If you love to sew your own clothes, you’ve definitely come across and used commercial sewing patterns at some point, but did you know that those patterns originate from blocks or slopers?
And those blocks and slopers are created using a technique called pattern drafting.
Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you make a purchase at no further cost to you.
What Is Pattern Drafting?
Pattern drafting is a pattern making process using the measurements of different body areas to create basic patterns – or blueprints if you like – of essential pattern blocks – this is often referred to as a pattern set:
- Bodice front
- Bodice back
- Skirt front
- Skirt back
- Trouser front
- Trouser back
The above are the seven basic patterns needed to create all the different types of clothes including:
What Are The Types Of Pattern Drafting?
This question is an anomaly because there is only one way of drafting a pattern, and that is by using specific body measurements or a set of generic size measurements.
There are of course other ways to make pattern blocks and I cover those in this tutorial on the five ways to make sewing patterns.
You can also learn more about the difference between pattern drafting, pattern making, draping and contouring here.
Pattern Drafting Tools
When learning to draft patterns, you’ll need a basic set of pattern making tools. This list will help, but at the very minimum you’ll need:
- A hard pencil
- A pattern master or ruler and set square
- Tape measure
- Pattern paper (more see through than regular paper)
Drafting Your Own Patterns
If you’r eager to start drafting your own patterns, then you’ll want to find someone to help you take some important measurements.
Below are checklists of the measurements needed when drafting patterns. I recommend keeping them all together in a dedicated notebook.
Measurements For Drafting A Bodice Block / Sloper
- Back width
- Chest width
- Centre back length
- Top arm
Measurements For Drafting A Sleeve Block / Sloper
- Top arm
- Arm length
- Elbow length
- Elbow width
- Wrist circumference
Measurements For Drafting A Skirt Block / Sloper
- Waist to hip
- Finished length
Measurements For Drafting A Trouser Block / Sloper
- Waist to hip
- Body rise
- Waist to floor
Ok, you’re now ready to learn to draft sewing patterns for yourself!
How Do You Draft A Basic Pattern?
The pattern drafting tutorials and resources listed below will help you on your journey as a beginner. And of course, you can also ask any additional questions in the comments further below!
How To Make A Skirt Pattern
This is an easy to follow step by step tutorial on drafting a skirt block using your own measurements.
Once the skirt block is created, and you’ve tested the fit with a toile, you’ll be able to develop the block into many basic patterns:
If you’re not sure about which skirts to create sewing patterns for, this guide to the different types of skirts will help inspire you!
Draft A Female Bodice Block
A great tutorial on how to draft a female bodice block is essential for success when pattern drafting, and the tutorial I created is exactly that.
It’s another step by step tutorial, so take your time and follow the instructions carefully!
Once completed, check the toile, make any necessary changes to the block for fit, and then you’re all set to design many different types of patterns for yourself from it!
Draft A Sleeve Block
Now that you have the bodice front and back drafted, you need a sleeve block to go with it!
Drafting a sleeve that matches the basic bodice block will open up lots of different design possibilities for you.
Pattern Drafting Books
If you feel like you need additional help, there are some great books to help you draft basic patterns:
- Natalie Bray’s Dress Pattern Designing is an oldie but goodie. Don’t be deceived by the title, it’s quite a comprehensive (if old fashioned) book on pattern drafting!
- Anything from Winifred Aldrich is a winner! She has published many books but the ones I have or have used when drafting patterns are:
- And finally my all time favourite book that I used as a tool to learn to draft sewing patterns was Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong!
There are many more books on pattern drafting, but the ones listed above are the ones I started out using years ago. I also have this page on the best pattern making books which covers different pattern drafting and pattern making books for all levels.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of drafting a pattern using measurements, you’ll be in a better position to draft other types of patterns like:
Each of the above require the basics blocks (or commercial sewing patterns) for you to develop the patterns from.
Drafting Patterns To Sell As Commercial Sewing Patterns
If you’ve been making patterns for a while, and want to move from self drafting to design and selling sewing patterns, you might enjoy this guide on developing a sewing pattern design to sell!
You can also check out my online pattern making courses and workshops here to learn more, and I also have this great collection of pattern making tutorials here.
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.