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Flat-pattern drafting

Judeee | Posted in General Discussion on

Hello experienced sewers,

      I’m experimenting with flat-pattern drafting and I need a little help!  I should say, a lot of help!!  Does anyone know the answers to the following questions?  Thanks for any help you can provide.

Can you recommend publications that give clear and concise instructions for flat-pattern drafting, particularly styling the sloper? Can you provide a source to order such books, since they are not easily available?


Can you provide instructions in flat-pattern drafting to style a basic sloper for a hip length jacket with princess armhole seams?

When flat-pattern drafting a basic sloper to style a jacket with princess seams from the armhole:

  1. Is it a prerequisite to transfer the bust dart to the armhole, before styling a princess

    style from the armhole?

  2. How do I match the armhole starting point on the front and back bodice, if there is an armhole dart? Would I use either dart leg or the center guideline?

  3. What are the exact cutting lines from the armhole dart for front and back bodice pieces to the hemline?

  4. What are my options for styling the hemline?


Can you provide instructions in flat-pattern drafting for a two-piece tailored sleeve?

When flat-pattern drafting a sleeve at the wrist/hemline opening, what do I need to consider when drafting for a coat versus a jacket versus a blouse? I have full upper arms, will a small wrist opening look funny?

In flat-pattern drafting, when do I add the design ease, is it before or after styling the sloper? Or, do I add the design ease to the basic sloper or to the styled sloper?

How do I add design ease to the side seam of a bodice front sloper with a bust dart? Will the pivot method work?

I used the flat-pattern method to draft a long sleeve. The sleeve front and back are not symmetrical, where is the grainline? Where do I mark the notch on the sleeve cap to match the shoulder seam; is it still ¼” from the center toward the sleeve front? Does this ¼” toward the center apply to a custom drafted sleeve, based on the measured front and back armhole?

Does it matter which way I fold the dart when I want to reshape the end? What is the correct way to fold the dart?

Since a basic sloper does contain a measure of ease, is there a standard for increments of measure for additional ease at the bust, waist, and hip for semi-fitted garments? I.e. a fitted straight skirt has @ 3″ of ease at the hip, how much of this is already used up in the sloper?


  1. FitnessNut | | #1

    Whew! That is quite a list of questions.

    I'll address your first one, since it holds the key to most of the others. I suggest you get hold of a good patternmaking textbook and work through it systematically. If you do a search on this site, you will find that we have discusses the merits of various books at length on more than one occasion. There are a number of texts available through http://www.amazon.com or other online booksellers, moreso than if you tried to find them in bookstores. I can mention a couple of these books for you: Helen Joseph Armstrong's "Patternmaking for Fashion Design" and "Metric Pattern Cutting" by Winifred Aldrich come to mind. You can also search on http://www.amazon.com for others.

    Good luck!

    1. mem | | #2

      I have used Winifreds book and it is very good and easy to use . I have Helens book and have found that somewhat more difficult to follow .

  2. HeartFire | | #3

    I think you should start with Kenneth Kings Moulage book

  3. Desiderata | | #4

    With so many questions, I would also recommend Winifred Aldrich's book. It uses the metric measurement, it is the best book for a beginner and the results are excellent. Instructions are very clear. Working with metrics gives you more precise results, right down to a .

    Good luck!

  4. Lynnelle | | #5

    I recommend Connie Amaden-Crawford's book on flat patternmaking.  I'm new to the field and found her book extremely easy to read. 


  5. JuliaHouston | | #6

    There are some wonderful FREE online resources. one is http://www.leenas.com   Look for the box marked "Learning Center" and click on 'Pattern Drafting". There are directions for basic slopers based on a Scandinavian system - which will give a fit similar to that of Burda.

    Another resource is http://www.vintagesewing.info   Near the top, click on "1940s". There are two pattern drafting books online there. The styles are definitely for that time period but the methods are still valid. The amounts given for ease might need to be adjusted somewhat for today's preferences. Some of the instructions are based on "standard" sizes but you can easily substitute the measurements for yourself or the subject.

    There have been several books suggested. Here are some others, which are all available used at http://www.abebooks.com or http://www.alibris.com and probably also at http://www.powells.com  .The first is good if you're just needing some help with designing your own patterns and not planning to start a business:  Design Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele Margolis. She also wrote a number of other books and I especially also like How to Make Clothes that Fit and Flatter as well as The Complete Book of Tailoring.  All three of these can usually be found for anywhere from less than $4 to around $25USD. 

    If you want more technical help with moving from the sloper to pattern designs then look for one of Norma Hollen's books: Patternmaking by the Flat Pattern Method. Try for a 4th or later edition. One in good condition should run from around $5-15 USD. This covers a lot of territory.  Hopefully you'll find one that still has some of the 1/4 scale patterns included.

    Ernestine Kopp also wrote some good basics that were/are textbooks at FIT in NYC. You can pay big bucks for the current editions or look for used ones at the above used booksellers. 1) How to Draft Basic Patterns 2) Designing Apparel through the Flat Pattern 3) New Fashion Areas for Designing Apparel through the Flat Pattern.

    That is still not an all inclusive list. I've heard excellent reports on Elizabeth Allemong's "Europen Cut" and it includes bodice, sleeve, skirt, pants and I believe torso. But again, It might just be the slopers. http://www.vestisbooks.com *which is getting that awful page cannot be displayed thing right now).

    Typically you would convert your basic slopers to a set of blocks from which you would then develop (style)your patterns. This could be another entire thread but it's covered in most of the better pattern drafting/cutting and flat pattern method books. In essence, you'll have blocks for blouses, jackets, coats, skirts, pants. Coats are sized to fit over jackets, jackets are sized (usually) to fit over dresses, blouses or sweaters. However, the sizing changes are NOT just in circumference.  It's a bit more involved than that.

    Armhole Princess questions -

    #1 - yes, it will make a difference and needs to be done if the seam is to pass over or within 1-2 inches of the bust point.

    #2 - in front, after the dart (or part of it) is rotated to the armhole, the 'lower' leg at the armhole delineates one edge of the side front panel while the 'upper' leg delineates one edge of the CF panel. Of course, ideally those lines will be smoothed into nice gentle curves. In the back, you have several options because you don't have a back bust dart. Take a look at the online pattern company websites in the jacket categories and check the line drawings of the backs. Often the back does not reflect the front design at all. However, IMHO it does look better if back princess coordinates with front princess, and the online resources at the beginning of this lengthy post will guide you.

    3) The exact cutting lines for separating your pattern pieces will be defined by the darts and your smoothed and corrected curves, using the 'stitching' lines of the darts. (But if you want more midriff/waist/hip ease you can cut on centerlines of vertical darts below the bust.) Then you will of course remember to add seam allowances before cutting fabric.

    4) Hemlines can be whatever you fancy! If they are shaped (rather than straight) you may need to plan facings.

    Sleeve grainlines. The biceps line is the crossgrain. Mark the halfway point on that line. Then draw a line perpendicular to it, running from top of sleeve cap thru the half biceps point and on to hem. That is your lengthwise grainline and for a long sleeve should be the full length measurement of the arm.

    I've never seen a sleeve draft that placed the sleeve's shoulder match point according to the length of the front/back armholes - but I kinow I've not seen them all. The length difference is usually accounted for in the different curvatures of the front and back sleevecap. The matchpoint for a custom draft is located after the muslin fitting. Otherwise, on a regular sleeve draft, it's at the top end of that lengthwise grainline on the sleeve.

    HTH  and that I got all your questions.




    1. FitnessNut | | #7

      Great post, Julia. There is only one point that I wish to add to. Both in my experience as an industrial patternmaker and in my books/courses I've taken, the sleeve notch is indeed based on the lengths of the back and front armholes. The seamlines are matched on both sides of the sleeve and any excess is the amount of ease used when setting the sleeve. In most, but not all, cases the ease is divided in half and the shoulder notch is placed there. For a custom fit, this may be altered depending on such variables as posture, but that would be exception rather than the rule. The grainline isn't the deciding factor as to where the matchpoint is located.

      1. JuliaHouston | | #8

        Thanks for your additional comments. As I wrote, I've not seen all possible sleeve drafting instructions. What I didn't say was that my training was in the late 60s/early 70s from one who trained in Parisian couture houses (during late 30s/early 40s), so is more on the side of custom than industrial....and definitely European. The basic sleeve draft at leenas.com is very similar to the "easy"  one I was taught and then later taught to my students. Then they got one that was a little more complicated. Wish I could remember that one! /g/ But apparently I had a couple of strokes while I was in hospital last year - they thought there had been no brain damage but I'm finding there is some loss in the 'dtabase' of the ol' brain. Not on the order of anything drastic, just annoying.


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