Transferring pattern changes from toile to pattern


Last week I showed you how to make a toile, and what you should be looking for when fitting. In today's post, I will show you how to transfer changes from toile to pattern.

Lowering the neckline

The first change that I will show you is how to lower the neckline of The Rushcutter. I am all about the high neck on this dress, but I understand that it's not for everyone. If you'd prefer it to be slightly lower (or even drastically lower) it's not a difficult alteration to make. 

To start, take the sleeve pattern and the centre front panel pattern piece, and put them together. Place one sewing line over the other, so you can see how the pieces fit together when they are sewn. You will notice that on The Rushcutter sewing pattern, both the stitching line and the cutting line are marked, so that making pattern alterations is a little simpler. 

Work out how much you would like to lower the neckline by, by taking the measurement from your toile (measuring down the centre front) and mark it on your pattern piece. Make sure you measure it from the stitch line rather than the edge of the pattern. For the example, I only lowered the neckline at the front, but if you would also like to lower the neckline at the back, place a mark on your centre back too.

Before redrawing the neckline, you will need to fold the dart (so you can get the neckline all in one piece). The easiest way to do this is by placing the dart point on the corner of the table like this. The dart fullness should be folded towards the back.

Starting at the point you marked on the centre front, re-draw the neckline with a smooth curve, gradually easing back into the original neckline (unless you are also lowering the neckline at the back, in which case you will want your new neckline to meet with the point you marked on the centre back).

Before unfolding the dart, take a tracing wheel and trace over the new neck curve at the dart. This will transfer the correct neck shaping onto your dart. If you need some extra help with this, check out this tutorial. You will now just need to add seam allowance to the neckline and you are good to go!

Add or remove volume

The next thing I'm going to show you is how to use the cut and spread technique to add or remove volume from The Rushcutter. You may want to use this technique on the body of the dress, or maybe even the sleeve. 

If you have never used the method of cutting and spreading before, this example will basically show you how to do it. If you want to see it in more detail, check back on the blog later this week, as I am planning to do a post on this technique.

Pattern alterations are much easier to manage if your pattern does not have seam allowance. Remove the seam allowance from the pattern you are altering, or trace a copy of the pattern piece without seam allowance. This is really easy to do with The Rushcutter pattern as the stitch line is marked for you.

1. Draw two vertical lines through the pattern, which will cut the pattern into three equal-ish parts (this does not have to be exact).

2. Starting with one of the lines, cut up from the hemline towards the top of the pattern. Do not cut all the way through the pattern, leave a 1-2mm "hinge." The hinge will give you the freedom to move the parts of the pattern easily, but will still keep the pieces together. Repeat for the second line. 

3. Place the pattern on top of a piece of pattern paper, slightly larger than the pattern piece. Spread the pieces apart, by the desired amount, being careful to distribute the width evenly. When you are happy, tape (or glue) the pieces down carefully.

4. Redraw the hemline with a smooth curve. If the opposite edge has changed shape too drastically you should also re-draw the line.


The method is the same for reducing volume, you just need to close the cut and spread line, rather than open it.

Shortening pattern

There are two ways of shortening a pattern - the first is to simply remove some length from the hem of the pattern. This method is often used when a garment has been made up and then once it can be tried on and fitted, the length is determined.

The other method is to shorten the pattern piece by removing the length from inside the pattern piece. By using this method, the overall shape of the pattern piece will not be lost.

For this method, you first need to find the 'length and shorten line,' on the pattern piece you would like to shorten. I am using the sleeve from The Rushcutter as an example, but this method can be used on any of the pattern pieces.

Cut along the line to create two separate pieces.

Think about how much length you would like to remove from your pattern piece. Mark this distance on one side of the pattern, measuring from the cut line. Marking this point on the grainline will help ensure the mark remains perpendicular to the cut line. 

Draw a perpendicular line through this point, extending to either side of the pattern piece. 

Move the unmarked pattern piece (in this case, the lower part of the sleeve) to line up with the perpendicular line just drawn, and tape (or glue) in place. 


You can now redraw the seam lines on each side of your pattern with a straight line (or a curve, if your pattern piece has curved seams).

Lengthening a pattern

For lengthening a pattern piece, the concept is exactly the same. Cut up through the 'lengthen and shorten line' and separate the pattern into two pieces.

Open the pattern pieces by the amount you want to lengthen your pattern piece by. Tape a piece of pattern paper onto the back ofthe pieces to fill the gap.

Redraw the side seams with a straight line, and you are done!

I think that's enough pattern altering for today's post, in the next post I'll show you how to slim down the dress by removing some width from the side panel, move the dart on the raglan sleeve (View A), move the shoulder seam (View B) and adjust the pocket.

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How to (and why) make a toile


At this point in the Rushcutter sew-along, I thought it would be a good time to talk about toiling.

What is a toile?

A toile (also known as a ‘muslin’) is basically a draft version of a garment. A toile is normally made from a cheaper fabric, so that you can test the fit of a particular garment before cutting into your real (and normally more expensive) fabric. 

It is best to choose a fabric to toile in, that is similar to what you plan to make the actual garment in. If you are using a lovely sandwashed silk, then you will need something with a similar handle and drape as the silk, so you can get a good idea of what the final garment will look like. Making a winter coat? Choose something with a similar thickness and drape.



While I was developing The Rushcutter I made countless toiles. Many of them are ‘wearable toiles’ – meaning that I used a cheapish fabric and finished them properly, but expected to need to make some small adjustments. This way I could wear them around for a few days, and see how each dress really felt out in the wild! 

Why should I toile?

We all come in different shapes and sizes, and although I may have the same measurements as the girl next to me, this does not at all mean we have the same body shape. Some of us may have a sway back, forward sitting shoulders (that’s me!), narrow shoulders, longer legs etc. By doing a toile, you can quickly see if any adjustment needs to be made. As you sew more garments for yourself, you will get better at knowing what to look for, as you will often notice the same fitting problem across the board. 

How do I make a toile?

Make up the dress in your chosen toiling fabric. You don’t have to add facings, collars or pockets etc. I never bother with buttonholes or zips when I toile, I just pin the opening closed when it’s on.

You just want to check the overall fit of the garment, so you will only need the main pattern pieces. There is no need to even finish the seams! Mark the position of pockets so you can check pocket placement, without actually having to sew them.

When sewing, consider using a long stitch length, so that you can quickly and easily unpick any seams that need to be altered. You can also use a contrasting thread to make it even easier to see your stitches. As you will not be adding binding around the neckline and armhole of The Rushcutter, make sure you trim back the seam allowance (1cm) so you can get an accurate idea of how it will look when it’s finished. 

What’s next?

Try it on, get in front of the mirror and take a look! Is it sitting like it should? How does it feel? Can you sit down comfortably? Can you raise your hands in the air without showing off too much booty? Is it hanging properly? Does it feel too tight in any areas?

If you do need to make some changes, then take a pen (or fabric marker / chalk) and draw the changes directly onto the toile.  

Check the neckline


For example, if the neckline is too high, then draw where you would like the neckline to be. If you are toiling in a darker fabric, or making a wearable toile (like I was), then use masking tape to indicate problem areas and mark the changes on that. I also like to use tape to write notes on the toile, if needed.


Use a tape measure, or ruler, to make note of any distances / measurements. You can write them directly on the toile (like I do) or write them on a piece of paper. 

Focus on the overall fit


If it feels too big, pin out some of the excess fabric in the side seams and / or centre back.


If the dress feels too wide in the body of the dress, pin out the excess in the centre of the SIDE PANEL. Remember, if you bring the dress in at the side, you will also need to reduce the width of the sleeve, as these two pieces join together. 

On the contrary, if an area is too tight, cut into the fabric and use pins to fill the gap with a separate piece of fabric.

Check the length


Check the length – does it need to be lengthened or shortened? Place a pin horizontally at your ideal length (or take note of how much longer you would like to make it).

Is the hem sitting straight?

You will see in the image above that the hem lifts slightly at the front - this could be a sign of needing to do a full bust adjustment (my dummy has quite large breasts for her size!) The same goes for the back. If the hem is lifting at the back, you may need to add some length to the pattern.

Focus on the placement / position of design details 


Check the pocket placement (whether it is with actual pockets or just markings of where they are) and make note of any changes required.

Check dart placement / shoulder seams


For View A, check the placement of the shoulder dart. Does it sit on your shoulder and finish at the peak of your shoulder? You will see in the image above, that the dart sits slightly back from the shoulder line. 


To mark the change I required, I used masking tape to draw in the new dart position (being sure to also mark the dart point).

For View B, check that the shoulder seam lies on your shoulder. Re-draw the shoulder seam if you feel it needs to be further forward or back.

Check the sleeves


Have you got enough room in the sleeve to bend your elbow? Is the length of the sleeve right?

All done. Now what?

If you have made a lot of changes, you may need to make another toile to check the fit again. If the changes are minor (shortening or lengthening, moving the shoulder dart, changing the neckline etc.) then you will probably be fine to skip making a second toile.

In the next post I will show you how to go about transferring these changes to your pattern!

I'd love to know, do any of you always make a toile? I must say, I'm a bit cheeky and skip it sometimes (I do often regret it though!) 

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