Home > SPO TV > Beginner's Guide to Sewing > Beginner’s Guide to Sewing (Ep 18): Pattern Waist Adjustments

Beginner’s Guide to Sewing (Ep 18): Pattern Waist Adjustments

by Sarah

Welcome back to the Beginner’s Guide to Sewing! In the next few episodes we’ll be learning how to improve the fit of commercially made paper patterns. Many of us want to sew in order to make out own clothing and express our own fashion style. However, just like with ready-made clothing, fit is based off default body measurements. And how many of us actually fit those body molds? Not that many! If you aren’t a perfect hour glass, then you’ll need to make pattern adjustments.

Experience seamstresses will tell you they nearly always have to make some kind of flat pattern adjustment. And thank goodness! Because these simple adjustments take minutes to do and make a huge difference! Not only will you feel more comfortable in your own clothes, but no matter what your body shape of size, you’ll look fabulous with a great fit.

In episode 18, you’ll learn how to adjust skirts so it fits both your waist AND your hips. That’s right, you can have the best of both worlds. We also introduce you to basic body measurements and how to measure properly, as well as how to navigate the pattern sizes and which to use.

If you ever plan to make clothing, or have tried in the past with disappointing results, then you’ll definitely want to tune in for the next few episodes. In the next two episodes, you’ll also learn how to lengthen and shorten a pattern, as well as how to adjust the bust. Stay tuned!

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kate taggart December 21, 2017 - 10:54 pm

Love this. Will make alterations sooo much easier!

Lauran March 16, 2016 - 6:29 pm

Hello Sarah!
I’ve been watching your tutorials for a while now and have found them immensely helpful! I do, however, have a question regarding waist adjustments on a dress. I’m looking to use a vintage pattern, and unfortunately (the way I understand it vis-à-vis the item description on Etsy), it sounds like it’s only the one size on the pattern so I can’t just do a grading. The pattern is Simplicity 8035 from 1968, misses size 12. While the bust and hip measurements fall within a 1/4 inch of what I need, the waist of the finished garment needs to be 1 inch larger in circumference. I know how to calculate the adjustment, I’m just at a loss as to how I would go about sketching it in. I’ve scoured the internet looking for possible solutions but have come up empty. The closest I was able to find was a blog that showed how to do it on a dress with darts and had other sizes on the pattern so they were able to grade it between sizes. Everything else seems to have examples using shirts or skirts, which doesn’t help me a whole lot being as this dress is solid from top to bottom. Any help you might be able to offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!

Sarah G. March 21, 2016 - 9:07 am

Hi Lauran! Oh wow, you really are in a bind! You’d definitely have to play with it. What is the seam allowance and how many seams connect to make the waist (for instance, are there just two side seams? or is there a princes cut in there?). Can you reply with a link to the etsy pattern??

Lauran March 21, 2016 - 9:07 pm

Lol I am a little bit 🙂 Unfortunately neither the picture of the pattern nor the item description mentions what the seam allowance would be; however, it is princess cut. It has four separate sections, and while it doesn’t mention it at all, I’ll assume that the one back piece they have is supposed to be cut on the fold to make it double wide. If it helps, the girl I’ll be making the dress for measures 33 1/4 at the bust, 27 at the waist, and 35 3/4 at the hips. I’ll probably need to make it a little shorter too, as she is a petite little thing 🙂
The link for the pattern is:

Again, thank you so much 🙂

Sarah April 7, 2016 - 3:57 pm

Hi Lauran! I’m so sorry, this message somehow got filtered into the spam folder. Because this dress is just one piece, making the waist bigger is a super easy fix. You said the Bust and hips are fine, so we won’t mess with the princess seams. I’m about 99.9% sure that dress has a 5/8th inch seam allowance. So, All you need to do is let out the side seams a 1/4in. Draw a horizontal line across the patterns waist adjustment line and extend it 1/4 inch into the seam allowance. Then, using a ruler, taper a line up toward the bust and down toward the hip until it smoothly transitions into the original seam allowance. You’ll do this to the pattern front and pattern back. That will give you an extra inch at the waist.

Now let me back step for a minute. You said your friend is petite, so before you mess with the side seam, make sure you shorten the dress along the hip and waist line to match her length. I wish you the best of luck. I have a feeling it will turn out wonderfully and I hope that made sense!

Lauran April 14, 2016 - 3:58 pm

Awesome! I knew the fix had to be simpler than I was making it out to be in my head! 🙂
Thank you so much! Lol and you made perfect sense.
And thank you for reminding me to shorten beforehand! I inevitably would’ve forgotten and made things more difficult for myself 🙂
Super excited to get this dress going, I’ll let you know how things turn out!

Lauran April 7, 2016 - 2:31 pm

Hey there,
I’m wondering if perhaps there was a computer error when I responded last, as it’s been upwards of two weeks since I left it and I see it still has yet to be published in the comment section here 🙂

Dara March 31, 2015 - 2:46 pm

Thanks Sarah for this informative video ! Could you recommend a good sewing lamp.Thanks for your response

Ellen April 6, 2016 - 3:52 pm

Hello Dara!

We get the best reviews on this LED Bendable Bright Light: https://www.sewingpartsonline.com/dreamworld-bendable-bright-sewing-light.aspx

It’s in stock and the details and reviews are in the description!

Jo Ellen Fipps February 28, 2015 - 4:09 pm

Hi Sarah, thanks for all you do. My question is do you have an archives of your videos we can access to learn from.

Sarah March 2, 2015 - 12:16 pm

Hi Jo Ellen! Yes! We have all the videos on this blog, but we also have playlists on our youtube page, making it easier to view videos. For instance, we have a playlist of all our Beginner’s Guide to Sewing videos here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_o5Ri9T8hDDsg1VEgdd14LNcD_lOy4PM

Carol February 24, 2015 - 4:49 am

Love your tutorial. Is this going to be available weekly.l am a beginner sewer and I would love to make my own clothes. Would love more info on your site.
Thanks, Carol

Sarah February 24, 2015 - 11:00 am

Hi Carol! We just finished the Beginner’s Guide to Sewing, which has a total of 20 episodes. However, we try to upload a new video with more sewing tips and tricks weekly or every other week, depending on how crazy busy it is around here. If you have any questions, you are more than welcome to email me at [email protected].
Happy sewing!

Diana Golden February 23, 2015 - 10:07 pm

I am late reading this,I would like to learn how to do this .Can you repost

Ruth Smith February 23, 2015 - 7:47 pm

Buy single hole needle plate for. A New Home sewing machine. 552

Sarah February 25, 2015 - 7:55 pm

Hi Ruth! This is the straight stitch plate for your machine: https://www.sewingpartsonline.com/straight-stitch-needle-plate-dressmaker-s-1000-sewing-machine-1.aspx
Please let me know if I can help with anything else!

Ramona Walter February 23, 2015 - 4:49 pm

Love your video’s Sarah. You are really good.

Linnell Kunavich February 23, 2015 - 4:16 pm

This show was excellent. I learned more in this demonstration than I did in a class taken last year. Thank you so much for being there. I feel empowered now.

Rosemarie Podlewski February 23, 2015 - 3:42 pm

Just a some what beginner’s sewer, I can see pretty good but alterations im. Not very good @ im wantingbto add a middle piece in front ogvthis oriential dress the pattern in gold with orange flowers on it all over so i found some orange material to match in the front middle it has a flat color of green. I thought i would cut down center of front green and add orange to the middle im lg busted and wide hips it almost fits, but not sure how to cut orange to fit top and middle bottom will be ok how do i measure the bust & hip so when i add.the orange it looks ok i know there will be 2 seams on ea, side of green but not sure how to measure it do i do around the bust and measure the same size all the The way down Down or what if i taper it @ bottom the 2 green sides will be off ty for any suggestions Rose

Sarah February 25, 2015 - 8:11 pm

Hi Rose! First, it sounds like an awesome project you have! Sounds beautiful! You’ll definitely have to do some tinkering to get everything fitted correctly. You want to solve your bust fitting issues before moving on to the waist adjustments. Have you watched out video on Bust Adjustments? I think that might really help out as a starting point.

Maria J. Horvath February 23, 2015 - 2:43 pm

This was quite informative. Thanks.


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