Off the Rack Sizing vs. Pattern Sizing

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NSC Question

I am sewing costumes for my entire family (15 total costumes!), and I am having problems with sizes. I bought patterns according to off the rack sizes for each member, but when I went to make the muslin patterns, they weren’t even nearly big enough. I now look at the waist and hip measurement, and those don’t even match up.

Is it true that pattern sizes are not off the rack sizes? Do you use the largest measurement on the pattern to the size of your person and then try to alter from there? Any suggestions on what I should do first? Thank you.

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NSC Answer

It is true that sewing pattern sizes and off the rack sizes are not similar at all. When sewing with a commercial pattern, the only real way to determine the correct size to make is to take body measurements.

When selecting a size to make based on the measurements, you will want to pick the size that all (or most) of the measurements line up with. If there is one that doesn’t match up with the rest in a certain size column, you can grade the pattern up or down in size as necessary.

For example, if a bust and hip measurement fall in a size 8 but the waist is a size 10, you can gradually grade the cutting line from and 8 to a 10 from the bust to the waist, and then back down from a 10 to an 8 from the waist to the hips.

Hope this helps!

Ashley

Related links:

How to Alter Sewing Patterns for Shorts and Pants
Sewing Pattern Alteration and Tools
Back to Basics: Drafting Patterns


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Please note: questions may be edited for clarity and relevance.
Discussion
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16 Responses to “Off the Rack Sizing vs. Pattern Sizing”
  1. Catherine

    I sew for Scottish dancing outfits. When sewing a gathered full tartan skirt for children, how can I take some of the fullness out of the waist.

    Reply
    • Catherine

      Let me add o my question. I do not use a pattern as I have to adjust for the child. Some child sizes can take more fullness than others.

      Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Catherine. You can do this by adding some darts along the top edge of the skirt. Doing this will allow you to be able to cut out some of the fullness along the waistband area but still keep the fullness in the rest of the skirt.

      Reply
  2. the.barnowl@btinternet.com

    Skirt needs shortening but will spoil bottom. It has an elastic top in casing. How do I shorten please?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello,

      Without seeing the skirt – I would recommend removing the elastic from the casing so it can be reused. Then, cut the desired amount from the top of the skirt, remake casing and insert the elastic back in. Depending on the shape of the skirt, taking length from the top rather than the bottom may cause there to be excess fullness at the new casing area so you may need to take some fabric out at the side seams.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Ashley NSC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special offer for your first year membership. http://go.nationalsewingcircle.com/C8260

      Reply
  3. Lenora

    How do I find the instruction videos I want to see, without having to scroll through hundreds of videos? It is way too time consuming. I don’t see a search box exclusively for NSC. If I type something in the search box, I get an internet search. That’s not what I want. Is there a better way to zero in on the video I want to see? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Lenora. You can type in the video subject you want to locate in the Search box. You will then need to scroll past the google ads and there you will find the NSC videos. If you have any questions let us know. You can contact our customer service team at 1-855-208-7187.
      Thanks
      Jean
      NSC Video Membership

      Reply
  4. Winifred

    Hi……can you please tell me where i can buy a hem buddy for measuring hems with…many thanks…Wyn

    Reply
  5. Cynthia Brown

    I enjoyed the video on making adjustments on patterns, however, I was wondering how to adjust children’s patterns. I have several darling patterns that are a size 6 that I would love to be able to adjust to a size 8 so that I don’t have to go to the expense of buying another pattern. Do you have any suggestions or advice on how to do this? Thank you? Also, do you answer me personally or do I have to keep checking your blog?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Cynthia,

      There is a fairly easy way to do this, however it really only works if your pattern already has multiple sizes on it- for example: if your pattern was sizes 2,4 and 6 and you wanted to make it an 8. If this is the case, you can simply start along one line of the pattern piece and measure the difference between the size 4 and the size 6. For example we’ll say it is 1/4″. You would then measure out and mark 1/4″ outside of the size 6 line and draw a new size 8 line. In areas where the lines taper together, you can still use the same technique and just mimic the taper distance between the size 4 and size 6.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Ashley NSC Video Membership

      Reply
  6. Carmela

    More of a question. I wear knee braces under my jeans. how do I prevent faded jeans in inner thighs, or ones that are faded.Should I put a patch over it?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,

      Yes, a patch would work for this- as I am not familiar with another way to prevent the fabric from fading from being worn.

      Cheers,

      Ashley

      Reply
  7. Brigitte

    My fairly new upgraded computerized sewing machine suddenly sounds loud when sewing. I checked for lint, thread in bobbin, changed the needle and re-threaded. It sews fine but sound is concerning. What can it be? Is it safe to continue sewing?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,

      Unfortunately it is hard to say what might be causing the sound if you already checked all of those things- as one of them is usually the issue. Another thing that could be making the noise is if you are not using the correct type/size of needle for the fabric you are sewing. If that is correct and it is still making the noise I would recommend consulting your dealer about it.

      Cheers,

      Ashley

      Reply
      • Brigitte

        Thanks, I did follow your advice and it was a problem with the bobbin case that has been fixed. Thanks again

        Reply