Pattern Drafting – the why and the how

Pattern drafting – the ‘why’?

Most home sewers start their dressmaking journey using commercial patterns from either the well-known companies like Vogue or the growing number of independent pattern makers such as Collette but the problem often is ……

It doesn’t fit!

Commercial pattern makers use a standard body measurement chart. I know my measurements don’t fit into this chart and neither do many of my sewers.
And it is not only the sizing that can be a problem because they use a set measurement between bust, waist and hip sizes – the hourglass, I wish.
Drafting to a bra B cup adds even more complications. Are you 5″6″ or over? 5″4′ is petite, not much hope for my Mum at 4″10″!
Are you 5″6″ or over? 5″4′ is petite, not much hope for my Mum at 4″10″!
To be fair, there are sewing patterns out there drafted for specific body shapes such as the Sewaholic range aimed at the pear shape, Simplicity’s Amazing Fit cup sized patterns and Vogue Women’s patterns cut the more mature figure but drafting sewing patterns using your body measurements is something to consider to achieve a better fit.

I want something unique

There are lots of different garment styles available in commercials patterns. But how often are not quite what we want or in a style that suits?

You can design your own clothes

Don’t be afraid to design your own clothes. You do not have to be a fashion graduate or even an artist to doodle ideas. Look around you for inspiration. Take the bits from the garments you like and mix them together. Take inspiration from your surroundings, for example, nature or architecture.

As the daughter of a cabinet maker, I am very influenced by furniture and the Arts and Crafts

City & Guilds top Designs by Kirsten - Jane White Couture Tuition

City & Guilds Design by Kirsten – Jane White Couture Tuition

movement which is not perhaps an obvious choice for fashion design.

Follow designers like Vivienne Westwood and study historical portraits.
Enrol for our new Jane White Couture Tuition Programme which replaces recently withdrawn City & Guilds courses. You will learn how to design as well as make. Click here for more information.
By designing and drafting sewing patterns you can be unique. You can make the style that suits you and you can express your personality with the clothes you wear.

Drafting sewing patterns – the ‘how’

It all starts with accurate body measurements

Commerical sewing patterns use the bust, waist and hip measurements but you need more, a lot more. Taking them in in the correct place is important. A length of cord pinpoints the waist. It is a reference point for other measurements. In fact, I take 24 measurements for drafting garment blocks!

Now comes the pattern block 

Sewing patterns start with a basic garment block – a tailored skirt, trousers and a bodice and

Skirt block. Pattern cutting blocks - Jane White Couture Tuition

Skirt block. Pattern cutting blocks – Jane White Couture Tuition

sleeve which is later manipulated into specific styles.

Glance at a pattern drafting book and you may think it is going to be complex. You will find it easier to understand if you have used commercials patterns but, it only uses basic sums (I love my calculator, my maths isn’t great but I can do the maths I need for pattern drafting). For example, divide your waist measurement by 4, add 4.24cm and then you draw a line or curve.
I like to use specialist pattern drafting paper, dot and cross, to draft blocks. The dots and crosses are at 2cm intervals and help you draw straight lines.
The finished garment block is your master copy, don’t cut it up, trace a block pattern in plain paper from it.

Making and fitting a toile – the key to fitting success

Cut out and stitch the basic block pattern in calico. This is a toile or fitting shell and your friend and ally.

The next bit is what I love, getting the toile to fit. Most toiles need some fitting alterations to mold to the wearer. Pinning, adjusting seams, letting seams out or taking seams in. Sometimes I have been seen cutting the toile across the front or back!

Fitting Ann's jacket at the back - Jane White Couture Tuition

Fitting Ann’s jacket – Jane White Couture Tuition

Transferred back to the block, with the fitting complete, you are now ready to adapt your block to garment styles.

Adapting the fitted garment blocks into design styles

You now have pattern block that fits. Now turn it into a sewing pattern by manipulating the darts or turning the dart into a seam for which the technical term is suppressing a dart in style line. Add flare, add gathers and make the garment your own.
I hope I’m not putting you off. It is so worth the time. You will learn lots about your shape and understand why it can be challenging to get a good fit but how it is achievable.
Would you like to try drafting garment blocks and sewing patterns?

Our Pattern Cutting Courses

Pattern Cutting: Basic Garment Blocks

This is a two-day course.
Pattern cutting bodice and sleeve block - Jane White Couture Tuition

Pattern adaptations – Jane White Couture Tuition

Choose from a skirt and trousers or bodice and sleeve. If you are new to pattern drafting we start with the skirt because it is the simplest and helps you to understand the basic principles.

Make and fit a toile then try out basic manipulation techniques.
This course runs twice during the year, you are welcome to come to both sessions to complete a full set of garment blocks.
Or you can book a Sew Personal lesson with me.

Pattern Cutting: Basic Adaptations

This one day course introduces basic adaptation techniques. Discover how to move or suppress a dart in a style line (seam). Add flare or gathers. Draft simple collars and facings.
This course is for students who have completed the Basic Garment Block course. Students who already have some pattern cutting experience are also welcome.

Pattern Cutting: Advanced Adaptations

This one day course explores complex pattern cutting, for example, drafting revers, raglan sleeves. funnel necks and a two-piece sleeve.

You will grade up a bodice block into a jacket and grade it down into a lingerie block.

Advanced pattern cutting - Jane White Couture Tuition

Advanced pattern cutting – Jane White Couture Tuition

This course is for students who have completed the Basic Adaptations course. Students who have basic adaptation skills are also welcome.

If you would like to know more or have a chat about how I can help please get in touch, I’m looking forward to pattern drafting for a better fit with you very soon!