Pattern Grading Rules

By Julia Garza

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Have you ever wondered how multi-sized patterns are developed? For the home sewist, there are simple ways to grade a pattern up or down a size, but pattern designers need to have an understanding of pattern grading rules to correctly grade designs for different sizes.

Pattern and Grading Tools

First, a couple of a definitions:

  • A grade rule is the designated amount a pattern is made larger or smaller at any given point to make it fit different sizes.
  • A grade rule library is the collection of grade rules that will be used to size the pattern.
  • A grade specification is the measurement indicating how much each size should grow or shrink.

It's important to understand how sizing works in relation to pattern grading.

Grading does not take into account the difference in body shapes. You can't take a pattern designed for a petite woman and grade it up to fit a plus-size woman; the resulting garment would need extensive alterations.

Likewise, know that when you add or subtract for girth, the length of the garment will also need to change in proportion, regardless of the height of the individual.

So if you want to design a pattern for women in regular sizes as well as petite and plus, you'll need three different grade rule libraries for the same design.

Overall, determining the grade rule is the same process as described in Simple Pattern Grading Techniques

Only halves or quarters of the garment are dealt with at one time, so differences are divided by two or four as appropriate.

An increase of an inch (or any amount) needs to be added in proportionally. This is why we split the pattern piece into four pieces in the cut-and-spread method.

An adult body can roughly be segmented into eighths, and there are a few points on the body where you can apply length grade rules proportional to height.

Coincidentally, these grade rules can also be expressed in eighths.

  • Clavicle to back waist =1/4 (2/8)
  • Pubic arch height = 1/2 (4/8)
  • Knee height = 1/4 (2/8)

This means that if you were grading a blouse pattern that hit at the waist, the length would need to increase by ¼" for every 1" in added height. (As noted previously, this doesn't take into account any increases in girth.)

When determining grading rules for girth, there are more points to account for.

On a blouse, girth would be added to the chest, waist, neck base, armscye (or armhole) circumference, as well as the upper arm. The grade specification for each will maintain the proportions of the design as it increases or decreases in size.

You can learn more about pattern drafting in the Craftsy class Pattern Drafting from Ready-to-Wear, taught by patternmaker Steffani Lincecum.

Have you determined pattern grading rules for any of your designs? Let me know in the comments!

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