Quickly Extend Your Fabric to Fit a Pattern Piece

Quickly Extend Your Fabric to Fit a Pattern Piece

A while ago I shared our favorite knit dress, the Stitch Upon a Time Magnolia, with you. Many times I’ve printed and cut out my pattern just to realize, once I lined the fabric panel up with the paper pattern piece, that the fabric isn’t large enough to entirely cover all the paper. In case you might also have this issue I wanted to share how I’ve gone about solving this by extending the fabric. I’m excited to now share how I extend my custom fabric panels to fit larger pattern pieces to solve this problem.

Pinterest image showing a collage of six images, found below, along with the blog title and my main URL.

When I sew my Magnolia dresses using the custom fabric I’ve purchased from Whimsy Baby Customs it is often commonly slightly too small for the Magnolia’s pattern pieces. Technically, the proper way to extend pattern pieces, in this case, seems to be through color blocking where you cut a paper pattern piece into two, or more, pieces and then add the missing seam allowance to either side of the cut allowing you to use two pieces of fabric, or more with more cuts, out of that single pattern piece. As a quick aside I just looked up the proper way to color block and found this simple Color Blocking for Beginners tutorial by Christina Rotz on 5 out of 4 Patterns’ website. I also found this color blocking overview on Schwin & Schwin; although, instead of adding seam allowance to each cut pattern piece they instead used a one and a half inch wide strip of fabric to sew each cut pattern piece back together, with a 3/8″ seam allowance to make it up, thus making an incredible sweater. I am much too lazy for this, so far, as the kids grow too quickly to justify recalculating the new pattern pieces each time I might want to sew a new dress for them. I, instead, extend the fabric to meet the pattern piece’s size before cutting it out according to the, original, pattern.

Three knit shirts laying on a wooden floor. You can only see a single sleeve of all three. The top is a white short sleeved dinosaur top with a small triangle right before the band at the sleeve. The next two shirts have a long sleeve. The middle blue one has a seam around the armpit while the bottom hearted one has three fabrics showing with the first seam halfway down the arm and another closer to the end where a wide band was added.
All three pictured shirts needed the panel to be extended near the top to fit the sleeves. Both the heart sweater (Rebecca Page Dreamy Drape) and the blue LEGO shirt (Ragamuffin Patterns Firecracker) needed to be extended with a larger piece of fabric to fit a longer sleeve while the one on top, with the dinosaurs (Stitch Upon a Time Magnolia), needed a smaller extension so the end result became a simple small triangle before the band.

I start by marking the fabric with chalk or disappearing ink where the fabric needs to be extended and then sew a coordinating fabric to that spot. Once all the locations that need it on the fabric have been extended I might press the seams so they’re flatter and maybe topstitch the seams down. I then lay out the fabric and cut out my pattern piece as normal. You will need to be careful of the new seam ends where you just cut the seam off as they no longer have a backstitch to keep it together there. After the pattern pieces have been cut I continue by sewing up my pattern according to the instructions. When the kids were younger I didn’t have to extend the pattern pieces as much but as Ada, and then Zoey, grew this happened more and more frequently.

In this example below the fabric panel was a bit too skinny to fit the top of Ada’s bodice’s pattern piece. I had folded the panel in half and lined up the fabric’s fold line with the paper pattern’s marked fold line. I then used my disappearing ink pen to mark the fabric both above and below where the paper pattern extended past the fabric’s edge. I next grabbed some extra fabric, from cutting out Zoey’s bodice earlier, and used my sewing clips to keep the two layers of fabric together, right sides together, covering the marked section. If you have fabric where the horizontal and vertical stretch are different then you’ll want to be careful about which way you line up the extra fabric before sewing them together. If you’re extending the fabric by a lot then having fabric not follow the grainline could change how the pattern fits if that one section is stretching in a way it shouldn’t be or doesn’t stretch as much as the garment needs. Anyway, once the fabric was sewn together I trimmed the excess seam, since I was using my sewing machine at the time, and then pressed the seam down flat. Once I extended the fabric so it stuck out further than the paper pattern piece at all spots I was then able to cut out the pattern piece and continue along following the pattern’s instructions.

Overview showing the folded white panel with the paper pattern laying overtop of it. The top of the sleeve is jutting out over the fabric and doesn't fit. The background of the image shows a cutting mat and ruler.
After folding the fabric panel in half and lining it’s fold edge up along the pattern’s foldline I discovered the paper pattern was slightly too wide for the fabric.
Closeup of the fabric on the cutting mat is shown. You can see wet splotches from dampening the fabric and ironing out the fabric's curl. There are matching black marks where the paper pattern rested.
I used a disappearing ink pen, now I prefer using chalk, to mark where the fabric would need to be extended to fit the paper pattern piece.
Image shows the dinosaur panel, with wet splotches from the spraying the fabric for the iron, with a bit of fabric sewn on on the left and right side. The right side is folded over so you can see the hidden side of the seam while the left side is right side up to see the visible prettier side of the seam.
I took my extra white cotton Lycra scraps, from cutting out the smaller bodice’s panel, and clipped them, right sides facing, to either side of this panel and sewed them on. I made sure to start sewing before the first mark and finished after the second mark so the sewn on bit would definitely be large enough to extend past the paper pattern.
Image shows a closeup of a zigzag seam. The left side of the seam has the fabric curling away from it while the right side shows the excess seam allowance trimmed off with a zigzag pattern. My pinking shears lay above the seam.
Lately I’ve been serging my seams but, before I got my serger, I used to use sewing machine to zigzag stitch all the seams and then trimmed the excess seam allowance so the seam would lay flatter. In addition, whether you sewed the seam or used your serger, you can use your iron to press the seam down.
Image shows a closeup of the shoulder/arm section of the pattern piece laid out over the sewn together fabric so the pattern piece is laying, completely, on the folded over fabric. There are three washers, two decorated with embroidery floss, keeping the pattern piece in place.
Now it’s time to lay out your fabric, as if it is now one piece, and cut it according to your pattern’s instructions. Here I used my pattern weights to keep it in place while I cut.
Image shows the same pattern piece over fabric with washers on it as before but this time the fabric around the pattern piece is cut and pulled away showing the cutting mat underneath it.
To cut the fabric I mostly use my 28 mm rotary cutter now but I used to cut these out with my larger rotary cutter and, before that, fabric scissors. If your seam is too bulky you may want to use your hand to apply more pressure to the top of that section while cutting around the pattern piece so it lays flat and not curved over the fabric’s seam.
Image shows the top of the final cut out pattern piece with the vertical seams on the sleeves and damp patches from the spray bottle when the seams were pressed.
And your pattern piece is now ready to use. In this case I had pressed the seam, hence the water marks, and forgot to trim the seam allowance until after this step thus there’s an extra extended bit.
Image shows a closeup of one end of the zigzag trimmed seam. At the end of the seam there's a clear and pink sewing clip holding the seam flat against the fabric. In the background is the rest of the white knit garment slightly blurred in places.
Whether I pressed the seam or not, at this point, I like to use my sewing clips to hold the seam down at either end before continuing to follow the pattern’s instructions. In addition to stopping the seam from, potentially, unraveling this is a good way to pay attention to where the seams are when you’re sewing past them and keep the seam, hopefully, facing the right way as you go past.
Closeup of the sewn on triangular section of the fabric with a black background. The trianlge is a right angle with the long end, at the bottom, attached to the front bodice to extend the panel. The left side is attached to the back bodice while the hypotenuse is along the sleeve part.
As I continue to sew the rest of the garment I pay attention to the seam so it lays properly, when sewn, and the ends don’t unravel. At this point the top of the bodice, on the left side, was sewn to the back bodice so the top of the seam is now secured while the bottom of the seam isn’t.
Image shows either sleeve, with the shirt folded in half, so you can see where the panel was extended. To the right you see the outside of the extension with a small triangle right before the sleeve's cuff. To the left you can see inside the sleeve showing the seam of that extension.
The finished garment a couple years later after going through many loads of laundry. You can see the triangle of fabric where the panel was extended to allow the sleeves to be as the pattern dictated.

So far I’ve extended several panels to work with my pattern pieces although as time goes on and the kids grow I find I have to extend the panels more and more often. Back in August I sewed two dresses for the girls where Zoey’s panel may have been able to fit,  if finagled, while Ada’s panel in contrast took up more space than the pattern piece had. I didn’t want to cut off any of the design so I decided to combine the two front pattern pieces, mentioned in my recent Magnolia post, thus making the pattern piece much larger than my fabric so I found I had to extend the fabric to fit once again. After laying out the larger pattern pieces over the panels I determined where, based on the pattern pieces, the panels should be positioned and thus I could then determine where and by how much the panels needed to be extended with the coordinating fabric. I was using the same meter of cotton Lycra fabric for both dresses so to simplify the process I attached both panels, side by side, to one end of the coordinating fabric, making sure they were right sides facing, before using my sewing clips to keep them in place. Once sewn I didn’t have to trim my seam allowance, since I used my serger, so I quickly pressed the seam down before laying out the fabric, folded in half, lined up against the paper pattern pieces once again.

Image shows the white school doodle fabric with the top edge clipped to the two panels. The panel on the right is facing right sides up so you can't see the clips while the panel on the left is right side down, against the main fabric, and tilted up showing the clips along the edge.
I laid out my two fabric panels, side by side, facing right sides together against the coordinating school doodles fabric and, after unrolling the curled up edges, clipped them into place together.
Image shows the coordinating black doodle fabric, along the bottom, with the two panels connected at the top. The panel on the left, navy blue with planets, if right side up while the panel on the right, white with a yellow sun surrounded by planets and descriptions, is upside down. The panels are only connected on the one side and not on any other side.
After I sewed them together I opened it up to realize I had placed one of the panels upside down. After deliberating I decided to leave them how they were, pressed the seams, and then lined up the paper pattern piece against them to decided if either panel still needed to be extended or not.

At this point, once I lined up Ada’s fabric and pattern piece together, I found that Ada’s panel still needed to be extended in other locations so I marked again where the paper pattern extended past the fabric and sewed even more coordinating fabric to those spots. Once the fabric extended past the paper pattern it was time to cut out the front of the dress, and the other pattern pieces, before sewing up the dress according to the pattern’s instructions.

Image shows the white panel with blue planets with the bottom curling up and the top, and most of either side, extended by the black fabric with white school-related doodles. Underneath it all is a cutting board.
Ada’s panel ended up being extended along the top and most of either side before it covered the entire paper pattern piece.
Image shows a part of the paper pattern with the fabric, both white and black, extending past the edge of the pattern. Underneath it all sits my cutting mat and above it all sits four of my pattern weights.
After folding the panel, and coordinating fabric, in half and smoothing out the bumps and lumps it was time to lay out the paper pattern overtop, line up the fold lines, place the pattern weights down so it doesn’t move, and cut out the pattern.

Zoey’s extended panel almost fit the dress pattern piece except for a single little section at the end of the sleeve similar to the white dress, shown first, where I added a little bit of fabric to the panel so it reached the whole way across. Since that dress; however, I’ve gotten a bit lazier so instead of extending the panel some more I instead marked on the paper pattern how far the fabric went and folded it up to create a new capped sleeve ending. After laying out the fabric with the paper pattern piece and confirming that the fabric did indeed reach the marking I then cut out the fabric. Since the change wasn’t too much I kept the sleeve band the same without changing it and didn’t have an issue. If you made a larger change at this point of the pattern you may have to recalculate the new band size.

Image shows the cut out front bodice piece, near the sleeve end, with the paper pattern sticking out at the end of the sleeve. Underneath it all sits the cutting mat. You can see my finger holding down part of the sleeve showing how the sleeve reaches the top of the pen mark showing the new sleeve length.
I unrolled the shortest side of the panel and marked, at the top and bottom, how far the fabric reached. Since the edge of the fabric was straight it was easy to use those markings to determine where the new sleeve should end. Once it was marked, and confirmed, it was simple to cut the pattern and fabric along that line.

And that’s how I’ve extended my fabric so it’s large enough for my paper patterns. So far I’ve kept this simple by only doing it with my custom cotton Lycra fabric so all the pieces have the same weight and stretch. I’d imagine it would be more difficult if you’re mixing up different fabric weights or stretches. Whether you’ve done this, are going to try this, or if there’s something related you’d like to share I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Have you ever extended your fabric to fit your pattern piece and if so did you do it differently? I truly hope your week is going well.

If you’re interested in getting any of my future blog updates I currently come out with a new one every Wednesday and share them to my Facebook page and Instagram account. You’re also more than welcome to join my email list located right under the search bar or underneath this post.

Related Posts

Latest Posts