Archive for the ‘pattern making for clothes’ category

e-Book – Basic pattern blocks

July 6, 2013

Wow, on Thursday, someone made the half-millionth visit to one of my posts !

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

In celebration, here’s a ‘door prize’ for everyone.

Some of my most popular posts are on pattern making.

So here’s an e-book which combines the main posts.

e-Book on Personal basic pattern making blocks.pdf.

This e-book is a survey of methods for getting well fitting basic pattern blocks.
It doesn’t describe any of the methods in detail.
Or how to do the pattern altering to change the blocks to make new styles.

It’s based on these posts :

Introduction – from Favourite books – pattern altering
Pattern making – the formal route
Pattern making – easier fitting shells
Aids to well fitting blocks

These posts overlap a bit so I’ve combined and edited, and updated my opinions😀

Enjoy !
I hope you find it useful.
And Thank You Very Much for your interest.

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

July 2013

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6-gore skirt pattern

June 22, 2013

The Great British Sewing Bee TV series was a good inspiration for reviewing/ developing sewing skills.

The first episode of GBSB started with an a-line skirt (McCall’s 3341).


But an a-line style is not my best choice. I prefer the way the straight of grain falls in a gored skirt.
In an a-line skirt, all the fullness falls at the side seams.
In a six gore skirt it’s distributed around 6 seams, so the drape is less strongly localised.



This flared skirt has a wider hem than the 6-gore one, but you can see the general idea – the flared skirt seam is much more on the bias.

This difference doesn’t really show on a thigh-length skirt, but I like low calf length skirts, where the difference in drape and movement is quite pronounced.

I looked at a commercial 6-gore skirt pattern, and realised it would be more trouble to adapt that to my own shape than to make a pattern from my own skirt block.

So what about making a 6-gore skirt pattern ?

Look on the web and there are many tutorials for making a very basic pattern using 6 pieces with the same shape, and elastic waist.


But, if you have a skirt base pattern, it’s not much more difficult to make a ‘proper’ 6-gore skirt pattern – fitted over hips, with different pattern pieces for front, back and sides.
This pattern has a zip in centre back seam, so it actually has 7 fabric pieces.

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What you need to make the pattern

Skirt base pattern
Either a personal skirt block. Or a commercial skirt pattern preferably with 1-dart front and back.
Easier to start from a straight skirt pattern. With a flared skirt pattern, you don’t know if it has been altered in the hip area as part of the design.


Pattern paper – anything, even newsprint.
Easier if you use something you can trace through.
I use swedish tracing paper, which is very convenient as you can sew it to make a first muslin.
Or ordinary tracing paper.

Drawing tool. Pattern making books insist you use a well sharpened 4H pencil. Well, I’m sure that’s important for professionals. But I use a wide tipped felt pen. My body alters by more than the width of that line every time I breathe. . . I know 1/8 in./ 5 mm is important in some fit issues, but those I check on a muslin. I don’t try to get them right on the first version of the pattern.

Pattern makers drawing aids (optional). Not essential for something as easy as a skirt pattern, but they do make drawing smooth lines so much easier.
Curve. I love my battered transparent French curve, marked with 5/8 in. round the curve and also an 1/8 in grid.
But there are astonishing numbers of different types of dressmakers curves. Do a search for ‘french curve’ at Amazon to see if there’s one you like the look of.
Long straight edge. The famous ‘yardstick’, but any long firm edge will do. A 12in./ 30 cm ruler isn’t long enough for many pattern making purposes.

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Making the skirt pattern

1. Extend or shorten the skirt pattern to the length you want (red lines).


2. Mark a line down from the main dart, the same distance from CF/ CB all the way down.

Mark the grain line straight down all sections.
Mark that centre front is placed on fold of fabric.


3. Cut apart the pattern on the line, so you have 4 parts :
front centre and side
back centre and side.


Label the pieces as they’re all quite similar.

If you started from a one-dart pattern, you now have a pattern with no darts. The dart shaping is incorporated in the shape of the added seams.

4. Trace these 4 shapes on pattern paper with space around them.
(If you’re using tracing paper, you could trace the 4 shapes direct, without cutting the original pattern apart.)

5. Add flare to the seams (green lines)
– to side seam of centre front
– to both sides of the front side section.
– to both sides of the back side section.
– centre back – add to side seam (centre back too if you want more fullness).


(I found it much easier and quicker to make the real pattern than to learn new software to make these drawings :D)

The amount you add is a design decision.
Adding 1 inch/ 2.5 cm at the hem level of each seam makes the hem 12 in./ 30 cm. wider than the hips.
Add 2 in./ 5 cm widens hem by 24 in./ 60 cm.
Add 3 in./ 7.5 cm widens hem by 36 in./ 90 cm.

No need to measure this with a ruler – just mark the amount you want on the edge of a piece of paper, and use that to get the flares consistent in size.

Use a long straight edge to draw the flare down from the hip curve to the hem level.
Or you can curve the flare outwards from about knee level, to make a trumpet skirt.

As a variant of the straight flare – Lori Knowles in Practical Guide to Pattern Making page 214 suggests using different amounts of flare at different seams.

On a long skirt, she adds 3 in./ 7.5 cm to the side front seams, 4 in./ 10 cm to the side seams, and 5 in./12.5 cm to the side back seams.
Which adds a total of 48 in./ 120 cm to the hem.
A lovely idea for a dancing skirt which swirls more at the back than the front !

I did this on a smaller scale for a slimmer effect – added 1 in. to side front seams, 2 in. to side seams, and 3 in. to side back seams.
This adds a total of 24 in./ 60 cm to the hem.
With my hips, that makes a hem width of nearly 2 yards which, even at lower calf length, makes for easy walking without needing a slit.

6. Add seam allowances on all the new seam lines, and hem allowance on the bottom edges (if you like to have them on your patterns).
I don’t always have seam allowances on my patterns, so I make a note on the pattern about whether they’re there.

Add reminder pattern markings, to put centre front on a fold of fabric.
And a mark to show the bottom of the zip on the centre back seam.

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A starting pattern with more darts

If your body shape is like mine, large high hips make it essential to have more darts in a fitted skirt.

Here’s my ‘hip template’. Learned to make a template for the waist-hip area from the late Shannon Gifford, in her pattern classes at Pattern Review


(back is on left, front right)

Note these templates don’t include seam allowances – much easier for pattern altering, and for tracing round. But don’t worry if you’re starting from a pattern with seam allowances. The method for simple skirts is the same.

So when I make a 6-gored skirt pattern starting from these templates, I still have 2 darts in the side back pattern piece.

I could of course divide the skirt back pattern into 4 parts, not 2, and have fun making all sorts of different flare shapes at the side back !

This hip template can be used as the starting point for both skirts and pants.
Several pattern making books use this for the upper part of a pants pattern, rather than drafting the whole thing from scratch.

And how about using the same pattern making alterations to add princess seams and flares to your basic pant pattern 😀
Alter all the seams by the same amount, so you don’t alter the ‘balance’ of the pants, how they hang from the waist.

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Waistband pattern


Length = waist length + 2 in./ 5 cm for overlap
width = 2 x finished width
Plus seam allowances added all around.

Or mark the size directly on the fabric with chalk, instead of making a pattern.

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Sewing instructions

It’s a good idea to label all the fabric pieces after you cut them out before taking the pattern off, as they’re all quite similar.

Assembly instructions for sewing your own pattern ?
For a gored skirt, slightly adapt the instructions for a pencil or a-line skirt.
Here are links to some free sewalongs.

It you know how to sew :
– darts (if needed),
– any type of zip,
– waistband,
you won’t have much difficulty without instructions.

So Good Luck with making your own skirt using your own pattern and your own sewing knowledge 😀

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Patterns and links available June 2013

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Favourite books – pattern drafting and fit

June 15, 2013

More of my favourite books. I found I had so much to say on pattern making, it’s become two posts.This is the second, on pattern drafting and fit.
See the first section of my post on Favourite books – pattern altering, which explains the distinction I make between pattern drafting and pattern altering.

For general comments on my book lists, see my first book post, on favourite books about Style and wardrobe planning.

So here are some books on starting pattern making with just a blank piece of paper, pencil, ruler, list of measurements, and no simplifying tools or aids.

I’m just talking about pattern drafting books here, not about commercial simplified methods for getting well fitting basic pattern blocks, such as a fitting shell from one of the pattern companies, a template/ ruler, a multi-size traceable pattern, or pattern making software. As far as I know there are no books on these. (See my post on Easier fitting shells.)

Also here are books on fit. Even when you draft a personal block, you usually have to adjust the fit, unless you’re lucky enough to be an ideal match with that particular approach to pattern drafting. Before I started trying this myself, I was naive enough to assume all pattern drafting methods are the same, and that they all really do make a perfectly fitting block without any further effort. Sadly, not so.

These are personal favourites, I make no claim that they’re best for everyone !

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Pattern DRAFTING from personal measurements

Simplified drafting for specific projects

Francesca DenHartog Sew What Skirts

Jessop & Sekora Sew What Fleece

Simplest books on general techniques

Easy books on both pattern drafting and pattern altering.

René Bergh Make your own patterns.
I often look at this book first as she makes pattern making look easy. Sadly her simple methods don’t always give good results (the finished clothes often don’t fit well). So after I’ve built my confidence by looking at her instructions, I check other books for refinements. She includes quarter-scale patterns, with instructions for how to scale them up, to use if you don’t want to do the drafting.

My second-easiest book is Gillian Holman Pattern Cutting made easy.
Simpler pattern alterations than in Adele Margolis Make your own dress patterns. (Margolis doesn’t include drafting personal blocks so is listed in my post on pattern altering.) Gillian Holman gives instructions for drafting but recommends starting from a commercial fitting shell pattern.

Professional textbooks

I haven’t seen some of the big ‘bibles’ of pattern making. None of those get full enthusiasm at Amazon from beginners.
Here’s the index to the 3rd edition of Connie Crawford’s book, to give an idea what these big books contain.

Lori Knowles Practical Guide to Patternmaking
Project-based, but I find this is my ‘go-to’ pattern making book. I nearly always find what I’m looking for in the index, then find the instructions are what I want. Why is this so rare ! There’s a version for men too.

Winifrid Aldrich Metric Pattern Cutting
I love the beautiful presentation of this. Interesting chapter on uses of computers in the clothing industry. Note metric.

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Whatever your source of base patterns you use as your starting point for making your own styles, for a quality final pattern you need to get your base pattern to fit well. Then anything you make from it will be well on the way to fitting well too.

So to get a good pattern you also need to know how to fit. This is true even if you use one of the methods based on personal measurements. After all my struggles to get good basic blocks from pattern drafting or easier aids, all without success, this is something I do go on about rather! (If you don’t believe I’m that different from average without looking odd, see my post on Getting to know my sizes.) I don’t know of any pattern drafting method or simplified aid which includes all the measurements needed to get a good result for all possible body shapes, to cover all 88 fitting issues included in Liechty et al (see below). Any method which did try to include everything would be horrendously complicated. So you may need to make several muslins to perfect the fit of your carefully drafted personal basic blocks.

It’s also a good idea to make a test muslin of your final pattern. To check that reality matches your vision before cutting good fabric. An essential step for professional designers and custom dressmakers.

Sarah Veblen Complete photo guide to perfect fitting
Many photos on how to ‘read the wrinkles’ in a muslin (bodice, sleeve, skirt, not pants). This is my preferred fitting method, but many people don’t like it.

Gale Grigg Hazen Fantastic fit for every body
Many photos of and good advice for people who haven’t got ideal bodies. Detailed instructions for making a personal croquis from photos.

Liechty et al Fitting and Pattern alteration
The big ‘bible’ with 88 fitting issues. Three ‘alter the pattern before you cut the fabric’ methods.
The only fit book I’ve seen which covers all my fit issues. It was a good ‘aha’ moment when I tracked down my final fitting problem here. I knew I have a deep lower body, which causes some difficulties with pants fit. I didn’t know I have a deep upper body too, which affects armhole fit.

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Pattern altering or pattern drafting. Which approach suits you best ?
You can tell I’m not such a fan of pattern drafting and prefer pattern altering, as my post on books about pattern altering was twice as long as this 😀

These are my favourite books about pattern making and fit.
Final post in this group of posts on books will be about sewing.
I hope you find something useful and enjoyable !

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Links available June 2013

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Favourite books – pattern altering

June 1, 2013

So, you know what styles you like and where your wardrobe gaps are – how about making your own pattern? I wrote so much about books on this it’s become two posts, this one on pattern altering, the next on pattern drafting and fit. First some comments on what I mean by this distinction and why I list the books the way I do.

For general comments on my book lists, see my post on favourite books about Style and wardrobe planning.

I’m not calling these ‘recommended’ books, as I don’t have illusions that what I like is best for everyone. And there are hundreds of sewing books that I haven’t seen.
I also mention some pattern magazines and a couple of pattern lines.

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Pattern making intro

Pattern making textbooks describe two very different processes.
1. pattern drafting – draw out basic pattern blocks from scratch, based on personal or standard size measurements, using nothing more than paper, pencil, simple rulers.
2. pattern altering – change basic/ master patterns/ blocks to make new styles (also called ‘developing’ the pattern).

It’s important to realise you can do this pattern altering on any starting point pattern. You don’t have to start by drafting your own blocks from scratch, you can start from any pattern and alter it.

In fact there are several levels of difficulty of pattern making, depending on your starting point – what you use for your basic blocks :

– Draft your own basic blocks from measurements. Then alter them to your design. Good if you enjoy the maths and geometry involved, but not necessary.

Lots of books on doing this, including college text-books. I mention them in my post on Pattern making – the formal route, and plan to summarise my favourite books in the next post in this series.

– Use a commercial simplified method for getting well fitting basic blocks, such as a fitting shell from one of the pattern companies, a special ruler or multi-sized pattern, or pattern making software. Then alter them to your design.

As far as I know there are no books on these easier methods for getting personal blocks. I summarise the methods in my post on Easier fitting shells.

– Start from any pattern which is close to what you want, and alter it (what most professional designers do most of the time).

This post is about books on pattern altering which don’t expect you to start by drafting pattern blocks from scratch.

There are also two other approaches to pattern making which don’t start from basic blocks :

– For simple garments which don’t require good fit – start with an existing garment and use that as the basis for your pattern.

– And for something completely different there’s draping. Cut fabric shapes close to what you want but with big seam allowances. And play with manipulating the fabric on a dress form or model until it’s what you want. (See my post on Draping.) Work with fabric, pins, scissors. Rather than with paper, pencil, ruler. Some people find they’re much happier and more inspired this way.
There are books on draping but I haven’t tried it and don’t know them.

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Start from existing garments

Get the basic shapes and proportions for your own style from an existing garment. These books are fun, but they’re not for making high quality close fitting clothes 😀

DIY Couture by Rosie Martin has instructions for drawing garment shapes directly onto the fabric. Often drawing around existing garments. There’s a long review with sample pages by nouvellegamine.

Hippie style Hassle-free make your own clothes book by Bordow and Rosenberg – a bit like DIY Couture, but you draw the shapes onto paper rather than direct onto fabric.

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Pattern ALTERING – starting from an existing pattern – wardrobe pattern books

Wardrobe pattern books provide the base starting point patterns and have good pattern altering instructions for specific projects.

The easiest approach if you want styles which fit. Best to get the base patterns to fit well, before doing any pattern alterations. See next post in this group for books on fit.

Most of the pattern altering instructions in these books can be used on other patterns too. Wardrobe pattern books supply both base pattern and altering instructions. But you can apply the same ideas with many other patterns as your starting point. Such as your Tried ‘N True patterns.

Simplest style altering

Change fabrics and trims, all pattern changes supplied.

Kay Whitt Sew Serendipity
3 base patterns, 6 variations of each.


Pattern magazines like BurdaStyle, Knip Mode, La Mia Boutique, Ottobre have complete traceable patterns, often the same pattern made with slight changes to give very different looking styles.

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Very simple pattern alterations

Kerstin Martensson Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew Way
5 base patterns, for tee, dartless blouse, 2 skirts and pants with elastic waists – with instructions for many simple pattern variations. Good sewing instructions for advanced beginners.


Alison Smith Dressmaking
12 base patterns for classics, 19 simple pattern variations. Excellent sewing instructions at intermediate level.





There are also a couple of pattern lines oriented to pattern altering.
Nancy Erickson of Fashion Sewing Group publishes 6 base patterns (fitted and casual jackets, knit twinset, skirt, pants, coat). Plus innumerable suggestions for different versions in booklets and newsletter.
Shirley Adams of Alternatives has 3 base patterns (fitted and drop shoulder jackets, shell), plus other patterns which have the pattern pieces for variations.


Rusty Bensussen Making a complete wardrobe from 4 basic patterns
Big shouldered 80s styles ! but still good inspiration for making small pattern changes with big effects. Though don’t follow the 80s idea of making dress, jacket, coat all from the same pattern simply by changing the length. Do make coat 2 inches/ 5 cm larger than jacket 2 inches/ 5 cm larger than dress, if you want to be comfortable.
Minimal sewing instructions.
I have a post on following the inspiration of this book using a modern pattern.


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More complex pattern altering

Wendy Mullin Sew U and Built by Wendy series
Patterns for casuals. 3 base patterns in each book, with detailed pattern altering instructions for many variations, and even more suggestions. Inspirational pattern altering, but beware poor fit and minimal sewing instructions.

Sew U

Home Stretch knits

Built by Wendy Dresses

Coats & Jackets

Nora Abousteit Burda Style Sewing Handbook
5 base patterns, for blouse, skirt, dress, coat, bag. Pattern altering for several variations of each described in detail, with photos for more inspiration. Brief sewing instructions with few illustrations.


Sewing magazine Sew Stylish usually has suggestions for pattern altering, using a linked Simplicity pattern as a base (not supplied with magazine).

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Pattern altering – starting from basic personal blocks

When you do want to start making your own pattern from well fitting basic blocks, rather than from an existing pattern. The basic set of blocks is : fitted bodice, fitted sleeve, skirt, pants. Next step is to add casual/ dartless/ box torso block with associated looser armhole and sleeve.

Project based – Sure-Fit Designs booklets with DVDs.
Beyond bodice basics
Pants that Mix ‘N Multiply
Sew Sensational Shirts
Show you how to make various designs starting from basic pattern blocks. Related to the Sure-Fit Designs basic patterns, but can be used with any personal basic pattern blocks. Very clear with DVD demos.
The booklets that come with the basic dress, shirt and pants kits also include clear instructions for making many styles.
I like Glenda Sparling’s booklets. My body shape is so far from average that SFD basic blocks don’t give me a good starting point to make personal patterns from. But I can use her pattern altering instructions with my own personal blocks.

General principles without specific projects :
Adele Margolis Make your own dress patterns
Good clear guidance on how to alter your basic blocks. No basic patterns or specific projects, and nothing on how to draft personal fitting blocks. She assumes you start from a commercial fitting shell. (List of fitting shell patterns from Butterick-McCall’s-Vogue about half way down this post.)

Mrs Stylebook is a Japanese pattern magazine which gives detailed instructions for altering basic blocks to make specific styles. Visual presentation, metric, no sewing instructions. Use your own fitted and casual bodice blocks rather than theirs, which are for Japanese body shape.

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Goodness there are many options for devising your own patterns.
Which approach do you think would suit you best ?

These are my favourite books about pattern altering.
A post about pattern drafting and fit books is planned, then the final post in this group of book posts will be about sewing.

Do you make your own pattern alterations ? Start with a simple approach and see where it takes you 😀

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Links available June 2013

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