Pattern Making: The Process Of How To Make Your Own Patterns
I love pattern making. It is the thing that gets me most excited. Either pattern making on the flat, or as draping on the stand before transferring that drape off the stand and creating a pattern from it. Why do I love pattern making so much? I think it is the freedom it gives me to dress how I want and express my creativity in unique ways.
Pattern Making To Enable Dressing Consciously
This post written a few weeks back was all about dressing consciously, and I thought I would expand upon that here, in the context of pattern making. You see, the one thing I’m told is the biggest problem for most people when it comes to wanting to dress more consciously is cost. This may be the cost measured as money or cost measured as time.
Financial Cost of Dressing Consciously
If you have the money, you can buy fashion items that have a more considered and sustainable manufacturing and design process.
A few examples of brands with a transparent and sustainable approach are:
– Les Sublimes – A Paris based brand. Their collections are made from organic, sustainably-harvested natural resources.
– Minna – An Eco-Luxe brand using sustainable, organic, recycled and locally produced fabrics.
– Papanui – An eco-fashion company from the Isle of Wight. They use organic cotton, British wool, recycled plastic and bamboo.
– People Tree – The pioneers of ethical and sustainable fashion.
Time Cost of Dressing Consciously
When you don’t have the money – like myself and quite probably you too – it costs more in time. It takes time to decide on a design, create the pattern, source the fabric carefully and then actually create the garment. We could even say that this process is actually MORE costly than buying from sustainably minded brands.
I know myself from conceiving, designing and making multiple fashion collections that it takes time.
This is why there are designers out there creating amazing patterns for those who want to sew their own fashion pieces. It takes one step out of the creation process.
I too will be adding downloadable patterns to my site as soon as they are fully tested and get the OK from my pattern testers. (Drop me an email using the contact form if you are interested in being a pattern tester for me!)
However, I do believe that for those people excited about learning how to design and create their own fashionable clothes, there should be an online resource for learning all of this, in the one place. That’s why The Creative Curator exists.
The Process of Making Your Own Clothes
There are several steps to making your own clothes, and several more if you want to make them well, and also keep them fashionable. We don’t want our creations to be ‘homemade’ but ‘handmade’.
Handmade vs Homemade
The difference? When something is beautifully finished and looks like it cost a pretty penny? Handmade. The best couture pieces are handmade and not surprisingly cost thousands of pounds. When something looks like it is ill fitting, with a design that hasn’t been thought through and made in a fabric that is not suitable for the garment? That will make it look like it was homemade. It’ll have that rustic charm to it, but it won’t make you feel amazing. Ok, I admit it here. I am a handmade snob. I never wear anything I’ve made if I think it looks in anyway ‘homemade’. 😮
If you want to have the best shot at making your pieces look handmade and not homemade, check out this post on sewing seams.
The Design Process
Understanding silhouette, creating mood boards, the importance of research both in 2D and 3D format, working with colour and texture, pattern making and sewing skills, as well as learning how to style the creations you’ve worked so hard on. All these different elements make up creating fashion pieces, even if we do think of it as ‘just a simple skirt’.
The shape, colour and fabric choices you make for that skirt will all drastically alter how it turns out.
So, it’s time to ramp it up a gear here at The Creative Curator. I want you all to be confident and excited about creating unique fashion pieces for yourself. I’ll still be writing posts about sewing techniques and doing sewing tutorials too – I’m even getting ready to launch my first online sewing course! – but given my insane love for pattern making, I have decided to crack on with the posts introducing pattern making skills… Woohoo!
What Experience Do I Have?
Now, I am not necessarily the person with the most industry experience. I’m not – I’m only 36 afterall! I am also not necessarily the person that goes about pattern making in the speediest of ways – I’m not, it is a process that I love, and so I take the time to enjoy it.
Yet the words of my brief instructor at Central Saint Martins in 2006, way back when I was taking innovative pattern cutting classes, ‘Stick with this. You’ve got a natural talent for pattern cutting, a real flair!’ have been pivotal in my fashion creation journey.
Maybe it was something to do with being the only student who hadn’t a fashion degree under their belt but tried the hardest to recreate the designs he gave us. Maybe it was the incessantness of my hand shooting up to eagerly answer one of his many questions – usually wrongly too as I had no real training at that point!
Whatever it was, this instructor – Patrick Le Yow – instilled in me the confidence to continue with what I was learning and loving. He was an industry professional who saw something in me, and his belief led me on to start and finish a fashion degree, and set up my own sustainable fashion business.
Getting Started With Pattern Making
You might be wondering then – ‘where do I start with pattern making?’ – and I’ll tell you. From the beginning! It is important that you have a basic understanding of the process before diving in at the deep end, in order to have good results from your efforts. There is nothing that saddens me more in fashion, than seeing someone jump in at the deep end, struggle to achieve what they envisaged and then give up. It happens in so many areas, and it is a reminder that we need to slow down and learn, not just believe we can do it just because we want to.
So this post will run you through the absolute basic of pattern making, so that you have a good starting point! 🙂
Creating a Block or Sloper
All patterns, the ‘blueprints’ of all fashion items, start life as a block or sloper. This is the most basic form and is used as such. A base. It might be the fitted bodice block, the fitted skirt block, a fitted trouser block or a loose fitting shirt block.
These ‘blocks’ or ‘slopers’ are created using your – or your brand’s ‘house’ – measurements. That is, all the blocks you have will be developed from a base set of measurements, so that they are consistent. You get to know these blocks, and how you can adapt them.
My full size dress stand measures:
- Bust 90cm
- Waist 64cm
- Hips 93cm
(Yep, she’s supposed to ‘be’ a UK12 – not quite realistic sizing right?)
My half size stand, which I use to play around and test things out with less fabric waste, measures:
- Bust 45cm
- Waist 33cm
- Hips 46cm
Now, using these measurements, I have developed ‘blocks’ to work from and use them to develop my ideas as future ‘patterns’.
Creating a block is my ‘weak area’ – I’m not one for creating a block / sloper from scratch. I can do it by the book, using the measurements of my body, and my stands, but it is time consuming to get it right. So, I cheat and drape fabric directly onto my dress stands to create my blocks. I also work this way with new clients, draping calico on their body to get an accurate pattern.
From Block to Working Pattern
Firstly, it is super important to chose the right block to start with. I would not chose my easy fitting shirt block to make a close fitted dress bodice. It just doesn’t make sense to try and take out all the extra volume that is already there. In the same way I wouldn’t use a fitted bodice block to create a lovely draped jacket pattern. It’s just wrong to make so much work for myself!
Once I have selected the right block for the job, I trace it off to create a working pattern.
I sketch out ideas, and transfer the lines from these idea sketches to the working pattern. I plot different style lines, work out if my darts need to be moved, think about where I might want to add a little more volume. All the possible design elements and pattern modifications needed get marked onto this working pattern.
I have a lot of fun creating new patterns from this block and getting really adventurous. Sometimes these work out, sometimes they don’t, but it definitely works to get me thinking and designing more creatively!
Working Pattern to Development Pattern
The working pattern is NEVER chopped up. It is NEVER modified. This is your ‘blueprint’ base, the pattern that you refer back to. If your next pattern, the ‘development pattern’ doesn’t work out, or something is funky, you go back to your working pattern and use it to check against. If you were to use your working pattern as your development pattern, you wouldn’t have this safety measure.
So, trace off all the different sections from the working pattern. Pivot out your darts, and then true them up. Mark in all the matching notches. Add in your seam allowance and make up the toile / muslin in order to check the fit. This is a very important step, as without the fit check, you’re creating blind. If you know that this block still fits you perfectly, and you haven’t gone too creative with your creation of the pattern, you could very well skip this step, but I like to do it, just to make sure.
Development pattern to Production Pattern
If the fit is great, and there are no more changes to be made, you can add seam allowance to the pattern and call it a production pattern. Yep. A production pattern. That is what it is referred to in the fashion industry. 😉
Grading is when a pattern is in one size, and you need to make it available in a range of sizes. If I make a jacket to fit my size 12 stand, but a client wants it in a size 18? I have the pattern graded up by three sizes. Then I would toile it up, check the fit, make any necessary modifications before going on to production. Voila!
Another trick I use a lot to continue developing my skills? I like to analyse designs that I see and love. It might be in magazine, or something a stranger is wearing on the tube. But I’ll take a sneaky photo, and then work out how to splice up my block to make the pattern. SO MUCH FUN!
I’ll be writing a lot of posts about design analysis in the future.. I will be using images I have taken myself, as well as photos of ‘oscar dresses’ and such like, which I will break down for you to better understand the process of creating them. SO if you really are excited about creating fashion for yourself, stay tuned! 🙂
Next Week, I’ll be talking about creating a personal block/sloper from a commercial clothing pattern! 🙂
Where are you on your pattern making journey? What are you most excited to learn, and what are your biggest challenges?
Let me know in the comments box below!
RECOMMENDED READING: Check out Part Two – Developing your own block / sloper from a commercial pattern!
Pattern Making Basics
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Who knew it could be so easy to learn? 🙂