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Lengthen or Shorten a Sewing Pattern Tutorial

How To Adjust the Length on a Sewing Pattern

This is just about the easiest pattern alteration to do!

You’ve probably noticed, many patterns have horizontal length adjustment lines marked on them to show where to alter the length. I don’t do that on all of my patterns, I prefer a cleaner look. It’s so easy to get in a muddle with too many lines everywhere and so simple to mark any length adjustments only if you need them. This straight forward tutorial will show you how simple it is to lengthen or shorten a sewing pattern, to help achieve a great fit.


  • Your pattern (or copy of your pattern if you don’t want to alter your original)
  • ruler
  • pencil
  • tape
  • paper

Things to be aware of

  • If you are unsure of how much length to add/reduce or even if you need to adjust the length, make a toile first. The silhouette and ease in a garment can make a difference to how long it should be.
  • If you are doing lots of alterations to your pattern, do any length adjustments first.
  • Keep the grainline or “place to fold line” IN A STRAIGHT LINE, do not allow them to stagger.
  • The Chain Effect: when altering one pattern piece, also alter the corresponding pattern piece in the same way and remember to check they still fit together after your alteration. It is very annoying to end up with the front skirt longer than your back skirt!
  • A toile is always your friend if you’ve done lots of (any) alterations!

Step 1


Once you’ve made a toile, you’ll know how much and where you need to add or subtract length to your garment. You can just change the bodice length, or a skirt length or the sleeve, or all 3!

Draw an adjustment line horizontally across your pattern at a right angle to the grainline or to the “place to a fold line”

On a bodice: mark the line above the waist line but below a bust dart, and straight through any waist darts.

On a skirt (or skirt portion of a dress) below the hip line, but avoid any pocket details – no point making life complicated!

On a sleeve: half way along the underarm seam, unless it’s a fitted sleeve or has an elbow dart, then divide between two lines. (See “Good to Know” at the end)

Step 2

Lengthen a pattern


Cut along the adjustment lines and separate the pattern piece.

Place a piece of paper behind your pattern and tape the top portion of your pattern to it.

Extend the grain line. Draw a line parallel to the your adjustment line the amount you need to lengthen the pattern by. Tape the lower portion of your pattern to the new line, matching up the grainline. Re-draw the seam lines so that they match up again, these may need to be curved or may be straight depending on your pattern piece. It’s quite usual to need to blend the new lines together, adding a bit to one and taking a bit off the other.

Shorten a pattern


Cut along the adjustment lines.

Place a piece of paper behind your pattern and tape the top portion of your pattern to it. On your pattern, draw a line parallel to the adjustment line the amount the pattern is to be shortened. Overlapping your pattern pieces, tape the lower portion of the pattern to the new line, matching up the grainlines. Re-draw the the seam lines so they match up again, in the same way as lengthening a pattern.

Step 3

Check your pattern pieces still fit together before cutting out your garment. Toile again if you need to!

Good to Know

The Maria Apron: lengthen the straps


This is a great method to use if you need to alter the length of the straps of The Maria Apron too. Be sure to keep the grainline aligned as before, but you can just chop through the strap, spread the pattern the required amount and re-draw the edges with a straight line – all without changing the length of the angled edge that attaches to your apron! You will need to do exactly the same alteration to both the TOP and UNDER straps.

Changing the length by a larger amount

If you are lengthening or shortening a sewing pattern by a larger amount, you can spread the amount between 2 lines


On a bodice, for example, take the amount needed to lengthen and place half above the bust dart, and half below the dart, this will of course lower the bust dart a little, so be sure you want it lower!

On a skirt, especially a maxi skirt style, half could go through the skirt in two places, this will lengthen the skirt and keep the hem circumference the same as the original. Alternatively, use one adjustment line and extra length could be added straight to the bottom of the hem, but the hem circumference will get bigger.

For a fitted sleeve: Spread the amount between two lines one above and one below the elbow/elbow dart.

Now, do I always use this method for changing the length of every pattern?

I’m 5’2″ so it’s always shorten, shorten, shorten.


NOPE, I don’t! If it’s only a little bit, or a boxy shape I’ll just chop it off/add the extra on to the bottom of the pattern. That works just fine too in some cases.

I hope you found this pattern alteration tutorial useful, and now can confidently alter the length of your sewing patterns.

11 thoughts on “Lengthen or Shorten a Sewing Pattern Tutorial

  1. […] Ikea linen curtain that was in Bargain Corner, and extended the short sleeve pattern to ¾ length. I have a little tutorial here. Then dyed her with some navy Dylon machine dye once she was finished (except the hem. I overlocked […]

  2. my granddaughter is 6’2″ tall. i think i need to adjust the bodice in more than one place for it to fit her well. that issue was not disgusted in this tutorial…… for a girl that is only 5’10” or so , that adjustment might work ell.

    1. Hi Sandra, if you scroll down near the end of the tutorial there is a section to show how to add extra/shorten length in 2 places on the bodice. If your granddaughter needs extra length in the armhole too, draw another line straight through the armhole, parallel to your other lines to add some extra length there. You will need to cut through the top of the sleeve head and add extra length there too so your sleeve fits in the armscye. I always recommend making a toile for a perfect fit as everybody is unique and tutorials can only really give general guidance.

  3. thanks for the comments on lengthening the dress and arm holes

  4. […] info actually appears in our How to Lengthen and Shorten a Pattern Tutorial, but I thought it might just be a bit easier if anyone was specifically looking for help in the […]

  5. Hi I am making a fit and flair panel dress. It needs shortening quite a bit. I have folded on the line where it says on the pattern, but when I put the pieces together the bottom is much wider than the top piece , the stitching lines don’t match up . Do I follow the stitching line by making a new sewing line .

    1. Hi Anita,
      You just need to draw a new line to blend the two together. If you look at the picture where we have shortened the sleeve, your pattern will have a bigger step in the pattern than the one I’ve shown, but the principle is the same. The new line you draw will be about halfway between the two pattern pieces. Hope that helps!

  6. What a great tutorial. Can I ask your opinion on shortening a bubble type skirt? It’s not gathered at the bottom, it’s pleated at the waist, bubbles out at the hip and narrows again at the hemline. I want to retain the shape so know I need to adjust other than at the hemline. But I need to shorten by 5 inches!! I’m thinking it’s too much to do all on one line at the hip. Where do you suggest I distribute the amount? Just above and below the hipline? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi there!
      It’s difficult to say exactly without seeing the pattern, but I’d do maybe an 1″ at the hem and then as you say distribute in 3 places between hip and hem.
      You can do a bit above the hipline if you are ok with it sitting a bit higher. I think a toile will be in order to make sure the shape is still nice.
      Good luck!

  7. Hello ! I just bought your French Dart pattern, but I need to lengthen the top part, about 5 cm. Can you help me how I should do that with the bust dart? Thank you so much

    1. Hi Liddy,
      It really depends on your body, some people need it above the bust point and some below the bust point but I’ll assume it’s a little of both! I would divide the 5cm and spread in 2 or even 3 places in the bodice. Some may need to be added to the length through the armhole and the remainder can be added by cutting horizontally straight through the bodice and bust dart to add the extra length and then just re-draw your dart to make sure it is trued and the seams still match. Don’t forget to toile as that is quite a lot to add and you may need to tweak the fit!

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