pattern fitting with confidence by nancy zieman



After posting an article on Wiggle Room—Sewing Pattern Ease, several of you asked more pattern related questions, specifically starting with the right pattern size.

Here are two questions that I recently received and the basis for this article.

Pam Wasson Hotle wrote:

I would love for you to explain how to decide what size pattern to use. By taking my measurements and then comparing to those on the pattern, it looks like I should make a 20/22. I have never bought anything larger than a 16. Is there that much difference between ready made clothing sizes and pattern sizes?

Ann Lindemann said: I’m with Pam, how to decide what size pattern to use would be good information to know. What do you do if you are one size on the top and another on the bottom?

In an ideal world if our shapes were remotely close to the measurements written on the back of the pattern envelope, fitting and sizing would not be an issue. We are not cookie cutter shapes; we each have our own set of “ins and outs!”  My ins and outs have changed over the years—now, more outs than ins—yet I haven’t changed pattern sizes in 20 years. Curious? Here’s the why and how.

Old-School Pattern Sizing

Tradition has it that we choose a pattern size for a blouse, jacket, or top according to the bust measurement. This measurement is accurate if your figure is well proportioned, but if your bust is large in proportion to the rest of your body or if you have a broad back, the bust measurement gives you a pattern that fits your bust but gaps at the neckline, shoulders, and armholes. Gaposis is a common fitting problem, which is difficult to correct. The solution? Buy your pattern to fit your shoulder area. You won’t find the Right Size Measurement printed on the back of any pattern envelope, but it’s quick to take and does not change even if you gain or lose weight. (Aha, now you know my secret to using the same pattern size for so many years!)


Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman



How to take the Right Size Measurement

This sizing measurement is taken above the bustline between the arm creases. Let me explain.

  • Find the crease in your skin where your arm meets your body.
  • Measure above the end of one crease straight across the front chest to the end of the other crease.


Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman



Round up the measurement to the nearest ½″.

Note from Nancy 

It’s tricky to take this measurement by yourself. Use the buddy system; call a sewing buddy to help.

Even though the Right Size Measurement and its corresponding sizes are not written on a pattern envelope or a website for patterns, the sizes are easy to remember. Misses’ size 14 equals 14″, and the sizes go up or down with every ½″. For example, if your measurement is 13-1/2″, purchase a size 12. If you measure 14-1/2″, select a size 16.


Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman



Note from Nancy

You may be pleasantly surprised by the results of the Right Size Measurement. It is common to begin with a smaller size—a size that fits your shoulder area. But don’t be mislead, you still must adjust for your ins and outs!

You’ll learn how to make pattern adjustments and find answers to most of your fitting questions in my book, Pattern Fitting with Confidence.

Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman

Here’s a brief video demo of making a pattern adjustment using my easy pivot and slide techniques.

Nancy's Giveaway

For a chance to win a copy of the Pattern Fitting With Confidence DVD, post a fitting challenge. Maybe, just maybe you’re fitting challenge will be addressed in a future article! The random winner will receive a companion DVD, Pattern Fitting with Confidence DVD. The winner will be posted a week from today.


pattern fitting with confidence DVD by nancy zieman



Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman The Blog

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