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How To Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Sloper

When it comes to making your own clothes, there are many ways, but the basic requirement is to use a pattern. And if you’ve read my other articles on pattern making, you’ll know that a pattern is the product of using a block.

But what do you do if you don’t have a block or the desire to draft your own using your measurements? One answer is to develop a block using a commercial clothing pattern, and that is what you’ll learn about in this article.

Learn how to use a clothing pattern to make a sloper

Before we dive in though, I wanted to let you know that the waiting list is open for my membership Creative Fashion Skills. You can register here and be one of the first to know when I’m opening the doors!

Using Commercial Clothing Patterns

If you’re just getting started with making your own clothes, you will most likely have started out by using commercial clothing patterns to begin with.

These are sewing patterns that have been created by a designer or a pattern company, and made available for you to use to make your own clothes. There are a lot of clothing patterns out there in the world.

Clothing patterns that are free to use – usually as a PDF download from the internet, printed, taped together and off you go – as well as paid clothing patterns costing anything up to £30! These are also available as PDF downloads but can be bought as paper patterns from online or in stores.

If you have chosen to use a commercial clothing pattern instead of starting with your own hand drafted pattern, it is essential to consider the different sizes that the clothing pattern comes in.

Much like how clothing bought from different stores will fit you differently, the same is true for clothing patterns bought from different pattern designers and companies. Let’s dig into why below.

Why The Difference In Clothing Patterns?

The answer is in target customers; specifically their measurements and that of the fit models that companies use during the design process. The patterns in the image below all reflect a different target market, and this is no different to when you go to different stores to try on a similar style garment and find the sizing varies considerably.

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator


A designer or a company will have a set of measurements that they use to create their house block / sloper. These measurements relate to their target customer.

A great example is Alexander Wang from RTW (ready to wear) and Topshop from the high street.

Both of these brands are looking to dress the younger woman. You can see from the screenshot of Toyshop’s old website that they would be targeting the late teen up to her mid twenties. A woman’s body shape hasn’t altered much at this point – assuming she hasn’t yet had children – and is often quite slim, with little in the way of lumps and bumps to get in the way of their design aesthetic, unlike those that us older ladies and gents have!

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
Screenshot of Topshop Website November 2016

Topshop also accommodates those who are taller or shorter than their average customer by grading their patterns accordingly for their tall and petite ranges.

My second example is Alexander Wang who also appeals to the younger, somewhat sporty woman, only this time she has more money to spend.

We all know that a bit of Alexander Wang isn’t as cheap as Topshop (even if they are both made in China – but let’s not go there…)!

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
Screenshot of Alexander Wang Website November 2016

The above screenshot depicts a white female model wearing a relaxed fit and sporty jacket with a ribbed beanie hat. She is young – in her late teens / early twenties perhaps.

Meanwhile the image below shows a similar model, around the same age, wearing a relaxed white tee and a shawl collared, loose-fit blazer style jacket.

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
Second Screenshot of Alexander Wang Website November 2016

In both Alexander Wang instances, the design aesthetic is an oversized / loose fit style

The two companies looked at – with a similar target customer – will find out the measurement range for that customer. Then they create their brand block using those measurements. It’s important to also note that while both brands have a similar target audience, the design aesthetic will also impact on the house block – Topshop’s may be more closely fitted while Wang’s has a loose fit aesthetic and so will include more ease.

A brand such as Evans, Lane Bryant or Curvissa have a target customer who is more curvy, often referred to as ‘plus size’. As such, the measurements used to create their brand block will reflect that target customer.

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
Screenshot of Evans Website November 2016

In the above Evan’s screenshot you can see a selection of inspiring images featuring women who are not young and ‘slender’, and the model used in the Soft Focus campaign below is also on the curvier side.

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
Lane Bryant Website November 2016

Finally we can see from the screenshot of the Curvissa website below that their target customer has a different body shape to the target customer of Alexander Wang further up.

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
Screenshot of Curvissa Website November 2016

Now that you have a better understanding of the way measurements are used by brands, we can take a look at the reasoning for fit models.

Fit Models

These are models that reflect the designer or brand’s target customer, and are used in a studio setting, not on the runway. When a pattern is made, and graded, it needs to be checked on appropriately sized fit models for several reasons:

  1. To check the overall fit
  2. To check that the grading up and down between sizes hasn’t altered the design in a negative way
  3. To check that the garment is comfortable and wearable. There is little point in making a jacket if the person buying and wearing it cannot move their arms at all!

This method also applies to pattern companies and pattern designers that create clothing patterns. This is why indie pattern companies are often looking for pattern testers! And because we are not all made the same shape and size, nor do we all confine to a specific brand’s sizings; for the most part we will need to adapt that pattern to fit us properly. (And THIS is totally normal!)

How Do You Adapt Patterns?

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
© By Hand London packaging for their Holly Jumpsuit

This article is not the place to go in-depth into the process of adapting existing patterns, so I’ll provide a brief overview below and will write a more in-depth guide later on.

To begin with, you should start by looking carefully at the sizings of your clothing patterns. A general guide will have the bust, waist and hip measurements for all the available sizes. Find your measurements for each of the different body measurements.

I usually have the bust and hips about right, but have to adjust the waist measurement.

The next box on a pattern will usually have the garment’s finished sizings. This is a really important section to check, because it will help you to work out just how much ease there is in the pattern; is it very fitted, or does it have a bit of room to move? You can then tell by how much you might need to adjust the pattern in those different areas.

Actual size – finished size = amount of ease

Below is the sizing chart for a pattern I own from By Hand London. If we take the largest size which I would struggle to fit into as of 2022, we can see that it has a 45 inch / 114.5 cm bust, 38 inch / 96,5 cm waist and a 48 inch / 122 cm hip.

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
Photo of the By Hand London sizing chart for the printed Holly Jumpsuit Pattern

Compare the above measurements with the ‘finished’ measurements below and you get a clearer idea of just how much design ease has been added to the wearing ease of their in-house block.

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
Photo of the By Hand London FINISHED sizing chart for the printed Holly Jumpsuit Pattern

Let’s do a quick side by side comparison of both for the largest size option so you can better understand the way that ease is added:

  • Bust: 45 inch / 114.5 cm – 46.5 inch / 118 cm = 1.5 inch / 3.5 cm ease included
  • Waist: 38 inch / 96.5 cm – 38.5 inch / 97.75 cm = 0.5 inch / 1.25 cm ease included
  • Hip: 48 inch / 122 cm – 49 inch / 124.5 cm = 1 inch / 2.5 cm ease included

Deciding On The Fit You Want

Depending on how you want the pattern to fit, you can hack it up to your heart’s content. When I made up the Sew Over It Betty Dress I knew I wanted it in a size 14, because I don’t like dresses to be too fitted; I like to know that I can move and eat without ripping a seam.

With the circle skirt of the dress sitting high on my waist, I knew it would help to accentuate my waist and hide my tummy bumps. So I made sure to sew with a bigger seam allowance on the bodice waistline, and adjusted the skirt pattern accordingly.

Adjusting Clothing Patterns

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
Photo of the Rosa Shirt from Tilly and The Buttons – printed PDF pattern

Usually when you buy a clothing pattern, it has been ‘nested’. This means that it has been graded for each of the sizes, and these sizes all lay within each other instead of separately. It saves paper whether printing at home yourself or buying a printed paper pattern.

In the image above, you can see that the nesting of the different sizes has resulted in sizes overlaying each other at certain points (the pencil arrow in the top left corner is one example).

This nesting can however make it much harder to work out which size you want to use for the different sections of the garment.

Worry not, there’s a trick: trace your patterns!

Choosing The Correct Size From Clothing Patterns To Make Your Block

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
Photo of the printed measurements – Body and Finished – from Tilly and The Buttons Rosa Shirt PDF

Firstly, use your bust or chest measurement to work out which size bodice you need. My bust when this was originally written was 38 inches, so I knew that if I were to make the Rosa shirt from Tilly and The Buttons, the image above shows that I need to use size 5 for 38inch bust. This gives me 2″ ease on my bust, which is a nice amount.

If your bust is substantially bigger, you may want to take your high bust measurement for size selection and then do a full bust adjustment.

When you have found the size right for you, its time to trace off all the pieces for the size you want to use. I don’t recommend cutting into the original pattern, as that original pattern is much like the working pattern I talked about in my pattern making guide.

If you aren’t in need of changing any of the pattern pieces, you could just trace them off, cut them out in a test fabric and sew it up with a long stitch – kind of like a basting stitch if you were making it by hand – and this would act as your initial fitting toile / muslin.

If you do need to mix up the sizes, you’ll need to trace off the correct sections and then spend a little time ‘truing’ up the seams, style lines and darts.

What Is Truing Up

I have an article on how to true patterns, but the overview is that you cannot expect a size UK10 bodice to line up nicely with a size UK14 skirt and so we need to true them up by either measuring the seam sections – using a tape measure standing upright on its edge – or walking each matching piece.

You can then extend or shorten the seam amount as needed.

Once we have the pattern pieces trued up, we need to make it up as a toile or muslin so we can check the fit. It doesn’t have to be really detailed. At this point we really are only checking the shape and fit of the garment on our body!

Marking Up The First Pattern

Pattern making Basics 2 - How to Use Clothing Patterns To Create Your Own Block - The Creative Curator
Photo of the modification notes on my trench coat pattern

Now that you have created a toile and tested the fit, you can make any necessary changes to the pattern.

Start by placing pins into the toile at key areas – this will remind you that these need to be transferred to the paper pattern.

I then go in with a marker pen – something that is dark enough to see but with a nib that isn’t too wide that it bleeds and floods the fabric – to mark any changes needed on the toile / muslin. Once these changes have been marked in I can remove the toile / muslin from me / my client / the dress form.

At this point you need to mark these changes onto the pattern pieces that you traced off. You might need to take sections in, or even add more fabric, but all the changes need to be noted carefully. Just like I did to the picture above of the trench coat pattern from my Graduate Fashion Week collection.

Once you have made this changes to the pattern, you would at this point want to make a second toile / muslin. I usually do a few toiles just because I am not a fan of making up a design in real fabric if I’m not yet confident of what the final outcome will look like. Fabric can be very expensive after all!

Your Own Personal Block / Sloper

Now that you have completed these steps, you have a pattern that fits pretty darn good. Make it up in the real deal.

If it really fits perfectly, and it is a kind of classic reusable shape, consider using it as your block / sloper. You can take this pattern which you’ve modified to fit you, and design freely with it! This is also referred to as ‘pattern hacking’ but can only be done for personal use.

If you plan on creating patterns to sell, then ethically you cannot use the block created from this process and will need to learn how to draft your own.

This is the easiest way to start making your own clothes that fit you, without diving too soon into the process of creating your own block / sloper, but if you are ready to learn more about the process of pattern making, I have several ways that you can learn:

And there are also a selection of the best pattern making books that will help you too!SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

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Saturday 12th of October 2019

Really interesting and helpful I am returning to sewing after many many years now being in the silver surfer brigade with a body now facing many changes..Many thanks Sue from Wales!

Barbara Dalburg

Sunday 4th of March 2018

Hello from the USA. You have cleared up the confusion I have when either buying or sewing things from different countries. I have a real problem with that. UK is not as bad as the Asian countries. They do provide a size chart, but it is seldom accurate. I finally bought a "dummy" and I think I can now create a slower pattern to make a good-fitting article. I could never figure out "ease" before. Thanks to you, I think I get it now.

Eve Tokens

Tuesday 6th of March 2018

Hi Barbara! Hi from Wales! :) I'm so glad that the post was able to help you! If you have any other questions about ease, let me know! :)

Mary Dancing Gypsy Moon Andrews

Wednesday 31st of May 2017

One of the very best and well written pieces out there. I am 70+ and started sewing on my grandmas lap and treadle singer when I was 5. I am a disabled, retired nurse practionier who has time but little money. I have always used commercial patterns but just recently decided to draft my own and actually start a tiny little seeing business out of my home. Your blogs have been CRITICAL to my ongoing education. I cannot thank you enough for sharing your knowledge and intelligence. Pinterest inspires me, you are the best. All I am looking for is a couple hundred dollars a month to supplement my retirement income (mostly for medicine, bummer) and so far have been successful. Bless you, I would love to be a pattern tester for you if you need one.

Eve Tokens

Wednesday 31st of May 2017

Mary.. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. It really means a lot to me. I am so glad that you have been able to add to your skills using the website, and supplement your income as well. That is my dream, to empower people in such a way that they have more opportunities open to them, be it in developing skills, going to school, or building a business / income stream. So thank you very much, with all my heart, for letting me know that my precious has enabled you to achieve this! I will add you to my pattern testers list and will be in touch! Thank you! x


Friday 5th of May 2017

Hi Eve

I would love to be a tester for you. Just started sewing again after 10 years. I always have to do a full bust adjustment with whatever patter I use. Got any tips on that?

Thanks Bee

Eve Tokens

Tuesday 9th of May 2017

Hi Bee - I checked and you're on my email list! I've added you to the 'pattern tester' section, and will be in touch shortly! thanks so much for showing interest, I really appreciate it! Best, Eve


Thursday 29th of December 2016

Just like the idea that I can make my own clothes to my own measurements so my first real new year resolution is to make some slopers for my own use. Its taken me about 2 years to get to this stage though as there is so much to try out if you are a self taught newbie sewist/sewer. Some people seem to get the idea straight away and are pretty competent from day one but I have had no contact with garment construction or sewing processes and have found it a steep learning with so many hurdles. Not naturally able to draw or cut a straight line it’s not been the easiest thing to tackle but so much fun (and pain!) Thanks for your posts as I love the different ways people approach sewing. I learn so much from so many sources. Such talent out there and so much generosity in the sharing. It is definitely not a cheap hobby so saving money by making your own clothes seems unattainable but saving money by learning how to make your own creations wearable I can maybe achieve one day(?!!!)

Eve Tokens

Wednesday 4th of January 2017

Hi Sue! Wow! I love your new year resolution! And you are so right - there is a lot to try out. It can be overwhelming too if you're not sure where to get started! Im so glad that you found me - and are enjoying the content on the site! Do please let me know if you'd like to see me cover something specific. I have a sneaky suspicion that you are the Sue who emailed me about making your own clothes.. Did you used to work in a sewing factory? If that is you, I'm replying to emails over this week! :) Thanks for stopping by Sue!