Making the "GRADE" a matter of size.

Fitting issues plague everybody.  But those of us that sew for ourselves seem to be on a quest for the perfect fit.  Thus, we sew through pattern after pattern in hopes to find the perfect fit, or make the pattern fit.  Others of us, buy our clothes from mainstream producers of the garment industry and come to those of use who sew, to make that special garment fit using a multitude of alterations.

For those of us that sew, sizing and the pattern "Grade" matters.

In 2008 I went back to school in hopes of understanding patterns better.  It was a success.  Did I learn everything there? No, but all education is a success in my eyes... As for commercial patterns, I learn more and more from working right here at home.  But the one class that did absolutely teach me the greatest amount of knowledge that has clarified my understanding of the pattern designing and fitting systems, was the class called Pattern Grading.  I shall fondly think of my instructor, Diane Brett, from Houston Community College, everytime I cut into a commercial pattern.  (I can see clearly now....the lines between sizes are no longer blurred.

Ok, I'll get to the point....I learned that in grading between sizes, the "average" industry standard is to increase sizes incrementally in groups. So, sizes 2-4-6 and 8 have a 1" size difference between each numbered size.  Sizes starting up from 8 to 10 to 12 is a pattern grade of 1.5" and from 12 to 14 to 16 to 18 and beyond is graded by 2 inches.  Well this is knowledge that is helpful going into the patternmaking and commercial pattern manipulation process. 

Until today, this system simplified working with commercial patterns. BUT....I noticed that Burda is the bad boy.  The odd man out.  The rebel, the one that skipped that class. You see, since I started school, I had not been buying many patterns, especially Burda.  I just loved taking a coffee break and looking through their magazine, but never traced a pattern.  I don't like tracing.  (I see now everybody does it, and so I ventured to start tracing some of these beautiful designs...."I want to be part of the "in crowd".) 

I even went out and purchased a pattern to check out the "J" curve of the crotch...

I love it... This makes sizing this pattern so, so much easier.  But upon closer manipulation I find this...
Sorry, couldn't get it to turn. 
Now this should be a 2" Grade from size 12-14, 14-16, 16-18 and so on.  And of course, the average female fashionista would faint if she was told she wears a size 44 pant size.  Whew!  try explaining that one to your custom clothing client, or a model for that matter.... be blogged later.. but the skirt is Vogue ??? and the bustier is my design.
Back to the GRADE!   You see, the industry standard of grading is as mentioned earlier: 1" sz 4-8, 1.5" sz 8-12 and 2" sz 12 & up.  What does that mean to us...
  • The main grade, or measurement between each size is either 1", 1.5" or 2" in the finished size.
  • Each main block, i.e. pant, bodice, skirt side seam is divided by 4, giving us 1/4" per seam for size 6 to 8, 3/8" per seam for size 10-12, and 1/2" per seam for size 14-16 and beyond.
  • In this sleeve pattern, the grade changes between sizes, as I learned.  The sideseams, grade different from a sleeve.  But you get the point.
    A simplicity pattern showing the difference in size grades.
    That equates, in the case of Burda, to a loss of 1 1/2" in the upper sizes in comparison to other pattern companies.
Burda does a "straight grade" for all sizes.  So those of us that have gotten used to having a "weighted grading scale" with the big four.  Sorry, but you now are in a lower percentile ranking.  Thus you have to essentiallly cut a larger size than even the big four.  Burda, says that a 34 is size 8, a 36 is size 10, 38= size 12, 40 = size 14 and thus 42= 16.  Sooooo, now I have to cut a size "46/18!!!!" in burda on the bottom.  Aaaagh!!  So much for vanity.  Shhhhh! Don't tell.

More to come...


  1. This GREAT information! I use the tissue measurements to adjust my fit, but I was always under the assumption that the Big 4 patterns cos. all graded on 2". I never took the time to actually see right in front of me what it actually is.
    This is VERY helpful, thanks!

    1. I guess this made for a great conversation piece in 2011 as it is today. Amazing how the same conversation comes around.

  2. Hello Andrea,

    I'm very happy that I found your blog as I have recently started to sew!!!. I made my first pants two days ago and I bought a new pattern (Burda) but I made a mistake. I wear size 18 and the pattern is up to size 16. As I have no time to lose that extra weight (!!!!!) could I should "extend" the pattern by 2''?????

    Thank you for your help !!!
    Helen , Athens, Greece

    1. Hello Helen....yes you can grade the pattern up in size. I have posted a youtube video that explains how. Please check out my YouTube channel by following the link under my picture on this page or click here:

  3. Did NOT know this! Thank you for this great information!

  4. Glad I found you, too!! I have a misses pattern that I need to grade but didn't know how to know how much larger to make it for myself, and now I know. Thank you so much!!


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