Patternmaking can be tedious and there is a lot to learn. It took me about almost 5 years after design school to be comfortable with patternmaking and to be confident in my drafting skills. This doesn't mean you will take as long to learn as me, but note that there are MANY elements to learn in pattern drafting, many mistakes to be made, and lots of trial and error.
Be patient and kind to yourself and soon enough you will be drafting like a pro!
That being said, let's go over the process of patternmaking from concept to creation with lots of little tips and tricks and the basics that you need to pay attention to while patternmaking.
Patternmaking 2 is yet again another 11-week class but I don't think that is nearly enough time to learn how to be proficient in making your own patterns. Take your time learning! There is a lot of ground to cover. As such, this will be a fairly long post.
You will need to heavily reference a patternmaking book for this post. Like I mentioned in the previous post, I recommend any of the Helen Joseph-Armstrong patternmaking books and I own the 3rd edition.
Obviously not my best sketch here, but hey! I wanted to show the flat versus the real-life design.
Now, I am detailing a basic process because it wasn't necessarily spelled out for me in design school. We all learn differently, and I tend to like step-by-step processes and then be able to deviate from it when necessary. I felt like I was just given a bunch of information and then "have at it" in school.
I'm going to be using the Chloe Dress since this is the most recent design of mine as of writing this post and I am recently familiar with the process I used.
1.) Idea. Of course any design process all begins with an idea. We learned how to sketch a basic illustration, how to do flat sketches, and how to present them. Now is the time to really refer to your flat sketch and be sure your design details are planned out, ie.) darts, seams, buttons, tucks, pleats, and garment specifications are visible. Really pay attention to all your design details!
This is also the time to gather any swatches and find the material (or at least have an idea) of what you want to work with as this may or may not affect your patternmaking depending upon type of garment and type of fabric.
2.) Select The Correct Blocks.
|1/4 scale patterns.|
For this design I went ahead and chose my Torso Block since my original idea was supposed to have a fold-over/attached top like this image I found with corresponding pattern instructions.
At this point I actually used my 1/4 scale patterns that can also usually be found in the back of your pattern making book and did a test-run of what I would do for my sewing patterns. This might be helpful if you're using some manipulations you're less familiar with or if you just want to do some preliminary work before cutting up a large bunch of pattern paper.
I don't typically use my 1/4 scale patterns, but I found in this instance it was helpful.
Pay special attention to if you are making a woven garment or a knit garment because your block sizing will different.
3.) Find Corresponding Manipulations in Your Book.
This is why I had you get familiar with dart manipulations in your books. Where are the darts on your design? Do the darts somehow work themselves into seamlines? Are you working with a knit that will likely only need one bust dart? Does a skirt have flare? Is it an a-line or a circle skirt? Does it have a yoke? Do you need to make a button placket or pockets?
If you're overwhelmed, just manipulate the blocks one at a time. Important note: YOUR BLOCK SHOULD NEVER BE CUT! Think of this as your "master pattern". I usually trace of the block exactly as is to a piece of paper, then cut and tape and manipulate.
Also get familiar with "added fullness" in a garment. Your book will be very detailed in this patternmaking principle. Added fullness is achieved in a garment by using the slash and spread technique, meaning you will be slashing your patterns along certain lines (usually up to or through a dart point).
Don't neglect adding ease to your patterns. Ease will help you with sewing and the wearability of the garment. I found I forgot to add ease to the waistline of this dress pattern because even though it fit my mannequin perfectly, it was too tight while wearing. No one wants a too-tight garment! See this link for a good overview on how to incorporate ease in any type of garment.
Here is the pattern making work I did while working on the Chloe Dress.
Please see this link for a more detailed discussion of both manipulating darts as well as added fullness. Like I have mentioned, this blog post also says that by learning these two very basic pattern manipulation techniques, you can make virtually any pattern!
Depending upon your design you can have any combination of pattern manipulation variations. Play with stylelines, change where seams are, and overall experiment.
Your first draft of your patterns will look very messy. This is perfectly ok! You will go ahead and clean all of this up later.
A word about notches: I tend to perhaps over-use notches. Notches help provide an ease of sewing and matching your garment pieces up correctly. As a rule, you should always use one notch on the garment front in any given area, 2 notches within close proximity (usually about 1/4" of each other) denotes the back of a pattern. Ie.) Your sleeve block should have had you put one notch on the front half of the sleeve where the back of the sleeve cap should have 2 notches close together.
When I do notches on my pattern, I just draw a line with a small cross at the end so it looks like a "T". When cutting my pattern, I just do a little snip within the seam allowance (not too close!) and I can usually always see this on my fabric. I do not own a notcher, but you can if you like.
You also should have a notch at the end of each dart line that ends at a seam allowance. A bust point is generally marked with an awl, but I don't do this. I just make a small hole in my pattern and mark with chalk.
At this point of patternmaking, I was just trying to get the silhouette and fit correct on my dress. If you are planning on any unusual seam lines, you will be marking these unusual lines on the muslin.
You also want to match up seams and "walk" your pattern. Fold closed any darts while walking - ie.) checking that the skirt seam matches the bodice seam, just like you would sew it. Check that the front and back shoulders match, as well as all side seams.
4.) Make a Muslin. When you make your muslin, you want to use fabric similar to what you would be using in your finished garment. General muslin fabric is typically a woven, but if you are working with a jersey knit you will want to use perhaps scrap jersey knit to create your muslin. This helps you get a more accurate fit and an overall look of how the finished garment hangs.
To make a muslin, I usually will plop down my messy preliminary patterns onto the muslin fabric and trace around. From there, you want to add on your seam allowances. Remember, 1/4" seam should be used for all enclosed seams and 1/2" should be used for all the rest of your seams. If you're not sure, go ahead and use 1/2" seams on all edges of the pattern and you can edit your seam allowances later.
In my Patternmaking 2 class in school, we would do a 1/2 muslin first (one front and one back) and only pin it together. I tend to skip a 1/2 muslin and before cutting my first muslin out, I will match up my pattern paper on my dressform just to see. This isn't super-accurate, but sometimes I notice things like a mis-matched shoulder line and am able to edit it really quickly.
I highly recommend making a full muslin. You will have to make a full muslin if you are making an asymmetric design anyhow. I know it's more work to make a full muslin, but you will be much happier with the end result. Go ahead and sew together your full muslin at a basting stitch (stitch length 4). You will want to use a basting stitch because it will be easier to rip out after making your edits.
This is a good point to figure out exactly how you will be sewing together all of your pieces and working out how to sew the garment together.
Here is a photo of my full muslin on my dressform.
Here, I drew lines on where I wanted to change the neckline, and where I would be cutting apart my muslin for my contrast pieces like the wavy neckline and the wavy skirt piece. Check your fit now on your muslin and get it just right!
5.) Remove Your Muslin and Edit Preliminary Patterns. You can't see it on my photo of my preliminary patterns, but I hadn't planned on the bust darts in this pattern. Once I got it onto the dressform, I decided that it needed darts to get closer to the shape I was looking for.
This is what my muslin looks like after opening up again.
During this part, you will want to open up your muslin flat again after making appropriate markings on your muslin and use this as a basis for changing your preliminary pattern. Perhaps you have made so many changes that you just want to lay out this piece and trace it onto an entirely new piece of paper - whatever makes sense to you!
I really should have followed my own rules on this dress. I should have traced around this piece and yes, cut apart at my wavy line to trace around and produce a pattern for each piece. Using a tracing wheel is fine too, but make sure your patterns match your muslin otherwise in your finished garment you may have some errors. I actually did that with this garment - had errors on my sample! But that's why it's technically a sample.
6.) A Second Muslin May Be Necessary. Depending upon the complexity of your garment, you may need to make a second muslin. Take the time to check your patternmaking if you're unsure. It's best to check and check again rather than cut out some beautiful fabric or an awesome design only to find a whole slew of errors.
Don't forget to create facing patterns or lining patterns! I like all-in-one facings for sleeveless patterns but if you have odd seams like this Chloe Dress pattern, you are going to want to enclose them with a lining for the wearer. I tend to make my lining patterns from the basic silhouette of the item I'm making. For instance, with this pattern I made my lining pattern of the bodice before cutting apart my contrast colorblock seams.
I also almost always add pockets in my dresses and have a side seam pocket type developed that I use for virtually all of my dress patterns. Check your book for making different types of pockets on garments.
7.) Create Your Production Patterns.
This is where we're going to go ahead and add all of our seam allowances. Any enclosed seams like a collar, a neckline, neckline facing, etc. Some of you may want to do all this after sewing a sample and making even further edits, but this is a matter of personal preference.
Before making your final patterns or cutting your fashion fabric, take a moment to think about how the wearer will get in and out of the garment. Does it need a zipper at center back? This is the option to use if you have a small head hole on your garment. Otherwise, if you have a big enough head hole or are making a skirt, a side zip may be desirable. Please note that on a woman's garment the zipper is always on the left side of a garment, as are the buttons. This is standard industry practice.
Mark the end of a zipper with a notch on your pattern.
At this point, you want to make sure all your grainlines are correct. I always draw mine on my blocks and as I manipulate the patterns, you can see how the grainline changes depending upon my edits.
Again, make sure all your seams match after tracing from your muslin!
8.) Cut and Sew! Finally! We made it!
During your first cut/sew keep notes for yourself as you're sewing. If something is wonky as you're sewing, you will want to correct this on your pattern.
For the Chloe Dress, during sewing I found that I preferred the tucks to be on the left side of the front skirt however the tucks were fine in the back. I actually (for the first time!) had to make some sizing edits. I don't think I was paying all that much attention to my ease on this pattern for some reason, but it is important!
Keep in mind that your first go-round of a pattern is a sample. In the industry, it's not uncommon to make multiple samples before creating a mass-production line of the same garment. If your pattern isn't perfect IT'S OKAY!
I once talked with a well-known independent pattern designer who said to me that she rarely gets it right with the first sample so multiple iterations of the same garment is not a bad thing.
For me, even later on after wearing a garment, I find that I should have done something slightly different. The Space Dress I made a few years back is actually better off without the sleeves as far as wearability goes. And it's not too late to edit this!
If need be, after the sample, go back and edit your patterns again. I've had to edit my patterns for the Chloe Dress again, and that's perfectly ok. I used to beat myself up about this. I would think, "If I were a better pattern maker, this wouldn't have happened!!"
However, there is nothing wrong with my pattern making. Pattern making is all trial and error. Don't beat yourself up unnecessarily like I do. I felt like this wasn't reiterated enough during my schooling. Don't get mad, just fix your mistakes. Pattern making is tedious and often times frustrating, but with enough practice, like anything else, it will become second nature. Walk away from a particularly frustrating pattern for a day or two and revisit it. Sometimes I have my "a-ha!" moment with things after clearing my head.
Play with 1/4 scale patterns and see what you can work out. See my board on Pinterest for additional patternmaking exercises posted of vintage patterns. Also search pattern drafting on Pinterest to find more pattern ideas!
Patternmaking can be very exciting once you get the hang of it. After you learn how to make sewing patterns, any idea in your mind is possible! And even if you don't delve into patternmaking, this post can also help you learn how and why to edit commercial patterns.