Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hollyburn Sew-Along - Thoughts on Grading Up in Size

Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt Sew-Along

Welcome to the next post in the Hollyburn Sew-Along! Incase you've missed any, here are the posts we've had so far:
Inspiration (Part 1)
Inspiration (Part 2)
Choosing a view
Choosing and Buying Fabric
Changing the Length
An Interview with Tasia
Pattern Alteration - Removing the Pockets
Prewash and Prepare Fabric

Due to some requests in the comments today I'm squeezing in a quick post about increasing the size of the skirt. The size range for Sewaholic patterns is pretty good, however I've heard from some sew-along participants that their waist measurement is larger than the biggest size, so to make the skirt they'll need to increase the size (also known as grading it up).

I'd like to preface the actual content of this post with a disclaimer however, I am by no means an expert in pattern grading. I have done a small amount myself, and also have been learning pattern-making, and have read bits and pieces here and there. Hence why I'm calling today's post "thoughts on" rather than "tutorial for". If you are reading this and you spot anything that I've said is incorrect, or you know a better method or anything like that, please do let me know!

However, moving on... From my background knowledge and research I've come up with two possible ways to grade up (or down) the Hollyburn skirt. The first is using the multisize pattern to your advantage and 'grading' the pattern, the second is the slash-and-spread method.

How much to increase by?Before you can start altering your pattern, you need to work out how much you need to increase it by. To work that out you'll need to compare your waist measurement with the largest on the size chart on the envelope back. So, for example, if you have a 37" waist, you'll need to increase the skirt by 2" as the largest size is 35".

We will be increasing the size in 4 spots on the pattern in both methods, so now divide your required increase by 4 and that's how much you'll need to add in each spot - in our example that means adding 0.5" four times.

"Grading" the pattern
If you take a look at your pattern piece you'll see all the different sizes staggering out along the side seams of the front and back pieces:

Therefore, if you want to increase the size you can follow the pattern of the size increases out however much you need to increase by - in the case of my example 0.5".

In this case, you can see that the side seam is parallel for all the sizes, so measure out from the largest size the amount you're increasing by (in my example 0.5") and draw a line (marked in green):

Now we need to fix up the top and bottom of the pattern piece. At the bottom you just need to continue the line of whichever hem length you want to use, as described in my post about changing the length. For the top of the pattern piece you need to draw in a new curve to meet your new side seam. Take a close look at the other lines, do you see how they each swing out a little lower than the previous size? Well what you want to do is mimic that difference by drawing in a smooth curve below the largest size:

If you have a french curve, that'd be fantastic for this, but you could eyeball it too.

Quick Tip: Make sure that where the waist seam meets the new side seam you have kept the angle at 90 degrees

Now you just cut along your new lines and you've graded up your pattern piece!

Repeat the process with the other skirt piece and you're ready to go! For the skirt front piece you'll have to also move out the pocket seam to meet the new side seam - the shape of the pocket edge is exactly the same for all the sizes, so make sure that you copy it off exactly for your new size too.

Once you've added your quarter of your desired increase to both the skirt front and skirt back, you'll have added in enough - as you use two of each of these pieces in making the skirt.

As making sure the pocket is unchanged can be a bit tricky, it might be slightly easier to try our second method instead...

This method is exactly what the name implies; you slash your pattern piece, then spread it the desired amount. Let me demonstrate...

Take your pattern piece:

Now cut a line straight down the middle of it. I picked a line parallel to the grainline:

Now stick a strip of paper down the side of one of your two halves of the pattern piece and measure out the amount you need to add:

Stick the other half of the pattern piece to your strip of paper that measured distance away from the first piece. Now you just need to 'true' the edges where you've added the extra paper - all that means is drawing a new smooth line between the gaps:

Now cut along those new smooth lines:

And repeat with the other skirt pattern piece.

Easy, eh?!

Don't forget the waistband!
Now you've graded up your skirt pattern pieces, you need to add the same amount to the waistband!

I suggest adding the four quarter amounts between the notches, as if you add it all onto one end you'll need to re-mark your notches anyway.

Further reading
Want to learn more about grading than the tiny sample of information I've shared here today? There's stacks of good stuff on the internet, this post by Casey is great, and this post from Threads Magazine is pretty thorough too.

Is everything nice and clear? I'll be back tomorrow with one last post about preparations before we start sewing next week!

Missed any of the sew-along posts, or just want to re-read them? You can find the full list here.


  1. I would also suggest measuring the pattern itself - because sometimes the envelope sizing is a bit different (at least in the Big 4) than what the envelope says. This has happened to me and some things have turned out toooo big for me - I started measuring the patterns and found that some have too much design ease. I don't think that's much of a problem with Sewaholic patterns but it's good practice. Just a thought!

    1. A very good point! And so true with big 4 patterns.

      However, conveniently the finished garment measurements are included on the envelope back of the Hollyburn pattern, so you don't even need to measure the actual pattern.

  2. Hello - can I just clarify on the grading up method that you added your "green line" to both sides of the pattern piece, not just the green line shown (so 0.5" on both sides of the paper)? Ta muchly.


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