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Pattern Making

birdlady1 | Posted in Patterns on

Hi Repliers!

Sorry I haven’t gotten back earlier but I have been busy with work and going to night school.  I got my results last week and as I had known, I have to repeat Pattern Making Level 1 again. 

Even though I did not pass, I did enjoy it.  The teacher did slow down I felt.  Some of the students still felt she did not.  As for Ms. Armstrong’s book, I still feel that it is not as complete as it could have been.  A former classmate of mine and a few others from other classes felt that there is a lot of steps left out in her book or are not complete or wrong.  Also, my teacher (who teaches a good way) said that the book was wrong in the way that the princessline bodice was showing having an ease in the bust area.  If you have the 4th edition, it is on page 119.  She said that there should be no ease in the bust point. So in that instance, our teacher taught us a different way and not the way the book showed.  My main problem I had was doing patterns for the skirts.  Just trying to understand how to do a gore skirt for example was awful.  May be if I sewed a little more, may be I would understand it better.  Also I found that I did not get enough time in class to finish everything off that was taught in class in order to hand it in that night so handing in my samples in a timely fashion did not work so I was behind.  The night we had our first test, I just froze and could not do it.  Also, I was not feeling well that night so I just left.  I did not get any points for that and not handing my projects in I got further and further behind.  Another problem I had was placing of the notches on a skirt pattern or bodice.  By the time I was getting around to doing them, it was getting late and everyone was packing up to go, including the teacher.  Therefore, I was not sure where the notches went.  I reviewed the book and most of the time it does not show you where they should go.  If there were notches in any patterns in the book, they were not always situated in the same areas whether it be a skirt or bodice.  I would like to know where exactly they should be placed and should they be placed in the same areas of skirts and bodices always?

I found out that the teacher that will be teaching in May is someone else.  I have had her before when I was taking garment construction.  She is very nice.  The only thing is that I do not know how she will be teaching pattern making.  I really liked the way my other teacher taught.  She would place the tissue paper on the chalk board and go step by step while we did the same.  One of my classmates before was telling me that her teacher used to just have people circle around her and she would do the steps then you had to go back to your table and do the same.  She found that a lot of the students used to complain to one another that they could not see what she was doing because everyone was crowding around.  To me that is not a good way to do it.  I hope I can talk her into doing it the way the other teacher did it.  I like the idea of doing it as the teacher is doing it.  Also, I hope that I don’t fail again.  It costs a lot to take these courses and to have to pay for it a third time, well, I don’t want to go there right now.




  1. sewchris703 | | #1

    How odd because I( make my princess line patterns exactly like on page 119, figure 3, and they fit me perfectly.   Perhaps it's because I'm a D cup and not the B that is the standard in rtw? 

    Notches really aren't standard on pattern pieces.  You put them wherever you need them to match up the pattern pieces.  There are some general rules, however:  single notches mean the front and double notches note the back of a pattern piece (such as sleeves and armhole notches); generally triple notches on the center back (if double notches are used on side seams, for example).

    Then in rtw, there are the slits in the pattern pieces to indicate to the sewer what seam allowance to use.  Those are the ones that I kept forgetting to put on the pattern pieces.  I've gotten used to not having seam allowance on the pattern pieces because my boss doesn't put any on her patterns.  She just cuts about 1" outside of the papper and uses a tracing wheel to draw the stitching lined on the fabric.



  2. jjgg | | #2

    The correct (industrial) method of drafting a princess line is to have a small amount of ease over the bust point in the side front piece. This amount will be anywhere from 1/8 inch up to about 1/2 inch depending on the cup size. It is needed and important to have it there. Just as there is 'ease' at the end of a side dart tip. The side darts don't come all the way to the tip of the bust point and that excess amount is ease to get over the 'hump' of the bust point.What you have to understand about the text book is that it is just a text book. It will teach you the principals and methods of pattern drafting. When it instructs you to (for example) "measure up 3 inches from the underarm seam and draw a straight line from there to the bust point to mark the curve area of the princess line. It doesn't have to be exactly 3 inches up the cure. That is the designers choice to find the exact location, and where that curve falls on different women will be more pleasing on some than others. But, to add that small amount of ease in is mostly essential to fit (unless you are drafting a really small cup size)So I guess what I'm trying to say is you have to understand what is 'design' and what is engineering to make the parts fit together right and hang correctly.

    1. fiberfan | | #3

      Kathleen Fasanella says there shouldn't be ease in the princess line.  Check out her post on Lazy Patternmaking.


      1. birdlady1 | | #4

        Hi Joanne!

        Thank you for your input.  My teacher indicated that creating an ease in the bust the way Ms. Armstrong's book shows in the princess line would create a bust point like Madonna's bra that she had worn in her famous show a few years ago.  She said they looked like to cones.  If anyone has seen Dan Ackroyd's movie about the family of coneheads, that is what she meant.  I have spoken to many people who have Ms. Armstrong's book and a number of them say that there are a few steps missing from her book.  If a person cannot take a night school course on pattern making and must reply on the instructions from her book alone, then how is a person to create a proper pattern piece?  I have reviewed a number of books on pattern making and there is not really a lot out there that are really good in my opinion.  If they cannot fully complete the proper steps (I know that books would be very huge), then I feel they should not do them.  May be videos are a better way to go.  I taped most of my teacher's classes.  The only problem I had was that I didn't have tape for a 3 hour class so somethings I was not able to get but it is great to be able to view it later if you had missed anything in class.  I have to repeat this class and am going to try and see if there are any tapes that I can video tape up to 3 hours.  It would be a pain to have to reload each time while you are listening in class.  Has anyone out there had to repeat pattern making class level 1 and found that the second time around was a lot better? 

        1. sewingmama | | #5

          Kathleen is right.  When I took flat pattern design, we simply moved the darts to the middle and minipulate the sloper like was described.


        2. sewchris703 | | #6

          Now, I'm just the oposite.  I pretty much taught myself a lot about flat pattern making just from a book (Pattern Making by the Flat Pattern Method by Norma R. Hollen, 4th ed, 1961) long before I took the class.  And I had no trouble with Armstrong's book.  But I couldn't never learn from videos.  The CD that come with Armstrong's book was too slow.  I need the writen page and a live person to interact with.  I took the class to learn how to translate measurements into a sloper.  Something that Hollen's book didn't go into as she started with a commercial sloper.


          1. gowngirl | | #7

            I learned from the Hollen book as well, and now suppliment with the Armstrong book. You all might be interested to know that notches weren't always two in back and one in front as we are used to seeing now on the sleeve. The old vintage patterns are two in front with only one in the back. I wonder when pattern companies made the switch, and why?

          2. sewchris703 | | #8

            My mom bought me the Hollen book, 4th ed., in part, because Norma Hollen mentioned my great aunt in the special apprecation paragraph.  My great aunt (my dad's aunt) was Fannie Potgetier.  When my sisters and I were young (in the 1950s), she ran the Sewing dept (she had a phd) at the Iowa State University at Ames, Iowa and she used my sisters at models in her pattern making classes as they didn't have average measurements for toddlers and preschoolers. 


          3. gowngirl | | #9

            Chris, I went right to my book to look for your aunts name, and it looks like everything has changed. I have the 8th edition, and Carol J. Kundel is listed as a second author. I think Carol is building on the previous books from Hollen, and therefore writes a thank you to Hollen in the acknowledgements. This makes me want to look for the earlier editions. I respect the wisdom from the old pros immensely. Thanks for your comment.

    2. Lana_Sutton | | #11

      jjgg, thank you for your explanation regarding the ease! I am a self-taught sewer with a D cup size, and altering patterns for the bust area is still a challenge, i.e. each project has a significant "trial-and-error" component.

      Dear Ladies, I am a new person on your blog, and I am soooo impressed with your knowledge in the sewing theory and practice!

      1. sewingismylife | | #15

        I can identify with alterations challenges for a D cup. The book that has helped me the most is called Fit for Real People. You can find it on Amazon. I love that book, and I haven't found another that has been so helpful.

        1. Lana_Sutton | | #22

          Sewingismylife,  thank you so much for your advice and book reference regarding fitting D-size - I'll definitely buy it at amazon.com! 

          My family has just relocated from New Mexico to the Pacific northwest, and I am so inspired to get back to  sewing - the best medicine ever to comfort the exhausted mind and soul. Your screen name implies that you could relate to this issue, too.

          Once again, thank you!

          1. sewingismylife | | #23

            I am so glad I could be a help! I'd love to answer any other questions you may have. Have fun sewing!!!

  3. User avater
    artfulenterprises | | #10

    Just a little note re: Helen Armstrong's 4th Edition "Patternmaking for Fashion Design". I had a brief conversation with Helen just about the time that edition was published. She was quite chagrined that the book was printed without some pertinent corrections that should have been made in the editing process. I suspect that if you were to contact the publisher they might be able to provide you with a supplement that would help you out.However, since her book is in its 4th edition, I might gently suggest that maybe she knows what she's talking about? However, with all due respect, there are a million ways to skin a cat, so to speak! Any text guide to patternmaking is only a guide. Every pattern must be muslin fitted and adjusted to the client or model it is intended for. Some bodies may need more ease than others...and I have never found a slight amount of ease in the princess line bust area to produce cones! Perhaps the interpretation of the text (or perhaps an omission in the printed process) has produced an anomaly.Since I was her student many years ago, I own a 1st edition text and therefore I'm not able to compare it to your own 4th ed. text. My copy is so well used I have replaced the cover with a purple leather lettered in gold leaf. It has been a virtual goldmine of information and an invaluable tool in my workroom. I encourage you to hang in there. Persistence pays off!My best wishes to you in your pursuit of patternmaking skills.

    1. birdlady1 | | #12


      I received your reply regarding Helen Armstrong's book.  My new teacher (I had to take the class over again) has also indicated that there are a lot of mistakes in this book as well as what my first teacher indicated.  I purchased her second edition before I got a hold of her 4th edition and find that somethings in the 2nd edition explain a few things better than the 4th.  What I am now doing is reviewing both books to see if anyone of them can help understand things.

      I am having a problem with the Flared Skirt pattern, which is on page 238-239 in the 4th edition.  On the front skirt, I did close the dart as instructed and I measured the draft leg below which is A and B.  It measured 2".  In the instructions, for the back skirt, you have to have equal measurements for the dart legs C and D that are equal to A and B's.  It also indicates that you must measure C and D's dart at the waist and transfer remaining excess to dart.  I did do that and increased the dart.  What I want to know is that when I have increased the other dart, do I crease the one dart line and fold it completely over to the other dart line?  If not, then what needs to be done with it?  Also, I have found that in order to make C and D's dart legs equal to A and B's I pretty well need to close the dart that states "transfer remaining excess to dart".  If you look in the book, it does not say to close the dart and it also shows it still slightly open.  Can anyone explain what I may be doing wrong?

      For homework, I also need to do a waistband for this skirt (the sample is done tissue paper).  I read the one in the book and if you do a sample skirt and need to create a waistband, it does not explain how you get the measurement to create a  1/2 scale pattern skirt.  Can anyone help?  I also know that sometimes common sense is a must but when you have things that are not explained properly or incorrectly, it is hard to understand. things.


      1. User avater
        artfulenterprises | | #13

        Okay...I am looking at Helen's 1st edition illustration.  I gather you figured out the instructions for the skirt front (closing the dart closest to the side seam to spread the hemline, then adding an amount equal to half the distance of the newly spread hem "dart excess" area, A-B, to the side seam.)  On the back,  she is asking you to close the dart closest to the side seam until the C-D section at hemline is equal to the A-B section of the front skirt.  That leaves a small amount of dart excess still open at the back skirt waistline.

        Place a bit of paper behind the still open dart (or tape it down).  It will remain "open"  You are simply "filling it in".  Measure the distance remaining in the partially closed dart excess at waist, divide that amount in half and measure out that distance on either side of the other dart (closest to center back).  Redraw the dart lines.

        Now, you will have a slightly larger dart near center back and no dart near side seam.  Then, you follow the same instructions for adding excess at the side hem as you did for the front skirt.  (Measure half the distance newly opened at hemline.  Add that amount to the side seam at hem.  Draw a line from hem to widest point of hip and blend.  Square the hem from the new line and blend into the hem curve.)

        I hope this helps clarify the instructions....let me know how you fare!


      2. User avater
        artfulenterprises | | #14

        A second note:

        re: Also, I have found that in order to make C and D's dart legs equal to A and B's I pretty well need to close the dart that states "transfer remaining excess to dart".  If you look in the book, it does not say to close the dart and it also shows it still slightly open.  Can anyone explain what I may be doing wrong?

        If you need to close the back waist dart completely to get A-B and C-D at hemlines to be equal, then simply close the dart.  No need in that case to make the other dart larger.  The idea here is that the front and back flare of the skirt be well balanced so that it doesn't hang awkwardly. 

        If you want to make a half scale waistband pattern, simply follow the directions for a basic waistband but reduce each measurement by half.  eg: 28" waist + 1" for button +1/2" seam allowances at each end (1") = 30" total length.  If your band is 1" wide finished width, it would be cut 2" wide for foldover+ 1" additional for 1/2" seam allowance.  (Of course that is supposing your fabric is thin.  You may need to allow a bit extra for foldover on heavier fabrics).  So, your waistband is 30" x 3".  A half scale band would then be 15" x 1 1/2".  Of course, I did not address the issue of marking your side seam points on the band but the principle is exactly the same.  There should be directions for that in Helen's book.

      3. User avater
        artfulenterprises | | #16

        Hi birdlady1,Just checking in with you to find out if you understood the flared skirt project. In thinking about the instructions I realize it is extremely difficult to be precise enough with the written word to clear up all confusions. I guess what I might have said is think about darts as "excess fabric" that needs to be controlled in order to conform to the curves of the body. That excess fabric can be controlled in a number of ways: darts, gathers, pleats, etc. It can also be divided up and spread out along the garment wherever you choose. In this instance, the excess is being rearranged. Some of the waist dart is being transferred to the hemline. That leaves a small amount still sitting at the waist. Rather than "closing" the dart at it's original position, we are going to leave that expanse of excess fabric right where it is. But that means the waist line is now too big. So, in order to bring the waistline back to it's original dimension, we will simply make the other dart slightly deeper to compensate.Measure the distance that got left behind in the first dart and place that amount in the second dart. Now the waistline should measure exactly the same as it did before the transfer. Sometimes the how-to steps are not nearly as important as understanding the basic concepts at work in the process. Hope this helps!Best wishes....
        Artful Enterprises

        1. birdlady1 | | #17

          Hi Susan!

          Thank you for your advice regarding the skirt.  As I read your comments, it makes sense in what you said.  I guess not being a professional sewer, it sometimes take a while to understand it. 

          Also, I have found that in Helen Armstrong's 2nd and 4th edition, if you have them, you will also see that her patterns at the back of the book are not quite the same.  I found that in the Front and Back skirts, one is longer in length than the other and that the line going across the skirts are not straight.  You can also see that when you draw your lines down from the dart points, one is wider than the other.  When you are a beginner in drafting patterns, that can create problems.  The ones that the school has provided were not done well either.  I found the skirt front and back were the same.  Where the centre front skirt should show on the right side which was correct, the centre back should the same way.  Even though I may complain, I am enjoying pattern making.

          1. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #18

            Hi birdlady1,I'm glad you are enjoying your process and that the skirt project is beginning to be clearer to you.Unfortunately, I don't have either the 2nd or 4th edition of Helen's book so I'm not sure what you are looking at. (Although I do know Helen doesn't do the drawings and sometimes an artist's interpretation can be a bit skewed! Also, she changed artists between editions I believe.) However, usually, a skirt back is a bit wider than a front which may account for the width being different in the drawing (don't know if that's true in this instance but could be). It could also be longer at center back than center front although the side seams should be the same length (remember, the back has to have a bit of extra length and width to go out and over a rear end!) Not sure what line across the skirt you are talking about though.

          2. jjgg | | #19

            I have the 3rd edition.the half scale patterns in the back of the book are accurate. Yes, the center front length IS longer than the center back length, but when you measure the side seam lengths, (they sew to each other) they are the same length for the front and the back. (I would expect the CF to be shorter than the CB, but it really doesn't matter).So, in other words, the center front length (from the waist to the hem at the CF, & the center back length (from the CB waist to the hem) have no relation to each other.The hip line, (horizontal line across the pattern) is in a different location WHEN MEASURED FROM THE CENTER BACK/FRONT SEAM, FROM THE WAIST LINE, BUT WHEN MEASURED UP FROM THE HEM they are in the same location. BUT when measured from the side seams (where it sews together) they are in the same location. When sewn together as a skirt, and placed on the model this was drafted for, this would be a horizontal line running parallel to the floor at the hip level. It takes into account the back waist dipping down a bit.The back pattern is wider than the front, AT THE HIP LINE. At the waist line they measure the same 3 1/4 inches. If you are built like most people, the back hip lines swings out around the buttocks and will be longer than where it swings around the lower belly. This will place the side seams running straight up and down the body and not pulling off center.If you look at the patterns, the back has the waist line dipping down a bit from the side seam, that accounts for the difference in center back, center front lengths.Often you would want the back skirt to be 1/2 inch to one inch longer than the front (as it's worn) because it can be just a more pleasing look. I'm not sure what you mean by the hip line (going across the skirt) as not being straight. It is "squared" from the center back / center front line which is as it should be. The center body lines should run vertically straight up and down from the ground in the center of the body. The only time this might change to some degree is if someone had severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine). The side seams are curved and don't necessarily have to be smack dab at the side so you can't "square" off of them. At times you may want to move the side seam just a smidgen to the back (or front) as a design or slimming option. Yes, you could have the center front/back seam 'off center' as a design option, if you really wanted to, but it would look more odd than moving the side seam around. Also, there often isn't a CF or CB seam and it's only 'imaginary' but you really want the fabric to hang with the cross grain running parallel to the ground for a visual and fabric 'hanging' correctly. Even if the hips are uneven, you want a horizontal line parallel to the ground. This is done at the hip level on skirts and the shoulder level on tops.I'm not sure what you mean about drawing lines down from the darts. Dart location from center back/ center front does not have to be balanced. In reality you place them where they are needed for the individual which has all to do with how wide/narrow, flat/round the belly or buttocks are. People with high round belly/buttocks will have shorter darts, people with flat parts will have longer darts. That's a fitting issue. But , in a pattern drafting class, the location is just where they were placed for the pattern. Different pattern books will give you different locations. Generally one is placed on the "princess line" so that it will line up with a dart from the top (if sewn as a dress) so you will have one longer dart. (think of a long waist dart in a one piece sheath dress) The second dart is generally placed a certain "distance" in (toward the CF/CB) from that dart. This certain "distance can really be anything at all. BUT, it should be a pleasing, balanced look, AND accommodate the normal body curves. - So, for instance, to have the more center darts one inch from the CF/CB would look silly, and it would not fit the body curves, because thats not where the body curves.Edited 6/19/2008 8:49 am ET by jjggEdited 6/19/2008 9:13 am ET by jjgg

            Edited 6/19/2008 9:17 am ET by jjgg

          3. birdlady1 | | #20

            Thanks for your information.  It does help. 

            I did not pass my test this time but I did feel good that I did not freeze this time and leave the class like my first time around.  I am just going to have to try harder from now on in order to pass this course.  I spoke to the teacher and asked her if I was just wasting my time because of the failed test.  She said no.  She has had me in another two sewing classes years ago and she feels that I have come a long way from then.  She also told me that her husband was taking two certain courses and in one course he had to take the course twice over and the other three times over in order to pass.  I wasn't too bad on doing the bodices for homework the last time except I did have problems with the peter pan collar and the sailor collar.  I am going to take my video camera and tape the classes so that if I forget something, I can review it on my computer.  I also think what will help is doing 1/2 samples of the patterns we do and sewing a lot more. 

            I did find that in this first test, the teacher instructed us to do a-symmetrical flare skirt with a yoke (since I cannot draw great) it looks like if you take a scarf and have the point laying flat on the side of your skirt.  She went over the test and she did drawings.  A lot of people had some problems with plotting it out.  With what I saw in her drawings of it, you had to go through several pages in the book in order to plot your pattern.  She indicated that she did not stick with what we took in class because she doesn't like to have tests that have things that have already been taken in class. 

            I guess I am going to have to be very careful when our exam comes up because I know in my last exam, we had to plot doing a sailor collar, etc.  what was taken up in class.  In that case, we knew where we had to go in the book.  But with this teacher, no one is going to know. 

          4. jjgg | | #21

            The goal of pattern drafting is to know how to draft the flat pattern from a drawing of an outfit.The designer will come up with a sketch of a dress/ skirt /blouse etc. The patter drafter is responsible for converting that drawing into a flat pattern. The design given to you will not look like one in the book. The class is teaching you the principals of drafting, you have to learn how to make the principals morph into a new design.You use the book as a reference on how to get started in the right direction

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