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Whether you're a new or seasoned historical costumer, no doubt you've run across books with scaled patterns such as Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion series. You've also probably wondered how in the world you can get these patterns up to full size to use them. This article will hopefully help you do that using one of the many methods out there.

This is my method only, and it may not work for you, especially if you don't have ready access to a photocopy machine (Xerox). However, even if you don't have one in your home or workplace, you can go to places like Kinko's and do the same there.

The first thing I do is photocopy the page that I'm sizing up as I will be cutting it apart (and obviously you don't want to cut your book up!). I then need to determine what percentage to enlarge the pattern to. Most scaled patterns are 1 square = 1 inch, but double check to be sure before proceeding. I usually cut a small piece of the grid (or scale in the case of patterns from Norah Waugh's books) and enlarge it until the squares equal the correct measurement (always have a ruler handy for this). For Janet Arnold, it's usually around 800% or so. I then cut the scaled pieces out of the photocopied page and draw reference lines on them so that I can match the various pieces up once it's all enlarged (my copier is only able to handle 8.5"x11" paper). I then copy each piece one at a time, using the correct percentage I ascertained earlier.

Once you've done this with your pieces, it's time to assemble them back into garment pieces. Unless you're machine can do a larger paper sheet (places like Kinko's usually offer larger sheets), you'll have to tape the pieces back together, using the reference lines you drew to match everything up correctly. Tedious, yes. ;) Once I've done that, I usually trace the patterns onto white 'banner' paper (usually found in the packaging section of office supply stores or Wal Mart). Though you have it sized up to the original size(remember these garments were made for people that were of a certain size and usually corseted), you still need to grade it up to your size. Jennie Chancey has a wonderful article on grading patterns on her site, Sense and Sensibility.

There are a few flaws to this method. Firstly, it is highly impractical for enlarging skirts. To do that, I would recommend using gridded paper (or interfacing) to enlarge the skirts or just wing it and measure the shape onto a large piece of banner paper. Secondly, it is a tedious method that might not work for everyone. Below is a list of other methods I've heard and read about for enlarging scaled patterns:

--Grid Paper Method: uses paper with 1" grid to enlarge the pattern by free-hand drawing the pattern shapes on the paper.

--Projector Method: Uses a projection monitor to project the pattern pieces onto a piece of paper tacked onto the wall; I've heard it's very easy to scale the pattern up to your size this way.

--Computer Program Method: Uses a computer 'paint' program like MS Paint to enlarge the pattern.

I've only tried two out of three of these methods with mixed results. When working with scaled patterns, you have to find a method of resizing that you're comfortable with and works for you. I encourage those who haven't used scaled patterns to at least give one of these methods a try-it's well worth the effort!


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Books to Read

Patterns of Fashion: 1560-1660 by Janet Arnold

Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860 by Janet Arnold

Patterns of Fashion 2: 1860-1940 by Janet Arnold

Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction & Pattern, 1750-1790 by Linda Baumgarten

Period Costumes for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress, Medieval-1500 by Jean Hunnisett

Period Costumes for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress, 1500-1800 by Jean Hunnisett

Period Costumes for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress, 1800-1909 by Jean Hunnisett

Corsets & Crinolines by Norah Waugh

The Cut of Men's Clothes: 1600-1900 by Norah Waugh

The Cut of Women's Clothes: 1600-1930 by Norah Waugh

Everyday Dress of Rural America: 1783-1800 by Merideth Wright