Beginning Pattern Drafting


I must admit something. I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to spend some time going back to the basics. Two years ago, I was trying to find every shortcut in the book to keep from spending the necessary time to understand garment construction (See this post). I just wanted to get to the finished product and felt that all of the “extra stuff” was slowing me down. Now, unfortunately, I’m missing a lot of general sewing techniques, and it’s hindering me from making some of the garments that I’ve sketched (I never saw that one coming).  I absolutely love designing, but here’s my dilemma: I’m still super duper short on time.  I find the draping method to be a big time saver, because  I can just forgo the muslin, throw the fabric up on the dress form and just “go for it!” Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, “Haste makes waste”, and I’ve wasted a lot of fabric in unworn garments that looked fine on the outside but just didn’t wear well because of poor construction. I hate to admit it, but I WAS SO WRONG. Technique is ultra important! So, I’ve dusted off my collection of sewing books (lots of vintage ones that I absolutely love!), and I’m  starting at square one: THE SLOPER.

Now, understand, though I’ve seen the “error of my ways”, I still absolutely dread making a sloper!  So many measurements, adjustments, more measurements. In the grand scheme of things, I’m sure that the initial process of making a sloper will save me tons of time later in pattern adjustments, etc, but,…well…I just don’t want to do it! But, just as bitter medicine is hard to swallow (ha! wher’d that come from?), I know that it’s good for me, so I’ll trudge through it.

I have 3 or 4 good pattern drafting books, but I think only one takes you through the steps of creating a sloper. The others create patterns directly from your measurements and by-pass the sloper completely.

Finally Fits (1973) by Ruth Amiel & Happy Gerhard is a fantastic book for beginners. It says on the cover that it is “The no-scare Home Patternmaking System for everyone, every size”, and I have to agree with them. It’s not intimidating at all. The instructions are easy to follow and there are tons of diagrams. The book is an easy read with very few industry terms that would throw a novice like me. And, even though it was published in the early 70’s you are not bombarded with out-of-date garments to duplicate. I found that everything offered in this book can be used as a template for garments today. I found it here on, but you might also find it here on

Chapter 1 gets you acquainted with the materials needed like pencils, paper, tape, rulers, French curve, scissors, tape measure, etc.

Chapter 2 is my favorite part (not really): Measurements.  You have to take approximately 41 measurements, give or take a few, and it takes a lot of time. Some of the measurements are challenging to do by yourself, so I’d advise a partner. My six-year-old was more than happy to oblige and did a fantastic job.

Chapter 3: the Paper Pattern Checker. If you’re a beginner like me, your next question would be, “What?” I thought you went straight from the measurements to the sloper. Who new you’d have to make a Paper Pattern Checker of your exact measurements, transfer that pattern to muslin to make a Muslin Pattern Checker, adjust those measurements and then finally arrive at your sloper. Whew! and Wow! I finished my Paper Pattern Checker today for my skirt.

If any of you have done this before and have suggestions for this newbie, I’d be forever grateful for any advice.

(Step TWO will be to transfer those measurements to muslin and then sew it up. I’ll post those pictures soon.)

Do what you love,

Keep sewing!


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  1. My First Self-Drafted Pattern!!! « Polkadot Soup - August 28, 2010

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