Dakota Sewalong - Grading Your Pattern

You guys, I have such a treat for you today! The insanely talented Alana from Lazy Stitching is sharing some genuine grading gems with us today - and the good news is that these tips and techniques will come in useful well beyond the Dakota Sewalong. The even better news is that I'll also be sharing Alana's tips for a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) tomorrow! Alana, thank you so much for the obvious effort and time you put into this post for us...and I love your monochrome mug!!!  

Hi guys, I'm so excited to be part of Marie and Rachel's Dakota Sewalong and to show you how I made this pattern work for my size.
There's been a lot of talk recently about the difficulty of grading patterns for plus sizes and whilst I don't want to wade into that pool, it is true that the larger you grade a pattern the more issues you may encounter with fit. So on that note here is my little disclaimer in two points:
  1. I'm not a technical expert - I fall more towards the "make it work" school of thought.
  2. Making a muslin of your graded pattern is kind of unavoidable even for lazy peeps like me.
So here goes - rulers and pencils at the ready!
I started with the largest size in the Named pattern range, which is a 44, and the next step is to determine the size of your grade or how much you need to increase it by.
Take your bust, waist and hip measurements then compare to the Named pattern size guide.

This is the worksheet I used with an example filled in at the top. Once you have the amount you need to add, half is added to the front pieces and half to the back (FG + BG). But because our bodies don't get larger just at the side seams this amount is spread again at certain points.
Follow the worksheet to get measurements for A,B,C & F,G,H. The line in grey font shows the calculation, keep these numbers handy.

The Back Bodice
Let's start with the simpler of the two bodice pieces - the back. Draw in the lines below keeping parallel.

A: Close to the side seam but to the right of the seam line.
B: Running through the shoulder seam but avoiding the bottom dart.
C: Running through the horizontal neckline curve.
If you need to add length to your bodice (not always necessary) draw lines D & E.
D: Through the armscye above the bust at 90 degrees to the grainline.
E: Through the side seam below bust at 90 degrees to the grainline.

Cut through these lines and spread by the amounts on your work sheet.
D,E: Spread each of these by 1/2 the total length you want to add.
Now you can either fill the gaps with tissue or glue to a new sheet underneath.

Uneven Grade
In my example I need to add more to the waist than I do at the bust so I cut along line E and spread the bottom pieces further than the top then smoothed the line and moved the dart over slightly. NB: You will need to pin the dart in your muslin to adjust it properly and see where it looks best.
I did the same with the skirt pieces where the hip was increased more than the waist.

Tidy Up
When you slash and spread curves or diagonal lines like necklines, armholes and shoulder seams you will need to tidy the edges. You can eyeball it but a French curve can be helpful if you have one.

The Front Bodice
Now repeat with the front bodice - it looks harder, but you just use the same process with one exception.

F: Close to centre front crossing through the collar.
G: Crossing the shoulder seam to the right of the bust dart.
H: Close to the side seam, crossing the armscye.
Add lines J & K if you need to add length to the bodice - half the length at each line.
Now Dakota has a classic shawl collar which means the back and front collars are all one piece extending from the bodice front. Because of this we need to extend the back collar by the same amount we added to the back neckline.

Slash through the lines, spread the pieces (Line L is spread the same as Line C on back bodice). True all the edges paying close attention to the curve of the collar. You will also need to mark the new collar roll line (dotted line).

Don't forget to trace a new collar facing piece too!

The Sleeve & Cuff
To keep things simple I like to increase the sleeve cap by the same amount I added to the armscye. To do this mark the sleeve piece as follows.

Line S is spread the same quantity as D and J (which should be equal too!) If you didn't add length to your bodice you won't need this line.
Line P is spread by the amount added to Line A.
Line R is spread by the amount added to Line H.
I tried to show how these lines interact on the back bodice and sleeve below but it's still not that clear :)

Here's where I got a bit lazy, sorry! Rather than spreading the rest of the sleeve at lines P & R I just spread it down the middle and smoothed the edges - it didn't seem to matter in the end. The cuff can be spread from the middle by the same amount.

One tip that really saves time - measure your armscye at the seam line and the same at the sleeve head seam line and check they match before you cut your fabric. They should - but sometime even the best mathematics seems to go awry.

The Skirt Pieces
After the bodice and sleeve, the skirt pieces should be a breeze...

M & N: On either side of the skirt front and skirt back, parallel to the grainline.
O: On skirt side front and side back close to the side seam, parallel to the grainline.
To lengthen or if your hips have a different grade to your waist draw in the hip line (like in this example).
M is spread like C at the waist.
N is spread like B.
O is spread like A.
Length can be added at the hipline - Dakota has a lovely curved hem you don't want to mess with :)
Smooth the edges and re-draw the pocket markings if using.

Pocket, Flap, Sleeve Placket
Hallelujah - these stay the same size no more work to be done!
If this has whet your appetite for grading, I highly recommend these two posts:
Elegant Musings - Pattern Grading 101

Don't forget to tune in tomorrow for Alana's equally comprehensive look at a Full Bust Adjustment!


  1. Hi Marie and Alana

    Many thanks for posting this, however, I am such a novice to grading need a little more clarification and just want to check that I have understood this correctly - so please correct me were required - thanks!!

    When I looked at the chart which compared the bust, waist and hip measurements, I understood that from looking at the example, that a) the pattern bust size for 46 is 100cm, b)the person's actual size is 104 cm, therefore, c) a total of 4cm needs to be added to the front and back bodices respectively, but these measurements are spread out in specific a way( as shown above), to ensure that the whole front bodice is graded out by 2cm and the full back bodice is graded out by 2 cm. But then, I saw on your chart: 'half of grade' - 1cm (as all the other measurements on that row add up to 1cm) so then can I assume that this is a quarter of the 4cm, to account for the bodice pattern half? (I hope this makes sense!)

    1. Hi Tanya, looking at it now I can see how it's confusing, sorry! Yup you're right - over all the circumference increases by 4cm, so because each bodice pattern piece is 1/4 of the circumference each increases by 1cm.
      :) Alana

  2. Wow, this is really great information! Thanks so much for taking the time to photograph and spell this out, Alana!

    1. Thanks Sonja! Alana's a grading genius!!!

    2. We are so grateful to have Alana helping us out.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Yeah, this is the best laid out and easy to understand tutorial I have seen thus far. It has saved me a lot of time and extra work! Thanks Alana!

  3. Wow, this is incredibly useful! Thanks! :) Lisa

  4. Hi

    Thanks for this tutorial, I have used it to grade up Butterick 8038. Fingers crossed as I am in the process of making the pattern up, but the muslin seemed to work. I am just writing about it at the moment and would like to insert a link to this tutorial. Not sure of blogging etiquette as I am new to it, but please let me know if you object. Thanks again for the help.

    1. Hi there! So glad you found this tutorial useful, please feel free to link to it from your own blog...thanks for asking ;o)

  5. Well that's got my head working. Yours is the first I have found that doesnt do it multiple times which was really putting me off . I might now be able to make stuff for my daughter is is by no means an average normal size