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How to grade in between sizes - the basics and what it means. (Grading between sizes on the Lara dress)

Have you ever started to make something from a sewing pattern, only to take a look at the size chart and be confused as to which size you should go for? 

Let's say you're about to make a dress and your bust/waist measurements are showing as a size UK 14 ono the size chart, but your hips are showing as a UK 16. What would you do in this situation? 

Most people would just make a straight size and hope for the best, or even try and fiddle around with making the bust smaller after the dress is already half way made. 

This is where "grading in between sizes" comes into play. Grading is the term often used in pattern making industries to actually make a size bigger or smaller, but what we want to do here is work within the sizes given to try and adjust the sizing, before we even begin making. Terms such as grading make these adjustments sound complicated, but I promise in most cases they're not! 

For the purpose of this blog post, we're going to grade the Lara dress. At this point, you should look at the size chart and work out where you fit into the chart. 

For this example, we're going to imagine that we have a size UK 14 bust and waist and a UK size 16 hip. 

Step 1:

Print your pattern, being sure not to cut into any of the sizes just yet. (We need to be able to see multiple sizes at this point in order to adjust the pattern between two different sizes). 

Now, we can cut out our bodice to be a straight size 14, given the fact our bust and waist BOTH are showing as a size 14. (If your bust and waist are showing as different sizes, we will adjust the bodice too. I'll talk about this a bit later in this post).

Step 2: 

With the bodice cut out in a size 14, we can now move onto adjusting the pattern for the size 16 skirt. 

As our waist is measuring as a size 14, we need to taper the waist of the skirt out from a size 14 into the 16 so that our bodice waist and skirt waist match perfectly when sewing. 

You can see in the image below, I have drawn a red curved line from the size 14 waist, to the size 16 at the hip. Make this a delicate, smooth curve. There should be no sharp edges where it joins the size 16! If you're not sure how far the line needs to go, measure down from your waist to the widest point of your hips (where you took your hip measurement). You want the widest point of the skirt to go over this area, so this is where your size 16 skirt should start. 

Step 3:

Repeat this step with your back skirt pieces. Exactly the same as before, start at the 14 waist and then taper your line with a gentle curve into the size 16 hip.

Step 4: 

Now, what about those waist darts? Your waist darts on your skirt, should be cut to match the size of the waist. So in this case, you should be using the size 14 darts on the skirt. You may need to adjust them slightly and make them a little longer or shorter depending on your body shape. I would recommend making a sample run of the pattern with the alterations you've just created and then decide on your dart length from there.

You can now go ahead and cut your pattern following the red line, then continuing into the size 16 skirt where the red line meets. Make up a sample to check that the pattern fits you how you wish, then go ahead and make the real thing if you're happy with how your sample looks! 

Making a different size bust, waist AND hips? Read on!

So, for this example let's just say you're a size 16 bust, a size 14 waist and a size 16 hips. 

Step 1: 

Again, you will need to start by printing your pattern, being sure to start working on the full pattern with all the stacked sizes. Don't cut into it just yet! 

Now, with the Lara dress we are working with a princess seam bodice. This means that there are multiple pieces to pay attention too and we will need to grade between all of them. 

As we are a size 16 bust and a size 14 waist, we will to start from the size 16 at the top of the bodice pieces and draw a gentle curved line down to the waist where we will meet the size 14.

Repeat this on all of the bodice pieces, including the back! You will now have something that looks like this (See the red line in the image below):

Step 2:

That's your bodice graded. You can now cut following the red line and continuing to follow the rest of the pattern as normal.

We'll now move onto the skirt, and for this part of the grading you can follow the steps given above for grading a 14 waist and 16 hip. 

You will now see that your bodice and skirt will meet at the size 14 waist and then taper out to the size 16. 

Follow your size 14 waist darts (as we are a size 14 at the waist) and then sample this up! 

Step 3: 

As before, sample up your new pattern and try it on. Then make any other minor adjustments you may need (such as shorter or longer darts).

You're done! Congratulations, you've just graded in between sizes! 

This same technique can be applied to various patterns, with some small differences depending on the style of the garment/the way the pattern is made up. I'll do my best to get some more posts written up on other adjustments soon.