Archive for the ‘fit + patterns’ category

Blocks or Slopers ?

November 23, 2022

What do these words refer to ? This question came up in a discussion group I belong to. And for me it turned into a review of where our personal basic patterns come from. Thought I would put my comments here in case they encourage others in the same situation.

I don’t much use the terms block and sloper. I have worked my way through the drafting instructions in so many pattern making classes, books and software using ‘personal measurements’, which have never ended up with a basic pattern which even remotely resembled me. I did eventually have the sense to stop trying yet another of those methods in the hope it would at last be one that worked for me.
I found (see later) that it was something about the general principles of these methods which meant that they weren’t for me (especially the fit features which were included), not a limitation of the specific way the blocks were drafted. A naive beginner might assume there is a standard way of drafting pattern blocks, but actually each person who writes a textbook has a different method.

As we all have different body shapes, as well as different clothing styles and learning styles, we need to find our own way through the plethora of methods for attaining basic reference patterns which work for us. Meaning the patterns fit well, and provide a starting point for making the sort of garments we wear.

Perhaps there are different groups of us. Most pattern drafting and fitting methods work well for people who like fitted clothes, and have only one or two body features different from average. While I’m in a group who mainly wear casual clothes, and who have many differences from average.
Although I could now make fitted styles for myself if I wanted to, I find I don’t. Comfort and ease of movement are essentials for me. And though I have a good silhouette (with indented waist) from the front, from the side both bust and rear are flat and the only obvious features are my round shoulders and protruding stomach !

I talk in detail about the ‘issues’ I have with fit. But my solutions are just an example. It’s obvious from the comments below, and from sewing friends, that each of us who has big difficulties with fit has to find their own solution, which may be the opposite of mine 😀 While I have no use for them, other people have found it helpful to use software, tissue fitting, drafting (one specific method), a fitting scheme which ignores shoulders . . . Of course if you have a generous bust or rear, your fitting needs will not be the same as mine. So each of us has to do much exploring.

Combined in my case with the issue that my preferred learning style is to follow detailed instructions when I first start learning, and give credit to the teacher as an expert. So I stayed for much longer than I should have with trying to follow pattern making and fit courses and books which didn’t work for me. Each expert is so enthusiastic about selling their method, and making big claims that it works for everyone. For a long time I assumed there was something wrong with me, not with the methods on offer.

Why don’t all these methods work for me ?

I had to do much work to understand why those methods didn’t work for me (much of it recorded in posts here). Most of the points in this section are about fit. There are many variations in fitting technique, also in what is fitted and in what order. And pattern drafting usually starts with making fitted bodice and skirt blocks. While I rarely wear closely fitted clothes, so those are not tools I need.

Nearly all pattern drafting methods divide your overall bust, waist and hip measures into 4 sections, and use this quarter measure for drafting the half-pattern block. I stopped following this idea after I measured my front and back separately for each of those 3 areas, converted those measures to BMV pattern sizes, and found I need 4 different pattern sizes in all (see
this post).

There are several posts here on fit, in which I discuss the limits of fitting methods. Most pattern making and fitting sources include about 20 fit issues, which is about 1/4 of the 80+ issues that Liechty & Co describe. My fitting issues are mostly among the other 3/4. . . which the courses never mention, grrr. . .

I eventually gave away my copies of a famous series of fitting books, as they never answered any of my fitting questions. As an example of other sources, there’s a pattern company whose sewing courses I greatly enjoy, who have a course on fitting a bodice. There’s no mention at all about making a comfortable neckline or armhole-sleevehead, which are two of my biggest issues. (Liechty & Co is the only place I’ve found my armhole fit problems mentioned.)

I do think it’s irresponsible for people to claim that their fitting method works for everyone, when they include such a small proportion of what can be important. Though the claims can be very tempting. I would love to be able to use one of those pattern rulers, they claim to give a personalised fit and make the drafting process look so easy. But if you watch the video you’ll see that every curve is standardised, and nearly every dimension of the top is taken as related to the bust measure.

And as for that pattern company which claims their patterns fit everyone ! They did stop claiming that for a while after I wrote to complain, but I see they’ve started again. Here’s a post on why that is impossible. Though I’m surprised people need that explaining to them, you just need to look around to see how many different body shapes there are !

My main fitting issues (they get described as ‘issues’ only because they’re different from ‘average’!) are with neckline, shoulders, armhole, and relative length proportions.
Instead of thinking of these as difficulties, even abnormalities, think of getting fit right for you as a special type of self-care 😀
It is amazing how well-fitted clothes can make you look as if you have a perfect body !

And many fitting methods deal with fitting issues in isolation, while if you improve the fit of one aspect of a garment, it usually worsens the fit of another. . . I did eventually learn to fit by ‘reading the wrinkles’ of a starter garment, which shows all the interactions. And you don’t need to know the cause to deal with the result. Using a complete fabric test garment. Combined with ‘slash the test garment and allow to spread’ when an area is too tight.
(Never ’tissue fitting’ a half-garment paper pattern, which is impossible without knowledgeable help.)

As I have sloping shoulders I need to start with fitting them so a garment hangs properly, while several fitting methods fit shoulders last.

Also most style advice for body shapes is stuck in the 50s, and aims at getting you to look more as if you have a balanced hourglass shape, rather than celebrating your good features. I’m a ‘pear’ shape, and would prefer to focus the viewer’s eye on my slim shoulders, not try to make my shoulders look as wide as my hips !

Another aspect of personal style : I usually enjoy using a computer, so assumed I would like pattern making software. But when I did at last find pattern making software which allowed me to alter shapes to my fit (Garment Designer), I found that for pattern making I am much happier working directly with paper and pencil, rather than entering numbers and moving points on a screen.

So how did I get my basic reference patterns, and what are they for ?

I do sometimes refer to my basic patterns as ‘blocks’, but they weren’t derived in the official way – by starting with some basic measurements and blank paper, and drafting. Though I have taken that rare thing, a class which drafts a starter block using only your personal measurements (from Brooks Ann Camper), instead of much of the time using ‘standard’ industry measures. Such as Suzy Furrer does at Craftsy (surely if commercial patterns don’t fit well, those standard measures are what we need to get away from). I stopped having any interest in Suzy Furrer’s block drafting classes when she told you to use an ‘industry standard’ measure which I already knew was wrong for me. Her classes on changing a basic block to make other styles can be more useful, as those methods apply to nearly any basic pattern, not just hers. Even with Brooks Ann’s course, after I had finished altering my muslin to fit, there was only one aspect of the result which was the same as the pattern I had drafted to start from. So the outcome of the fitting work is useful, the drafted ‘personal block’ wasn’t.

Although I have an indented waist I haven’t got much of a bust and don’t use fitted patterns much. So I don’t actually need what most pattern drafting classes start from. They start from drafting a fitted block and expand it to make casual patterns. It turned out to be much less work for me to start by fitting casual commercial patterns similar to what I was looking for. I’m a casual dresser who mostly wears loose to very loose fitting clothes, but even they look much better if they fit well.

Some of my basic reference patterns were derived from fitting a commercial pattern, and I label them by the source name.
This is the same as what people do when they develop TNTs – Tried ‘N True patterns. Those are not usually referred to as ‘blocks’, but they are in practice.

These are my successful patterns based on a specific starting point.
In each case, the main fitting issue was getting the shoulder slope/length-armhole-sleeve cap relation right. At that time there was little guidance available on that. Just recently Sew Sew Guild has offered a course.
fitted bodice and sleeves – fitted bodice from Brooks Ann Camper class, armhole and sleeve finalised in Judy Kessinger class.
raglan sleeve top – Sewing Workshop Trio (see post here).
drop shoulder loose fitting casual top – Cindy Taylor Oates Sew-Easy shirt (see post here).
very loose fitting ‘coat’ size – Burda (started as a men’s pyjamas pattern 😀 ).

My other base patterns developed through basic fitting work direct on my body, not from either drafting or from fitting someone else’s pattern.

cut-on sleeve top – started from a self-made sketch. I want a flared silhouette and all the 100s of commercial patterns are straight. (First test garment made in Pattern Ease.)
starting point
starting point

after fitting – shoulders and front neck depth copied from CTO so didn’t need work, this is the back, little change to the front.
after fitting

pants – the result of much work by me, e.g. side seam shape from direct draping on my body, crotch curve from using a bendy ruler – no commercial pattern looks anything like it (I have a protruding front and flat rear on a deep torso which slopes down from front to back).

Liechty & Co have more than 40 pages on the crotch curve, and several people who advise on pant fitting have many photos/sketches of what can go wrong. I found using a bendy ruler very effective – instant good fit – amazing. And without having to try to understand what is wrong – I usually can’t identify myself among all the photos and diagrams.

Though there are many fit advisors who, if your crotch length is not average, just tell you to increase the crotch height, mentioning nothing about crotch extensions or curve shape. (Crotch extensions are the ‘horizontal’ sections that go under the body, see this post.) Most pattern drafting sources don’t mention crotch shape. Another issue is that some pattern grading methods use the same crotch extensions for all sizes – have they really not noticed the varying depth of larger bodies ! When I come across a pant pattern like that, I don’t waste any more time on it.

My lower body has much the same total circumference all the way down. But actually my shape changes greatly between waist and knees. A few inches below my waist, there’s my protrusion at high hips. Moving down a few inches, this shifts forward to maximum protrusion of my stomach. Shifts down and back to maximum protrusion of my buttocks. Shifts down and sideways to maximum width of my thighs. It’s better just to use a straight shape down from high hips, not try to follow how these lumps move around. I do avoid wearing anything tight fitting !

waist to hip darts – used for both skirt and pants, developed by self-fitting on my body, with some help from Brooks Ann Camper. Back on left :
3 back darts

One pattern making book even forbids using the result I found I needed (3 back darts, to deal with my indented waist above high hip pads – she said you should never use more than 2 darts).

So this is yet another rant from me about pattern making and fitting classes which, despite their grand claims, only work well for people who are close to average.

Sadly those of us who are far from ‘average’ in our body shape need to do much work and exploration to find what we need to get a good fit. It may take years before you feel satisfied, but every little improvement is a help and an achievement. You have my sympathy ♥️

I have long been angry about personal pattern drafting classes which generate ‘blocks’/ ‘slopers’. But I am pleased that, after decades of struggle and upset from believing the claims of pattern making and fitting sources, I do know both which basic patterns I need and how to get them 😀

I still don’t know whether I should call these basic patterns ‘blocks’ or ‘slopers’. But I don’t much care – it’s having them that matters 😀

Choosing core pattern blocks

May 22, 2022

How to choose a small basic set of patterns to use as the starting point for your hacking adventures ?

I’m surprised that I have at last got my own group of core patterns. I recognise that I have got to this point because I now feel relaxed about it. It must have been a concern for years, as I’ve written many posts about it, which I’ve pulled together here. I have written so much on this, it’s obviously not a topic for which there is an instant, or single, solution.

There are three main sections of this post :
– my own core patterns, as an example.
– I wrote many past posts about the possible choice of a small group of patterns to make a capsule, which I have brought together here.
– as most of those posts are a decade old the pattern links no longer work, so I have added links to some current indie pattern companies which offer stylish casual patterns.

– – –

My own core patterns

As in most aspects of sewing, there are so many pattern choices it can rapidly get overwhelming. So it’s well worth being secure about your own style, the clothes that you love to wear. Notice what it is that you always reach for, or that you regret being in the laundry.

The best patterns to use as a base for pattern hacking are very simple, they have few or no style elements. Those elements are added by the pattern hacking.

The following posts are about my own core patterns, the basic shapes I need for ‘stylish casuals’ :
cut-on sleeve top,
drop shoulder casual sleeved top (also basis for shirts),
on-shoulder casual sleeved top,
basic slim leg pants fit (scroll down).
I also have a well-fitting pattern for a raglan sleeve top, though that’s not a key shape for me, I need more shoulder definition.

The pullover tops can all easily be developed to other garment types :
– open the front : here’s my series of posts on doing that.
– enlarge to a layering jacket/ vest/ coat : I refer to Don McCunn p.154.

All the tops can very easily be lengthened into simple dresses (basically just extend the side seams, some notes on this process from Paper Theory).

I also have core patterns for, but rarely use as I’m not a dress and skirt wearer :
– fitted bodice,
– pencil skirt,
– a-line skirt (without darts).
For my body shape, I would do best with an a-line dress shape, neatly fitted at the shoulders and armholes with generous ease at the hips.
If I was a dress wearer with a more average body shape I would also have a core :
– sheath dress (fitted dress without a waist seam),
but my small busted wide hipped body would just look silly in such a style.

Once your core patterns are developed to fit well, then you can look at the pattern companies for style element ideas 😀 to add to the basics by pattern hacking (see the first post in this pair).

– – –

Past posts on small groups of patterns
I’ve written many posts which suggest a group of patterns for a core wardrobe. They were originally written as comments on wardrobe planning, so don’t include much guidance on hacking them to make different styles, such as :
Pattern books for wardrobe building
A core wardrobe from Sew Over It patterns

A wardrobe pattern might be simple solution to the issue of finding a basic set of patterns that co-ordinate, but they’re no longer available, just not economic I suppose. Some indie pattern designers have ‘pattern bundles’. I was fond of the long out-of-print 6-item Central Park pattern from Park Bench patterns, very easy to copy, either literally or in spirit.


Most of my posts about small groups of co-ordinating patterns refer to the work of 5 people who advise using a small capsule of key pieces as a basis for wardrobe choices : Eileen Fisher, Nancy Nix-Rice, Judith Rasband, The Vivienne Files, and Linda Lee of Sewing Workshop patterns.

Most of these posts on patterns for capsules were written around a decade ago, so many of the specific pattern suggestions are out of print. Though many of the ideas still apply. Although ‘fashion’ changes in detail every season, the basic styles which most of us wear are fairly constant.

These posts refer mainly Big 4 patterns, as they were easy to find out about at the time. Sadly those sites have changed, so most of the links in the posts do not work.
So these posts now mainly provide food for thought rather than usable links.

Eileen Fisher
here’s the 2022 version of her basics.

basic capsule.
revise the basics.
spring suggestions.
first part of Eileen Fisher’s holiday wear capsule, tops.
holiday wear dresses

Nancy Nix-Rice
Her set of posts referred to in my posts are no longer available. Her book has brief sections on all wardrobing topics and could be a good replacement, or she has a Craftsy class if you prefer video. She more recently emphasises that the styles in her core wardrobe diagrams are just indications, not required, such as : you need some sort of front-opening layer to wear in more serious situations, but it need not be a blazer !

NNR capsules
Some of Nancy’s capsule suggestions : 3 jackets, 4 tops, 2 skirts, 3 pants

first 8 items, there are 12 items in her core wardrobe, starting with a ‘Core 4’. The first 8 items are in dark and light core neutrals.
final 4 items, adding colour and print.
additions, the best items to add when you want more than 12. ‘Best’ defined as those items which instantly add outfits for many more situations, such as leisure if you’ve focussed your 12 on professional/ serious, or vice versa.
more comments.
accessories, no patterns.

Judith Rasband
author of college text Wardrobe Strategies for Women [terrible cover, rich content],
and the fitting bible.
While Nancy Nix-Rice uses similar shapes for the same type of garment, to make co-ordination easy, Judith Rasband deliberately makes several of the same type of garment as different as possible, to make different styles of outfit.
She has retired and her site is discontinued.

general capsule, she uses a ‘Core 5’ with 2 skirts.
summer capsule, this is 6 items with 3 tops.
variations for summer.

Vivienne Files
Janice has many bases for organising your wardrobe choices, see the Articles tab here.

wardrobe of relaxed basics [this post was written at the time of the Queen’s Diamond jubilee, in June we will be celebrating her Platinum jubilee – 70 years as Queen – amazing, good for her].
variations on relaxed wardrobe.
starting with smaller groups.

Sewing Workshop patterns
layering wardrobe.
Currently Linda Lee sews a new capsule each year, in the Sew Confident series.

other posts :
Holiday wardrobe plans, only 2 patterns suggested : classic tailored and casual wardrobe patterns.

suggestions for 3-item groups, each item claimed to be makable in less than 3 hours.

An early piece on my own minimal basics.

Fall season 2012.

More sources suggesting small groups of garments, not many pattern suggestions.

Wardrobe patterns 2012, there were more wardrobe patterns then.

– – –

Indie pattern companies

The basic options for a casual wardrobe keep repeating. Nearly every company has patterns for a tee, tank, sweatshirt/ hoodie, cardigan, casual pants.
And the number of indie pattern companies has greatly expanded since the above posts were written (new ones daily). So there are many other sources of good casual patterns. It’s just a matter of finding ones that are right for you.

Here is a small selection of current companies mainly oriented to stylish casuals rather than activewear or dresses – my choice, other people could come up with a completely different list :

The Assembly Line.

BMann by Bridget – lagenlook.

Closet Core – famous for their jeans.

Friday Pattern Company.

Grainline Studio.

Helmersson – zero waste.

In the Folds – ‘Curated by In the Folds’ is a series of detailed written tutorials on intermediate level techniques for sewing, fitting, hacking.

Megan Nielsen.

Muna & Broad – will draft larger if you need it.

Paper Theory.

Rebecca Page.

Sew House Seven.

Sew Liberated.

Twig and Tale.

Wardrobe By Me.

mainly knits :

Christine Jonson.

Pamela’s Patterns.

There are many many more indie companies. The list of companies at Pattern Review goes into the 100s. As there are also many small companies which don’t appear in the Pattern Review list, there may be as many as 150,000 patterns, more if we’re interested in vintage patterns.

No wonder we get overwhelmed !! So it’s important to have a strategy for limiting the options.
What are the basic 3-4 garment types that you absolutely have to have in your closet ?

Are there one or two pattern companies you feel especially in tune with ? For me, if I was restricted to using only patterns from one company I might choose the relaxed styles at Paper Theory or Sew House Seven, or the crisper styles at The Assembly Line if I was still working, with Birgitta Helmersson for when I’m feeling especially planet-conscious. While when I’m going more ‘cottage core’/ sprite I choose Twig and Tale.
But I’m a pattern nerd, expecting me to reduce my patterns is unrealistic 😀
Okay, if you don’t keep up with all the other pattern lines you might miss something good, but that way madness lies ! I’m on many e-mail lists, but I keep away from all the aggressive marketing on Instagram.

Which would be your favourite pattern for each of your essential garment types ?

– – –

There are two aims to finding these small groups of co-ordinating patterns :
– simplifying your wardrobe planning and co-ordination,
– providing the starting points for your pattern hacking, as summarised in the first post of this pair.

Best Wishes and Good Luck for finding and fitting your own top ranking patterns, which you can use as a starting point for hacking to add your own favourite style elements. These can be your TNTs – Tried aNd True patterns – those shapes which are key in building your personal wardrobe.

♥️ 👍 ♥️ 👍 ♥️

= = = = =

One Pattern Many Looks – pattern hacking

May 22, 2022

Having recently established my own group of core essentials patterns which I can use as the base for pattern hacking, I’ve been pulling together my previous posts related to this topic into a group of 2 posts :
– pattern hacking – this post,
– choosing a small group of core patterns to use as the starting point for hacking – separate post.

Once you have a basic pattern you’re happy with, there’s an almost infinite number of changes you can make to it. With the special bonus that, if the starting pattern fits you well, the patterns you make from it are likely to fit you well too. Here are some of the many books and patterns on the subject. Follow through with any of them for a huge range of ideas.

As my body is very non-average – developing some basic patterns that fit well, and then hacking them to make new styles, works much better for me than using a different pattern for every project. So this is a topic I keep returning to. The suggestions below are the options that come first to mind, so most are in my casual top-plus-pants style.

Most of the books include patterns, but I think it’s best to use their ideas to alter your own pattern blocks. Otherwise you just keep repeating the same problem: every time you start with a new book or pattern, you have to get the patterns to fit you before you can start making your own styles.

You can of course choose your own group of basic block patterns to use in your hacking. In this blog I have often chosen a group of patterns as the base for a capsule. I have linked to those posts in a second post, though they contain little hacking guidance. Perhaps like me you just need :
– blouse/ layering top (jacket)/pants.
Or your key choices might be :
– sheath dress/dress with waist seam/’french’ jacket, or
– tee/ cardigan/ jeans,
or any other grouping, depending on your personal style.

Once you have your base patterns, the sources linked from this post are ones that do much of the thinking for you about how to change them, they include many ideas and much guidance on both pattern making and construction.

– – –

One-pattern-many-looks books, patterns included :

This isn’t all of them, some others are mentioned in my other posts.

full size paper patterns :
Sonya Philip, Act of Sewing, patterns for cut-on sleeve and fitted sleeve tops, a-line skirt, pants. Half the book is on simple pattern alterations.

Kwik Sew Easy Sewing, patterns for tee, camp shirt, pants, straight and flared skirts. Many alternative styles for each, with pattern changes indicated.

pdf patterns :
Amy Barickman Magic Pattern Book, patterns for tank top, peasant style top/dress, skirt, cardigan, coat, accessories, with patterns for 6 variations of each plus many more ideas.

draft patterns from diagrams :
Rusty Bensussen, 4 patterns – top (also used for dresses, jackets, coats), pants, a-line and circle skirts.

Bordow and Rosenberg Hassle Free Make Your Own Clothes, mainly skirt, top, pants.

I don’t wear dresses and skirts, but this is one of several books about modular dress patterns – combine any bodice with any skirt : Tanya Whelan.

and there are several similar books about skirts, such as :
A-line skirts.
4 skirt silhouettes.
This is even easier – Sew What Skirts.

In the same spirit as the last skirts book, but about making simple items from fleece – Sew What Fleece.

– – –

If you prefer videos, these are some options.

A couple of DVDs by Angela Wolf at Threads :
One Pattern Many Ways One, and Two.

Many classes at Craftsy.
Many classes from Suzy Furrer on changing style elements. I do not recommend her classes on basic sloper drafting as she claims to help you draft personalised patterns, but actually uses many ‘industry standard’ measures, so the patterns are barely better fitting than any other.
I find when I have followed one of these pattern drafting methods (not just Suzy Furrer’s, any of the ‘personalised’ sloper drafting methods) I then have to do a huge amount of fitting work to get the draft to work for me, so I might as well do that on a starter pattern and skip all the drafting effort. I don’t have any problems with the geometry and maths of drafting, what does leave me spitting pins is that the supposedly well-fitting pattern I end up with after a lot of work actually has no relation to me whatever. And I’ve tried many such methods. See my fitting posts. And as you can see, whenever this topic comes up, I’m still so angry I can’t resist a rant !
But Suzy Furrer does also have many classes on how to change style elements, and you can use those ideas on your own base patterns that do fit you well.

(Much easier ways of getting core patterns that fit without drafting your own block :
cut-on sleeve top,
sleeved top,
basic pants fit.)

There are also Craftsy classes on changes you can make starting from a basic blouse and pants patterns (patterns not included).

– – –

Pattern ranges

Fit for Art has several basic patterns with detailed instructions on how to get them to fit well. Then many add-on patterns with the specific pattern pieces for making other styles.

There is a Simplicity hacking patterns range which includes the pattern pieces you need – not as many options in this range as there used to be.

– – –

The following sources refer to master patterns which must be bought separately. You can use many of their ideas on your own pattern block, so it is not essential to start from their master pattern :

from Judy Kessinger of FitNice, who has master patterns for top and pants :
tops, dresses, pants, jackets.
tops only.

from Glenda Sparling of Sure-Fit Designs : variations of her dress, shirt, pants patterns.

Or, if you want to be more in ‘official pattern making style’, the book by Adele Margolis starts from a fitting sloper and makes it all much easier than the big college textbook tomes.

– – –

Pattern hacking can be very easy to do. Don’t be put off trying it by looking at one of the huge college pattern making textbooks.
Many ideas in this pattern hacking post, which has :
– many suggestions for simple starting points.
– links to more patterns which include hacking instructions.

And yet more ideas in these hacking posts. More books and patterns to add to those listed above :
My sewing style is one pattern many looks.
easiest pattern changes.
more simple starting points for pattern changes.
more books.

– – –

Choose and develop the fit of your own core patterns (see some ideas on the patterns to choose in the second post in this group), and look here and at the hacking posts for ideas on what to do with them !

Once you find pattern hacking is something you enjoy doing, the range of options can be overwhelming. Explore to find which part of all this fascinates you, what lifts your spirits and warms your heart 😀

= = = = =

The world of cut-on sleeves

January 22, 2022

I first posted this topic here, then decided it is more about tips for learners, rather than opinion for more experienced sewers, so have moved it my other main blog, Aim for Quality.