All The Tweaks – My Standard Pattern Adjustments

Tweak tweak tweak. This always has to be done to a pattern. Lucky is the unicorn that doesn’t need to adjust a pattern.

I am not a unicorn. Unfortunately.

When it comes to sewing from a pattern, whether it be commercial or independent, I know I will ALWAYS need at least one adjustment. Most commercial (and lots of indie) patterns are drafted for a 5’6” woman with a B cup bust. As a 5’3” woman with a D cup AND short-waisted to boot, I almost always need to add at least an inch to the bust and either take away 3” from the overall length of the bodice (the shirt portion of a pattern). Most of the time I also have to move the waist up the bodice (which adjusts the overall length for me as well).

My bodices, after adjusting for the bust and the length, tend to look something like this:

It looks like cubist art, if you ask El Husbando.

Lately I’ve finally admitted that I probably need a swayback adjustment, too. This happens when the extra fabric around the waist pools or bunches up just above the butt. Sometimes this is due to a shelf booty, which try as I might, I don’t actually have. But I still need a swayback adjustment because I’m getting that fabric pooling. I’ve tried to ignore it, but my short waist is probably responsible for this too.

Aren’t I so lucky?

This has become particularly challenging in trying to make pants. I’m overall shorter in most areas of the body, including my pelvis, which makes for interesting crotch adjustments. I get extra fabric right at the crotch because I’m a good 2″ shorter there than the typical woman. Pants in general can be a tricky garment to fit, requiring a PhD in garment fitting as well as some mystical alchemy for good measure.

Of course there’s the opposite problem. My #sewingtall sisters have to ADD length to almost every place I remove it. They need longer hemlines and sleeves while I’m over here lopping 4″ off a sleeve lest I look like a child in my older sibling’s too-big hand me downs.

That’s the story of my sewing life and that’s okay. Patterns are just starting blueprints. The map of my body requires a set of changes to better fit ME. And why else am I making custom clothes if not to fit my body precisely?

What changes do you find yourself having to make?

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Fiona HKathleen MeadowsPaulette EratoKareyClaire Cooper Recent comment authors
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Kathleen Meadows

I have to always do an FBA, FSA and sometimes a lengthening (I'm 5'8") depending. I think you would find HandmadePhD blog really handy for pants! I've been following her pants fitting for the past couple of weeks and have found her work/explanations so helpful! also Heather Lou of the Ginger Jeans pattern has wonderful fitting tutorials on her blog. I'm planning on tackling pants AGAIN this year for sure too. I'm sure like most sewists we all share a fantasy of the perfect fitting pair of pants! Heaven 🙂

Fiona H
Fiona H

I have to make identical asjustments …. as a 5ft3in, short waisted, D-busted woman too! Fiona

Paulette Erato
Paulette Erato

Yay, twinsies!

Paulette Erato
Paulette Erato

Thanks for the tip about Handmade PhD! I didn’t know about her but what a find!!


I have to make almost identical adjustments, only more so, as I'm 5'2", F bust, short-waisted.
My waist is also size or 2 bigger than my hips & underbust as I have no gap between hip & rib bones, so I shorten at waistline instead of midriff & high hip, deleting the waist I don't have. Also have wide back, & large bicep and thigh muscle (from exercise) so fitting sleeves and legs is tricky.
It sounds odder than it is. I just look small and solid rather than slender lol.

Claire Cooper

SBA and adjustments for a long torso, small waist, wide shoulders – I also have large hips, so often hve to grade to lager sizes for the bottoms. Very occassionally patterns fit straight out of the box. Burdastyle magazine fitted dress patterns are usually quite good straight up.

Paulette Erato
Paulette Erato

Ooh I bet on those occasions when the Burda fits as is it’s like heavens open up!

Diane G

I always have shoulder and back problems. Forward rolling shoulders and a bit rounded too. Looks like you have your adjustments down to a fine art.


I'm 5'3" with a very short waist and always have to do a petite adjustment. I am a B cup so no adjustment there. I'm also one size smaller in the back (full belly instead of bust!).