Fine tuning a sewing pattern

There are certain fashion shapes that you may find you wear often. If you find a pattern that resembles that shape, it’s worth the time investment to adjust that pattern exactly to your preferences. A simple knit tunic can be such a piece.

tweak a shape


This is a photo of a basic knit sleeveless tunic (Simplicity 1358) made following the pattern “as is”. To “feel out” the pattern style, shape and fit, I made this first sample with an inexpensive knit. I finished the neck and armholes with contrast fold-over elastic tape rather than bands of self fabric as in the pattern.

There are some minor tweaks to adjust this dress pattern to my personal preferences. Pinning and a sketch overlay helps me plan for those changes.


Since I want to preserve the original tissue pattern, I transferred the cutting lines onto pattern paper (Swedish tracing paper is also good!) using dressmakers transfer paper and a tracing wheel. Weights (I use rocks!) are great to hold the tissue pattern in place during this process.

Next I measured and sketched a new neckline and 2 skirt lengths onto the new paper pattern.

If changes are many (or I have any doubt!) the next dress sample will also be made of inexpensive fabric. When sure that my pattern is “perfect”, then I will venture into a more pricy fabric.

Some tips:

a grid ruler and a fashion curve are tools to draw precise lines and curves

a grid ruler and a fashion curve are tools to draw precise lines and curves


Usually, but not always, it’s best for a corner seam to be a 90 degree angle. Use a grid ruler to check corners. (This tip has been a BIG patterning tip for me! It saves a lot of “hit or miss” passes at pattern changes.)

Keep in mind the old adage: Measure twice, cut once!

check seams to make sure they match

check seams to make sure they match


Save the original tissue pattern. It can be used as a sloper to develop additional styles in the future. To make a tissue pattern sturdy for lots of use, you can fuse iron-on interfacing to the backside of the pattern.

Sometimes its a good idea to pin the pattern together and “try it on” to get a preview of the fit. Since this pattern is for a knit, keep in mind that it will have less ease than a pattern for a woven fabric.


Here are a few of the ideas brewing for this dress:

wood bead necklacesOne idea is an ethnic-Bohemian style tunic that the beaded necklaces to the right can go with.

Another idea is something that would be fun for surface art, such as with a bleach pen, stamping, or stenciling.

Am finding some gorgeous knits online! Check out some contenders that I’ve pinned on Pinterest.

Better get going! Summer is here, and this will be a great wardrobe addition for those hot days ahead!

Do you have a basic pattern you have lots of ideas for? We would love to hear about it!

Click here to read about shopping for and sewing knits.




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When I learned to sew, I was totally hooked! My mission is to provide sewing projects that are easy enough for anyone to try… Let us know if its working!

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