Enlarging Vintage Patterns and Using PDFs

I’d like to talk a little on alternative methods of Patterning i.e. Scaling up Vintage Patterns either from a print out or book or dealing with PDF Patterns.

The internet presents rather an enormous resource for free Patterns, if you know how to deal with them. Often they are simply illustrations with measurement guidelines and it is intended that the user scales them up to size, then makes any fit adjustments necessary before making up.

I love Pinterest for free Patterns. I have a very specific way of dealing with them which is somewhat time consuming however; I find that the process informs me on different methods of patterning, design and simply furthers my knowledge so I rather enjoy it! The following method can also be used for Vintage patterns in books such as The Cut of Womens Clothes and Corsets and Crinolines however; these illustrations have usually been drawn to a scale which is enormously helpful!

Firstly, find a pattern you like the look of. I adore this c1940s Overall Dress so I am going to illustrate using this. You will also need a Tape Measure, Pencil, Ruler or Patternmaster and Pattern Paper.

scale1    pattern

If you take a close look at the Pattern I have chosen you will see that there are measurements written on every single line which is a great start however; the first thing I will need to do is draw a scale grid across the entire illustration. The reason for this- which seems a little like I am making work for myself- is that it will be invaluable in showing me the correct angle of pieces like the Armhole, or Collar.

How I decide the scale of the grid I need to draw is this: I measure one of the lines which has a definite measurement on it. In this case it’s the dotted line from the Armhole to the Bust Dart which on the illustration measures 3″. I measure this in millimeters then divide the millimeters measurement by three to ascertain how many millimeters an inch is. Turns out it is slightly awkward: 3mm! Never mind, I like the Pattern so much I am more than up for drawing a grid 3mm x 3mm all over it! Now I know that every box on my grid will measure 1″ in real life which is ideal as Dot and Cross Pattern Paper is in inches!

scale2 scale3 scale4

To actually draw the grid I find a straight line on the Pattern and extend it, then draw a line at 90 Degrees to it as illustrated above left. This forms the start of my grid, which it is important to make as ‘square’ as possible. Next, I start marking 3mm dots at the bottom, then the top of the Pattern as illustrated in the middle. I will then repeat this step at the 90 Degree angle- or ‘going the other way’- then join all the dots to make the grid, as you can see in the final illustration above.


Now, a whole bunch of measuring ensues!

I mark point (1) on the Pattern then measure across then down to mark point (2), and join them with a dotted line to form the Shoulder. Using the measurements annotated on the Vintage Pattern I can mark points (3) and (4) easily. Counting grid squares down I can mark point (5), then join the three points to make the Bust Dart.

Proceeding in this fashion I slowly work across and down until I have marked up the whole Pattern.

Scaling Patterns really is relatively easy if you are willing to take time on the laborious job of marking your grid correctly. The final stage will be to re-size this Pattern to your measurements but this can be made a little easier if your draft of the Vintage Pattern is placed on top of your Basic Block. I would strongly advocate a Toile be made up of all Vintage Patterns which have needed to be scaled up not simply because there may be slight errors in the scaling but because Vintage Patterns were drafted to fit a very different body type that we have today, and are often very small.

The other form of Pattern popping up more and more frequently is the PDF Pattern which also requires a little work before it can be used however; much less that scaling!

PDF Patterns are great value for money, with the majority of the smaller Pattern companies offering them at a lower price because you print them out. They have essentially been ‘chopped up’ in to A4 pieces, which you print then stick together using the instructions provided. Some offer the options to have a file type which will be recognized by your local Printers. In this case you can pay a few pounds to have the Pattern printed onto A0 size paper much like a commercial pattern.

pdf pattern

PDF Pattern from Bettsy Kingston. 

The most important thing to remember when printing a PDF Pattern is to never ‘fit to paper size’ or tamper with it in any way which may effect the sizing. This can be avoided by carefully observing the scale the Pattern needs to be printed at and following the manufacturers guidelines. Every PDF Pattern will also have a ‘Test Square’ drawn on it somewhere which, when measured on the printout, should measure as indicated.

There are some amazing free PDF Patterns out there including Colette’s Sorbetto, and some pretty amazing free Dresses and Skirts from Burda among others. Vivat Veritas has a great article with links to many, many Vintage PDFs too.

Well, what’s stopping you?

Please also don’t forget to comment on my interview with Sarai of Colette Patterns to win fabric and notions to make your very own Sorbetto! Come back tomorrow for another stunning Wordless Wednesday and visit later this week to find words of wisdom on Fitting and transferring Fitting to a Flat Pattern. There will also be another pattern making Musings and give away on Friday!

Happy patterning!

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