Pattern drafting can seem like a daunting task, but the thrill of being able to create your own patterns is unmatched.
If you’d like to experiment with pattern drafting, here are some tips:
1. Skip the software.
First and foremost, don’t feel like you have to invest in pattern drafting software. Although it can be fun to use, it also tends to be expensive and might not be worth the cost for the casual pattern drafter. You can achieve similar results drafting by hand with a few basic tools and a bit of patience.
2. Make sure you have all the right tools.
Maybe this goes without saying, but the drafting process will be a lot smoother if you have all the necessary tools. Take a look at A Guide to Patternmaking Tools and start gathering. You probably already have many of the items in your sewing room or around your house, and the rest can be picked up for affordable prices at a craft store.
3. Know how to use your rulers and French curve.
Your clear gridded ruler and French curve will come in handy when it’s time to add seam allowances to your design. Using a clear gridded ruler will allow you to place the ruler on top of your design lines and add the appropriate seam allowance, such as 1/2”.
On straight lines, this is pretty straightforward, but it’s a little trickier on curved lines, such as armholes. In these instances, you’ll only want to draw a solid line where the ruler is parallel to the stitching line. Instead, add dashed lines. You can blend the dashed lines either by hand or with your French curve.
4. Understand pattern grading.
Knowing how to grade a pattern up or down a size is incredibly helpful, and there are two very simple methods (cut-and-spread and shifting). This is also useful if you’d like to re-create a favorite garment in a size larger or smaller (see the next tip).
5. If you are hoping to re-create a garment you love, there are several options for easy pattern drafting.
You can draft a pattern by tracing the garment, if it has little or no shaping, or by using the rub-off method for more complicated garments.
6. Take ease into account.
Don’t forget to consider the difference between your actual body measurements and the measurements of the finished garment when drafting patterns. This will understandably have a huge impact on how the garment fits.
A form-fitting knit garment should have negative ease, while a form-fitting woven garment will have less ease than a loosely fitting garment. The amount of ease is dependent on the type of fabric (how much stretch it has, if any) and how you want the garment to function.
7. Make a sloper.
A sloper, or a basic fitting shell, can be a great jumping off point for drafting your own patterns. A library of slopers (bodice, pants, sleeves, etc.) will help you create any number of patterns. From the sloper, you’ll add length and/or width to various spots to achieve the fit you want.