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Hi there! Anjori here from Bee Threadly.

I adore all of the Love Notions patterns but because I’m 5’2″ and the patterns are drafted for 5’5″, I always need to shorten the tops and dresses such as the Rhapsody Blouse. I also have a 3 year old who loves to twirl in long dresses all day, so I find myself lengthening children’s patterns to accommodate; like the Cartwheel Collection dress. Which means I have had some practice! And I want to share with you how I lengthen and shorten patterns to fit my needs along with some tips I use to make it easier.

lengthen cartwheel dress

shorten rhapsody blouse

Below is a step by step of what I do to both add and remove length. I also made a video of all the steps at the end of the post.

Note: I used scaled down miniature version of the patterns to show the steps all in one frame. But I will be talking about the measurements I used in the real garment.

Setup Pattern Pieces

Setup 1: On the pattern piece, draw a line extending, vertically, from the grain line marker. Then draw 2 more parallel lines from the first. There should be 3 vertical lines that are spread across the width of the pattern piece. I have not seen this done anywhere else, but I use this to keep the pieces aligned.

Setup 2: Determine the points where length will be added or removed. If no lengthen/shorten lines are given, use the hem as a reference point to measure how far up from the hem to add the split points.

Tip: When adding or subtracting a large amount (probably any more than 2″), it is best if to split up the amount across the pattern piece. Typically, at the bust, waist, and hem.

lengthen cartwheel dress

Setting up the pattern pieces with three vertical lines and lengthen/shorten lines

The Cartwheel Collection dress is knee length. To make it a maxi dress, I needed to add a total of 9″. I split this length evenly in three different places – waist, mid thigh, and hem; and measured from the hem how far up each split line will be, drawing lines at 5″ and 9.75″ from the hem.

The Rhapsody Blouse needed to be shorten by 1.5″ at the waist line. I determined this by holding up the pattern piece and seeing that my waist line did not aligned with the pattern’s.

shorten rhapsody blouse

The dashed line is the waistline on the pattern, whereas the arrow is where my waist is.

Part 1: Lengthen a pattern

Step 1: Cut along the split lines, made in Setup 2, and add paper to extend the pattern. I have 3 pieces (top, middle, and bottom).

Step 2: Draw a line to distinguish how much length is being added at this spot. In my case, it was 3″. Also, extend the vertical lines on to the extra paper.

lengthen cartwheel dress

Cutting pattern pieces and adding length

Step 3: Reattach the bottom half of the pattern – lining up with the add line (in pink) and ensuring the vertical lines align. Tape together.

lengthen cartwheel dress

Reattaching the pattern to the added length

Step 4: Use a French curve and/or ruler to true up the sides, so they are smooth.

lengthen cartwheel dress

Curved ruler to true up the sides that don’t match anymore

Step 5: Repeat Steps 2 & 3 for the other split points.

Step 6: Add length to hem, “walk” along the hem using a clear grid ruler and draw a new hem.

Step 7: Repeat these steps for the back piece.

lengthen cartwheel dress

Final lengthened piece

lengthen cartwheel dress

lengthen cartwheel dress

Part 2: Shorten a Pattern

Step 1: From the split line, made in Setup 2, draw a parallel line away from the split line. The distance between the two lines should be the amount being removed. In my Rhapsody, I drew a parallel line 1.5″ up from the waist line.

shorten rhapsody blouse

Step 2: Fold along the split line, then fold up so the the two parallel lines meet. Tape.

shorten rhapsody blouse

Folding up the pattern instead of cutting it to shorten
Step 3: Use a French curve and/or ruler to true up the sides, so the sides are smooth.

shorten rhapsody blouse

Curved ruler to true up the sides that don’t match anymore

Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 & 3 for the other split points.

Tip: As I was adjusting at the hip line, I noticed that the original hem was being lost in the fold up.

shorten rhapsody blouse

If I used the pattern’s hip line, I would lose some of the hem curve.

To fix this, redraw the split line away from the details that need to remain in tact. I redrew my split point just above the hip line and proceeded to Step 2. See the blue line the pen is pointing to below.

shorten rhapsody blouse

Redrawing split line and folding it up. The hem curve is in tact.

Step 5: Repeat these steps for the back piece.

shorten rhapsody blouse

Final shortened piece

shorten rhapsody blouse

shorten rhapsody blouse

Videos: Part 1

Videos: Part 2

I hope this tutorial helps you in making fit adjustments as well as changing the look of a pattern you already have! Please leave any questions in the comments section, I’d be happy to answer them.


Author Tessa

More posts by Tessa

Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Katharine Boyd says:

    How should I shorten an a line dress pattern? I cut the pattern where it says ” lengthen or shorten”. Do I have to move the waist line down?

    • Tami Meyer says:

      You can use the lengthen/shorten line or you can hold the pattern up to yourself and see if the waist matches your waistline and then move the waist to where it does match, if needed.

  • Charity Cunningham says:

    Thank you for the tutorial, this was very helpful!

  • Sandra Clements says:

    what about lengthening sleeves?

    • Kelly says:

      To lengthen the sleeve, cut the pattern piece in half about six inches from the hem, spread about the amount needed, and then tape a piece of paper to connect the pieces. Blend the sides together and you are good to go!

  • Sally F. says:

    The pattern is being altered to add 9 inches overall in length, correct? I am confused about the amount added to the hem…you mention 1 3/8 inches..are the other lengthened positions 3 inches or 1 3/8 inches in distance apart?

    How did you decide to make the second position to lenthen? Is it so many inches below the waist?

    And lastly, thank you for this video.

    • Anjori says:

      Sorry for the delayed response. Sure, I added 9″ total. 3″ at waist, 3″ at hip, and 3″ at hem. Those were fairly general places to pick to add length. But with adult patterns, it’s important to always make sure the waist and hip lines line up with your own. Hope that helps!

  • Kristi says:

    Very helpful. I have done the lengthening from the waist and it works well.

    I am struggling to lengthen between the shoulder and the waist and/or shifting the darts.

    I am 5’9″ and often the waist and darts end up too high up on me. Also just made a top where the darts were at the bottom of a yoke rather than at the side seams and the darts were to narrow for my frame. Any help ideas? Thank you!

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