Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Scaling Patterns - The Lazy Dressmaker's Version

Up-sizing scaled patterns is not as difficult an endeavor as it is time consuming. When I first started up-sizing, I used the grid and radial methods (I certainly did not have access to a projector or any other industrial equipment), and eventually, for Victorian/Edwardian costuming, I mastered the Diamond Cutting System (which I still use).  But, there is a more time efficient method to up-sizing. It is not a new idea. However, for those dressmakers who never thought to do it, or for those who hadn't realized they needed no special program or equipment to up-size a scaled pattern, there is a very easy, step-by-step technique that can cut hours off of the process of pattern scaling simply by using your computer and a printer. Hallelujah!

 Step 1: Choose the pattern to be printed. Your pattern needs to be either a JPEG, GIF, or Tiff (photo) file. If it isn't all ready in one of these three formats, you can easily do this by scanning your pattern or taking a picture of it with a digital camera. If scanning or taking a digital photo directly from a book, watch for distorted edges, which ultimately distorts the pattern. When I have to scan a pattern or snap a digital image from my camera, rather than scanning or taking a picture of the image directly from the book, I trace the pattern onto an 8" x 11" sheet of paper so that the image lays perfectly flat, then scan it or take a digital photo.

~Selected pattern scanned in JPEG format~

Step 2: Select the pattern from your saved image files; right click on the image; choose "Open With..."; select "Paint". The image will immediately open in the "Paint" program:


Step 3: Once your pattern image has opened in "Paint", click on "File"; select and click on "Page Setup..."

Step 4: From here, the "Page Setup" window will pop-up. Note that the paper size is set for 8" x 11", the margins are set for 3/4 of an inch (you need this overlap to piece your pattern together), the orientation is for a portrait, and it is horizontally and vertically centered. For "Scaling", choose "Adjust to" and key in the percentage needed to increase your pattern to full size. For example, if your pattern is at a 1/8 scale, you will need to increase the pattern image by 800%; if your pattern image is at a 1/4 scale, you will need to increase it to 400%; 1/16 scale, 1600%, and et cetera. Once you have keyed in your percentage, click "Ok".

~My pattern is at a 1/8 scale; increased by 800% for normal size~

Step 5: Now, you need to check your image. Go to "File" and select "Print Preview"; scroll through the images to make sure that everything appears in good order. Then, click "Print". 

Step 6: The prints will be in order from left to right, from top to bottom. Begin laying them out on a large flat surface one by one, until your full size pattern is complete. I like to print a copy of my pattern to use as a guide as I am piecing everything together - it helps me with the visuals. 

~My printed copy for visual reference~

~Laying out the paper pieces one-by-one~

~Finished lay-out and time for taping~

Step 7: After the pieces are nicely laid out, I number each one (in case they get blown around - it makes putting them back in order easy), and trim and tape them together. What to do with those unused (blank) pieces (usually around the boarders of your full-size pattern)? Put them back into your printer's paper tray! 

~This pattern piece has been numbered "20"~

~What paper pieces remain blank, I return to my paper tray~

It seems that this method uses a lot of paper. Not really and no more than a full size pattern purchased from a theatrical pattern company, like Truly Victorian or Rocking Horse Farm. And, printing it this way is far cheaper than having it printed at Kinko's/FedEx ($.75 per sq. ft; copies only to 36" wide), Staples (a 36" x 48" engineer's copy is $5.95), or Office Depot ($.50 per sq. ft.; copies only to 24" wide). A ream of cheap paper at your favorite Big Box store costs around $4.00, and you can print approximately 8-10 full-size dress patterns (that averages to $.45 per pattern)! Not to mention the paper waste is minimal - blank sheets can be reused, where as with traditional patterns white space is wasted space destined for the trashcan once the pattern is cut. There is also the issue of ink, but if you set your printer to the "Fast Draft" or "Economy" print setting (depending on what printer you use), you will only use 30%-40% of the ink you would normally use on the printer's standard print setting.

I hope this little tutorial sets you on the quick path to constructing and donning your merry apparel rather than spending that precious time scaling patterns! 

Blessings and happy sewing!


  1. Very helpful! Thank you so much for posting this!

  2. How great is this?! HUZZAH! Here's hoping I (and my computer) can do this! LOL

  3. Thank you, ladies! :)

    And Carolina, you can certainly do this - :P

  4. Wow! Thank you for sharing this. Very cool process and pretty simple to follow. Cheers

  5. I've been doing this using Adobe Illustrator so it gives me overlap on each page - makes it a bit easier to match up the edges, but definitely a little more time consuming too.

    1. Isn't there a setting in Illustrator to where the border feature (for overlapping) would be automatic for each title? Julie, I am not familiar with Illustrator - do you find it works well for you?

  6. Two programs, which can be downloaded for free and used to scale patterns, are PosteRazer and Rasterbator 1.2 - I have not personally used either of the these programs, but I do know that Rasterbator 1.2 works well (my daughters and several of their friends use it to make gigantic posters and banners).

    The main reasons I appreciate Microsoft Paint and used it for this tutorial (even though there are better scaling programs on the market) are because it's free and everyone who owns a PC has it. I like accessibility! :)

  7. Replies
    1. Mac apparently has a PC "Paint" equivalent called "Paintbrush" and it's free for Mac users to download. Give it a go and let me know if it works for you! Here is a link:

  8. thank you for sharing !
    This will be very helpful.
    but, how do i know if its 1/8 scale or 1/6 scale for example when it is not said in the book?

    Geetings from Germany

    1. Thank you, Lucia!

      If you have experience scaling patterns, you can guess fairly accurately as to what scale a pattern is just by looking at it. However, the best method is to measure key parts of the pattern you are scaling (i.e. bust, waist, arm length), and multiply these measurements by a couple of different scale numbers to see which scale makes proportional sense.

      For example, the coat pattern that I used for the tutorial above is at a 1/8 scale. To determine this, I measured the waist (3.5"), the bust (4.25") and the arm length (3") on the pattern. First using a 1/6 scale, I determined the waist, bust, and arm measurements to be 21", 25.5", and 18" - a little too small for the "average" woman. Then, I upped the scale measurements to 1/8, and determined these to be 28", 34", 24" - this is more like it, the measurements being approximate to a size 8 (retail) woman.

      However, I am no size 8 - lol! I am a 14 (retail) with a 40" bust and 34" waist, but this is just a matter of constructing a toile and altering it to fit - :)

  9. Thank you so much for this post! excellent!

  10. Your post here inadvertantly showed me how to do something to my own photos that I didn't know how to. I didn't know about Paint and even didn't even know I had it. So I had fun with using the eraser to remove a totally black background around my black mourning gown. I can see being able to have a lot of fun with this new toy. Thank you!

    1. I love happy accidents! :) You're welcome (although I feel a bit cheeky accepting the credit - lol)!

  11. I love this! So easy! Thank you!

  12. Hello and thanks for this tut! can i ask a question? if i have only the image jpg pattern, but i did not know the exatly the scale, but know only that, ad exemple, the square inside is 10 x 10, how i can do? need print it before scaling and setup scale? or there are a better way to do it? thanks^^

  13. I am so excited and oh so scared at the same time about this new information. Will I be able to pull it off?

  14. This is great. I am just starting to make Edwardian costumes and my head is sore from scratching it trying to figure out how to use the Victorian/Edwardian pattern books I ordered. Now I think the muddy waters have cleared with this information on pattern scaling. Thanks so much from Saskatchewan, Canada.

  15. Awesome thank you for the scale hints really helpful


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