This was one of the many fitting issues that came to light on the “Pattern Alterations: Let’s List and Vanquish Them” post. Luckily, once you know a few key basics it’s simple to fix the pattern. Remember that- pattern alteration is all about fixing the pattern so it is more like your body.
The first step is to locate your waist. It’s not always located at the navel, or where you’d wear your pants waistband. From a pattern alteration perspective, it’s the narrowest or “mid”-point on the torso.
To find your waist, I suggest the elastic method. Locate a piece of 1/4″ (6mm) elastic which is longer than your waist girth. Braided elastic is fine, but try not to use a wide piece of waistband type elastic.
Tie it around your waist, make it snug but not tight. I suggest wearing close fitting but unrestrictive clothing- I’m wearing an old knit top and leggings for this exercise. Move around a bit to allow the elastic to settle at your natural waist. Stretch, twist, whatever.
Measure from the “notch” of your neck (the angle where your neck meets your shoulder), over the fullest part of the bust, down to the waist elastic. Stand straight, I’m exaggerating in the photo. If you can, have another person take this measurement while your hands are down by your sides.
The benefit of measuring from the “notch” to waist instead of the CF of the neck to waist is that the “notch” remains fairly constant on your body and the pattern, whereas the “front neck” can be difficult to locate accurately.
Make note of this measurement. I suggest keeping a handy list of updated measurements. My sewing goes more smoothly when I don’t have to fumble for measurements and suchlike. I already have them written down in one place.
I like to draw lines across my patterns at bust, waist, and hip level to aid pattern alteration. Measure from the “notch” of the neck on the pattern straight down to the waist. Don’t forget to take off the shoulder seam allowance.
(Actual Front Waist Measurement - Pattern Front Waist Measurement = Amount to be Altered) For example- My front waist is 17″. If I measure the pattern and it shows itself to be 18″, then 17″ – 18″ = -1 A negative number means I need to “take off” that amount. A positive number means I need to add that amount.
To shorten a waist, locate the pattern’s shorten/lengthen line. If it doesn’t have one, you can use the line you drew at the waist. Draw a line above the shorten/lengthen line using a ruler. Make this line the same amount you found above- that is, I would draw a line 1″ from my shorten/lengthen line.
To lengthen, locate the pattern’s shorten/lengthen line. If the pattern doesn’t have one, I suggest drawing one yourself a little bit above the actual waistline. Using a ruler and a scrap piece of paper/patternmaking medium, draw a line.
Make sure to alter the back in the same way and the same place you altered the front.
This skill applies to sleeves, skirt length when you have a shaped hem, pants, or wherever you need to lengthen or shorten a pattern to make it perfect.
Extra Credit: While wearing your waist elastic, see if you can persuade a helper to measure from the notch of your neck straight down to your waist elastic. Is there a difference between the “front waist” and “back waist” length? Yes? How much? If the back waist is significantly shorter, you may want to read Sherry’s post on altering for back waist length (also sometimes called “swayback”)
Tell me- does this help? Do you have any questions not covered here? What alteration should I dive into next time in this series?