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Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong - Finding your size & printing the pattern

Are you a prep perfectionist?? Precision and accuracy from the very start of a new sewing project is key to handmade clothes that sew up a dream and fit like a glove. If your measurements are off and your cutting sloppy, a fun time will not be had. In today's Orsola sewalong post we'll be talking about taking accurate body measurements, figuring out whether or not we'll be needing to make any alterations to the paper pattern to get the fit spot on for your body shape, and getting the paper pattern printed and cut.

*Click here to be taken to all the posts in the Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong*

Today we will be:

  • Measuring ourselves
  • Finding our size
  • Deciding whether or not we'll need to make any adjustments to the pattern
  • Printing and cutting the pattern

Measuring your body

Step one on the path to sewing clothes that fit well and look smokin' hot is becoming acutely aware of your own figure. Scary, yes, but enlightening, trust me. With a good understanding of your own unique shape comes not only the insight to choose designs and fabrics that will enhance your best bits and gloss over the rest, but the tools to tweak paper patterns to best fit your body. 

You'll need to grab yourself a flexible tape measure, a piece of paper and a pen. Measuring carefully, and using this post as a guide, make a note of your high bustfull bust, waist & hip measurements, using the handy table in your instruction booklet to keep a record of your findings.


You can now cross reference these measurements with our sizing chart in your Orsola Dress & Skirt instructions. Pay extra attention to the "finished measurements" as this will give you a better idea as to how the garment will fit when made up.


If your measurements are falling into the same size group, or very close to, then you likely won't need to make any alterations to the pattern (lucky you!). There are, however, some fitting issues that aren't detectable on standard body measurements alone, like narrow shoulders and long/short torsos, so even if you're coming up bang on our sizing chart, we still highly recommend making up a toile/muslin before you begin cutting into your loverly fabric.

If your full bust, waist and hip measurements are falling into wildly different size groups, your full bust is more than 2" larger/smaller than your high bust, or you often find that you have to alter a paper pattern to fit, you will most likely need to make some simple adjustments. In the following posts we will be delving deep into the world of pattern alteration, covering:

  • Full Bust Adjustments & Small Bust Adjustments (FBA & SBA)
  • Lengthening & shortening the bodice for longer/shorter torso's
  • Fixing and stabilising unwanted gapey backs
  • Swayback adjustments
  • Grading between sizes for wider/narrower waistlines
  • Altering for a full tummy
  • Full butt adjustments

But how will you know which, if any, alterations to make?? Regardless of 

You'll be needing an FBA if...

  • Your full bust is more than 2" bigger than your high bust measurement
  • Your full bust measurement falls into a larger size group than your waist measurement
  • You find that your waistlines often ride up

You'll be needing an SBA if...

  • Your full bust is less than 2" bigger than your high bust measurement
  • Your full bust measurement falls into a smaller size group than your waist measurement
  • You find that clothes often fit too loosely around your bust

You'll be needing to fix a gapey back if...

  • You have particularly slim, narrow or sloping shoulders
  • You typically find that dresses gape at the back neckline or leave vertical creases down the back
  • Armholes tend to stick out or slip off

    You'll be needing to lengthen or shorten your bodice if...

    • You are particularly tall/short
    • Your torso is particularly long/short
    • You often find that waistlines fall higher/lower than your natural waistline

    You'll be needing a swayback adjustment if...

    • Your lower back curves in dramatically
    • You often find that fabric pools or creases around your waistline at the lower back

      You'll be needing to grade out or in at the waist if...

      • Your waistline measurement falls into a higher or lower size bracket than that of your bust, but you have a spot on 2" difference between your high bust and full bust

      You'll be needing a full tummy alteration if...

      • You have a full tummy or "pot belly"

      You'll be needing a full butt adjustment if...

      • You often find that fitted skirts to be too tight on the butt, or you have a big, muscular or round butt (we like big butts)

      With that all figured out, now comes the tedious bit... Printing, assembling and cutting out your pattern pieces. We don't like this part anymore than you do, so if you're borderline allergic to printing out and sticking together multiple A4 or US letter sheets from your home printer, we suggest you make the most of our "print at copyshop" files...!

      Please head to this post for all you need to know about printing and assembling your pattern, whether at home or at your local copyshop.

      You'll need a large, smooth, empty table or a large, smooth, clean slice of floor to work on. Lay out your pattern - either the large copyshop sheets or your assembled pattern that you printed at home - and use a brightly coloured pen to highlight the size you'll be cutting out. 

      * If your pattern needs alteration (except for the grading in/out at the waistline), cut out the size as dictated by your waistline measurement, which will later be altered. If you suspect you'll be needing to grade in/out at the waistline, cut out your skirt pieces as dictated by your waistline measurement and leave the bodice pieces intact and uncut until we get to that post!*

      Now carefully cut out your highlighted pattern pieces and you are ready to go! Those of you who don't have any alterations to make, homework for this week is to whip up a quick toile of the bodice to double check that you're happy with the fit, and keep a close eye on the alterations tutorials - just in case! Those of you definitely altering-along, hang tight and make sure you've got those rulers, pens, paper and sellotape at the ready for next time... 

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