Flat patterning is one of the many magical ways you can learn to create garments. This is a very basic intro to the skill, and I will be adding resources as I come across them. Enjoy!
If you’re looking for introductory info on sewing and supplies, check out my sewing basics post here.
Pattern making supplies
I suggest watching some of the videos below before investing too much in supplies. It’ll give you an idea of what you need, depending on what your projects and goals are.
- Basic set of paper scissors
- An acrylic ruler (aka a see-through ruler of some kind, you really just need one when you’re starting out). This one from Dritz also has a built-in curve.
- A set of French curves or you can even print this free set for yourself!
- A lot of fashion classes use this alpha-numeric paper (I use it A LOT), but if you’re unsure about investing, you can use basic craft paper too. I use the kind from IKEA.
- Rose gold scissors
- This “tailor” set has every ruler and tool you might want in one go, plus some.
- A patterning set with awl and notcher
- Manila paper for final patterns you will be using frequently.
- Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Armstrong. It’s the textbook I use, and the paperback or “international edition” work just fine (and are cheaper than the new edition).
Drafting the basic blocks
Before we get to the patterning, you’re going to need a block or sloper. Wait… what is that? Here are some key terms up front:
- drafting – using coordinating measurements and formulas to create a plan or template for a pattern
- sloper or block – the foundation piece that you use to start your flat pattern, it is typically either a general size or specially made to fit a person
- flat patterning – creating fashion patterns on paper using the flat slopers or blocks
- draping – creating patterns by putting fabric directly onto a dressform to create your shapes
- moulage – a French process to fit a garment base
There are a few ways you can make a basic block. You can draft one, you can get a custom one made via a site, you can use one of the basic fitting patterns available at most fabric stores, or you can use an existing garment or pattern that fits like the basic fitting one mentioned above.
And don’t miss LizCapism‘s fantastic video on pattern drafting.
Adjusting your block to fit you
Here are some common problems you might need to address for your blocks.
Flat patterning basics
Dart manipulation is one of the fundamental techniques you will use. It’s basically re-distributing that dart to either become a styling piece (gathers, tuck, pleat) or moving it in your styleline.
Darts are the little v-shaped slivers of fabric that are built into blocks to build around fullness and curves.
Slash and spread: It is what it sounds like, you cut up to the bust point from a different styleline or other point, leaving just a little bit of paper attached, then you spread that dart between those slashes. You’ll probably secure that placement with tape, and that piece of paper becomes your initial working pattern. Check out this step-by-step walkthrough.
The pivot method: You can also move darts using this slightly different set of steps. This method involves drawing half the pattern, then pivoting it around the bust point to shift where the dart is, so you’re tracing the working pattern as you make it. There’s a great and thorough walkthrough here.
I go over both methods in the video below!
Leveling up your flat patterning
Here are some cool projects and skills you can work on as you start to look forward toward building your skills.
- Pattern grading
- Lengthen a skirt
- Stand collars
- Peter pan collar
- Make a pattern from an existing garment
- Fitting pants
- Morticia Skirt
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