So you have an idea for a project, and you can’t find a sewing pattern that is just what you want. Maybe you’ve tried hacking some existing patterns, but they’re just not fitting together like you want them to, or trying to combine them is just making more problems than you started out with. Well, I think it’s time for you to learn to draft your own patterns! It might sound like a whole huge thing, but don’t worry – it’s a cinch to learn, and we’ll have you dancing around in self-drafted garments in no time!
First things first, let’s start with the different ways to draft a sewing pattern. There are three major ways to draft a pattern that we’re going to cover in this series, and about a million different ways to combine these three basic skills. Different drafting styles can be better suited for different projects, but you may gravitate towards one in particular, depending on how your brain likes to work. Alright, we’re jumping in!
Method One – Flat Pattern
The method of Flat Pattern drafting, or ‘working in the flat’ is taking something called a block or a sloper, which is basically a template for the simplest version of a close fitting garment with wearing ease, tracing it onto paper and changing it until it looks like the garment you want to make. You will typically find slopers for a close fitting bodice, (above) a straight legged pant, a pencil skirt, a straight one or two piece sleeve, and sometimes a jacket or blazer. The bodice and skirt are often combined to create a shift dress sloper.
The bodice sloper (above) has a bust dart and waist dart that both point towards the bust point to shape the bust. The bust point is the fullest part of the breast; for many women that is the nipple. The bodice front sloper is on the right of the picture above. The bodice back sloper will have a waist dart and a shoulder dart, which provide shaping around your shoulder blade.
You can see how the bust dart has been placed in the shoulder – the beauty of slopers is that you can put the darts anywhere, turn them into gathers, pleats, seamlines, you can add fullness or design ease (read, make things fit more loosely), change the neckline, sleeves, waistline, add collars, and generally do whatever you want to turn this little block into any garment you can think of.
Ideas using Flat Pattern
If you want to get some incredible ideas for flat pattern designs, just look at vintage fashion illustrations. As clothing silhouettes were relatively strict through the decades, people got really, incredibly creative with design lines within the framework of a specific dress silhouette.
Reasons to love Flat Pattern Drafting
I absolutely love working in the flat, because my brain loves geometry, and I love love working with rulers and french curves to create design lines (decoratively placed seams). There’s something really beautiful about starting off with all these straight lines, and then draw in the most beautiful perfect curve… Ooh my heart! You may feel more comfortable with flat pattern drafting if you prefer precisely controlled lines to more organic curves and shapes. I like to think of a garment like a puzzle – figuring out each piece and how it should interact with the others is a definite strength of flat patterning.
What is Flat Pattern good for?
Flat pattern drafting is really excellent for structured or close fitting garments, if you’re familiar with how your final fabric will behave, or if you’re designing something with a lot of panels or design lines. The flat pattern method is also perfect if you want to alter the fit or design lines of an existing pattern, or if you know exactly what you want your garment to look like.
How to Get Started
A great way to get started with your slopers is to purchase a sloper pattern pack from Butterick in your size, then fit them perfectly to your Beatrice Form. This pack of sloper patterns includes a bodice, sleeve, and skirt, which are combined to create your dress sloper. Once you have your sloper set that fits you, you can use them to create all the garments in your head! (Don’t forget to wear your sensible camel pumps while you fit test your new sloper.) Hurray!