12 January 2013

Pattern drafting: Slopers and Beyond

A few months ago, Nothy Lane from Aft Agley suggested I write about the process of "drafting" my own patterns, like my turnback cuff blouse or my black trousers. What a great idea! I thought. How do I draft them? I picked up my old sketchbook and flipped through the pages, convinced that I'd find a plethora of clear, helpful tips to share.

Not so.

The sketches and drawings ranged from confusing:

This shirt

To completely chaotic:

Like, I don't even know

There wasn't a helpful tip in sight! Sighing, I shelved that post idea, since I had no idea how to translate my convoluted (and likely inaccurate) design-and-draft process into something that other seamsters could use, or even understand.

It did make me consider, though, that there might be a better way to do this "pattern drafting" thing. Trial-and-error, careful measurements, instinct, and visualizing things in my head had worked for me so far, but maybe there was a more orderly method. Besides, I didn't even have a basic bodice sloper, and so I usually planned out and drew every pattern from scratch.

Yes, I really did. I don't even know why. Maybe I didn't know what slopers were?

Now, though, having finally made a sloper (!) over the holidays, I can feel new pattern possibilities stretching out before me, and so I'm ready to—not share tips of my own, not yet, but share some of the online resources that I've used and found helpful (the thanks for this suggestion go to The Perfect Nose).

Sloper Options:

Leena's pattern drafting: I used the bodice sloper tutorial from Leenas.com, and it was pretty fantastic. I had to make a slight swayback adjustment and raise the lower point of the front dart by about an inch, but that was all. And at the same time, never have I ever had the shoulders on any shirt fit me so well. I didn't even realize there was something wrong with my other shirts' shoulders until I tried this on. They also have basic pants (men's and women's), sleeves, and a skirt block.

Thewallina pants sloper: Inna at Thewallina and other creatures was kind enough to share the methods she learned at her pattern drafting class, posting instructions for the front and and back pieces of a pants sloper. When I made the sloper, unlike her I did need some adjustments (it was a little too slender at parts), but it's still a great pattern to work from (after all, they're pants, of course they're hard to fit), and the tutorial is definitely very clear and straightforward.

Of course, there are lots of other online resources I haven't tried (yet?). Among them is Madalynne's bodice sloper. This sloper has a little less wearing ease than the Leena's one, if you want a sloper with a very close fit. Also unlike the Leenas one, it ends at the waist, so would be great for a dress bodice.

Pattern Drafting:

(Transforming a sloper into a pattern for a wearable garment can be more confusing than making the sloper itself!)

Flekka challenge: I don't know about you, but I love reading about the challenges that various seamsters set for themselves. This blogger, Nina, started with a basic bodice sloper and then designed fifteen different tops from it — what's more, she carefully documented the process for each one. Not only is it incredibly impressive, there's also a lot of secondhand knowledge to be gained from her experience; I know that reading about her sleeveless top definitely helped me with my own.

VintageSewing.info at the Internet Archive: I found this a few years ago when the original website (vintagesewing.info) was still online. Now it's been taken down, but the Wayback Machine's got it all archived. Here you can find almost 20 vintage books about sewing — Modern Pattern Design (1942), Ladies Garment Cutting and Making (1940), and lots of other books about dressmaking, millinery, glove-making, and more. Even if, like me, you aren't big on vintage fashion, these are interesting reads, and a lot of the material covered (raglan sleeves, two-piece sleeves, collars, coats) can help with more modern designs

Practical Dress Design at The Perfect Nose: Kindly scanned and posted by The Perfect Nose as a Friday Freebie, the range of this book is huge — it goes from fitting a basic sloper all the way to designing elaborate and decorative gathers, cowls, darts, and more. Click through to see some really fantastic images from the text (and to read The Perfect Nose's and others' effusive comments about it) and to get the download link.

There aren't as many pattern drafting tutorials out there (for intermediate- to advanced-type patterns) as there are sloper tutorials, but I think the three above are a good place to start!

Are there drafting or fitting books or websites that you find invaluable?


  1. Oh, I am thrilled you are finally doing this....Next step, market your own patterns!

    1. Thanks for the original suggestion! Haha, and now you've planted the idea of sharing my patterns in my head, too. :)

    2. I actually started this right after your post then I became busy with other things. I'm ready to return to make a sloper. Imagine how much easier using commerical patterns will be? I can just measure a commerical pattern up against the sloper for a quick idea of sizing.

    3. Great, I hope it turns out well! I guess this year you're focusing on the fitting aspect of sewing (eg. your muslins, the sloper), which is very cool!

  2. Goodo-can't wait to see what you make and thanks for the link!

    1. A ridiculously belated thank-you for your encouragement (and the original book pdf)! I'm halfway done the shirt I'm making from that book...if only I spent more time on sewing! :S

  3. Thanks for taking note of my pants drafting method, ESMOD method. Same as you, I did need to make some adjustments (although minor ones). Two blog posts were planned to describe fitting but I've got carried away with other projects... Pants are relatively easy to draft but probably one the most difficult garments to fit: something I'd like to blog about more.

  4. Hi I was trying to use the bodice pattern from leenas.com but was.a bit confused. The chart at the top has suggested measurements what are those for. Also the ease measurements,some of them have 2 numbers (1,6) which should I use. Thx for your help. Apparently I'm missing something.