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How to lengthen or shorten a pattern

How to lengthen or shorten a pattern

Time to time we receive questions on how to lengthen or shorten a pattern or can I use a Tall pattern, because I love things longer. The next question we would normally ask – what is your height? In many cases the question reveals why a height adjustment or going up or down the height is considered. We decided to clarify 2 types of lengthening/shortening and explain on how to shorten or lengthen a pattern correctly.

In general there are 2 types of lengthening/shortening. One is when your vertical measurements are different from measurements that a pattern is drafted for – let’s call it a Fit adjustment. And another one is when you want to adjust a designed length to your liking – let’s call it a Design adjustment. In this article we will try to briefly explain what is the difference between those 2 adjustments and which one you need. If after reading the article you are still not sure, leave a comment below and we will try to help you to figure out which adjustment you need.

Fit adjustment

As you have already read the fit adjustment is required when your personal vertical measurements are different from the standard measurements that we are using to draft our patterns. Here are 2 top reasons to use fit adjustment.

Reason #1 Your height is outside the range

We draft patterns for Petite, Regular and Tall heights which covers heights from 152 cm to 178 cm / 5’1″-5’9″. Pretty big range, but still won’t cover someone who is 150 cm or 182 cm in height. This is one of the cases when a fit adjustment might be needed. Here’s a closer look on the height distribution in our sizing.

PETITE 152-160 cm /5’1” – 5’3”
REG 162-170  cm / 5’4” – 5’6”
TALL 170-178 cm / 5’7″ – 5’9″

If your height is outside the range that we are drafting for you will likely need the fit adjustment. However it might not always be the case depending on the proportions of your body.

While I was preparing this article I decided to check what is an average height in some of the countries! And was very surprised to see, that the average height is on the boundary of Regular and Petite heights. Here’s some data from Wikipedia (link):

Australia – 161.8 cm (5 ft 3 12 in)
USA – 161.5 cm (5 ft 3 12 in)
Canada – 162.3 cm (5 ft 4 in)
UK – 161.9 cm (5 ft 3 12 in)
However, remember that average is average. My height is 167 cm and I don’t fall into average height. But I fall into Regular height category.

Reason #2 The proportions of your body are different


Every human body is unique in its measurements, including proportions.

You might have very long legs or long torso, longer or shorter arms. Even legs have different proportions: some have longer femur bone and some shorter. Probably there are no (or almost none) perfectly proportional bodies in the world.

The classic proportions that I studied in my drawing class is 1:7.5 or 1:8 (for models) where 1 is a size of the head and 7.5 is a height of a person in heads. Standard proportions are normally based on this ratio and distributed as it is shown in the picture.

The best way to determine if you need a fit adjustment is to use these key indicators:

  • For a top/dress/jacket check the Front waist length with our sizing guide here
  • For bottoms check the Waist to floor measurement
  • For the sleevesmeasure the sleeve length on the particular pattern part without seam allowance and add the final length of the cuffs if they are a part of the pattern. It may get trickier if a garment has a raised or dropped shoulder because it might affect the measurement.

For more information on our standard vertical measurements click here:
What is the difference between Sinclair’s Petite, Regular and Tall patterns?

You can find additional information on how to lengthen or shorten the patterns as a fit adjustment here:
How to shorten or lengthen bodice and sleeves? (coming soon)

Design adjustment

You may like your tops a bit longer or the opposite – you may want them shorter! You may like your sleeves to stop at your wrists or you may like them to go down to the knuckles. It’s all about personal preferences! Design adjustment is normally needed if a garment is designed in a slightly different length than you prefer. It will affect the length of a garment only at a particular part.

Design adjustment is easier than the fit adjustment, because in most of the cases it’s just lengthening to shortening a pattern part from the bottom hem.

1. Continue the side line of the Front and Back until you reach a desired length. Make sure that after lengthening Back and Front they have exactly the same length at the side seam. If you go past the mid thigh you can keep the side line straight or taper it in by 1 cm / 3/8 in for more contoured silhouette.

2. Draw a new hemline that repeats the contour of the original hemline. Normally hemline at the center back is curved out, while in the front it can be either curved or straight.

Shortening the bodice will be very similar. In general, unless you don’t have a required amount of fabric, I would recommend to cut the pattern as it is and shorten it after you try it on. You can always pin the excess amount of fabric and find the right length for you.

3. Important! Do not forget to add seam/hem allowances to the new side line and bottom hem!

Visual for fit and design adjustments

How to lengthen or shorten a pattern

Final thoughts

Lengthening and shortening a pattern may be required to adjust a fit or to adjust a designed length.
If your height is within Petite, Regular and Tall heights, if you have average proportions and you want your garment shorter or longer you may need a design adjustment where you just lengthen or shorten the pattern normally at the hems.
If your height is outside the range that we draft for and/or you have different proportions, then you might need a fit adjustment.

Did you find this article helpful? Still have more questions? Please leave a comment and we will try to answer your questions!