Radial Grading

by Ramona on June 14, 2017

This blog is in the Top 100 Sewing Blogs on the web! (#72 this week!)

Radial Grading, also known as Radial Projection, fascinates me. I learned about it years ago in college but I’ve not used this method in years. I began to wonder……could even remember how to do it? Sometimes I wonder why pattern companies don’t do this for commercial patterns—they used to years and years ago. It certainly would save a lot of paper and printing; but, it does require a little more effort on the part of the user. During the first part of the last century and before, magazines were printed with fashion illustrations and included were tiny little pattern templates of the pattern pieces needed for the garment all on a page or two. The fashion illustrated on the page was sewn from the pattern drafted from those tiny templates–clever, isn’t it! Honestly, once learned, the method can be used for any pattern and for any size as long as the pattern template is accurately drafted and printed.

This method is not new. The “Lady’s Godey” magazines used illustrated fashion “plates” and often included the patterns to make the garments. The University of Vermont has an extensive collection of Lady’s Godey books; they have scanned excerpts of patterns and illustrations.

Some full editions may be found online in the Hathi Trust Collection.

Costume makers use this method. It just requires using the template (small scale pattern) of a pattern piece and a ratio method to draft a pattern to full scale, as seen in this video.



There are many costuming books available with pattern templates, for example, by Dover Publications.

Not only can patterns be graded up, but they can be graded down using this method, as demonstrated by Don McCunn.


Using this method is all about “ratios”. I know math can make some of us crazy, because it feels like this Ma and Pa Kettle method of math.


But truly, it is not that hard or complicated. Just use the ratio of the pattern to the person as illustrated in the videos, and go to it!

How would this come in handy? Well, if you create a sloper for yourself, you can radial grade it down to a quarter or half scale pattern. Because it is a “personal” sloper, you already know it fits. It is sometimes easier to design in quarter or half scale either by flat pattern or draping on a half or quarter scale form. Once a newly design pattern in quarter or half scale is finalized, then all you’d have to do is radial grade the final pattern up and you’d have an actual full-size pattern in your size–how wonderful is that! Now, it won’t be “perfect”.  There will still be some alterations depending upon the accuracy of your drafting, radial grading, and also the fabric used for the garment—there is always tweaking and editing as we know. You’ll be able to determine alterations while making a mock-up of the garment.

There are companies that have taken this method of pattern making and made companies. For instance: The Sunburst Pattern System,The Dot Pattern System, and Lutterloh—hot here in the U.S. in the 1980’s–they called it the”Golden Rule” system of pattern making.

Can you begin to see how beneficial this type of pattern making would be? Mr. Mc Cunn has a downloadable and printable PDF of  “scale” rulers used in his video at the bottom of the page—print them and try this method.

I think this might be a fun Neighborhood Group project for an ASG chapter, don’t you?

Sew ‘til next time…enjoy the journey of sewing!


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