resizing a pattern

Here is an effective way to resize a pattern from a multi-size pattern sheet. This works well for making matching doll clothes from a child’s garment for larger dolls (or babies) or for when the pattern you want to use is a size or two off from what you need. This isn't the best method for Barbie and smaller dolls; it's a bit crude – I’m sure there is a professional designer somewhere who would be horrified – but it’s going to get the job done for us busy people who need something done and aren’t planning on walking our four year olds and their cabbage patch dolls down the runway (there is no way to make them walk in a straight line anyway).
For getting a size or two larger or smaller than what is offered on the pattern sheet this is probably this quickest and most practical way to get there. I have used it with adult clothing for when I need a size larger from the offered sizes since I seem to be on the border between the largest of regular patterns but not quite in the plus sizes yet.

To resize a pattern you are going to need your pattern on a multi-size pattern sheet, transparent paper (wax or tissue paper), a permanent pen/marker, a ruler (preferably a clear ruler that is at least 2 inches wide), and a measuring tape (or a curve square).

A little preface to what we are doing: Commercially available multi-size patterns are based upon equally increasing proportions within a particular range of sizes. The size ranges are approximate to different stages in development in children and in body type in adults. That is why multi-size patterns in North America generally run in ranges newborn to size 2 (the big head, short fat body stage – with diapers), size 3-8 (elongating body without much chest or belly increase), and then up to the misses size (teens with still slim hips and small boobs), the regular women’s (hour glass), mature (fallen boobs, bigger hips), and plus sizes (where it all gets wider but not longer). Generally anyway. We are going to use the standardized increases between sizes within a size range to miniaturize or enlarge a pattern.

When you look at a multi-size pattern piece for a bodice you will notice that despite the curves and sometimes overlapping lines, there exact increases between each size and places where all sizes share the same line (usually the center of a bodice). When you look at the shoulders, the end points of each one is of equal distance away from the next size all the way up. If you take your ruler, you can line up all the same points and draw a line. In fact, that is exactly what we are going to do: match up the same position of every size on a pattern sheet and draw lines. Our new pattern size will be drawn by placing points along these lines and connecting the dots.

I chose a simple sweater type jacket from an Ottobre 06/07 pattern sheet to demonstrate a resize. However, it works just as well for dresses because the technique is the same for almost every pattern piece.
Overtop the multi-size pattern sheet I laid wax paper on which to create a doll size jacket from this the same pattern. I used sharpies to draw my lines and the pattern. Note: in my pictures here, I have redrawn the lines of the original pattern onto my wax paper. I did that so that the pattern would become clearer. If you were to do so yourself, you would draw the lines, but do not bother to redraw the original pattern. But do secure your wax paper so it doesn’t slip around.

Ready? First up, measure your doll’s shoulders (or whoever you are resizing the pattern for). I use the shoulder measurement to get me started, but with dolls having odd proportions you may want to do some tweaking after the pattern is drawn, particularly with the arm length.

With your transparent paper over your pattern sheet, take your ruler and draw a line along all the inside shoulder edges: Take that line as far down (or up) as you can to get started. Do the same for the outside of the shoulder. The lines are going to come closer to each other, or may even cross as the one I use did (depends upon the style and fit).

Now the shoulder is going to be redrawn in the desired size. Using the same angle of the shoulder lines (this is where the clear ruler comes in handy), find the distance between the two lines that is the same as the doll’s shoulder measurement (mine was 1”). Draw a line. This is the shoulder of your new size.
The next line to draw is the underarm point. Again, align all the same points of all the sizes and draw a line. To find the point we need for our new size, choose just one of the original sizes and position your ruler at a right angle from the outside shoulder point. Take note of the distance in width between your shoulder point and underarm point (mine was 1 5/8”). Though the length increases between the shoulder and underarm, the width between them should be consistent for all sizes. So it should be for your new size. Measure the outside point of your drawn shoulder line and mark the same width away as the original sizes along your underarm line. Draw an approximation of the armhole curve as you see it on your original sizes for your new size.

Determine how long you want your new size to be and mark the center part of the bodice at that length (see above picture).

Align your ruler lengthwise with the side of one of the original sizes and place the edge of one side with the bottom tip of your armhole curve. Approximate the bottom curve and neck curve. Use your ruler to transfer any relevant marks to the new size. Don’t forget to draw the center of the bodice, which is consistent with the original sizes. Repeat for other bodice piece (back or front).

To resize a sleeve, start by drawing three lines; one from each underarm point and the mid point of the sleeve (the apex of shoulder curve of every size). Take your resized bodice piece (let’s say the front to start) and, using your tape measure (or curve square), measure from bottom of the armhole curve to the top. With that measurement, approximate the sleeve curve from the midpoint to the front of the sleeve. What you will have is a made to measure sleeve curve in the same shape as the original pattern. (Okay, crude. But it works!) Repeat procedure for back portion of the sleeve shoulder. Draw two more lines from the bottom points of the sleeve. Align the size of the ruler with the original sleeve lengthwise, lining up one edge of the ruler with the shoulder curve point. Draw from the point to the desired length, determined by measuring the doll’s arm length. Repeat for other side of sleeve. Connect bottom points of sleeve for the cuff. Any other pattern pieces that you desire can be done in the same manner: finding the consistent proportions between the sizes and elongating them to your desired size. This is the bottom portion of the sleeves on my sweater. Because measurements were taken off of a doll, seam allowances needs to be added to your new size. If you are just going up or down a size from a pattern with seam allowances included, you may not want to add seam allowance.

As it turns out, this resize would also fit my 5 month old rather well if his arms were about half their length :D Good luck with yours, I would love to hear how it turns out.
This is a free tutorial and I encourage you to use the information in any way you need to (check the disclaimer at the bottom of the page). If it works for you, please consider supporting my etsy shop by purchasing a Little Print Design pattern or toss a dollar or two in my paypal to show appreciation and to encourage me to offer up even more quality patterns and tutorials.

Thank you!
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  1. Thank you SO much for this detailed tutorial! It may give me the courage to attempt an up-sizing of a blouse pattern I've kept since I first made it, um, decades ago.

    And I love your "give with both hands" section at the bottom of the page! :)

  2. wow great tute! Thanks Charity

  3. You're so cool, thanks for the tute!

  4. This is a really good tutorial! I wish I'd found it sooner because the pattern I was trying to resize was not extremely detailed. This would have made my first steps into pattern alteration a little less intimidating. What I did find and now use regularly when altering detailed patterns is a Farmers Bulletin from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture originally issued in 1945. It can be found online at

    It is a public access file and all you have to do is click on the little thumbnail on the upper right hand corner to view it. I printed out a copy for reference and it is now well dogeared. It may seem a little old fashioned as it only deals with skirts and blouses with no instructions for pants, but I have found it invaluable! It is also geared to adults rather than children, but the principle is still the same!

    Also, Sew Mama Sew's blog has a great tutorial on kid's pants!

  5. thanks for sharing Desirae - definitely checking out those links.

  6. Thank you so much for this tutorial I have been buying 2 patterns of the same thing for a while now because I have an 11 yr old and a 2 yr old and most patterns go from 3-8 then 8-14or 16 so I buy both sizes now i only have to buy one and just upsize or downsize it so that way I save that money and can make more things!!! Thanks sooooo much you do not know how much you have saved me in the long run.

    Angela Gurganus- New Bern NC USA

  7. Okay, I know I'm coming to the party probably when most everyone has gone home and there's just cleanup left, but thank you so very, very much for posting this tutorial!!!! I've been wanting to learn how to alter patterns for a long, long time and this is a Godsend for me. It came at just the right time. I appreciate you sharing your skills with those of us who don't have them but want them desperately. Bless you.