A Guide to Patternmaking Tools

Posted by Christine Haynes

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Like in any activity, gathering the proper tools for the job will make each step along the way better, more accurate, and more enjoyable. Think of your kitchen; it's hard to make a smoothie without a blender. It's possible, but the end result won't be quite as good and it will be ten times harder than it would have been if you just had a blender in the house! Same goes with all things sewing related. Without the proper tools each task is harder and potentially lengthier.

In patternmaking, you will be fitting your body, making muslins, drafting patterns, and doing all kinds of things that seemingly do not have anything to do with sewing. So because of that, it requires many tools that are not always in the sewist's tool kit. Below is a guide of some of the items you will want to have on hand when getting into patternmaking.

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A: Tape Measure

This is likely something you already have in your stash, because if you have been making clothing you should have been measuring your body along the way! If not, pick up a good quality fiberglass tape measure today so you can start your patternmaking off right with correct body measurements.

B: Seam Ripper

Like the tape measure, you probably have a seam ripper. You will use this in patternmaking for taking out your basting stitches when you move from the muslin fitting to the pattern drafting stage.

C: Fine Point Sharpie Marker

Muslin versions are always ugly because they are marked up, but you want to make your markings with a permanent and fine point. I like these push-button fine point sharpie pens as the cap always seems to get lost in my studio! These are quick and easy to use.

D: Tracing Wheel

To take your markings from the muslin stage to the patternmaking stage, this tool will pierce through the paper and leave behind marks to draft with a mechanical pencil.

E: Rotary Cutter

I like using my rotary cutter for the big broad strokes of cutting muslin. Make sure to use a cutting mat beneath your item to protect the cutting surface of the table underneath!

F: Fabric Scissors

Sharp, high-quality scissors are used for all your fabric cutting in sewing and patternmaking. These will shape the muslin down to the proper size after you have cut it big and broad with the rotary cutter.

G: Tracing Paper

I personally do not use this, but many designers like it for leaving marks behind on their muslins. I like a sharpie or tracing wheel, but try these sheets out and perhaps you will love them! Many people do.

H: Scotch Tape

It is inevitable that you will need to tape pattern pieces together and I find that basic Scotch tape is the best for this.

patternmaking tools group 2

I: Clear Rulers

Having a variety of clear rulers in different shapes and sizes is essential in your kit for patternmaking. I like having a little one for marking in tiny areas, long ones for making marks for pin tucks, side seam lines, and other parts of the patternmaking process that call for something longer than average. I also have a quilting square with diagonal lines for helping square up corners and creating angles.

J: Right Angle

This is also a huge help in creating perfect 90 degree angles on your pattern. These are also available in clear plastic, which most people prefer. I have had this black one since art school and still use it.

K: Curved Rulers

To shape arm holes, hip curves, hems and other lines that are not straight in patternmaking, it is essential that you have a few different curved rulers to get the proper slope in your pattern.

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In addition to all of these items, you will need your basic sewing tools like pins, sewing machine, thread, muslin, chalk pencils, and paper scissors. A dress form and mirror can also be very handy for fitting assistance.

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