finished my (up)grade, and the results looked credible -- I mean, the differences were slight, but visible. Of course, Margolis only addresses standard three-piece bodices (front, back, sleeve), whereas I had to deal with a front, a side, and a back, and a sleeve. But still, I think it turned out OK (the yellow paper beneath the tan original pattern is the graded-up version).
Friends, this is where the story takes a tragic turn. As I was laying my newly traced pattern on my fabric in order to start cutting, I realized that the new pattern didn't fit on my fabric! So I had to go back to my original, slightly smaller pattern, and I will just have to sew narrower seam allowances (the pattern calls for 1/2" seam allowances; I intend to sew 1/4" seam allowances). What else can I do at this point, and please don't say buy more fabric; in this heat?
Apropos of pattern grading, elegant muser Casey recently presented an excellent pattern grading tutorial using the slash and spread method, and unlike my post today, she actually shows you how to do it rather than just kvetching about it. I also found this old Threads article, Making Sense of Pattern Grading, that lays things out clearly for those intrepid few ready to take on this challenge. But please learn from my mistake: make sure you have enough fabric first.
Somewhere I remember reading that you really shouldn't grade more than two sizes up (or down) yourself, because at that point things get very imprecise and wonky. Is this true? I'm sure I've read blogs where people are grading as much as four sizes.
In closing, do you ever grade your patterns up or down and if so, which method do you generally use?
How accurate are the results?
Happy Saturday, everybody!