Pattern drafting!

Those of you that read my previous blog post will know that I signed up to a pattern drafting course at Nottingham Trent University. It’s not what most people would choose to do on their annual leave, so I thought I would share what I got up to!

Day 1

I was terrified! I had no idea what I had let myself in for. I had never attended any kind of sewing or dress making course before, so I thought I would have no idea what I was doing and just be useless! When we got there we all had to introduce ourselves, which was scary, but everyone was so lovely and it was nice to hear everyones sewing stories.

The first thing we were told is the difference between a draft, pattern and block. I used to get confused about what each of them were and what they are used for, but now I have much better understanding!

  • Draft: The drawing produced from the body measurements.
  • Pattern: Something that is pulled off from the draft and used to make a garment.
  • Block: A template for something that needs producing over and over again, for example in mass production.

Our first task was to measure each other. The tutor, Leann Marie, checked everyone to ensure we could take body measurements accurately – it’s harder than I thought!

Once our measurements were checked, we started to produce our bodice drafts using a set of calculations. As the drafts are produced from the individuals measurements, the drawing  is a close representation of there body shape. However, everyone has different postures and proportions therefore fittings are essential! Our drafts were produced on dot and cross paper.

Pattern drafting

Day 2

The second day we pulled off the pattern pieces from our draft using large sheets of layout paper, we added seam allowances and started producing our Toile. A toile is a mock up of the garment you are creating, we made ours from calico.

Pattern drafting

We used our toile during the course to learn how to complete a fitting and amend our drafts to suit the adjustments needed. It all sounds a little confusing, so I have put a step by step list together below of the process:

  • Take body measurements
  • Produce a draft
  • Produce pattern pieces from the draft, adding seam allowances
  • Make a toile
  • Have a fitting to see what adjustments need to be made to the draft.
  • Make adjustments to the draft
  • Produce pattern pieces from the amended draft, adding seam allowances
  • Make a second toile
  • Check the toile fits
    • If it fits you have a final draft that can be used for all garments. YEY!
    • If it doesn’t fit the draft will need further amendments.

My first toile needed a few adjustments which you can see on the photos below. These were pinned in place and marked with a pencil.

Toile pattern drafting

pattern drafting toile

Day 3

In the morning of day 3 we went to the Nottingham Trent University library. We looked at pattern drafting books and resources that we could use when we had to tackle pattern drafting alone! Obviously, due to my book obsession, I bought the Winifred Aldrich book ‘Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear’ as soon as I got home.

There was an optional lay planning task which I completed. The task helped me to understand how to get the most out of my fabric by placing pattern pieces efficiently. Such a handy tip!

In the afternoon I made the amendments to my bodice draft. These amendments were made to suit the markings on the toile from my first fitting. The adjustments on the draft were drawn in a different colour pencil so the changes were clear. I enjoyed amending the draft because I could see how my body was different to the original – it is so interesting seeing your body represented as a 2D template.

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pattern drafting

Day 4

Once the amendments were made I made my second toile – which fitted perfectly. Now have a final draft which I can create all my garments from!

Sleeves! On day 4 we produced our sleeve drafts, again using body measurements and the calculations which were given to us. The sleeve draft is a lot simpler and as long as the calculation are done correctly and the sleeve is drawn accurately there shouldn’t be any need for adjustments.

Sleeve draft

We were shown the correct way to ease the sleeves into the arm holes using our thumbs and tacking! This took longer than I expected, but the finish is so much better than what I have done before. You can see my final finished toile below.

Toile pattern drafting

Day 5

To finish the course we learnt about dart rotation. Dart rotation is super easy and involves cutting and sticking… who doesn’t love cutting and sticking! I produced two further dart rotations (armscye dart and side seam dart) as well as producing a princess cut pattern.

dart rotation

Its amazing how the position of a dart can change the look of a garment so easily. I made a toile up to the waist line using the armscye dart. I actually think it makes quite a cute crop top! Making this in a final fabric is definitely on my to do list!

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The last thing we learnt was how to pull different pattern pieces from the draft, including changing necklines, different styles of tops and skirts as well as how to produce a fitted waistband pattern piece.

I loved the week and I am definitely going to be making some of my own patterns soon, I just need to come up with some cute designs. I couldn’t recommend the course enough for those of you who want to learn more about pattern drafting!

One last thing I need to mention is dressmakers carbon paper! Lots of you may already know about this but I have never heard of it before! Carbon paper is new my favourite item in my sewing tool kit. It’s always difficult putting the markings from a sewing pattern onto fabric, especially the darts, but with carbon paper and a tracing wheel it was so easy!! You can see in the picture below how clear the markings are. Although I have been told to use a lighter colour on final garments as it can sometimes take a while for the markings to come off. Just thought I would mention it for all you sewing enthusiasts out there!

Pattern drafting

It was a great week! If any of you have any other pattern drafting or sewing tips please leave a comment, I’m all for learning more!

Boola x

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