The word pattern making is synonymous with sewing and fashion design. Before Pattern making became popular, freehand was how most tailors used to cut fabrics before sewing with their hand or on a machine. Freehand is the construction of garments without the use of a pattern.

Measurements, designs and cutting are done directly on the fabric unlike pattern making where all these are done on a pattern before simply placing the pattern on your fabric and cutting your design out.

The downside to freehand sewing is that mistakes can be made and will only be noticed during the fitting process. However, with pattern making, you are practically constructing your garment on pattern paper before cutting the constructed pattern on the fabric and finally sewing it on the machine.

This process gives room for correction during the drafting process. Patterns may be drafted on paper or in a computer program designed for patternmaking.

There are many methods in pattern making, however, flat pattern making and draping are the most common ones used worldwide.

In Nigeria, most fashion design schools are using the flat pattern making methodology to teach sewing. Let's be real here, freehand is something every fashion designer might still use once in a while depending on what they are sewing but 95% of the time, pattern making will be chosen over freehand anytime any day.

Pattern making has several advantages such as time-efficiency, reusability, fewer - mistakes, customization and of course less wastage: you can manage your fabric when transferring your pattern to it before sewing. Pattern making is where your success begins as a fashion designer.

Wondering where you can take pattern-making courses, well check out some of our fantastic pattern making tutors on www.superprof.ng.

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Clothing Before Patterns

Let us go back to a little of history. Anthropologists believe that animal skins and vegetation were forms of clothing made into coverings as protection from cold, heat, rain and to cover up the human body. Some anthropologists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, suggests that clothing dates back as far as 170,00 years ago.

The first material used for clothing is said to be the natural fibres obtained from both plants and animal sources.

Before patterns and the industrial revolution, people created and repaired their own clothes themselves. They did not wear fitted garment. Clothing was worn as a necessity to cover up and protect oneself against climate changes. It was only a few of the elites who could afford to wear clothing as a statement and for fashion purposes.

This was because there was not much of a business model for clothing or patterns. After all, it took a long time to produce, and it was a necessity that most people simply handled on their own to cover up and protect themselves from weather changes.  For thousands of years before the invention of the sewing machine, all sewing was done by hand.

Different cultures over time have evolved in the different ways of making clothing. For example, some people drape the clothes. Without cutting the fabric, the clothes would be draped to fit an individual. Pins and belts would be used to hold the garments in place and people of various sizes can wear the garment.

Another method was taking measurements of the person, cutting the measurements directly on the fabric and sewing the garment by hand or with a sewing machine. This is what we call the freehand sewing method.

Today, clothing patterns are now what most fashion designers and ready to wear clothing industries use for their garment production. They are used to sew stylish garments that fit well and not like in the olden days where garments were not sewn to properly fit the body, its shape and individual size.

Pattern pieces are used to cut fabric pieces, which are then assembled with the proper sewing allowances and sewn to create a wearable garment to fit a particular size.

Clothing patterns for mass production are sold according to standard body sizes (size 4, 6, 8, 10, etc.). However, fashion designers who are not into mass production are also trained now to make custom sizes to suit an individual size, taste, specification and body type. These are what we call custom made outfits tailored for a particular person.

dress making forms in Nigeria
A dressmaking form will help you see the fit and drape of an outfit as it would look on a human body. Source: Unsplash

 

Pattern Making Details

Pattern making simply means modifying a piece of fabric to create a garment that suits the proportions of a person's body. This is a knowledge that fashion designers, ready to wear fashion designers, mass production designers should not joke with. It serves as a building block for fashion designers.

The art of pattern making acts as a bridge between the initial design and the final production. A sketch can be turned into a garment via a pattern that interprets the design of the sketched garment.

Pattern making today has become an easy job especially for mass production with the use of computers. There are different software available in the market to meet the needs of the manufacturers. This has made a whole lot of difference and made things easier in the fashion industry.

Men's clothing can be pretty straightforward, unlike women's clothing. Besides the variety of styles in women's clothing, things get much more complicated because there is no hard-and-fast ratio of the bust-waist-hip measurement. Women have different body shapes and curves, unlike men whose clothing does not have to fit their bust-waist-hip measurement.

That is one of the major reason why clothes-making was soon standardised through the use of patterns. These patterns are meant to accommodate the body measurements of the average-sized person.

Two major pattern techniques will be discussed below:

Drafting Method

Pattern drafting starts with a set of measurements that must be taken before the garment construction can take place.  Measurements for chest, waist, hip and so on, and ease allowances are marked on paper and construction lines are drawn to complete the pattern.

Drafting can be done on brown or white paper or even cardboard. It can be done on thicker paper to be preserved for future use or to be used for many years.

If you want to draft a skirt pattern, the below measurements must be taken:

  • Hip: The fullest part of the bum
  • Hip depth: Lenth of the waist to the hip
  • Waist: The smallest part of the waist or where you want your skirt to start from
  • Length: The desired length of the skirt. It could be short, three quarters or long.

The above measurements are what you would use to create a block skirt pattern that can be manipulated to create all sorts of skirt designs.

To draft a block bodice pattern to make your tops or dresses, the below measurements will be needed:

  • Waist
  • Hip
  • Bust
  • Chest width
  • Back width
  • Length to waist
  • Shoulder point
  • sleeve length: short, three quarters or long.

You can learn this method of pattern making by purchasing textbooks explaining the pattern drafting step by step process. More information on some of the best pattern drafting textbooks can be gotten from fashion design books.

All about pattern drafting in Nigerian fashion schools
You can learn to manipulate your pattern blocks to your desired style and fitting. source: Unsplash

The Draping Method

This a technique used to make a 3-dimensional dress pattern with the aid of a dress form figure by pinning and placing fabric against the form to create a garment that will suit the body type and measurement of an individual.

Designers usually use muslin for draping as it is cost-efficient and comes in a variety of weight. One beautiful advantage of draping is that you get to see the overall design effect on the body form and how it might look on a real person before it's been cut and sewn. It is though an expensive and time-consuming method, unlike the drafting method.

There are three commonly used dress forms used for draping namely;

  • Adhesive Paper Dress Form
  • Muslin Padded Dress Form
  • Paper Mache or Plastic Molded Dress Forms

Sizing In Fashion Design

When you take up an interest in sewing and fashion design, you will find out that even you and your family members cannot always wear the same size. Not everyone you will come across will be the same body type, size and shape. You can be a size 10 in one label and be a size 6 in another label.

Not all fashion labels will indicate the measurements their sizes are created for, some even keep it very confidential while some release a size chart for you to determine the size your measurements fall into.

Fit is all about both Measurements and Shape. You can have the same hip measurement with a person but different waist and even bust size. This is what makes the sizing in fashion tricky especially for those who are selling ready to wear and not custom made.

Due to this tricky sizing in fashion, this is where pattern grading comes in. Pattern grading simply means the process of turning a sample size into smaller or larger sizes. The grading process does not change the shape of the pattern, it only gives room for adjustments.

This is especially useful for mass production. However, if you are into custom made, you would have to take the proper measurements of your client, draft their patterns, cut on the fabric and sew to the desired specification of your client.

This is why sometimes shopping online might not you the exact fitting you desire in your size. Your hip size might fall under a size 10, your waist might fall under a size 8 and your bust might fall under a size 12...then you are left with the option of choosing a size based on your intuition or experience shopping online.

how to make patterns for non-clothing-items
You can start learning pattern making with something as little as a nose mask and then build up to a skirt. Source: Unsplash

Learning Pattern-Making With Non-Clothing Items

Nowadays when people have issues with a particular outfit, rather than changing the buttons or mending an open seam, they usually just toss it aside and buy new ones. Well, we cannot blame anyone for that. However, we can advise you to start your journey with pattern making with little items such as a nose mask, a doll dress or even a tote bag.

Instead of starting with something like a gathered or pleated skirt, you could start by sewing a nice nose mask with a beautiful fabric of your choice. Once you learn how to measure, follow a pattern and cutting the fabric for a nose mask,  you may even learn the art of pattern grading in the process for a bigger or smaller one.

Once you successfully start with a nose mask, you can move up to a small tote bag, then a doll skirt before you can now finally decide to take a bold step by buying your first sewing pattern and make something for yourself.

You can try learning how to make a gathered, A-line or yoke skirt for yourself. Sewing skirts is easy and the best way to get comfortable with pattern making and sewing. The pattern is far easier than the bodice or dress block pattern.

Once you gain the skills necessary in pattern making and how to manipulate your darts and block patterns, there’ll be no stopping you!

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Oyin

I am a creative freelancer and fashion designer who loves to travel, explore and meet new people.