How To Grade Between Sizes In PDF Sewing Patterns

Welcome to the tenth lesson in the Beginner’s Guide to Sewing Knit Apparel! Download the ebook for free!

In our last lesson, we took our measurements and compared them to some sizing charts. Now, most sewing patterns are made for an ideal hourglass shaped woman. And as everyone on planet Earth knows, not all of us are shaped the same way! This is what makes sewing so awesome. You can sew your clothes to fit you and your wonderful shape perfectly.

If your measurements hover pretty closely to each other than I find that taking an average size works just fine. But if they happen to be a couple sizes away from each other on a sizing chart, grading is nothing for you to shy away from.

So let me give you an example. In the case that you don’t have an hourglass shape, you may find that some of your measurements were all over the sizing chart. For example say my measurements are: 32 bust, 27 waist and 37 hip. Let’s go ahead and see where these would fall in an example sizing chart below:


As you can see, this would put me in XS for the bust, M for the waist and S for the hip. In this scenario, I wouldn’t feel comfortable just cutting out one size. Instead, I would opt to grade between the three sizes.

With the measurements in my example, if I were to grade a pattern for a shirt, it might look something like this:

XS Bust, M Waist, S Hip Grading Path

Notice how I kept along the XS pattern size down the bust, moved out for the waist then pulled back in again for the hip. I would do this with both the front bodice and back bodice pieces. This would get me the best fitting garment for my measurements using this pattern.

Editor’s Note: Ready to use your newfound knowledge? Check out the Mae Poncho!

You can do this for single measurements too. Say your bust and waist both measure a S but your hip measures a L. In that scenario your grading path would look something like this:

S Bust, S Waist, L Hip Grading Path

Or let’s say you have an XL bust measurement, M waist and XL hip. Your grading path would look something like this:

XL Bust, M Waist, XL Hip Grading Path

In all cases, you are simply grading your cut path between the different sizes. Taking the time to do this if you’re measurements are further from each other, will make you a lot happier with the fit of your clothing when they are all sewn up. Most people will find themselves within the range of one or two sizes, but if you are one of the beautifully, unique women who don’t, size grading is for you.

Need more help? No problem! Watch the Facebook Live Grading class below:

Lesson assignment: No lesson assignment! Continue onto the next two lessons on properly printing your PDF sewing patterns. If grading is right for you, go ahead and grade your pattern pieces following the conclusion of the next two lessons.

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10 thoughts on “How To Grade Between Sizes In PDF Sewing Patterns”

  1. Hi,
    It is the first time I bought a DIBY pattern. It is also the first time I’m going to try to sew a shirt. I’m so suprised about the clearness and great tutorials you provide!
    Great work!
    Thank you,

  2. Hello,
    Very clear tutorials…thanks
    In grading, you do not touch the center front or thr center backs?

    I notice you did not touch those. Is it the norm or there are exceptions

    1. This is the norm. Unless you are doing a swayback adjustment, or another similar adjustment specific to the centerline, (and the back bodice has a center-back seam) you should only make grading adjustments on the side seams. 🙂

  3. Wow, I’m all over in the Size Chart. I’m excited try out my very first “grading”.
    Thank you so much for all of your clear and detailed explanations.

  4. I was forced into learning to sew again due to a dramatic life change.

    What do I do since some, or one measurement is not mentioned on patterns? You may be asking why would i buy a pattern if it doesn’t fit me. I lost alot of weight rapidly, due to dietary changes from health issues ( that were inaccurately diagnosed when i was younger) I had these patterns when i was the size M . Now I am smaller than an XS in tops and a 00-2 depending on the pants brand.
    On most of my patterns, my bust and hip measurements aren’t on the patterns, but my waist is usually either an xs or s.
    It’s weird because I ended up attempting drafting my own patterns. With my measurements, is have 5” difference of my bust measurement to my waist measurement, so my drafted pattern had a dramatic turn in where the waist is, then out to the hip which measures 9” more than my waist. It really didn’t look right, the different measurements looked too dramatic lol. So i made a muslin and added ease to my waist and hip to make it look less dramatic, without looking too boxy.

    My point here being, with my waist looking dramatically small on my draft but is listed on patterns, my bust and hip measurements aren’t listed on patterns because I’m too small. Am i weirdly shaped?

    At first I had to resort to buying teen clothing except, they’re too short. But the teen underwear fit perfect, so do…. training bras lol. It’s hard to find teen underwear without unicorns and rainbows or cats and dogs. Lol i haven’t learned how to make underwear, and I prefer not to use anything polyester.
    So lately I’ve been learning to draft my bodice and pants. I have yet to build up the confidence of sewing my good fabric. I have made pajama pants and they fit me great, i would like to make zippered summer shorts with pockets or long pants with zipper and pockets. I can sew zippers, and button holes no problem. I have never made a pocket lol. But i do know how to.
    I just want clothes to fit me the way they should. I could really wear anything i want, i can fit into anything above size 12 teens but it wont fit good. I need to sort my closet and maybe upcycle what i have thats all too big on me.
    I am really unhappy with pattern companies not accommodating us smaller skinnier/ some say too skinny.
    Sorry for ranting so much… I’m so frustrated.

  5. When would you grade the sides vs a full bust adjustment? Is it always when upper bust and full bust are different or when more than one size different? – Thanks.

  6. Hi Jessica, just found your site. Thank you for all that grading help. I’ve had quite a few disasters with my sewing after doing a drafting and design course which killed my enthusiasm. I was a very good sewer and then found knitting machines and became so besotted with the work I was doing that sewing was just for repairs for a very long time. Now I have a lot of health issues and find the machines heavy going because I only have one machine that has a motor and machine knitting is very dead. Trying to find motors would be a problem living in S Africa not to mrention the expense. My intension was to knit up all my beautiful yarns into fabrics and sew the fabrics into clothes. With my disasters I gave up in despair.
    So here is exactly what I need, bless you. I will be ordering your book and see if I can get out of this hole I’m in. I will be ordering it on my computer which has the printer etc.
    Thank you once again for your generosity and sensible teaching method 🥰

  7. Udv
    En nemtudom letolteni es meretaranyosan lemasolni a szabasmintat. 🙁
    Szeretnek egy xs szabasmintat kerni szamokkal ( pld: mb , db , csb).
    Nemtudom kerhetek e segitseget
    Tudok szerkeszteni szabasmintat de mar elfelejtettem a kiszamitasokat pld tudom a mellszelesseg adatat mbtizede x 4,5 -1 = a mellszelesseggel. De mar nemtudom a hatszelesseg adatat. Ha tud nekem ebben segiteni megkoszonnem.
    Kulon megkoszonom ha valaszol nekem.
    Szeretettel Zsoka

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