The Copycat Crepe Top – (Part 3) – Grading the sewing pattern down (or up!) a size

Ok, so following on from Part 1 & Part 2 of The Copycat Crepe top my final step was to take the pattern that I had copied from the original RTW garment and size it down. This is a first for me. I had never graded a pattern before. But thanks to this great tutorial from Melly Sews (There was also one from Burda that I now can’t find, aaaargh!) I was able to figure it out. I thoroughly recommend hopping over to that tute as well, if this is something you are planning to try!


MAKING A SEWING PATTERN FROM AN EXISTING GARMENTI had made my pattern and tested it with a toile; and in every way in terms of how it hung/fit on me it was pretty much identical to the original top. So I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself! (First time I had made a pattern from a rtw garment too!). Including the fact that it was too big. Probably by about 1-2 sizes was my best guess. The label had been removed so I don’t know the original size.  Based on how the top fit me I reasoned that the difference between the bust size of the top and my own bust size, was about 3″.  That is therefore, how much I wanted to reduce the pattern by across both the front and back pattern pieces. (Known as the “total grade”).

All the advice out there btw, asserts that 1-2 sizes (around 2″) is about the maximum you want to grade a pattern up or down by, in one pass. The reason being that the pattern begins to get increasingly distorted the more you grade by. If you want to grade a pattern by substantially more than that, then it’s best to do it in stages. Grade by 2″ make a totally new pattern, then grade that one by 2″. Obviously I haven’t done that. I’ve graded by 3″. Because I’m naughty like that.

This method involves slashing the pattern pieces along various lines, and overlapping them. Thus making the pieces incrementally smaller. (The exact same process applies for making it bigger, except you spread instead of overlap) The total grade amount (3″ in my case) is split up evenly between the front and back pattern pieces, and then again between multiple lines on those pattern pieces. So each individual overlap is relatively small, but added together they all add up to 3″. (The sleeve is addressed separately after grading the main pattern pieces).

Right, so seeing as this requires me to slice up my pattern pieces, the last thing I wanted to do was mess up the pattern I had so painstakingly created. So my first step was to trace off copies of all the pattern pieces….(then if I fluffed this I was still ok!)GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

Next I drew in my “slash” lines. The process is the same for the front and back pattern pieces here. It’s a simple dartless top so nothing to complicate things thank goodness. You can see 3 vertical lines here. (Yep, they’re double lines but I’ll get to that in a moment. For now lets just call it 3 places on the pattern where I’ve drawn vertical lines, lol!). And one horizontal line. All of the vertical lines are parallel with the CB/CF lines . The horizontal line is perpendicular (90 degrees) to the CB/CF line….GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

Line 1: straight down from the neckline. Line 2: Straight down from the shoulder. Line 3: straight down from the armhole.  Reasonably, when you consider a multi size pattern, then the neckline, shoulder and armhole will differ proportionately between sizes in those areas. So it makes sense to put the adjustment/slash lines in those positions. The horizontal line is roughly at the waist. A pattern will not change in length between sizes, as much as it does in width. So the adjustment here is small, and it seems from everything I’ve read, a standard 3/8″ between sizes. **(see note further down. I did end up putting a second horizontal slash line across the armscye. It may even be preferable to add a third horizontal slash at the shoulder and spread your 3/8″ between them)

OK. So a little math before we go any further. My total grade (the total amount I want to reduce the garment by) is 3″. I’m going to switch to cm here as it gets a little tricky to show the math in inches! So 3″  converts to roughly 7.6cm

I want to split that between two areas. The front & back of the garment. 7.6cm divided by 2 = 3.8cm. So I want to remove 3.8cm from the back of the garment, and 3.8cm from the front.

My pattern pieces represent half the back of the garment and half the front of the garment. So I need to split that measurement in half again. 3.8cm divided by 2 = 1.9cm.  So I want to remove 1.9cm from the back pattern piece, and 1.9cm from the front pattern piece. For the sake of simplicity, what’s 1mm between friends (at least on a loose fitting garment like this)? I’m going to call that 2cm. Just because that’s easier to work with without me losing the will to live!

So now I want to take that 2cm and divide it between my 3 vertical lines.  But hold your horses! It seems that it’s not quite as straightforward as dividing it by 3.  It’s never THAT simple, lol! But…it does make sense. From what I gather from the reading I have done, the change between sizes doesn’t happen equally in those 3 areas. (The vertical line’s I’ve drawn will directly affect the neckline, shoulder and armhole width). The greatest proportion of the change between sizes happens nearest the side seams and that vertical line at the armhole. With a slightly smaller change to the neckline and shoulder….GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

So, with that in mind I took 1cm from the slash line at the armhole. Then 0.5cm each from the slash lines at the shoulder and neckline…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

My lines here are double. The first line on the left is the one I plan to cut. The second line is drawn to show where I want to butt the cut edge up to when I overlap; the distance between those two lines is the amount I want to grade by in that section.

In the picture below I’ve marked my cutting lines with an x…and marked the distance between the two lines. Essentially I’ll be removing the sections between those two lines…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

The double dashed lines above are balance marks. They should be perpendicular to my slash lines and drawn with a ruler. I was being a bit slapdash there, sorry! The purpose of them is to provide alignment marks once the piece is slashed. What we don’t want to do is accidentally shift the pattern pieces up or down when we overlap/realign them as this will distort the pattern. Horizontal balance marks serve as a guide to line everything up again…

As does the horizontal slash line at the waist line…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

So with all of that in place I took a deep breath and sliced up my pattern along my 3 vertical cutting lines…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

Then overlapped the cut edge up to the second line that I had drawn and stuck in place. You can clearly see why hastily drawn angled balance marks don’t entirely work, lol! The must be straight and at 90 degrees to your vertical line to be effective. Luckily that horizontal line at the waistline served as a very effective balance mark and by aligning that, I made sure the pieces didn’t shift up or down as I overlapped them…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

On both the front and back pieces….I overlapped all 3 vertical slashes by the amount that I’d marked. (0.5cm  + 0.5cm  + 1cm  = 2cm.)  The horizontal line at the waist is overlapped by 3/8″. Again, from all my reading it seems that this is a standard in pattern grading. For each size you go down (or up) the length is reduced (or increased) by a standard 3/8″. **(I did go back and put a second horizontal slash line extending from the CB/CF line through the armscye and overlapped that by a further 1/8″.  I should probably have done this from the outset plus another horizontal line at the shoulder for good measure. Both those additional horizontal lines  serve to reduce the height of the armscye which seems to me a sensible thing to do as this is something that does change between sizes. As it is mine worked out fine. But…just sayin….).GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

Overlapping will leave areas like the shoulder…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE



…with areas that need smoothing out.

I tend to make a little “extension” in the area I want to redraw by sandwiching the paper pattern between two layers of masking tape…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

….and drawing my new line onto the masking tape. If you look carefully you can see the pattern through the masking tape in these pics…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

Then simply cut away the excces along the new line…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

Same on the neckline and shoulder and hem…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE


When it comes to grading the sleeve pattern, it’s all about establishing the total amount that you have removed from both the front and back armholes, and removing the same amount from the sleeve pattern…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

Mine was 1cm from the vertical slash at the armhole on both the front and back pattern pieces. So 2cm in total. Then I took a further 1/8″ across a horizontal slash on both the front and back pattern pieces. So another 2/8″ there. Of course it’s just like me to mix up my metric and imperial as if things aren’t confusing enough, lol!!GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

After a bit of conversion and rounding I calculated I wanted to remove a total of 1″ from the sleeve pattern piece so it matched what I had done to the armholes when I graded them.

The sleeve pattern I slashed with 3 vertical and 1 horizontal line. I spread that 1″ total grade as follows: 3/8″ at the left and right vertical lines. Then 1/8″ each at the centre vertical and 1/8″ at the horizontal line. (You can also see I drew my balance marks properly this time, lol!) Then smoothed out my lines as above….and I was done…GRADING A SEWING PATTERN DOWN - OR UP - A SIZE

I don’t think I did everything technically perfectly here. Namely the number of horizontal slash lines I started with. But hey…it all worked out…and it WORKED! So as my first attempt at grading…I’m pretty chuffed. And it’s nowhere near as difficult or scary as I thought. Being able to grade up or down a size opens up a whole host of options….THE COPYCAT CREPE TOP

…I’m intrigued to learn more!

Don’t forget the Copycat Crepe  Top giveaway with The Splendid Stitch here! Closes tomorrow!!!

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *