3 Methods to Pattern Adjustments

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Hey, you!

I’ve heard that this is a “universal” truth: There is more than one way to skin a cat.

I don’t know a thing about skinning cats. But I do know that there are several ways one can approach pattern adjustments.

And since fitting sewing patterns is probably the #1 thing that keeps so many of us from sewing our own clothes, I think it may be very helpful to know what those ways are and the general steps each one entails.

In this article, we will add another layer to understanding how you fit a sewing pattern.

So if you’re ready, here we go…

NOTE: If you’re ready to begin this journey and would like to buy my recommended tools and supplies, please click HERE!

3 Approaches to Pattern Adjustments

The methods discussed below are for a simple dress with only two side seams (SS). For more complex garments, the directions may vary slightly.

Trial Garment Method

This one is really basic. You don’t start with any measurements. You simply start with your unaltered sewing pattern and some muslin fabric or other inexpensive fabric. (The image is of the cover of a book by Sara Alm.)


  1. Lay out, cut, and mark your main pattern pieces out of muslin.
  2. Sew the darts, pleats, tucks, shoulder seams of main pieces together using a basting stitch for easy removal. (You can also pin baste if you prefer.)
  3. Try on the trial garment.
  4. Check the fit on your body.
  5. Adjust the fabric on your body until you achieve the fit you desire.

  6. Then, remove the trial garment and transfer the adjustments to your sewing pattern.
  7. Use your adjusted pattern to lay out, cut, and mark your fashion fabric, adding 1″ fit insurance.
  8. Sew your fashion garment, leaving both SS unsewn.
  9. Pin fit the SS to the contours of your body.
  10. Finish your garment.

#1 Pro: No body measurements (BMs) required. YAY! And you can “read” the fabric to see what alterations may be required.

#1 Con: You have to make a muslin — and depending on the complexity of the adjustments, maybe more than one!

Alright. Let’s move onwards to the…

Measure & Compare Method

With this method, you simply take key length and width measurements on your body, and then compare them to the tissue pattern in those same key areas.


Here’s a general overview of measure & compare method…

  1. Measure your body — you need both length and width measurements.
  2. Then, measure your sewing pattern in those key areas.
  3. Adjust your sewing pattern as needed.
  4. If the adjustments made are relatively simple, then you can probably proceed to cutting your fashion fabric. However, if the adjustments are more complex, you really should make a muslin.

  5. Lay out, cut, and mark your fabric, adding 1″ fit insurance to your SS.
  6. Sew your muslin or garment, but leave both SS unsewn.
  7. Try on the muslin or garment, fine tune the overall fit, and pin fit both SS to the contours of your body.
  8. Finish your garment.

#1 Pro: By making preliminary changes based on your measurement comparisons, you can potentially reduce the number of muslins you have to make to perfect the fit.

#1 Con: You have to face your BMs! YIKES!

Okay, finally, the…

Tissue Fitting Method

This method was developed by Pati Palmer and Susan Pletsch. With the tissue fitting method, you use the actual tissue paper pattern as your muslin! And then, you adjust the fit of your tissue pattern in three stages.


Here’s the general overview of tissue fitting…

  1. Take only two body measurements — high bust and full hip — to choose your pattern size.

  2. Prep the tissue pattern pieces.
  3. Pin out the darts, pleats, tucks, shoulder seam, and side seam, so they are on the outside of your unaltered tissue paper pattern. This makes it easy for your to adjust the tissue. (See how I did this in the image above.)
  4. Try on the tissue pattern on the right side (RS) of your body and check for fit issues.
  5. Adjust the tissue pattern on your body.
  6. Lay out, cut, and mark your fashion fabric, adding 1″ fit insurance to your SS.
  7. Then, fabric fit:
    • Staystitch the neckline and armholes.
    • Pin baste the main sections of the garment with the wrong sides together (WST). You want to pin the darts, shoulder seams, side seams, and sleeves so that they are on the outside of your body. This will allow you to mark any final adjustments to the wrong side (WS) of the garment.
    • Try on the garment and pin fit both SS to the contours of your body and fine tune the fit at the shoulders and the bust area.
  8. Commit! Sew your garment.

Pros: (1) No muslin is required. The tissue pattern is your muslin — and you “read” the tissue paper to see what alterations are required. (2) You only need two measurements to begin.

Cons: (1) Tissue paper is not fabric and it is rather fragile. (I like to duplicate my sewing pattern using Pellon 830 Tracing Cloth. See the image above.) (2) Plus, if you have asymmetries, you may not be able to get away with just fitting the RS of your body.

The End


That’s it. These are the three ways to approach pattern adjustments that I am aware of…

  1. Trial or Sample Garment Method
  2. Measure & Compare Method
  3. Tissue Fitting Method

I hope that by sharing these methods with you, you gain a deeper understanding of how you can achieve a good fit.

I encourage you to play around with each method and determine which one (or even a combination) is the best “fit” for you. That’s what I plan to do!

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn juicy fitting secrets and my suggestions for super helpful fitting resources!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to take your body measurements!

RELATED: Click HERE if you’re ready to unleash your dressmaking super powers and learn how to sew a simple dress! Warning: This is a MEGA 5-part series!

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