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Jun 1, 2010

Demystifying patternmaking: here's hoping!

So yesterday I managed to break off the "e" on my keyboard while cleaning it and it seems I'll need a replacement.  Instead of pressing an "e" key I have to press this soft rubber nipple-thing -- ewww.

I'm trying to use as few "e" words as possible, but do you r-aliz how difficult that is?

Ystrday (I'll stop now) I dove into my Dorothy Moore pattern drafting book -- why wait?  First thing I did was have Michael help me take all my measurements.  It seems I've added an inch to my waist this past year, no doubt from all that sedentary seam ripping.

It's all very straight forward so far.  Of course, a critical measurement is the waist, which in contemporary men's casual clothes at least, hardly factors in anywhere; most men's pants go no further north than the hips.  But I decided I'd use my real waist, which is actually quite high (to me) on my body -- a few inches above my bellybutton.

The first project -- and Moore is very clear about the importance of working project by project and not jumping ahead -- is for a straight skirt.  Look, Ma, I'm drafting!

I already had the pattern paper and all the (few) supplies you need to get started.  Below is the diagram you work from and the directions are very detailed.  I made one change: since my darts are very narrow given that there's only a 5" difference between my waist (31") and my hips (36"), I made just one 1/2" dart (on either side of the skirt front and back) instead of two 1/4" darts.  It looks better.

Obviously, the greater the difference between one's waist and one's hips, the wider the darts will be, since they're what give the fabric it's three dimensionality.  Does that make sense?

One of the things you don't do with Moore's pattern drafting system is add seam allowances to the pattern.  Seam allowances are added only to the fabric before you cut it.  Except for necklines, armholes and hems, seam allowances are one inch.  It all takes some getting used to.  The first time I cut my fabric (an old cotton/poly sheet) I cut right up to the pattern's edge despite having just marked a 1" seam allowance (d'oh!), and had to do it again.  Old habits...

Anyway, I'm not quite done -- I still need to add the waistband-- but you can get an idea of how it's coming.  I even learned how to make a kick pleat, which to my surprise doesn't involve kicking at all!

Where I'm holding my left hand (the skirt doesn't have a zipper yet) is just below my real waist -- can you see that slight indentation on the left?  I think I have a somewhat distorted view of my own proportions...but who doesn't?

Anyway, I plan to finish this today and then move on from there.  I really love learning how measurements relate to one another and why.  I think it will make it much easier for me to make adjustments to commercial patterns when I need to.  I'm obviously already very invested in commercial patterns and I'm not going to just stop using them (I don't think).  But hopefully I'll be more skilled at altering them.

Have you ever drafted a pattern from scratch?  It feels very freeing so far, though it does require careful measuring.

So, onward and upward, friends.

Hav a grat day vrybody!


  1. I just posted a comment a few minutes ago on your other post mentioning you were going to give pattern drafting a try, and here's the result of your work! Magic! lol. Looks like your doing great so far... drafting is really a lot of fun, even if you don't use it often (honestly, I don't, even though I've known how to for years--mostly because I need to do a set of custom slopers and I'm too lazy ;) rofl).

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

  2. In one of those wierd co-incidences in life, I just pulled that book out of a filing cabinet in my basement and have been thinking about giving it another go once I finish a bunch of shirts I'm making for beloved daughter. Keep me inspired!

  3. I took a drafting class in January and now I can draft a basic bodice sloper from scratch. I have yet to master my own basic button front blouse, but I did use it to draft a bodice for a wedding dress that I am making for a friend, and the result was an absolutely perfect fitting dress muslin. I was surprised how it fit her with very few adjustments.

    Very clear explanation on the darts thing - it works the same way with bust darts on a bodice. If the measurement between the full bust and underbust is less than 2" (I think it is 2) then you don't add a bust dart. I had to omit that from my sloper as my cups do not runneth over.

  4. Hah! My boyfriend was cleaning his computer and lost the 'n' key; he had the vacuum cleaner turned up to it's strongest suction when -whoosh- there goes 'n'. To see him sitting in the backyard, the sliced-open vacuum bag next to him, sifting through all that fluff and dust and dirt trying to find the errant letter gave me laughs for days afterwards. He did manage to locate 'n' and stick it back on but, with use, it kept slipping under the neighbouring letters and became too much of a pain to worry about.

    (He was devastated, losing 'n'; he can't imagine how you feel losing 'e'.)

    I love the name of your blog, by they way.

    And all the content, of course.



  5. We only did a little flat patterning and that was only alterations to the slopers we draped. I was terrible at it! I prefer draping much more.

  6. I practiced some self-taught patternmaking for about a year. It is what ultimately demystified commercial pattern fitting for me.

    I have a couple of home-sewer patternmaking books, and some college textbooks as well. I've also used online instructions ( is my favorite pant sloper draft). For basic patterns, I much prefer the books aimed at home-sewers, which I believe is the type of book you have (?). They provide the same results with better-written instructions. I've kept the textbooks just in case I ever want to draft something complicated-- although in that case, I'd probably rather just find a commercial pattern that I could adapt.

    If you ever have problems with fit due to your high waistline, consider using your belly button as the guide for a "fake" waist line. Because really, your waist is wherever you say it is. I have a ridiculously high waist and I find it easier to draft and adjust patterns based on my belly button level. (I chose the belly button because it's always in the same place. :P )

  7. It just hit me! Rather than baggy harem pants, for cool comfort you must try a kilt. A company named Utilikilts makss them for hardworking blacksmiths and other swarthy types.

    You, O wise pattern drafter, can now make your own! (Although how a kilt might fit into the Manhattan fashion scene is up for grabs.)

    Bad pun intended. :)

  8. I've drafted most of my skirt patterns [which is why almost all my skirts are A-line because that's much easier to work with than a fitted pencil skirt], but when it came to blouses and dresses I threw in the towel, not having a handy pattern making book. Look forward to seeing how you like this one ...

  9. When I was an English teacher we had a long discussion about a French author who wrote an entire novel without using the letter 'e'.(I have forgotten his name )
    Consider it a challenge :)
    I have drafted simple peasant tops and dirndl and tiered skirts, but nothing too complicated yet. And of course pillows, pillowcases and quilts. The more you do, the more confidence you get. (Like writing without the letter 'e'?)

  10. Ys, Littl Hunting Crk, I agr with you!

  11. I agree that learning drafting will help with alterations and will be useful even if you end up not drafting entire patterns (pattrns?) very often.

    "E" is the most used letter in the English language, but I'm guessing you know that by now. ;-)

  12. Good for you! I jumped into pattern drafting by making my own retro-inspired swimsuit (with modern stretch fabrics) a couple of years ago. If you get into stretch fabrics, I highly recommend Everything is free and the instructions are fantastic, even for a beginner just plowing ahead with no training. I suffer from a plethora of enthusiasm and a dearth of skill and patience, but my swimsuit experiment still turned out pretty well! Good instructions are priceless!

  13. Good Post--Thanks! I want to know about drafting so post to inform us of how it all works out along the way!

    (In your honor--no 'e' at all)

  14. Oh, no--there was an 'e' in 'the'--oh well, I tried.

  15. Having your own basic sloper(s) is quite liberating never having to deal with the issues of ready made patterns and it always you to be creative in your own right

  16. Looks like an nice book, but I'm afraid it's unobtainable in my country. I was just wondering... wouldn't you scan it, upload it and share it with the world? (At least with us, male bold-designers of the Southern Hemisphere?) Providing, of course, it's out of print and we're not infringing any rights. In return, I could send in some old pattern books (beautiful classic designs of the 50's) which I've already scanned and that are certainly unavailable in the US. I'm sure you'll find them interesting.
    I love your blog. I follow it closely. The skirt looks great even without the zipper. I can't wait to see it finished.

  17. Well done on the skirt pattern drafting Peter! Just the pants and bodice to go and then you'll have the set of blocks and the fashion world will be your oyster (not that it isn't already of course!).

    Once you have your blocks, I really like the book 'Patternmaking for fashion design' by Helen Joseph Armstrong - lots of tips for how to make various designs etc. which is very helpful.

    And speaking of the letter 'e' - a poet wrote a book with each of its chapters allowed to use only one vowel - book is called 'Eunoia' (which is the shortest word in the English language to use all the vowels) and it's worth checking out. Although, as you can imagine, the book can be a little risque in some of the chapters.....

  18. Hm. Sounds like a book I might want to own as I know nothing about drafting patterns. It looks good, Peter! I've tried with only partial success to draft a pattern... it fit but the neck was too tight, and my SIL never brought it back for me to fix.

  19. I had a drafting class in college and after we fitted our slopers we made miniature slopers out heavy paper stock and began drafting different skirts, sleeves, collars and bodices. Even though they were tiny it got us to thinking about how one would make up these items if they were to scale. It was fun! I have drafted my own design elements and simpler items but have never been brave enough to draft a complicated garment from scratch.

    Knock us out P*t*r!

  20. It's interesting that in your new book you don't add seam allowances on the pattern.
    Anway if you want to add them (so you dont forget) I just read a post that explains tracing patterns adding seam allowances

  21. Hello from Australia where we just found your blog - you are ADORABLE. I don't even sew and I love it.

  22. Oooohh you're a bad influence! As soon as I read about the book (in this post "What a dump!" Monday + Goals!) I had to acquire a copy for myself. My new addition to my ever expanding sewing library is winging it's way across the Atlantic to me in London thanks to some searching on the US Amazon site. (Just don't tell my husband - we "agreed" I didn't "need" anymore sewing-related tomes... *but that doesn't stop me from WANTING them (*said with an evil cackle in the style of the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz)... ;)

  23. Re: adding on the seam allowances - perhaps a double-tracing wheel might help? Clover make one (I know, because I bought one LOL!).
    See one in action here... oh, and on my Clover double-wheel you can adjust how far apart the 2-wheels sit from one another too :)
    Double-Tracing Wheel Video- see 1min 38sec

  24. Thanks, Seemane; I'd like to get one of those.

    New fashion: unfortunately I don't have a scanner, but there are some very good pattern drafting books out there you could probably pick up online.

    Welcome, Leigh!

  25. It was in 1975 that I started to learn dressmaking,after two years I graduated and I got my title, ever since I've been making my own clothes, mainly because I've got a difficult figure, big on the breasts and impossible to find dresses for my figure, I love making skirts and tops that is the only type of clothing that suits me,making my own clothes is not only fun it is also rewarding as I can wear what I like and design for myself.


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