Patternmaking is by far one of my favorite aspects of fashion design. This is where you make your ideas come to life! With patternmaking, you are only limited by your imagination.
Much like fashion design school, this will be broken down into two segments. In Patternmaking 1, you get familiar with the basic concepts of patternmaking, making your pattern blocks, and learning about fit adjustments.
Patternmaking 2 is more about applying those skills you learned in Patternmaking 1 and you get to actually design your own garment after practicing some advanced patternmaking skills.
We can go ahead a refer to this section as Patternmaking 1.
First, let's gather together our tools!
Seen here is what I consider some of the bare minimum tools for patternmaking, minus your specialized design rulers.
Paper scissors vs fabric scissors - Yes! Please follow this rule. I didn't for a long time, and the black Mundial scissors shown used to be fabric scissors. Paper dulled them way down. The ones in the stitched flower case are a nice, heavy pair of dressmaking shears. You'll want to get them sharpened from time to time. They're an investment so take care of your tools.
Mechanical pencils - There is nothing worse than being mid-draft and having to go sharpen your pencil. Before patternmaking, I was less of a fan of mechanical pencils, but they give you an accurate line versus the thickness that changes on a standard pencil. Sidenote: I have tried other mechanical pencils and all of them are crap aside from the Bic brand. No, I am not paid to say I use Bic. It's my personal preference.
You will need other marking tools such as pens, a Sharpie, chalk, a tracing wheel, etc.
Pattern weights - You've seen them on Project Runway - they are long, black, metal weights with a handle. This girl right here uses those green little pattern weights you can get at most fabric stores as well as an old geode votive holder. (Don't ask, it was heavy and I found it in my old house!) I like that it doubles as a holder for my other smaller pattern weights. Get creative with your weights - I have seen people make some out of washers!
Tape dispenser - Yes, a tape dispenser. This helps you tape
together your patterns one-handed while holding your pieces down. Bonus:
it doubles as an extra pattern weight!
A few types of rulers and pattern making book, shown below -
I cannot stress the importance of having a comprehensive patternmaking book!
No, but really - a good patternmaking book will save your life. The edition I have is the 3rd edition from 2000 (yes, I know. The illustrations in it are from 1995.) Not terribly much has changed as far as many techniques with fashion design, so if you can deal with the fact that the images aren't exactly up to date, you can purchase this book on Amazon for about $50. I've actually seen it for as low as $20. It's an investment, but you will have it forever. I have had mine 10 years now.
I'm sure there are other patternmaking books on the market, but this series is one that fashion design schools require though it's on the 5th edition by now. I also own the Draping for Apparel Design book also by the same author, but I hardly ever drape. Draping just isn't my thing so much.
Rulers - Please buy a hip curve (mine is metal), a French curve (clear), and a see-through straight ruler as it's very accurate. I also have a triangle that I yet again found in my basement but I never use it. Also, you can call that phone number on my hip curve all you want, but it's out of service since I got a Chicago number in 2006.
You will need these curvy rulers to get technically-drawn armholes and nice, curved hip lines or even rounded hems.
Pattern paper - Potentially anything could be used for this, but I like to use the brown paper you find at home improvement stores. Actual pattern paper can cost about $50 a roll or more where the paper from a home improvement store will run you about $10. Yes, it's thicker but you get a pretty hefty roll for a fraction of the cost. This is one of my "poor just-graduated-college" tricks.
It also helps to have a patternmaking table.
Mine is an old dining room table -- it's bigger than it looks at 38" by 60". I find that I don't generally need more space than this as I create patterns for casual wear. If your focus was on eveningwear, then you would probably want a bigger table.
I understand not everyone can have a room dedicated to sewing, but even if you had it set up in a corner, it could work out. I've dinged up this table a bunch of times over the years as well as gotten paint on it, so protect your workspace before using a nice table!
Dressform and sewing station -
I like to keep these separate so I can move from workspace to workspace very easily. I do love my dressform and it was a good deal, but I hate to say go ahead and buy one from The Shop Company since I had such terrible service through them. Some of your may remember that they sent me TWO wrong dressforms (then made me send them to the correct recipients) and the correct one that I have right now arrived a month later after purchasing. They only offered a $10 refund. Bonus, the stand completely fell apart on me at one point until a former boyfriend fixed it for me. The company was just very unorganized and unprofessional.
Speaking of organization!
Once you get into having patterns around, create a space solely for them. I have over 40 patterns I've designed housed in a tote.
I also tend to draw a flat sketch on each pattern packet of what is inside as well as notions needed, some measurements, and any other notes I might need to make. Be sure that you purchase something to keep each pattern folded up in, but this is my method. It is advantageous of you to save each pattern you make because if you liked a fit of something you can reference the old pattern and/or Frankenstein some patterns together!
All this talk about supplies and we haven't even delved into patternmaking yet!
Well, after you gather all your supplies, you want to start by creating your own pattern blocks.
What is a pattern block? It is the most simple form of a pattern. Any garment ever can be made after manipulating these blocks according to techniques in your patternmaking book. (I told you it was important!)
The absolute most basic blocks to have of the pattern-drafting set are going to be the Bodice Block (front and back), the Skirt Block (front and back), and the Sleeve block (shown above). However, I also have on hand a Torso Block (front and back), a Pant Block (front and back) as well as Knit Block of a bodice and sleeve though you could also draft one for a knit skirt.
For those of you that need a full bust adjustment, see this tutorial here.
You can also check out this block calculator from this blog if you so choose or check out this blog for a whole slew of tutorials on pattern drafting blocks.
These are good starting points if you don't have a book yet, but I do highly, HIGHLY recommend having a pattern drafting book. The book will go in detail about how to draft these pattern sets as well as any type of garment--different styles of skirts, tops, pants, jumpsuits, dresses, sleeves, collars, button up shirts, overalls, rompers, knit blocks, swimsuit blocks, even some childrenswear patternmaking! Pretty much anything you ever wanted to make is all inside of one, concise book.
Take some time to work on these blocks and use your own measurements.Then, take some time to cut a muslin of each block and either fit it to yourself or your dressform (yes, zippers and all!) You want to be sure these fit well so you don't have to go through the trouble of editing the same problems over and over and over again in each block. Please note that you will need to add seam allowance to your blocks before sewing. Production pattern seam allowances are 1/4" for all enclosed seams like on necklines to reduce bulk and all other seams are 1/2".
For me, I have to make the shoulder distance a little shorter on my blocks but I don't have to worry about a full bust adjustment.
Take some more time to work on transferring darts to different areas of the pattern. This link is extremely helpful for practicing such technique. Once you become familiar with this process, the rest of patternmaking will be a breeze.
Once you have your blocks made, you don't have to worry about them ever again! These can be long and tedious to create, so don't feel frustrated that you can't make them all in one day. Remember, what I am telling you in this post is over an eleven-week course! Again, you will make many mistakes but soon enough you will be able to create all your own designs!
Please note that Burda does offer pattern blocks aka "slopers" for you to buy and download. I sincerely recommend that you draft your own blocks (but these are nice to have on hand) so you can familiarize yourself with pattern measurements and make adjustments where necessary. There is no reason you can't edit these to fit you perfectly, but at the very least, try drafting a few of your own blocks with your own measurements. I am super-excited that Burda offers these however!
In Patternmaking 2, we will go over the steps of patternmaking, concept to creation.