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Walking the pattern

user-182398 | Posted in Patterns on

I want to copy a garment and have been reading Patterns from Finished Clothes by Tracy Doyle.  The book discusses “walking the pattern” to allign seamlines.  I’m having difficulty grasping exactly how to do this.  Can anyone advise. 


  1. dotty | | #1

    That means you are checking to make sure two seam lengths are the same or that one has the right amount of ease. You need to start by marking the seamlines on your pattern. Starting at one end, line the seams up together, one on top of the other. When they start to curve off in different directions, put a pin at that spot and rotate the seam till it matches up,then move the pin to the next spot where they diverge. Keep going till the end of the seam. On a fitted sleeve the cap will probably be longer between the notches.

  2. HeartFire2 | | #2

    You can also just measure the seam lines, use a flexible plastic see-thru ruler, not a tape measure as the tape measure will not be as accurate. Place the ruler on the edge and flex it to go around the curves. Measure the seam line that will sew to it. They should generally be the same length unless as the previous post said, there is ease in the seam line - you could find ease at elbows, back shoulder seams, side fronts of a princess line over the bust etc.

    You need to be very precise when you do this.

    1. user-182398 | | #3

      Thank you and all the others who responded with helpful suggestions.



    2. user-182398 | | #4

      I just thought of another question related to this issue.  I have a princess seam pattern from which I've made a top.  The front of the top has a middle section and two side pieces which connect at the under arm.  It was very difficult fitting the front side section to the front middle section.  The front side section appeared to be a lot shorter than the front middle section.  I now wonder if I should have "walked the seam"  on this pattern prior to sewing. 

      Should I walk the seams on all new patterns prior to sewing????


      1. HeartFire2 | | #5

        some patterns (commercial ones) are drafted very poorly, I've seen many mistakes on them.With the princess armscye pattern you are talking about, is it possible the problem came about in your pinning and sewing? The SIDE pieces of a princess line should be LONGER then the seam of the center front piece - any where from 1/4 inch to 1/2 in longer. This is to add a bit of ease over the apex of the bust - the 1/4 - 1/2 inch of ease will go in between the notches placed on either side of the bust point - usually a distance of about one inch on either side of bust point. Now, this is how we are taught in pattern drafting classes. I haven't checked any commercial patterns to see if they really put the ease in them. But the sides should be longer not shorter than the center front.and yes, it really wouldn't hurt to check the pattern before you sew it, and always sew it up in muslin first so you don't ruin good fashion fabric on a poor pattern. - you can find many mistakes that wayHeartFire

        Edited 12/2/2006 11:48 am ET by HeartFire2

        1. user-182398 | | #6

          Great!  Thanks.  I wish you lived close by so I could take lessons.



          1. HeartFire2 | | #7

            Where do you live? I live (and teach) in Houston

          2. user-182398 | | #8

            San Antonio.  What classes do you teach and what's the schedule?



          3. HeartFire2 | | #9

            I teach a class on how to draft a personal sloper and then how to use it to alter commercial patterns to fit you. Thats a 1 1/2 day class.I will be teaching an advanced sewing class starting Feb. its 6 weeks of couture sewing. - no fast and easy stuff, no shortcuts, I also will teach a class the end of March on bias bindings for silky and shear fabrics as well as seaming techniques.I have ideas for other classes on advanced sewing, but they will have to wait till next fall. In April I am going back to hiking. I have to finish the Appalachian trail this year, that will take me 4 months to do!HeartFire

          4. user-217847 | | #10

            as i stated when first in the forum, I'm not a good sewer YET this question will prove my ignorance. What is a Sloper?


          5. HeartFire2 | | #12

            Technically, I think the definition of sloper is a "fitting shell" What we do is measure each person and draft a pattern of 'them' . This pattern is very form fitting - ie its essentially skin tight.it has a high jewel neckline a side bust dart and waist dart if front and a shoulder and waist dart in the back. it is a pattern of their body that they can use to either draft their own patterns or use it to alter commercial patterns to their shape.

          6. user-217847 | | #15

            thankyou for your explanation, I understand now. the question now is to find someone to help me put one together.


          7. HeartFire2 | | #16

            if you can figure this out on your own, go to
            http://vintagesewing.info/1940s/42-mpd/mpd-02.htmland follow the instructions on drafting the sloper, I found these directions to be fairly simple and well fitted

          8. user-217847 | | #17

            Than kyou your thoughtfulness is truely appreciated, I've printed off the instructions, they read clear and unclutted now to see what I can do with them. I am glad I signed on to the forum


          9. happycatuk | | #18

            I've previously drafted my sloper, and then used it against a commercial pattern, which was fine .. until I tried it on and it was too small across the back (I have prominent shoulderblades!).

            I need to redraft it anyway (using instructions from Winifred Aldrichs's book Metric Pattern Cutting), and was wondering about your statement - it should be 'skin tight'.

            If one has particular ease requirements, (as I do across my shoulderblades), would I be better off drafting a sloper with the minimum ease I need to feel comfortable, rather than the 1" of ease (etc) that is incorporated as part of the drafting process?  That way, when I overlay it on a commercial pattern (or, as I hope, draft my own), I know instantly whether the amount of wearing and design ease will provide at least the minimum amount of ease for me to feel comfortable?

            Or should I just use the a looser fitting set of sloper-drafting instructions (I've been resisting this as I suit more fitted garments, bigger stuff can drown me)?

          10. HeartFire2 | | #19

            this is my personal preference, but I like a sloper that has no ease. The pattern should have the ease, and unless the pattern has a blousy effect at the waist,(vertical ease) the ease is all circumferential. So you just have to look at the pattern and see if its wide enough at the sides of the sloper.I too have very prominent shoulder blades - almost as big as my boobs (which are very small !!) so I have a rather large shoulder dart in my sloper as well as a larger back waist dart to accommodate them.The sloper should be your "body" not your body plus some.

          11. happycatuk | | #21

            Thank you, HeartFire2, that's what I thought (plus, it's nice to hear someone else shares my fitting issue, I'm about the same front and back too!!).  Are you able to move your arms in front of your body when trying on your sloper?  If I'm unable to do so, should I increase the back width and shoulder dart despite the close-fit of the sloper?

            If I draft a bodice from the sloper afterwards, that's when I would add wearing ease (increasing the inches to reach the fit I desire, ie close-fitted, loose-fitting etc), plus design ease, but I think I'm very confused about where and how to add ease afterwards and retain the fit - hence thinking of creating a sloper with wearing ease built in ..!

          12. HeartFire2 | | #22

            try taking a shirt or dress that you have that fits you pretty well, then lay the sloper over it (I know this is not the easiest thing to do) but try it and look at where and how much the garment is bigger than the sloper, this should give you some idea of how much to add

          13. KathleenFasanella | | #20

            You wrote: "this question will prove my ignorance. What is a Sloper?"I know everybody thinks these are used in the garment industry but they're not lol. You are not as ignorant as you suppose. FYI, a colleague of mine has been a sewing contractor for 18 years and he didn't know what a sloper was. Neither did his wife. Everybody thinks it means a basic fitting shell but the meaning has become corrupted over the past 20 years. I wrote a post on the technical definition of a sloper here:

          14. Josefly | | #23

            I've just gotten 'round to reading your post on this subject. Thank you for clarification on the word "sloper". I have often wondered if I'm missing something, as a home sewer, by not making a fitting shell, but never thought I would understand how to use it if I actually finished one. Now if I understand you correctly, it's a waste of time, much easier to make fitting changes directly on a pattern I already have, than starting with a fitting shell and translating that to a style or pattern.I went to the link you provided and read several others of your explanations on vocabulary, and was fascinated with the terminology as used in your industry. Thank you so much for the link.

          15. happycatuk | | #24

            I think a sloper is useful if you have alot of alterations to make to each pattern you use, or to help avoid using a toile each time you make a garment up; it gives an visual ready reckoner on where your fit problems will arise.

            I think that I'll still draft a close-fitting sloper, to check close-fitting garments and for drafting underwear, and draft a looser fitting one (Metric Pattern Cutting by Aldrich has two bodice slopers to choose from, the second is a looser fit), with my desired ease (taken from existing garments) so I can compare it easily to a multi-sized commercial pattern.

            Bit of a long-winded plan, but I think that way I'll have everything covered ;)

          16. KathleenFasanella | | #25

            I think my previous response could bear further detail. I pig-headedly tend to see things only from a position of efficacy and efficiency and I apologize.I think the making of basic fitting shells ("slopers") can be a useful learning exercise. I'd encourage people to use this as a period of exploration. Once one has made one, using it for style development can most aptly illustrate the effect of changing style lines, adding various forms of fullness and what not. I see fitting shells rather like blank canvases upon which one imprints their ideas. The thing that distresses me tho, is when people fail to achieve the effects they'd envisioned or intended. I realize this "failure" can be disappointing but I wish people wouldn't expect exemplary performance when experimenting. Home sewers always say mistakes are okay -you learn something- but in practice, they hold themselves to very high execution standards. In the industry, even with constant day to day practice, we are more forgiving. It is not unusual to rework a style three, four, five, six times until we achieve the desired effect. While iterations can be costly in the workplace owing to meeting the demands of labor and costs, the need for such is a given. In real life, a designer who expected of their staffs, what home sewers often expects of themselves, would be considered an unreasonable tyrant. I do not know why amateurs -lovers of the craft- have higher expectations of themselves than "professionals" do. By all means, best us but be nice to yourself in the process. It's the final result, not the process of iteration that matters most.

          17. User avater
            Becky-book | | #26

            Thank you!

            I have been very hard on myself lately!  So upset that my garments (for myself) don't fit or look 'flattering'.  This should have been expected since I have gained weight and age and gravity have taken their toll on my figure.

            New Years resolution: work on my own fitting issues with patience and determination until I have a jacket and pants pattern that 'work' for me. (even if it takes all year, and a 'ton' of 'scraps')


          18. Josefly | | #27

            I like your resolution. I've got the same wish-list for myself. Seems as though every time I promise I will spend time fitting myself, somebody else wants me to sew something for them, and I use that as an excuse not to do the frustrating, tedious, fitting stuff. Not this year!

          19. User avater
            Becky-book | | #28

            So should we make a promise to eachother to hold us accountable.....

            Don't you live in GA too?


          20. Josefly | | #29

            I like that idea...it might just give me the push I need to stay with the fitting process. We could report back periodically on how we're doing. Maybe others will join us?Yes, I live in the eastern suburbs of Atlanta. I think there are several regular posters from Georgia.Are you by any chance a member of the American Sewing Guild? I've just become aware of them, and that an Atlanta group meet in Tucker monthly.

          21. User avater
            Becky-book | | #30

            I'm in the southern suburbs (about 20 min so of the airport)  Mailing address of Sharpsburg but I actually live closer to Tyrone GA  When we first moved to GA we lived in Stone Mountain, so I know roughly where Tucker is.

            I'll let you know how this fitting 'fit' works it's way out of my system!


          22. Josefly | | #31

            Looking forward to hearing about it. My first step was to shop! and I ordered a flexible ruler. So now I have to do something with it, right?

          23. User avater
            Becky-book | | #32

            Step 1: Printed off the directions for taking measurements from a web site

            Step 2: Get Mom to help with taking measurements (done)

            Step 3: Get out the grid board and tissue paper and make first draft of "ME" sized pattern (take deep breath and try not to cry over it)

            process interrupted by commitment made last year; 3 weeks off to complete Friendship Quilt for family moving to NC in Feb.

            So much for resolving to do the 'fitting ONLY' until its done!


          24. Josefly | | #33

            Heh, heh, yes I know about the size shock. Good job though, and even with your interruption you're well ahead of me. I'm still working on a vest to go with the completed dress I started for my daughter in OCTOBER! But the end is in sight, and I vow this is the last project until I fit myself with some pants!The quilt will be a lovely gift. Enjoy.

          25. NovaSkills | | #11

            You might also use a flexible curve to "walk" the pattern. These come in models with a printed ruler on them. They are slender plastic tubes filled with lead, and shapable. You can not only follow a curve, but pick the curve up and transfer it to another spot without losing the shape. That's hard to do with a ruler.

            Look for them in the drafting supplies part of an art or craft store.

            Even a piece of string marked with Sharpies at key points can be used.

          26. user-182398 | | #14

            I would be interested in taking the classes on making a personal sloper and making bias bindings for silky fabrics.  I want to learn more about how to sew with silk and slippery fabrics.  Keep me posted on the dates and times and cost of your classes.

            Your hiking goal sounds wonderful.  The weather should be perfect.  I've hiked in New Hampshire during the fall one year.  I loved it.



          27. HeartFire2 | | #13

            Did you get the email I sent you?

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