Making a Sloper: Professional Skills for the Home Sewer

Posted by on Mar 16, 2014 in Sewing | Comments


Many hobbyists hear the term “pattern drafting” and shy away from the idea, thinking it’s too difficult a task to attempt. Patternmaking isn’t just for professional pattern designers though, so the home sewer shouldn’t avoid the idea. Making a sloper block is really not as hard as it may sound, and it’s a wonderful tool to have when striving for that perfect fitting, professional looking, handmade garment created at home.

Making a Sloper

Photo via Lucky Lucille

What is a sloper?

A sloper is a type of basic pattern that is used as the building block for all other patternmaking. Slopers are drafted based on specific body measurements and do not include a seam allowance, wearing ease, or any other design elements. They are simply a representation of a three-dimensional model in two-dimensional form. Slopers are the jumping off point for all sewing patterns. After the sloper is established on paper, the next step is to add a basic seam allowance and sew it together in a muslin or gingham fabric to test the fit.

For example: a bodice sloper is meant to fit like a second skin in order to establish the length, width and shape of the torso. Bust points and length of darts are also established on a basic sloper. The sloper is not meant to be worn as a garment, so there should be no wearing ease or extra wiggle room in the fit when trying it on. It should basically represent a hollow fabric version of yourself.

Why are slopers important?

Slopers are important because they are the foundation for all patternmaking. The proper fit and proportions must first be established on paper, in the most basic form, before you can make stylized changes, such as altering a neckline or adding flare to a skirt. For the home sewer, having a sloper is a powerful tool in creating a wardrobe that always fits the way it should.

When fitting a basic sloper you may discover that you need extra length in the torso, a swayback adjustment, narrow shoulder adjustment, or similar fitting changes. After making these changes and finalizing the shape of your sloper, you can then compare that basic shape to the shape of any commercial pattern you plan to sew. It really helps takes the guesswork out of fitting a pattern you’ve never sewn before.

Suzy Furrer Making a Sloper

Photo via Craftsy Instructor Suzy Furrer

There are many ways to make a customized sloper.

You can buy a sloper kit from any of the Big Four pattern companies, you can draft your own based on your own measurements and a special formula, or you can drape your own on a dress form in your size. Any of these methods will give you the same results, it’s just a matter of deciding which method feels more approachable for you.

Skirt Sewing Pattern

Photo via Lucky Lucille

Starting with a simple skirt sloper is a great introduction for beginners because you only need your waist, hip and length of skirt measurements. Once your skirt sloper is drafted and fit, you can add wearing ease, skirt flare and pockets to make a sewing pattern unique to you that really fits and flatters your personal shape.

Drafting a Custom Sewing Pattern

Photo via Craftsy Instructor Suzy Furrer

Creating a wardrobe that is truly wearable and figure-flattering is the goal of all sewers who enjoy making clothes for themselves. So whether you’re a home sewer who strives for better fitting garments, or would like to branch out and try turning your own designs into sewing patterns, the basic sloper is the place to get started.

Take a look at Patternmaking Basics: The Skirt Sloper or Patternmaking Basics: The Bodice Sloper, both taught by Suzy Furrer, and Fashion Draping: Dressmaking Basics with Paul Gallo for a in depth look at creating you own customized sloper blocks.

Have you ever tried making a sloper before? Which method do you prefer?