Sewing 202 - Introduction to Flat Pattern Drafting
Updated: May 11
As we enter the next phase of Garment construction, it is important to learn the different ways you can turn your Fashion design into a pattern that will be sewn into an actual garment. There are three major ways of creating a pattern;
1) Flat pattern drafting
3) Freehand drafting
These tutorials focus on the use of Flat pattern drafting, as that is the method that I use, and therefore will teach. But first, I will briefly explain what these three methods are and their differences.
Flat Pattern Drafting vs. Draping vs. Freehand drafting
Flat pattern drafting: A garment is a 3D shape that has to fit over a 3D body. Flat pattern drafting involves taking this 3D shape and translating it into a flat design on paper. That is the key thing. The pattern must be flat at the drafting stage. The steps involved are taking the required body measurements, drafting the design, inserting darts, pleats or gathers to allow the pattern turn into a 3D garment when sewn. All calculations are done on the paper before the paper pattern is finally used to cut out the fabric.
Draping: This is the technique of applying the fabric directly onto the model or person. The fabric is then molded and shaped into the desired design using pins and thread to keep it in shape. The finished outfit is then marked out into its various parts then removed from the model. These pieces are then copied onto paper to become flat patterns, before finally using the paper pattern to cut out the fabric.
Freehand Drafting: This method is similar to flat pattern drafting, except is involves drafting the pattern directly onto the fabric. You are essentially skipping the paper phase. Since this is done directly on the fabric, care must be taken to account for ease and all necessary seam allowances before cutting the fabric.
A frequently asked question is which method is better. For me, it is a matter of preference. There is nothing wrong in learning all three methods and applying them as you see fit. They all involve a certain amount of work and time, so there are no shortcuts when it comes to good pattern making.
Tools for Flat Pattern drafting
Essentially you need Five main things to draft
Paper - When it comes to paper, look for inexpensive and readily available large sheets of paper, or paper rolls. You can get tracing paper, drafting / dot paper, brown paper, and even grease paper. Cardboard paper or card stock should be reserved for making long lasting copies of your patterns. For daily drafting, light weight paper is much better.
Straight Ruler - When it comes to rulers, Clear Plastic ones are the cheaper variety. The advantages are that you can see your work through them, and they tend to be flexible, so they do not break easily. A more expensive alternative are stainless steel rulers which are sturdy and long lasting. A clear grid ruler of 2 inches by 18 inches, in my opinion, is essential. You can also get these in centimetres.
Curved Ruler - For curved rulers, one only needs two versions, a Comma shaped ruler for armholes and neck lines, and a Shallow curved ruler for waist shaping, hip curves and other gentle curves. I personally do not worry about whether these rulers are in inches or centimetres, since I do not use them for taking measurements. But if you are concerned about that, you should get one in the system you are used to.
Set Square / L Square - These are essential for making those perfect right angles. You only need one. It can be a set square or an L-Square, but try and get something that is at least 8 inches (20cm) long.
Pencil - Any generic pencil will do as they can be erased. Always make sure to draft with sharp ones. Drafting or mechanical pens are optional, but if you must get one, 04. - 0.7 sizes are just right for this purpose.
Basic Principles of Flat Pattern Drafting.
These principles also apply to draping and freehand drafting for the most part.
1. Halves and Quarters - When drafting, we draft a quarter of the whole pattern, or half a front piece and half a back piece. It is assumed that both the left and right hand sides of the body are symmetrical. A full front or a full back is only drafted when creating asymmetric designs. It is usually advised to work with measurements taken from the right hand side if one is right-handed and vice versa, as the muscles are more developed there causing the measurements to be larger.
2. Calculations - Following the Halves and quarters rule, if a measurement is taken only across the front/back of the body, for example the chest/back width. When drafting, this measurement will be divided into two. If a measurement is taken round the circumference of the whole body, for example the Bust/Hip, this will be divided into four.
3. Unequal halves - It is generally accepted that in women's bodices for example, the front is usually wider than the back. For example, if the Bust is 40, a quarter will be 10. To make the front bust half an inch larger than the back, a quarter inch shall be added to the 10 for the front and a quarter inch shall be subtracted from the 10 for the back.
10 + 0.25 = 10.25 (Front) and 10 - 0.25 = 9.75 (Back).
Of course this might be the reverse and you may want to make the back bigger than the front as in a skirt. It all comes down to balancing the body shape.
4. Ease - This is the extra allowance added over the body measurement. There are two kinds; Wearing ease and Design Ease. Wearing ease is the bare minimum amount required for one to function in their clothing, like sit, stand and raise your hand. Design Ease is the amount added or even removed to create a certain style of outfit. Like a shift dress will have little ease while a coat will have a lot of ease. I generally do not add ease until after the main draft is complete. I think this makes it easier to draft and to correct.
5. Darts - This is a triangular shape or wedge that is folded out or cut out of the flat pattern to create a 3D shape. It essentially blends a larger measurement into a smaller measurement or vice versa, by taking out excess from the larger measurement while creating the illusion of a flat surface. Darts can be converted into pleats, tucks, and even gathers to create different designs.
What is a Sloper?
A Sloper is a blueprint of the body. It is a tight fitted garment from which other outfits shall be made from. In this series, we are going to be drafting the basic sloper set for women.
1) A Skirt Sloper
2) A Bodice Sloper
3) A Sleeve Sloper
4) A Trouser/Pants Sloper.
With this set, one can design any outfit by modifying the sloper and inputting design details. Thanks for reading and let's get into the drafting process.
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