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“How can I draft my own patterns?”
This is a common question that I receive. It’s a pretty big question to unpack, but in this series of blog posts, I’m going to show you the steps that I took for teaching myself how to draft patterns.
If you know my story, you know that I am a mechanical engineer. I did not receive traditional or formal training in fashion design or pattern drafting. BUT, the beauty of the 21st Century is that we have abundant information available to us at our fingertips. And through the world wide interwebs and key books, I learned how to draft patterns.
Back to Basics
The crux of my pattern drafting education was learning how to draft a moulage to my own measurements. I think Amy from Cloth Habit defines moulage the best:
The term literally means “molding” or “casting”, and its use in garment making has origins in French couture. Sometimes “moulage” refers to an actual pattern, a skin-hugging hip length bodice that is fitted precisely to a person’s body. Often it refers to the whole process of manipulating fabric on a dress form as a method of developing women’s patterns and designs—aka draping or draping on the stand.Amy Chapman, Cloth Habit
Now, I say this is a “Back to Basics” step because it will throw you right back into working with wovens. For most of you, your medium of choice has been stretchy knits, which alleviate many fit issues due to the material’s mechanical properties. When working with a woven fabric, your reliance of built-in fabric forgiveness for fit is almost entirely shifted to a reliance on seam lines.
And as Amy stated, the moulage is a woven garment fitted precisely to the body. This differs from a basic bodice pattern because there is absolutely zero ease in a moulage. You are basically tasked to make a second skin out of non-stretch muslin.
Who taught me?
The online resource that initiated and accelerated my pattern drafting education was Suzy Furrer’s class Pattern Making Basics: The Bodice Sloper. In this class, you will learn how to translate your body measurements into a flat pattern.
Let me say this again, because I think it’s a very important thing to remember: You will learn how to translate your three-dimensional body into a two-dimensional pattern. In my opinion, this has been the missing chunk of knowledge for new sewists wanting to create well-fitting garments from patterns. I’ll explain why:
The process of measuring yourself and drafting the moulage forces you to get intimate and realistic with your body and its proportions. Because of that, it’ll help you understand where major points on a pattern should land on your body.
And, if you’re ultimately wanting to draft your own patterns (whether for personal use or for sale), knowing the pattern landmarks in relation to the proportions of a body will help you achieve the fit that you desire.
I won’t teach you how to draft a moulage because the methods that I learned and continue to use today are not of my own creation. So, I highly recommend that you consider taking Suzy’s class on Craftsy. She will teach you, step by step and in great detail, how to create your moulage and bodice sloper.
Over the years, I’ve constructed multiple moulages for myself. My body changed every year through weightlifting. My back and chest widened, my waist narrowed, and my traps made my shoulder slope more pronounced.
Through each iteration, I learned which points on my body required more attention and tweaks. You won’t get the perfect moulage on your first go, but you will continuously learn the ways through which you can achieve the best fit. One of the most eye-opening things that I learned through the moulage process was where I am short.
That’s a weird statement, right? I’ve always known that I am short. But to illustrate why the “where” is important: the vertical measurement between my collar and my bust line is up to three quarters of an inch shorter than the measurement that the BIG4 pattern makers use depending on the pattern. Having this knowledge allows me to make the appropriate flat pattern measurements and adjustments before ever cutting into fabric.
I’ve thrown a couple of my moulage iterations on my dress forms. Even on the forms, you can see that my actual bust point is higher than the form’s bust point.
These moulage iterations no longer fit me as they were made a couple of years ago. So, I think it’s time to refresh myself on Suzy’s course and construct a new one. Comment below if you’d like to join me in the process!
In the next part of this blog post series, I’ll give you the resources that I used for learning how to draft patterns for the lower body.
- Suzy Furrer’s Pattern Making Basics: the Bodice Sloper, $40
- Suzy Furrer’s Building Patterns: The Architecture of Women’s Clothing (Book, $250)
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