If you’re a home sewist, you’re probably used to working with commercial patterns. But if you find yourself constantly adjusting them to fit your size, then drafting your own patterns could be an empowering solution. After all, patternmaking can open the door to new ideas, designs and, of course, great fit!
The best part: anyone can learn pattern drafting, so it’s about time you got started. Follow these pro tips and you’ll be well on your way to creating your own gorgeous collection.
1. Start With a Skirt
When you’re ready to kick-start your pattern drafting journey, master patternmaker Suzy Furrer recommends queuing up Patternmaking Basics: The Skirt Sloper, as you’ll use the same techniques to draft the bottom of a jacket, coat or dress. Once you have the basics down, she suggests moving on to bodices, darts and lines, necklines, sleeves, collars and, finally, pants.
2. Build a Sloper Library
A sloper is a templated pattern you create based on your measurements. It’s an essential building block of pattern drafting, and it’s the key to getting quick and efficient results. Which is why it makes sense to have more than one, as Furrer says developing your own personal sloper collection means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you draft a new pattern. Start with a bodice, pants and sleeves sloper — from those, you’ll be able to add length and/or width to various spots to achieve the right fit.
3. Get the Right Tools
Here’s the good news: it’s very likely you already have the necessary tools to start pattern drafting. Furrer says all you really need is some paper, pens and pencils, scissors, tape, a tape measure, a French curve and a tracing wheel.
That said, a clear, gridded ruler can also come in handy when it’s time to add seam allowances, says sewist Julia Garza. Using one allows you to place the ruler directly on top of your design lines and add the appropriate seam lines (such as ½”), making curved lines — like those needed for armholes — a lot easier to manage.
4. Feel Free to Skip the Software
Fun fact: you don’t have to invest in pattern drafting software from the get-go. Yes, it can be fun to use, but it also tends to be expensive and may not be worth the cost for the casual pattern drafter, Garza says. You can achieve similar results drafting by hand with a few basic tools and a bit of patience. When you’re ready to invest more monetarily, then you can level up.
5. Learn 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) for doing so, Garza says. Having these techniques in your back pocket will also be useful whenever you want to recreate a favorite garment in a larger or smaller size from its original.
6. Take Ease Into Account
Ease is the difference between the actual body measurements you take and the measurements of the finished garment, and Garza says it can have a big impact on how the garment fits. A form-fitting knit garment should have negative ease, for example, while a form-fitting woven one will have less ease than a loosely-fitting version. 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, so it’s important to consider when pattern drafting.
7. Join a Patternmaking Community
Finding the right community of makers can help you stay supported, inspired and motivated. “Attend classes at your local fabric store or find a meet-up group if that’s more your style,” Furrer says. ” Online forums are really valuable as well.”