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Custom Pattern Drafting

thimble_ | Posted in Patterns on

Hello everybody,

I am looking to talk shop with other pattern drafters and cutters. I am especially interested in talking with pattern cutters who are involved in the custom garment industry. I would love to hear from anyone anyone who drafts , or anyone who wants to learn.

Talk to you soon!



  1. lin_hendrix | | #1

    Hi Thimble,

    I'm a home sewer (mostly for myself but sometimes for my sweetie and girlfriends). I usually draft my own patterns and sometimes drape. My mother was a garment industry worker in Los Angeles and taught me to sew when I was three. I learned pattern drafting and draping while on sabbatical from my electronics career at FIDM in LA.

    Right now I use PatternMaker on my home computer to do my drafting; it's not perfect but some features make it superior to drawing on paper like automatic seam allowance.

    I do great for myself but drafting flat front pants for my boyfriend has really got me stumped! It's that silly crotch curve and "poochiness" in the butt. I can make his pants look good but he complains that there's not enough room. He's quite thin so I really have to watch out for too much ease. Austin, TX really doesn't have any fashion design classes and I can't find any good books on men's fitting/drafting stuff.

    Do you tailor for men or women? Do you have any ideas for my next attempt at pants for him? Have you discovered any good men's pants patterns that suit skinny guys?


    1. thimble_ | | #2

      *Hi lin,Sounds like you are having some very common troubles when fitting men's pants. The zipper front problem could be a few different things. I find that on many pants the crotch curve is too scooped out, creating a tight look across the front. all you need to do is fill in the crotch curve a bit more...whatever amount you add make sure you add the same at the intersection point between front and back crotch on the front pattern. Another common problem is too long a zipper...The angle of the CF seam has a lot to do with the fit....on men's pants(except corpulents) the cf seam at the waist should be anywhere from 3/8ths to 1" back from the beginning of the crotch curve. This is to give a cleaner more tapered fit at the waist. I prefer to add a dart 1/2 way between side seam and CF, because this allows ease across the front to be distributed a little more evenly.As for the back...sounds like an easy one...it sounds like the angle of the seat line is incorrect. What you want to do is have him pin them on, pin the poochiness out and tranfer to your pattern. What I reccomend doing is sewing a pair of pants for him out of muslin and making all the adjustments for him on that, then tranferring it to your pattern and keeping the new draft for his next pair!As for ease I find that there is a big difference between ease and comfort....a garment can have very little ease, but be very comfortable to wear, and some garments can have a lot of ease and be very uncomfortable to wear. The key is in knowing where the ease should go!! In pants much of the ease should pe distributed over the bum, and the hipbone in front. I also add a little extra ease between the legs for a more comfortable stride, abd I add a ppx 3/8ths of an inch to the waist seam at CB...this is so when your man sits down or bends over his butt doesn't come hanging out!Well try that...let me know how you make out and if anything helped!Thimble!

      1. lin_hendrix | | #3

        *Thanks Thimble,I will try fiddling around this weekend on my almost-ok pattern for him.--lin

        1. Vanessa | | #4

          *Hi. I am interested in drafting - are there any books you would recommend to learn at home? Have you heard of the pattern drafting 6 mo class at http://www.sewnet.com? ThanksVanessa

          1. Jeffery_Diduch | | #5

            *There are two excellent books on drafting, basically sold as a pair, published by Fairchild. They are the textbooks used at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.How To Draft Basic Patterns is a must for beginners, and explains how to make slopers (basic blocks which are the foundation for garment design). ISBN 87005-747-2Library of Congress # 91-71265Designing Apparel Through the Flat Pattern is the larger companion which shows how to turn your slopers into garments. ISBN 87005-737-5Library of Congress #91-71264Both are by Kopp, Rolfo, Zelin & Gross and are available fron the publisher at 1-800-932-4724 or 212-630-3880. Or you can write to Fairchild BooksP.O. Box 7247Philadelphia, PA 19101-9261I bought both for school and have never needed another book since! Hope this helps.J

          2. thimble_ | | #6

            *i too bought those thinking they would enlighten me...but in all honesty I found them to be far too basic. And the woman's pant block is rife with problems! I guess it is a good basic system but basic is the key word there. I think winnifred aldrich's books are far superior, but still pale in comparisson with some of the older tailor methods...such as the tailor and cutter and the Mueller and sohn system. Both are very hard to find!!! I would try antique and rare book dealers. Another pair of awesome pattern drafters are Natalie Bray and M.Rohr...anything by these two people is worth it's weight in gold... I have actually seen the M Rohr book in a couple of bookstores! The problem today is that nobody is producing really great patterns anymore...proof is in the pudding...look at the fit of clothes today vs the 60's...styles are different but fit is much sloppier. Even at the designer level! Making patterns by hand is a true art form...which takes years and years of practice(and rolls and rolls of paper)not to mention a thousand different gadgets!!! One must be a great sewer and have complete knowledge of how to sew garments together before a true understanding of pattern is realised. I always tell students to learn to drape the figur first as it will be invaluable for learning how to draft patterns, you begin to understand the way patterns fit together and why certain shaping is where it is and how you can change style without affecting fit etc!!

          3. Ginna | | #7

            *Thimble - Have you seen the book Body Mapping by Kathy Illian? What did you think of it? TIA

          4. thimble_ | | #8

            *Ginna....I have never seen the book but I have heard a lot about it. I still don't know what it is though...can you tell me what it entails...cheers thimble!

          5. Ginna | | #9

            *Thimble - I'll have to get back to you on it. I did buy the book with a coupon I had to Amazon.com - made the cost less than half price. I haven't yet read the book. I bought it because I had read that it explained some aspects of fitting better than other books. I'm under the impression that it shows you how to create a personal sloper by draping with a gingham check fabric. The checked fabric allows you to verify that pattern is on grain at certain key points on the body. I've also read that the explanation about sleeves is very good.

          6. Karin | | #10

            *Hello everyone, ive just found this pattern thread and love reading all you have to say. I'm from Australia and I have learnt Traditional patternmaking many years ago (which I hated) and more recently I have learnt the Sitam method. It is an Italian method of patternmaking from one ruler (template) it ranges in sizes from baby to very large adult (124cm chest) I have found this method to be the most accurate to the human body and versatile for any design. I sew for the general public in all shapes and forms. They bring me a picture or I do drawings and can produce anything from this template. I just love it like a baby! I think they have a website or check out you local phone book and look for Italian Pattern making. :)

          7. suellapalmer | | #11

            *Hi ThimbleI've only found this site today, and have enjoyed reading your page. Thanks for the effort you've put in.I'm from Australia, and have drafted and tailored my own blazer jacket. It presses uncomfortably on my neck, and I want to alter the pattern, but am unsure about how to do it. I think I may have an upright stance - that my neck is pushing packwards on the collar. I also notice that my garments tend to hang low at the back and high at the front. What do you advise?Suella

          8. Shannon_Gifford | | #12

            *This sounds interesting; can you post the URL here? I have done a search and come up empty-handed:(

          9. lin_hendrix | | #13

            *Hi Shannon, After reading Karin's post I looked for the Sitam site. I did find the site and dissapointingly it seems the Sitam method is only in Australia and the email address on the site is not working. There is a phone number and fax posted but I don't know the country code for Australia. Anyhoo if you want to do more research here's the site:http://www.aquariumsoftware.com.au/sites/sitam--lin

          10. Karin | | #14

            *Dear Shannon, As I am from Australia I only have an Aussie site for the Sitam method. If you contact them via email they might know who to contact overseas. I hope this helps in some way http://axs.com.au/~entskill/sitam1.html

          11. Karin | | #15

            *Dear Lin I am sure if you search somewhere in Italy there should be some info about Sitam because this is where it originated by a lady called "Sara del Basso" I just love it to death and I treat my Template ruler like Gold. With this piece of equipment I know I can do anything.

          12. Shannon_Gifford | | #16

            *This sounds so interesting. I looked at the website and read the promo. I do have a few questions for you. What is the exchange rate for the American dollar in Australia nowadays? Do you think this method could be effectively learned by correspondence? How did you find out about this? The website mentioned a virtual library of material; is all of this included with the course? Is there some kind of certification involved? Have you used it on varied figure types (i.e. petite, full-figured, tall and willowy)?

          13. Karin | | #17

            *Dear Shannon, I did do this course by corrospondence and have recieved my certificate in clothing design and construction which is accredited in the Australian clothing industry for pattern making. The virtual library is seven text books and I found them very user friendly and I guard those with my life as well. They have great illustrations in them and it is all fairly idiot proof. I am a general dressmaker and I sew for all shapes and sizes. Customer range is from an American size 2 to a size 30+ The tamplate goes from babies to large adults. The big problem would be for you in the states being in inches and we work in centimetres. I think the $ rate is .64 Email Ros Verity she is a lovely lady who I'm sure will help you out in every way she can. Let me know how you go, Good luck. [email protected]

          14. lin_hendrix | | #18

            *Hi Shannon, I actually emailed the folks at Sitam Australia after using the link that Karin provided; [email protected] They are sending me some materials that better describe the course. I also inquired about becoming one of their tutors here in the US (I live in Austin, TX) and apparently that is an option too. One of my long-held ideas about fashion sewing is to find a way to make it more accessible and easy. Maybe the Sitam is the way?? I'll repost here when I get the smailing!--lin

          15. Karin | | #19

            *Hello Lin and Shannon, I am a dressmaker in Melbourne Australia and the Sitam method is just fabulous. I work with all shapes and sizes from children to adults and very large ones at that! I do custom career wear and ladies evening and bridal. i find with the Sitam method I only need to measure once and cut straight to cloth, no toilles required unless it is a very complex design. You should be able to look at any picture and recreate (I do all the time) this is why I am never out of work. The fit is impeccable even fitting myself. I am 5'2" and around 162 pounds so you can picture how difficult I would be to fit. I did my course by corrospondence and found no difficulties at all. The seven text books are fairly idiot proof and very illustrative. The thing I can imagine though for you girls would be in Australia we work in centimetres, and you girls would have to convert from inches. Let me know how you go with Ros Verity at Sitam Australia. She is a lovely lady I'm sure she will be able to help in some way. Karin

          16. Shannon_Gifford | | #20

            *lin I will do the same; I am in the Atlanta area and will definitely be no competition to you! This should be interesting. I also have been looking for a similar opportunity, as sewing is not promoted as readily as other needle skills such as quilting. No one can do it better than those of us who love to sew!

          17. Shannon_Gifford | | #21

            *Have you had any word from Australia? To our Australian friends; how long does mail usually take to get from you to us? I am anxiously awaiting my information:)

          18. lin_hendrix | | #22

            *Hello Shannon, Yes, not only have I heard from the Sitam folks in Australia, I've actually purchased the Sitam home study course. Unfortunately my *real* job has taken precedence. I've only gotten thru the first three lessons. Apologies for being lax about reporting here.The course consists of seven medium sized paperback books, the large plastic Sitam template, and a half-size template used for checking or drafting test patterns. The lessons alternate between pattern drafting and sewing a garment from the previous lesson. While not a sewing course a lot of basic sewing is covered (like grainlines, nap).Here's my first impressions on the Sitam method:The core of Sitam is a large (14"sq or so) heavy plastic template with all sorts of grooves, holes, and markings on both sides. One finds the marks that correspond to the Sitam "size" and basically connect-the-dots in sequence. The sequence never varies so, with practice, one can draft patterns with the template without referring to the instructions. It *is* easy. Much easier to use to draft the basic bodice, skirt, sleeve, etc. than the popular flat pattern methods used by fashion design schools.The course covers a lot of flat pattern stuff, like pleats, collars, gathers, ruffles, godets. etc. but there is no Sitam method per se for developing these pattern pieces. Just standard flat pattern drafting based on the sloper developed with the Sitam template. Because of this having experience with flat pattern making makes much of the course work seem redundant. It's nice though (for me at least) having a bit of a refresher.On the issue of fit... Body measurements are taken with some clothes on (like a t-shirt) so some wearing ease gets built in from the start. I haven't gotten far enough to see if this idea really works. I did notice in one of the books something about correcting for body shapes that did not fit the template. Most notable for me was a uniform slope for all shoulders on the template (too steep for square-shouldered me). The way the bust measurement is taken is downright wierd--but again I haven't gotten far enough to see how well this works. I did make up the first sewing lesson (mostly because I'm always in need of sleepwear). It's a yoked, sleeveless nightgown. It came out pretty well but pointed out a few omissions in the drafting instructions. If I get my computer at home up and running I'll try to post a pic of the nightie.I'll post another update when I've gotten thru a few more lessons.--lin

          19. Chris_Knoblock | | #23

            *I just bought this book at a thrift store: Men &Women Flat Pattern Draafting; the Professional Way by Jack Meisner. He talks about a "Patternmakers Div"; a ruler that divides body measurements for you in making up a pattern. Has anyone used one? It sounds useful. Also where can I get one; either online, mailorder, or retail store? I live in the San Diego, CA, USA area. Thanks, Chris.

          20. Julia_Fletcher | | #24

            *Lin- This is really helpful. I am debating whether to go ahead and order from the UK and your details on course coverage are much appreciated. I shall eagerly await your update when you get the chance!Julia

          21. A.J. | | #25

            *Hi lin,I just found this site last night, and I will be following your reports about the Sitam system.I am new to sewing and eager to learn pattern drafting. Thank you for your input!A.J.

          22. lin_hendrix | | #26

            *Sitam method update! I've been very very busy these last few months; apologies for the late update. I rec'd the Sitam home study course and have been working my way thru the lessons. You can see the first garment I've sewn (lesson 2D, a simple nightdress) atmy home web site, http://www.lindrix.com under the gallerysection, Sitam nightie. Here's my review so far:1) Sitam method is by far the easiest method for flat pattern drafting I have ever seen. It is based on a large plastic template with all sorts of shapes and curves and holes. You take basic measurements, find the number on the template, and connect the dots. My intention is to find an easily taught flat pattern method; Sitam certainly fills the requirements!2) I've just finished the bodice two dart sloper (lesson 4E) for myself. This looks somewhat different from your standard American sloper--the armscye and front side seam extend into what is normally the back. The back is shallower. The armscye is quite a different look, kind of scoopier. I'll get to making a muslin this weekend; how does it fit update coming soon.3) I can tell right off the disadvantage to a home sewer with a library of patterns will be the larger front/smaller back. It would be difficult to use the Sitam sloper as-is as an alterations template for commercial patterns. However, if you're into it for original pattern drafting/ fashion design this won't be a problem.4) The books themselves (7 total) pretty much cover basic flat pattern drafting. If you already know this (like how to do a spiral ruffle or dart pivoting) it will be a repeat. The books also cover some basic sewing. All in all a lot of "extras" over and above the Sitam method itself. By far the value is the unique template and instructions for using.will post on outcome of first sloper soon.--lin

          23. Karin | | #27

            *Dear Lin,I saw your website and it looks great. I'm so glad you are working the Sitam method so well. I just love it to bits. The side seams of this method are always to the back more so than commercial patterns. Sometimes when working with very small bodies I don't add and minus the 2cm they say otherwise the side seam is too far back on a petite body. I have developed a measurement guide for armhole drops and variations to the basic block as well as easement guidelines. If you would like a copy of this just email me.Keep playing it's great fun and worth it's weight in gold. Karin

          24. Karin_Dalton-Smith | | #28

            *Hello Ladies, I was wondering how things are going with the Sitam pattern making? Have you thrown it to the wind or are still persevering with it? Karin

          25. Linda_Edwards | | #29

            *Curious about the Sitam method. I like the 30's 40's 40's and 50's styles..the unusual draping and seam placement. I use vintage patterns at the moment and have to redraft them to fit. I am wondering if those with experience with the Sitam would be able to advise if this would do the trick to draft patterns from scratch, or is it just useful for the basics? And how difficult would it be, I am a self taught amateur, trial and error method pattern drafter and sewer.

          26. Linda_Edwards | | #30

            *Reading the old messages..one of the best little devices I have found for making pants for males and females is the "crutch-o-meter".Its a measuring tape that goes around the crutch, so you get the right distance back and front. You make it by getting a tape measureand cutting in half. then take the two ends that start of at "1" (it should be a two sided tape to start with) and link them together with a metal loop, or string or anything, so that they are joined but notoverlapping. Then, right at the join, tie in a long piece of stringwith a weight on the end. The idea is like a plumbers bob. You get your person, and run the tape between their legs so that the weight is hanging vertically, right from the centre of their bodies. Then look at either end of the tape..you get the exact measurement of the front crotch line and the back, which varies enormously from person to person depending on where the 'porch' is. It is beaut for fellows who often have tummies and flat derrier's.

          27. lin_hendrix | | #31

            *Hello Linda and Gatherings, Here are my final thoughts on the Sitam pattern drafting method. To all out there be advised this is my opinion and you may have a different viewpoint (no flames please!). For those of you new to this particular conversation, I have been sewing for over 40 years; I have taken pattern drafting courses from both FIDM in Los Angeles and Louise Salinger in San Francisco. I'm contemplating a career in something to do with textiles when I retire from electronics. My hope has been to find an easy to learn pattern drafting method and teach others to draft their own patterns from scratch so as to avoid the fitting issues with commercial patterns. I've been working on the Sitam course now for several months. Here is my report:First off basic sloper drafting with Sitam is extremely easy. Sitam uses a large plastic template and an easy numbering system. This is the easiest method I've ever seen for a basic sloper.Sadly though, Sitam's template is not able to adjust for body differences from the "norm." There are only a handful of body measurements taken for Sitam as contrasted with many other flat pattern drafing methods. If (for example) you have a protruding tummy, forward sloping shoulders, thick neck, or high bust you'll have to do the corrections after drafting the standard sloper and more or less by trial and error. Many other flat pattern drafting methods handle some of these body differences by extensive measurements and, incidentally, still need that trial and error adjustment after the first sloper is drafted. In this case Sitam is no better or worse than other flat methods.Much of the Sitam course covers actual garment development from the sloper. This part of the course is not extensive and only covers very basic garments. You can probably get more exhaustive instruction from many of the flat pattern textbooks out there. There is no real difference in garment development from a Sitam sloper or any other sloper.The rest of the Sitam course is devoted to sewing instruction. I found much of this pretty outdated (for instance they recommend hand basting the garment together; I haven't hand basted anything in years!). In conclusion: If you know little of fashion sewing and have few figure fitting problems the Sitam method is probably a good choice especially if you live in a country where you can take the course with "live" instructors. Sitam is currently only in the US through self-taught or correspondence course. The folks in Australia are very responsive and willing to help.If you are embarking on a career in fashion design or costuming you should get thee to a fashion design school.If you just want to know a little about pattern drafting and really don't need or want sewing instruction you should buy a good textbook (amazon.com has quite a few). Or alternately get a good model form and buy a textbook on draping patterns. Draping is inherently more accurate anyway, you just have to figure in the cost of a model form.If you have difficult fitting problems and want to alter commercial patterns then you should find a fitting workshop at a local store or traveling show.--lin

          28. Linda_Edwards | | #32

            *Re Sitam..I bought the course and I am not disappointed in my choice as it is structured, ie you start at page one and work through. I have found however that I really do need to think, ponder re-read etc, because its a new language but I have got up to the 3rd lesson so far (sleeves) and what I originally thought was impossible..well I have figured it out. That is the difficulty with correspondence courses, no one to ask at the moment of need. the nightdress worked out find, although I did not like the sewing instructions and did it my own way. I have also made a nightdress for my mother from the basic sloper bodice and sleeve, that fits just fine and she is short and 'round'. I also like that I can do bits at a time and then go back to the page I left of at.Like someone said before, design and drawing is an art , for some its natural, for others, well, we learn! To save time in the exercises I am going to make a cardboard sloper for tracing around so I don't have to redraw each time.ALSO..a very good book to look at when you are competent is PATTERNMAKING FOR FASHION DESIGN by HELEN JOSEPH ARMSTRONG. Its available in Australia and USA. About $89.00A (US about half of that..our exchange rate is dismal at the moment)I have also been to the library and copied pages from old drafting books from the 40's and50's, amazing designs and actual drawings of what to do.Anyone else starting this course, email for comparison progress reports!

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