I could have made a moulage and then drafted the pattern by hand, or I could have dusted off pattern-making software (Wild Ginger PatternMaster Boutique) or I might have tried out BootStrap Fashion’s online pattern-making app. But, I went in a different direction and chose to grade the vintage sewing pattern down from a size 16 to a 12. [To be honest, I had seen a class on pattern grading at craftsy, and I wanted a reason to watch it!] I give a hearty thumbs up to Kathleen Cheetham’s CREATE ANY SIZE Pattern Grading for Sewers. There wouldn’t be any major fit alterations, so for this reason, grading down was the fastest way to go.

In a nutshell, grading a pattern is a matter of adjusting lengths and girths without compromising the design. The very first conundrum I faced was the French dart on the bodice. At first I just drew a vertical line under the armhole, but that didn’t look quite right to  me.

The vertical line under the arm cuts through the French dart.

The vertical line under the arm cuts through the French dart.

It didn’t look like it would work too well, so I folded out the dart and drew a line to follow the side seam:

After folding out the dart, I re-drew the vertical line beneath the armhole.

After folding out the dart, I re-drew the vertical line beneath the armhole.

Following the class instructions, I went on to grade down the sleeve and skirt, as well. It can be very tempting to make fit adjustments during the grading process, but Kathleen says to complete the grading first, THEN proceed with fit adjustments. I am glad I followed her instructions because I almost graded the skirt down one size and the bodice down 2 sizes.  If I had done that, the darts on the back of the bodice would not have matched the darts on the skirt. I would have been very annoyed with myself!

First Muslin fitting of S6631

Muslin fitting with the bride – image is altered to show the muslin as clearly as possible.


Back view – image is altered to show the muslin as clearly as possible.

The skirt fit fine, so I can use it again when I sew up the next bodice. At this point (just like every other point in the process) I could proceed more than one way. I could have unpicked the side seams and dart, and pinned out a new dart to fit. But I want to redraft the bodice. I will go back to the size 16 pattern piece and do a small bust adjustment to bring it down to an A cup, and lower the bust point. Then I will grade it down again. The sleeve was just a hot mess. There was a whole lot of ease in the sleeve cap, so I removed most of it – but it still had too many puckers and didn’t hang nicely. I’ll fix that up, and I am thinking about adding a gusset to the underarm, too. People need to dance and move their arms freely.

Pretty beautiful, huh? I have to say, I really like beauty. For myself, lately I am dressing mostly for warmth and comfort, so it is quite grand to work on this special project. Oh, and I ended up not buying the boho fabric mentioned in my last post – it was out of stock and I didn’t feel like waiting, so I cancelled the order. That is the hard thing about buying fabric online. There is no instant gratification and I have lost interest in stashing fabric. If I can’t sew it immediately, I skip it. The closer I get to retirement, the more it feels wasteful to buy things without purpose.

Speaking of retirement and big life changes, it is on my mind. I had always thought I would work well beyond full retirement age, partly for the money [both my husband and I went through divorces from our first marriages, provided educations for our children, and didn’t pile up mountains of money for retirement] and partly because I just always felt youthful, energetic and somehow not ready. But lately, I have another nagging thought that I may regret working that long. I could look back one day and wish I had retired earlier – you can’t go back and do it again. I know I have also written about wanting to be a dressmaker, but you know what? At this moment I have ZERO mojo for building a business. I don’t feel like marketing myself. Thankfully, I have plenty of mojo for creating.

So, that’s what I am thinking about these days and I am curious whether you think about these things, too. If I had to guess, I think most of you reading here are about my age and have many of my interests.

Have a great day –