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How do I enlarge or reduce a pattern?

large and small rag dolls - how to enlarge and reduce softie patterns

L.A.C.E over at My Glass House had a great question that I wanted to answer here for everyone. She’s making a bunch of Bartholomew Bunnies and she’s thinking of making a really big version of the bunny next. She asked if I had ever made one.

No, I haven’t. But I have enlarged and reduced other patterns and there IS a trick to it.

The first thing you need to do is mark off the seam allowance. When you enlarge the rest of the pattern you do not want to also enlarge the seam allowance. So – on almost all of my pattern the seam allowance is 1/4 inch. Use a ruler or a seam gauge and measure in 1/4 inch all the way around all the pattern pieces. Draw in all those seam allowance lines. Basically, what you’re doing is drawing the stitching lines in. (On many of my patterns those stitching lines are already drawn. It’s the dashed line.)

Now you can enlarge or reduce to your heart’s content. Make a ginormous bunny or a teeny tiny bear. You can either scan your marked-up pieces into your computer and enlarge and reduce in your favorite photo editing software, or you can take it to a copy shop and do it on a photocopy machine. Enlarge or reduce all the pieces by the same percent.

Next you need to add the seam allowance back on to your pattern pieces. Go all the way around the edge of each piece with a ruler or hem gauge making little marks at 1/4 inch, then connect all those little dots. Cut out your pattern pieces and sew!

One thing to be aware of – you may need to tweak the pattern a bit after enlarging or reducing. Proportions that seem just fine in the original model can look weirdly offย  – especially after enlarging. And those weird proportions can look even weirder after stuffing. For really simple blobby shapes like my bunny and bear you should be fine. But you might run into problems with something like a rag doll where the skinniness of the neck, or example, might be thrown off when you scale up or down. So if you’re working with a more complicated pattern – especially one with skinny parts and wide parts – you might want to make a sample up in a muslin (or other cheap fabric) first so you can check for problems. Draw on any details instead of stitching them, and be sure to stuff it too! Stuffing changes all the proportions.

You don’t want to do what I did here. I know better, but I did it anyway. I designed a pirate doll. I did all the time-consuming applique and hand stitching on his face and his outfit. It was looking good the whole way – until I stuffed him. Suddenly his head looked really tall and skinny (it looked even worse in person) and he was just. . . weird. Grrr!!! When in doubt, always make a muslin.

Hope that answers your question! Have fun!


  1. TY so much for the answer! Now as soon as I get this one done I’m moving on to a big one. I’m determined! And I love your Pirate. Is it wrong to really like the big head? lol

  2. Thanks L.A.C.E. Someday I’ll do a pattern for the pirate. But after doing all the initial embroidery and applique work is was so disheartening to have the stuffing FAIL that I just made notes and put all the pattern pieces away for a while. A little boy I know loved him in spite of his malformed head and gave him a good home – so he made SOMEBODY happy. Just not me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Great advice (as always!)

    and I too love your Pirate. Pirates are goofy fellers so looking a little askew is goo – if one is a Pirate!

  4. I really like your pirate too! His big head is adorable!! I don’t think you made a mistake with him, but you missed a design opportunity!! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Yes, please go back and make the pattern!!

  5. OK you guys! I’ve added the pirate to the pattern queue. Now I’ll HAVE to get out my notes and see what I can do about that had. I wanted it big – but it ended up weirdly sausage-like.

  6. mONA SAYS...

    Hi Wendy,

    I like the pirate! yes, make it!