Fun with Fit Part 2: tracing your pattern and vertical pre-adjustments

Hello and welcome back to Fun with Fit! In this second session we are going to do the following:

* Trace our fitting shell patterns and transfer ALL markings

* Choose a cup size of B, C or D as a starting point and apply it to our bodice front pattern piece using the Butterick guidelines (further small or large bust adjustments will be made later on if necessary).

* Take various vertical body measurements and compare these with the measurements of the pattern pieces

* Alter our paper pattern vertically to match the measurements of our body so that we know that the Bust, Waist and Hips of our fitting shell will be sitting at the right point on our bodies.

* NB- you will be taking some body measurements during this process so have on well fitting lingerie and something un-bulky and un-restrictive.

Lets get cracking!

Tracing all the pattern pieces may seem like a laborious task but believe me you will be grateful later. By making a duplicate of our pattern we preserve the original so that if we want to begin again after a mistake or return to our fitting shell at a future point when we have gained or lost some weight we can do so without repurchasing. It also saves the headache of trying to make crisp cutting and sticking adjustments on delicate tissue paper- that stuff tears and crumples like nobody’s business! This is best practice when making any sewing pattern and a good habit to get into.

It is absolutely essential that the tracings include ALL the pattern details. The sloper/ fitting shell comes with lovely big seam allowances on certain seams and the regular 1.5cm ones on others and so if you fail to mark all the stitching lines then you may well end up very confused later on! You also need the grainlines, the lengthen/shorten lines, any notches and just everything that is on those pattern pieces!

Bust size: Before tracing pattern piece #1 you need to decide on which bust size you are using as a starting off point. If you are a B cup or smaller just use pattern piece #1 as it is as the pattern is drafted for a B cup and small bust adjustments will be covered later.

If you are a C or D cup or larger you can use pattern piece #6 to adjust your front bodice. To do this place piece #6 on top of #1 aligning the centre front lines and the top black line of #6 with the line marked BUST LINE on piece #1. Pin in place in this position like this:

Changing cup size

When making your copy, trace piece #1 down to the point where it intersects with the black line of piece #6 and then follow the lines marked as C or D depending on your choice of cup size. The line which is currently marked bust line is only the bust line for  a B Cup, to mark your new bust line on your tracing draw a line at a right angle from the centre front of your pattern to the tip of the  bust dart. Mark your new BUST POINT on this line, the bust point can be located by travelling up from the centre of the waist dart  to this line. Below is a completed tracing of BODICE FRONT piece  #1 with a C Cup adjustment, showing the new bust line and bust point (bp).


Traced with C Cup
On Tracing of BODICE FRONT PIECE 1 after a C Cup adjustment from PIECE #6


Once we have reached this stage it is a good idea to do something to make your seam allowances stand out. I have shaded mine with pink lines as you can see in the photo below. We are about to be taking measurements from our pattern pieces and do NOT want to include the seam allowances in these so its good if they are distinctive.

Now we are ready to take out first vertical measurement. This first measurement runs from the bust point to the shoulder at a right angle from the bust line (so straight up rather than at any kind of angle). Below you can see this is a turquoise blue line marked M1. Once you have taken this measurement make a note of it.


Shaded seam allowances and vertical measurement 1

Next we are going to take this exact same measurement on our own bodies. Remember that your bust point is essentially the nipple so you are measuring straight up from that to your shoulder- where the seam of a shirt should be (mid-way between front and back). Bel0w you can see the vertical black seam tape indicating this measurement on Miss Dressform, the three horizontal lines show her bust, waist and hip levels.


Vertical measurement no.1 on body

Time to compare and contrast! If your body is longer here than the pattern we are going to slash and spread the pattern and add the difference to make them the same. If your body is shorter we are going to slash and overlap. To do this we are going to use the lengthen/shorten line conveniently marked on our pattern piece in this upper body area.


To make your pattern longer cut along the lengthen/ shorten line and tape the top half of your pattern piece to another piece of paper. I have  used brown paper below so that it is more clear in the photo what I’m doing. Once your pattern piece is secure extend the turquoise measurement line the amount by which the pattern needs lengthening, in my example below this is 14mm. Now draw a line parallel to the lengthen shorten line at this 14mm point- make sure it is completely level with the lengthen/ shorten line across the whole width of the pattern piece.


lengthening upper bodice front 1
Adding length to upper front bodice part 1

Next you need to grab the lower half of your pattern piece and align it perfectly with your extended measurement line and the new horizontal line you just drew on your paper. Now you can level up the side seams and trim around your new paper. You only need to keep a big enough strip of new paper to fill in this gap but be sure to use some sellotape on the back of the pattern too to make it nice and secure before we move on to further adjustments.

increasing upper bodice front 2


If your body measurement is less than your pattern you will need to shorten your pattern piece by overlapping. To do this cut along the lengthen/shorten line marked on your pattern piece. Next measure up from this line the amount by which you need to shorten your pattern piece , in my example below this is 1cm, and draw a new horizontal line at this level making sure it is completely level with the lengthen shorten line all the way across.

DEcreasing upper bodice front 1

Take the lower half of your bodice front pattern piece and stick it to the upper half matching the edge of the paper to this new turquoise blue line. The area of overlap on the completed pattern piece is marked in the photo below with turquoise dash lines.

Vertical measurement 2 Bodice front pattern

So thats our first vertical adjustment done and we now know that we have a paper pattern that should be the right length for our upper body. Next we are going to measure the full body length of our pattern piece and ourselves. We know the top half is correct so any discrepancy here will be applied to the lengthen/shorten line below the bustline. Above you can see vertical measurement 2 marked in royal blue. It follows the same line as our first measurement but continues all the way through to the waist. As you can see I have drawn a temporary blue line squaring off the waist dart at the waistline. That is just for measurement purposes because we don’t want to include the ‘truing’ of the dart in our measurements so you only want to measure to that horizontal royal blue line. Once you have your pattern measurement you need to take the same measurement on your body again just like we did with measurement 1. To do this you need to make sure you really are stopping at your actual waistline. A good way to to determine your waist is to tie a piece of elastic around your middle and where it naturally gravitates to is your waist. Below Miss Dressform is modelling this second measurement for us.

2nd front vertical measurement dressform
Vertical measurement 2 – body

As you can see the measurement follows the curve of the body and so don’t pull the tape measure taught but allow it to contour with your shape.

Once you have both measurements written down you can use the method we covered above of slashing and spreading or slashing and overlapping your pattern piece so that it matches your body length. This time you are using the lengthen/shorten line on the lower half of your bodice front pattern piece because we already know that the area above our bust line is the correct length.  My example below shows a pattern piece lengthened 17mm on the lower half.

Example of completed increase of lower bodice front and decrease of upper bodice front

It is not unlikely that you will end up lengthening one half and shortening the other. We all have very different proportions. So you may well be longer from shoulder to bust point than your pattern and shorter from bust point to waist than your pattern but the same length as your pattern overall. It is still completely necessary to make these vertical adjustments even in this case as it is critical for good fit that the bustline on your pattern sits at the bustline on your body.

Vertical adjustments 3 & 4:  Next you need to apply this same methodology to two other vertical measurements that I have photographed below on Miss Dressform. On your BODICE BACK #2 pattern piece and your own back (you really will benefit from a helping hand with this body measurement!) you are going to measure from nape to waist. Once again use the elastic trick to be sure of your exact waistline. Your ‘nape’ is where your back meets your neck- or your very top nobbly back bone if that helps!

You can use either of the lengthen/shorten lines marked on your BODICE BACK  piece to carry out this adjustment.

Do not worry if after all your adjustments your bodice front and bodice back pieces are no longer the same length at the side seams. This will be addressed and rectified later on!


nape to wasit measurement dressform
Vertical measurement 3 on back


The fourth and final vertical measurement is on your lower body and your SKIRT FRONT #4 pattern piece. This one measures the distance between waist and hipline. The hipline is marked on your pattern piece and on your body it is your fullest area. It can be higher or lower dependent on body shape and where we carry our weight. Once again we want this line to be the same distance from our waist on pattern and body so use the slash and spread or slash and overlap method. There is a conveniently placed lengthen/shorten line on your skirt front pattern piece between waist and hip to enable you to make this change. Once you have done this repeat on the SKIRT BACK #5 pattern piece so that they match. In reality our front and backs themselves may actually be slightly different lengths in this area but we will be approaching any tweaks to the back waist/ hip area at a later stage and we want to sew up our initial calico toile with the patterns equal front and back in this area.

Vertical measurement 4, waist to hip body front

So that’s it for our vertical pre-adjustments. Once you have got to the end of this session you will be ready for next thursday where we will start looking at horizontal pre-adjustments!

Don’t worry in the not to distant future this process will involve fabric and thread!

Any questions please ask below and thanks for reading.

29 responses to “Fun with Fit Part 2: tracing your pattern and vertical pre-adjustments”

  1. Finally ordered the sloper, but will have to to wait until I visit my parents in the UK in Feb before I can start. Thanks for the running this sewalong!

  2. Thank you for providing these detailed fitting posts.
    I think that you showing how to measure and compare the body to the pattern is great. I will start applying this useful information to my sewing.
    I look forward to your additional posts on fitting.

  3. this is wonderful!! it is like haveing a personal fitting assisant to help! thank you so much for doing this…perhaps we will see you on tv next??

  4. Hello,

    I remeasured my bust for this and I fall between a B and C cup. What should I do? I also wear B or C cup bras depending on the style.

    • Thats fine Susie, did you still plan to order the 12? Dont worry too much about the particulars like cup size as we will be able to adjust things like that as we go. It’s just easier if the top half of the pattern is closer to our bodies than the bottom half as it’s more intricate to adjust.

  5. Hi Ami,

    I measured my upper bust and it was 35 inches. I have purchased the size 12 as I am small boned and petite. I usually start off with a size 10 in Butterick but I figure 34 was close to 35 than 32 1/2. Will this be okay?

    Thank you!


    • This will be fine Melissa, the initial pattern is really just a jumping off point as we are going to make so many personal adjustments over the series so either would have been completely okay 🙂

  6. Hello Ami, just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your lovely blog, and to thank you for your generosity in sharing your amazing expertise! I am looking forward to getting my fit sorted out, with your help.

    Please could I ask you what type of dressform it is you have? Is it customised, and if so where did you purchase it? I need to replace my Adjustaform; it has been a poor buy as it is very unstable, flimsy, and now some of the dials are stuck/broken. I’d like to get something nicer.

    • Hi Gilly, thanks so much for your lovely comment! Hmm well I can completely agree with you on the Adjustaform review! My dressform is actually an Adjustaform underneath! I bought her when I had very little money and she was the absolute top of my budget and I was so disappointed after using such fabulous ones at college. After a short while I got so fed up with her flimsiness and the fact that i couldn’t pin anything to her because of the gaps that I decided to attempt to upholster her. I made her as close to me as possible by padding her out a bit here and there and then drafted a cover using draping techniques. That’s why she has the very strange feature of a zip up the back! I don’t really know how to upholster properly so was probably approaching it wrong but my goodness did it destroy my hands!! She is far more substantial now due to the tough linen and the padding underneath but she still isn’t really a replica of me. I would love a professional quality one (Kennett and Lindsell- drool!) or a customised one but she really does do a fairly good job all things considered and the others are just such an investment.
      Sorry, I appreciate this anecdote is not really much use to you! I wouldn’t necessarily do what I did unless like I was at the time you are kind of forced to!

    • Gilly
      (Nice name!) Google duct tape double and start with that – then if you can stand the process a second time use paper tape (the old fashioned paper tape with water activated glue on the back) for a pinnable and sturdier option. You can then place either one of these over your adjustable mannequin and stuff the extra space. Hope that helps.
      Gillian (in Sydney). (Sometimes called Gilly!!)

      • From one Gilly to another. :). Thank you so much for this tip. I will try this also as I am still trying rather unsuccessfully to duplicate my less than perfect shape on my dress form!!!! happy sewing x

  7. Thank you so much for such clear instructions. I am learning so much from measuring the pattern,comparing it to my measurements and making the adjustments. Looking forward to the next post! I love your dress form. Do you have suggestions as to where to purchase one similar to yours? Susan aka Buttonband on Ravelry.

    • Hi Susan! Ah I am so pleased to hear that you are finding the posts useful. My Dressform is a bit of a strange story- she was an adjustaform which I didnt get on with at all that I did a bit of a amateur job of upholstering. Have a read of my reply to Gilly above where I go into some detail of what I did. Ideally I would love a professional one but they are just soooo expensive I can never justify it and mine does the job. Maybe you could look on Ebay or Gumtree for a Kennett and Lindsell or equivalent second-hand? I’m sure people must sell them on occasionally!

  8. Thanks so much for this, I’ve had a fitting shell pattern that I’ve never braved before so this is the incentive I need. I can’t wait to get home from work and start making my part 3 adjustments!

    • Hi Ami, Thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy life to reply to me in such detail. Wow, your disguised Adjustaform looks great! As you say customised forms are very costly, and hard to justify. This is the next best thing and I’m going to try it!! You must be very excited about your new pattern range, and I should like to send you my very best wishes for your success. Gilly

  9. These posts are so good, thanks for all you hard work! I am saving them for now because I’m pregnant but really hope to make a block later on because I always end up with strange problems like pulling on the back or sleeve. Yippee!

  10. Hi, quick question: I’m having to shorten the back bodice by 4cm, and by doing so, the waist dart lines & outside lines now don’t join up. Do you just draw in a new line, matching the top & bottom of the lines together? The grain line & left outside line still join together correctly, but not the right outside line or waist dart! Sorry if my question doesn’t make sense!

    • Hi Nicola, yep that’s exactly right just draw in a new line from top to bottom as you thought 🙂
      In week 3 I do this with a green pen to a dart and a side seam so you can refer to that if you need to too!

  11. Hello! I just found your site, and I’m beginning to follow along with this tutorial. I have a question. I have an asymmetrical body, and I’m only just trying to learn how to fit patterns to myself. My biggest oddity is a high hip on my right side. Most of the high hip adjustments that I’ve seen target the skirt part of the pattern. But I notice on taking these vertical measurements that my right bodice side is 1/4 inch shorter than my left. Would it benefit me to do both sides separately, or just focus on the skirt and hope that fixes the problem? Thanks in advance!

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