How I “Petite” Patterns

Full disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. That means, at zero additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through the link and make a purchase.

I don’t like using patterns. Weird, right?

But, before you get any wrong ideas, let me explain:

I am short. And, I am also lazy. Both things have absolutely nothing to do with how I feel about pattern makers or their abundant skills. In fact, I believe that so many talented pattern makers are currently producing beautiful and creative styles. But, regardless of the great work that pattern makers breathe into existence, I am still short. And, I am still lazy.

I can now look at any pattern and see exactly where I am short and where the pattern will be too long. And I can begrudgingly sense the amount of time it will take to make petite adjustments. Initially, learning how to make petite adjustments was a huge challenge. The “knowing” is still a mountain to climb, but just not as daunting. But now, the true challenge is finding the motivation to do the grunt work and actually make petite adjustments.

Hopefully what I teach in this post will help you with your “petiting”. Most of what I do as my petite protocol before ever cutting into fabric was learned through trial and error. So much trial and so many errors. But, I have gotten it down to a process (and I just need to motivate myself to do it).

Jalie 3134 – The One Piece Racerback Swimsuit

If you’ve been following along with my posts, you know that I broke my arm at the very beginning of this year. I’m pretty limited in the activities that I can participate in (such as the things I freakishly love like volleyball and tennis), so I decided to take up lap swimming for cardio.

Also, if you know me, you know that I’m always in a two-piece bikini. I have resisted making one-pieces because I just knew I would have to make length adjustments. Did I tell you I’m lazy?

But, now that I’m taking up swimming, I thought now is a good time to conquer my apprehension and my laziness. So I chose to make the Jalie Racerback Swimsuit. I love how it resembles the super athletic swimwear worn by Olympic swimmers. If I can’t swim well, at least I could try to look the part. (Just indulge my hopefulness, won’t ya? lol)

My “Petiting” Process

This swim pattern involves a lot of pieces. I do suggest using a simpler pattern for your first round of “petiting”. Heck, you might even find that you won’t need to make any petite adjustments! Just in case you do have to make adjustments, feel free to try out my method:

  1. Identify the shoulder line, bustline, waistline and low hip line of your pattern. With Jalie 3134, the notch marks on many of the pieces corresponded with these landmarks. After identifying your landmarks, draw horizontal lines on all the pieces that correspond with your landmarks.
Figure 1

2. On your pattern, measure and record the depths between the landmarks. Then, subtract any seam allowances (most notably at the shoulder seam).

Figure 2

3. Next, measure and record your body’s depths:

Figure 3

4. Now compare the pattern measurements to your body measurements. Before comparing, first subtract a “shoulder drop” value from the pattern’s shoulder-to-waistline measurement. A common industry standard measurement for shoulder drop is 1 5/8″. In other words, this is your formula:

Shoulder to waistline – 1 5/8″ (shoulder drop) = Pattern center front waist length

Compare that value with your body’s center front waist length.

Move on to compare the remaining pattern and body measurements. Did you come up with any discrepancies?

Typically, my body’s center front waist length is anywhere between 1 1/2″ to 1 5/8″ shorter than the pattern’s measurement (depending on the pattern company). And that difference is usually distributed between the B and C sectors in Figure 3. In other words, I almost always have to raise the pattern’s bustline as well as raise the waistline.

For this pattern, I didn’t have to raise the low hip line. But I normally do for leggings patterns.

Now, what do you do next after making these comparisons?

5. Slice the pattern!

Figure 4

Make sure to cut the pattern at areas with the least amount of curvature. Blending (i.e. truing) the pattern will be so much easier that way.

Draw a straight line all the way through the center of your pattern and perpendicular to the landmarks. Then, start from the top and work your way to the bottom. Imagine that you have to shorten your pattern between the same landmarks as I do:

First, start between the shoulder and the bustline. Raise the bustline by the amount that agrees with your body’s measurement by sliding it along that vertical center line that you drew. Then, tape your pieces together and true up the pattern. Re-measure the center front waist length of the pattern.

Second, raise the waistline by cutting your pattern in between the bustline and the waistline landmarks. Again, slide the bottom piece along that vertical line. Tape and true.

et Voila!

The scenario described above was exactly what I had to do for Jalie 3134. I initially chose pattern size S because it matched very closely to my current body. But, after making the flat pattern measurements, I knew it would end up being too long.

It was also a little too wide through my waist and bust. However, after reducing the width of the back band, I couldn’t get the damn thing over my thighs and hips! So I had to split the back band and use a swim hook to close the back.

Another pattern adjustment I made was adding a built in shelf bra. I did a tutorial on this a while ago, so check it out here: How to Add a Padded Shelf Bra

After petiting, I believe I achieved the fit that I wanted. But, what I truly love about my new swimsuit is the fabric!

I’ve been eyeballing Phee’s Insane in the Membrane fabric since summer 2018, but never knew what to make with it. I couldn’t resist the fabric’s beckoning any longer, so I decided it will be perfect with my Jalie suit. Let me just say that I am so impressed with the quality of Insane in the Membrane. It feels luxe and has the thickness that I search for in swim fabrics.

I wanted to add a punch of color, so I chose the Phee’s Neon Yellow Tricot.

In the past, I’ve had terrible luck with neon swim fabrics. They would bleed all over everything once wet. As soon as I got Phee’s Neon Yellow Tricot, I cut a 2″ x 2″ swatch, soaked it in water and laid it over a piece of white cotton jersey fabric. I checked on it the next morning, and guess what?

No bleeding! I’m so thrilled to have finally found a neon fabric that doesn’t bleed! My ’80s baby heart is ssssanging, y’all!

Materials List:

Final Thoughts

We sew our own things because we want to get the best fit, right? My process doesn’t account for FBA or SBA, and doesn’t go into the width adjustments that I also make. But, I’ve found that it’s typically in the vertical measurements where I fall short (get it?). So hopefully my petiting method will help someone out there achieve a better fit. Talk to you, soon!

Love always,


4 thoughts on “How I “Petite” Patterns

  1. Love love love it! Im 5’ on a big hair day, but am not really ‘small’ anywhere else. I joke that I’m petite, not fragile 😝 I’ve had pretty great success splitting the height difference at the waist and hem of tops or knee and hem of pants, but now I’m realizing a couple instances your method would’ve better suited. A sports bra for instance: the front will fit perfect with the right amount of support IF I pull the band down in the back about 2 inches below its intended spot 😂sounds like a shoulder to bust issue. Thank youuuu!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I’m short chested on top of having little boobs lmao. So pulling down a top through the back or front makes it look like I am wearing pillowcases on my boobs haha! I almost always have to make shoulder to bust adjustments. And don’t be mad at me, but I’m totally gloating over being taller than you lmao


  2. I love this article, thank you! I was wondering not only do us short people, ( 5’2” ) need to adjust the length of patterns, I have noticed that the width, is a problem for me. I have very narrow shoulders and some patterns just aren’t working for me. One such one is the racer back style tanks, bras, or swim. I made the size according to my measurements and I have more than an inch bulg of fabric in the back. I haven’t done much pattern altering, I get so frustrated at this point I seem to just give up. I really would like to be able to have a nice tank top to wear to the gym any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration to my question. Kathry


    • Hi Kathryn! Great question! Yes, petite women are also generally more narrow than our taller counterparts! But I honestly forgot about width because I kind of bulked up due to weight lifting and sometimes have to increase width across my back lol.

      I can’t remember where I read this general rule (and it’s something I recorded in my “sewing journal” but forgot to write down the source) but here it goes:

      If you are looking at the front pattern piece and the back pattern piece –

      1. Decrease shoulder width by 1/4″ (apply that decrease to each front and back piece)
      2. Decrease bust by 1/4″ (apply that decrease to each front and back piece)
      3. Waist decrease may also need to be 1/4″ (both front and back piece)

      These decreases are typically applied to woven bodices, so it’ll vary and take some experimentation with stretch fabrics.

      For the tops that you have already made, I think the best route to take (rather than using the above guesses) is to measure the excess that you’re able to pinch out. Try to distribute that excess to the front and back (doesn’t have to be equal) and pin out as much as it takes in both the front and back till you get a fit that you like. You’ll definitely need help with the back.

      Then measure what you’ve pinned out.

      I might have to do a blog post, but I hope that makes sense!


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