#Dakotasewalong: Altering the Pattern.

Is unlikely your measurements will fit perfectly every pattern so you may need to alter the Dakota to accommodate your body shape. Today we will talk about two types of alterations: Fitting alterations and customisations. 
Named patterns are drafted for a taller audience (1.72 cm) but is not only height that influences the design. Different body types and age are a huge influence. Two completely different bodies can fit the “same pattern size” with completely different results.
To start, get your measurement table and your muslin notes. Have measured yourself lately? I don’t want you to work with an old measurements table, so no excuse now. Go and measure yourself if you haven’t yet. You may think some measurements won’t never change. They do. Back in 2009 my front body measurement was 51 cm, now is 47cm. Posture and lifestyle, friends.
What you need:
Paper scissors, pins, tape, pencil, eraser, highlighter, ruler and pattern paper.
Tip: Magic tape by 3M is my favourite tape to alter patterns as allows you to write on top.
General guidelines:
Alteration of one piece will require you to alter the adjoining pieces. Do always the major alterations first, than on the pieces affected.
The slashing lines are generally drawn parallel of perpendicular to the lengthwise grain 
Slashing lines are usually located between side seams and darts to preserve grainline.

When we change or distort a line, they must be returned to original state, we call it ‘trued’ the pattern.

Lengthening and shortening:

Front pattern:
1& 2: Both Bellow the collar notch trace a cutting line. Please ensure that the collar facing is also market with a line on the exactly same spot (height/distance). Cut the line as carefully as possible.
3: Lengthen: Place the pattern paper behind the tissue and spread the pattern pieces apart to leave a gap of the required amount. Make sure the gap is level along the cutting lines.

Sewing trick: I draw two straight lines on my extra paper with the distance I need to add. Then I secure the top part of the pattern by taping on a straight line. With the distance already mark, I only need to place the bottom pattern on the second line. To help match the pattern perfectly after spreading, before cutting I draw on my pattern pieces two long vertical lines. Those will guide where the bottom ones should be placed. 

4: True your darts, front and side seams.

Top tip: If the amount you have to increase is a lot, my advice is to balance the increase creating two horizontal lines and spreading them equally by sharing the increase amount. 

Back pattern:
1: Both Locate the lengthening/shortening line. Trace it with a highlighter if needed.
2: Lengthen: Cut through the lengthening line following the line carefully.
4: Lengthen: Place the pattern paper behind the tissue and spread the pattern pieces apart to leave a gap of the required amount. Make sure the gap is level along the cutting lines.
3:  Shortener: Fold the amount required to shortener the pattern piece.
Both: True the darts and grainline from dot to dot using a ruler to ensure your lines are straight.

If you need to alter your shoulders width, enlarge or reduce the neck dart size.

Althering both front and back skirt patterns

1: Both Locate the lengthening/shortening line from all the 4 pattern pieces (3,4,5,6). Trace the line with a highlighter if needed.
2:  Shortener: Fold the amount required to shortener the pattern piece.
3: Lengthen: Cut through the lengthening line following the line carefully.Place the pattern paper behind the tissue and spread the pattern pieces apart to leave a gap of the required amount. Make sure the gap is level along the cutting lines.
4: Both:  True your darts and grainline.

Attention:  The same amount added or reduced must be used in all 4 skirt patterns pieces.

Sleeve Alteration 

Exactly same principle we been working above of slashing and spreading or folding on the alteration line.

A few alterations regarding specific fitting issues.

Excess fabric on the back: On your muslin pleat and pin out the excess fabric parallel to the centre back seam. Measure the excess and alter the centre back seam.

Bagginess on the back near the neckline; Measure the excess and reduce the amount needed. You can also increase or decrease the dart to remove the excess.

Shoulders alterations prep: Draw a vertical line 20 cm (8 in) long from the middle of the shoulder line.  For the dakota it means the centre of the back dart. Next draw a second line horizontally from the end of this line to the armhole.

Broad shoulders:Cut along the line (dart centre) and spread the pieces apart to accommodate the increase of shoulder length. Place paper underneath, tape in place and redraw the shoulder line and dart.

Narrow shoulders: Cut along the draw line (dart centre). Slide the cut out piece in to overlap the cut edges and reduce the shoulder length. Tape the pattern and redraw the shoulder line and the back dart.


Part of my customisation was to increase the collar size. The alteration was super simple, I just double the under-collar section until the break point {where the collar folds}. How much to add is really a personal choice but I wouldn’t increase more than the double of the original size mainly to keep the proportions.  If you would like to understand more about shawl collars, I recommend reading Threads article. Than I traced my facing including my increase.

Some of you enquired if you needed to change the pattern to raise the neckline. The answer is “no”. When you sew the original bodice front you will stop at the breaking point. You only need to raise the breaking point higher to where you want to have your dress finished.

A small disclaimer: Besides the most know & used method of slashing and spreading, some instructions are based on my personal experience. There are other methods and techniques available that can be more suitable or professional so do feel free to follow what best suit your needs.