How to create grade rules 2

For the previous entries in this series about the grading and sizing of clothes, see here, here, here and here. Reminder: for purposes of explanation in the exercise of deriving grade rules, we’re using the CS151-50 (open source). I’ve linked to it enough times in the previous entries so you should have it by now.

The first thing I did was to sort out the measures most likely to be needed for the average bodice and bottom. This spreadsheet can be found here in the forum. For this exercise, we’ll cover the girth portion of tops, leaving length grades for tomorrow. In the girth portion of the spread sheet (screenshot below), we have chest girth, waist girth, neck base girth, armscye circumference and upper arm girth.

Perhaps the screenshot looks a bit confusing; it’s set up to be used by a grader. The base size is 5 which means that the grading value for 5 is zero because you’re going up and down from there. The sizes to the right of 5 are indicated with a “+” sign. This means you’re adding these amounts to the base size of 5. The opposite is true of the smaller sizes to the left of 5. With me so far? For the purposes of clarity, the discussion will refer to examples of making the pattern larger. The text becomes too complicated if I have to constantly refer back and forth to smaller or larger.

To derive rules from these, you have to know how patterns are graded. Nearly always, we grade backs and fronts separately. Additionally, we only grade a half front/half back. What this means, is that you may have to divide the size increase by four. Take the chest girth for example, you’d divide this by four. This means you’d grade a 1″ increase by adding 1/4″ to the half front and another 1/4″ to the half back. Since you’re only doing half garments, doubling that to the full garment would mean you’ve got the full inch you need. You’d repeat this operation for the waist but afterwards, this can get a little tricky.

Consider the neck girth. Your total size increase in the neck is .375″. Do you divide this by four? And if so, how do you account for it? This is a little trickier than you might suppose. Logicking your way through it, you might think that you’d add up to the neckline at the shoulder juncture and call it good, but think a moment. The neck is a cylinder. If it’s getting bigger, it means it’s getting thicker, cutting into the existing shoulder line. In other words, grading that point means making the neckline wider at the shoulder line. Still, it will also need to be longer at that point, making the neckline deeper over the previous size. So, this means you need a bit of a fudge factor. Go ahead and add in another 1/8″ to make matters simple. Your total neck girth grade then becomes 1/2″ (including the previous 3/8). Divide that by four and you’ve got an 1/8″ per side to adjust for at the neck/shoulder juncture. Still, this isn’t the whole story. Due to the position of the neck, part of it (side to side) is actually a length measurement too. Cutting to the chase, you’d increase the neck width by 1/16th and raise the shoulder at the neckline by another 1/16th to get your full 1/8th per quarter segment. Are you starting to get an idea of why grade rules are highly proprietary? If they were easy, you could find them as easily as ants at a picnic.

Armscye girth is the measure around the arm at the base where it meets the body. In these charts, the girth increases by 1/2″ per size. However, due to its position, it’s a side to side and up and down grade like the neck but also divisible by four. It might help to think of the armhole as a box seen from the side view like so:

In strictest terms, the correct way to divide this isn’t really by four. No no, that’s just a starting point. Rather, half the 1/8th at the top of the armhole goes to the front shoulder and half the eighth goes to the back shoulder line -in other words, raising the shoulder line 1/16th both front and back. I’ll bet that’s as clear as mud.

On the other hand, the sides of the armhole “box”, the 1/8’s front/back sides of the armhole are not a cause of concern, at least the width of the armhole isn’t because this is accounted for when you grade the front and back for girth at the chest line. Make sense? However, you will need to grade the armhole longer, which is something you’d have to do anyway (under length rules). I just want to bring up that some measures can be tricky. They’re listed as “girth” but you have to put “girth” in the proper context.

Sleeves are probably the easiest; the girth part is. In this chart, the arm girth increases 1/4″. You’d put half that in the front sleeve and the other half (1/8″ actually) in the back sleeve. But don’t forget the sides of your armhole girth box (above). Your sleeve is growing an 1/8th in length from shoulder to armpit so you have to raise the sleeve cap the same amount as you grade.

So…do you think we’re done adding girth? We covered chest, waist (same as chest), neck and arm…is that all? Brownie points to everybody who said “no”. What about that shoulder line? Is this a girth measure or a length measure? Actually, it may be at this point that you realize girth and length are poor substitutes for horizontal vs vertical measures. Since girth is really horizontal measures, we need to add length to the shoulder line. So how do you calculate what’s needed for shoulder length if you have no measure in the CS151-50 to start from? That’s easier than you’d think. First, what’s your total chest girth -per segment? That’d be 1/4″. Halving that for the shoulder length is pretty close. In sum, you need to add 1/8 to lengthen the shoulder line.

Tomorrow I’ll show how these grows are translated (“mapped”) to the paper pattern. Second, I’ll show the increases for the length grows since we only covered girth grows in this segment. After that, I’ll show the mapping for both grows on the bodice.

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  1. dosfashionistas says:

    I’m glad you are doing armholes. I still get uncertain that I am translating the length and width grades correctly in places (such as armholes and sleeves) where the line that I am blending is on a diagonal. Especially where I am grading over a wide range of sizes, and a small discrepancy can be compounded geometrically by the time you get to the last size graded. (This is a particular problem in plus sizes, as the sample size is 16W and you go up from there. Coni Crawford has the right idea to work from a 22W base size.)

    And I am so glad to know you got the books and are finding them interesting.


  2. Rachel says:

    I would love for you (of course it’s crazy work) to put together a short instructional video where you grade just the front bodice from a 5 to 6. There is nothing out there like it and I know that so many people out there (myself!) are visual learners.

    This is a wonderful series. Thank you!

  3. Dr Rekha Sharma says:

    Since girth is really horizontal measures: Kathleen

    Well, girth could also be dealt with by assuming it is a cube (but two faces with different dimensions from the remaining). Does that make grading more accurate?

  4. kathleen says:

    Kite, being a commercial B2B site, the priority is to link to the best sources, not the free sources. If it happens to be both, that’s awesome but it’s usually not. Iow, it’s not a crime that Rekha linked to a pay site (Sage, for academics).

    But in this case Kite, I wouldn’t worry about the article Rekha mentions and don’t agree it is critical (her “Dr.” credentials are not related to sewing). It’s one of many journal articles written saying that the way textbooks say to do grading is wrong (duh, which is why we don’t do it that way) sizing charts in them are wrong (duh, which is why we don’t use them) and lastly, “we” are bad guys because we are not using the standardized sizing charts which were previously deemed wrong. Seriously. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read along these lines. They love love love to throw in references to the Shelton study, how inappropriate and wrong it was and later on, blame garment manufacturers for not following those standards. And no, I’m not kidding.

    In short, why buy this article, likely you can get this article from your closest University library (at least it works that way in the US). They usually have a subscription to Sage. Sage opens their database for free to the public usually for the month of October and I announce it but I doubt but one or two follow up on it. Keep it in mind this Oct.

  5. Cindy Bapst says:

    I am confused on the shoulder. My shoulder measures 4″ on each side. When I go from a small to medium do I increase the shoulder 1/4″?

    Also for the over all arm width. Does the over all sleeve get wider as you go from small to medium?

    Lastly if the third button down measures 9″ for a small how much do I change for a medium.

    Thank you so very much

    • Avatar photo

      Hi Cindy, Unfortunately, I can’t answer this question because I don’t know your total grade per size. These two posts may be helpful:
      What does a 1″ or 2″ grade mean?
      Should you use numbered or lettered sizing?

      But theoretically -following the example in this post -which does not apply to adults as this post is specifically for children’s sizing- you would not put the total grade (or rather, the whole of the 1/4 grade) in the shoulder length. At best, you would put half the grade but most adept practitioners would only put 1/4 (of the 1/4) grade in the shoulder.

      Yes, sleeves get wider (and narrower) depending on the grade. Have you considered hiring a pattern grader? I have to say that this question is distressing. If hiring a grader isn’t an option, might you consider purchasing a book for guidance? I like Handford’s book.

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