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"Lengthen or Shorten Here" Line

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Have you even wondered about those double lines on some of our patterns labeled “Lengthen or Shorten Here”? Seeing these lines on the pattern is a good indication that you should change the length of the pattern only at that point rather than at the bottom of the pattern piece. This is to avoid changing the fit or the construction of the garment.

So when CAN you just change the pattern at the bottom of the piece? Sometimes, changing the length of a garment is as simple as adding or subtracting some fabric at the bottom of the skirt. This will work when the skirt piece looks like a rectangle. These skirts are usually gathered.

If you need to adjust the length of a bodice for design purposes or to fit a long-waisted child, the same principle applies. When the sides of the bodice pieces are straight down and NOT slanted, adding or subtracting length can be done at the bottom of the bodice pieces. (Note: Significantly changing the bodice length for a child who is very short or very tall for their size requires further changes.)

On the other hand, A-line garments and other pieces with cutting lines that are slanted (as compared to the grain line) require a different method of alteration. With these pieces, the length must be changed in the middle of the piece. Here’s when the “Lengthen or Shorten Here” lines will help. These lines appear on A-line garments, like Julia or Allie. You also will see them on sleeves and pants. Sometimes, an A-line garment won’t have a lengthen/shorten line, like Lucy or Aprons. When this happens, you can make your own line. Simply draw a horizontal line across the pattern piece about halfway down the A-line section.


Pattern piece to change Tissue or copy paper Scissors for cutting paper Tape or pins Pen/pencil Straight edge or ruler


1. Decide how much you want to change the length of the pattern.

2. Cut your pattern piece along the “Lengthen or Shorten Here” line. I like to try to cut between the two little lines because I’m a perfectionist, but it really doesn’t matter. For these photos, I copied a pattern piece onto white paper to make it easier to see. In these examples, I am showing a 1” change to the bodice of an A-line bodice.

3. Move the pieces as needed toward or away from each other. Make sure that the cut edges stay PARALLEL to each other (the same distance apart all the way across).

4. To shorten, overlap the pieces the required amount. Tip: to shorten a pattern piece, you can fold the excess length out instead of cutting and overlapping.

5. To lengthen, put a piece of paper/tissue under the pattern. Spread the pieces apart the amount you need to lengthen and tape to the paper.

6. Measure to confirm that your pattern is now the correct length.

7. Notice that the lines you cut across may no longer meet. Using your straight edge, connect one end of the original line to the other end of the original line. You may need to attach some paper underneath. Your pattern will look similar to this now (the close-up in the second photo gives you a better look at the new lines):

Always remember to make the same changes to the back pieces as you do to the front pieces! A good way to check that you’ve done both the front and the back evenly is to confirm that the side seams match.

Success! You are now ready to cut and mark your fabric with your new pattern pieces.

Technique by Anne Friedland

Click the printer icon below for printable version.


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