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Conversational Threads

Want a pattern, not altering advice

Mariesews | Posted in Fitting on

I have saved EVERY one of my Threads issues, and look forward to reading about sewing, even if I can’t always find the time to sew.  I learned to sew in 4-H in the 50s, and know HOW to sew. My problem is that I never learned to alter the patterns, since in those days, I fit Vogue exactly!

Here is my dilemma: My head just swims when I try to measure and alter. I want to find someone who will work with me to MAKE the pattern, not show me how to alter. I just read through past postings and went to Kenneth King’s moulage (for advanced sewers) and the surefitdesigns website, more measuring and more altering!

Tried the Lutterloh system $$$. Made a duct tape dress form (those boobs drooped as well). Found someone who had taken the Palmer/Pletch classes, who “gave classes,” and paid her $90 for two private hours, and ended up with worthless tissue paper (and a wonderful book, though). More reading! All I wanted is a simple one-piece dress that I can make over and over again, same with a pair of pants. Am willing to travel…

Other question: IF I were to invest in the pattern-making software, does it “remember” alterations eventually made, so that one doesn’t have to continually measure and alter when seeking to make a new pattern?

Sorry this is so long!


  1. Bernie1 | | #1

    Hey, Marie: Unique Patterns will make the pattern for you - you take measurements, send them in and they draft the patterns. They also have a system that takes measurements using laser for $100. I did it at an Expo and have not tried the patterns I got from them yet but for me they seem a bit large. I would take my own measurements. You can find them by typing in Unique Patterns on Yahoo. They also go to the Expos if you can get to one of those.

  2. deeque | | #2

    I have been using patterns from the burda magazine that comes every month for the past 5 years. You have to draft your pattern from the outlines they provide in the magazine. Everything I have made has fit great, especially the pants. The only down side is you have draw your pattern and add seam allowances before you start with the fabric. If you measure yourself and follow the guides for which size you should trace, the pattern fits.  The Burda magazine patterns are not the same as the Burda patterns that you buy in fabric stores although those fit pretty well but not as well as the magazine. Good luck.

    1. user-6942545 | | #17

      I just started getting the Burda Magazines and was wondering how to transfer the patterns for use.  The instructions say to transfer to tissue paper but where do you get the paper from, etc.

      A. Crow

      1. SewNancy | | #18

        I use the Burda Mag patterns all the time. I am a landscape designer and use rolls of tracing paper that comes in different widths and so I use this.   Look under  drafting supplies or blueprints in the yellow pages.  Make sure you get the cheap stuff, not the 100% rag which is way too expensive and also too thick.  It is sometimes called thumbnail sketch, I think, I just call it trash because I create a lot of it!  I usually don't add seam allowances until I cut out the fabric.  I use magic tape to tape the Pattern together.  I did use sas when i was fitting pants recently after the Palmer Pletsch method which worked well   It's you're call.


        1. Bernie1 | | #19

          tissue paper or drafting paper that I buy on rolls from Cynthia Guffey.

      2. Iris_Colo | | #20

        Since I don't have a light box... what I do for tracing things is tape the pattern/design piece onto the front storm door which has a nice, wide window panel.   Then place tracing or pattern paper over the top and draw over the correct pattern lines and markings.   I've done this for applique designs too and it works very well.  You could use any large plate glass window large enough for the pattern you're tracing.

        I have an enlarger/projector too but it really only work for going from very small to pretty large... wouldn't work on a burda magazine pattern I don't think.

      3. deeque | | #21

        I usually buy one inch gridded  interfacing like material without the iron on glue from jo-ann's.  I usually buy 10 yds at a time and trace each peice.  the grids help you line up the grain line. then I use a narrow tip sharpie to trace the seam lines, pattern peice label, and other indicators.  then i add a 1/2 in seam allowance with the metal sewing ruler all around except for the hems which i use about 2 inches.

        1. JeanetteR | | #22

          After marking all the pattern peices on the master with a felt tip, I trace the Burda patterns using what they sell here as tracing fabric, like an extra wide very thin non-iron-on interfacing (about $Aus 1 per metre). This has the advantages of being able to see the markings both sides, is more easy to drape and fit over the body than paper.  It clings well to knits, otherwise just use a few tins of cat food  to hold it down rather than pins before cutting out with a rotary cutter on those green cutting boards quilters use.  hope this helps   Jeanette

      4. TERISEW | | #23

        I like those Burda Mag patterns, I get my tracing paper from Clotilde, for the money you get a gracious plenty of paper. It is about 6 or 7 dollars, let me get the page number http://www.clotilde.com  item number 116747, it is the best for tracing those Burda patterns, the size is managable and it is see-thru enough to get the job done. 21' X 77 yds , $6. 48 plus shipping. I send for two rolls at a time.

      5. eauinaz | | #24

        I use exam room paper made for the platforms in doctor's offices. It's a little less brittle than the tracing paper I used to use and is plenty transparent. I bought it form a local fabric store Jazzskins. The owner makes a lot of dance and skating costumes.

      6. SewDad | | #25

        I love the Burda WOF stuff.  I've always done the tracing on a sliding patio door (the expanse of glass already mentioned.  Makes it a lot easier, especially if you darken the lines you want to use.  BTW you can often slide between sizes or make other minor adjustments when darkening on the original pattern paper and then copy off.

        For tracing paper I've been using the stuff that is sold for a dust barrier for chairs and stuff.  I get it at the local fabric store for 70 cents a yard or so, 36" wide.  They call it "dust cloth" though it might have other names.  It is sufficiently see through to trace on and I think it drapes a lot more like fabric than paper does.  Can't iron it, though.  I also find that it clings well enough to fabric that I don't need a lot of pins when cutting.

        1. Elisabeth | | #26

          Nancy's Pattern Tracing Material at Nancy's Notions is probably similar to the dust cloth but is 48" wide which can come in handy. Ten dollars for a 10 yard roll.

  3. lmayacharles | | #3

    I have a custom pant pattern that I took a class for in Denver. The woman's name is Kathy Illium. She works thru D'lea's, a great independant fabric store in Denver. I"m not sure if she is doing the classes but she use to also work one on one. She wrote a book Body Shaping. I found it impossible to follow. Too much measuring and altering, again.,...

  4. GhillieC | | #4

    "Other question: IF I were to invest in the pattern-making software, does it "remember" alterations eventually made, so that one doesn't have to continually measure and alter when seeking to make a new pattern?"

    They 'remember' alterations if you tell them to. There is a fair amount of measuring and trialling before you get your basic 'sloper' correct. Then you can create all kinds of patterns based on it without further measuring - at least that is the theory. In practice I find I still need to make toiles to test my decisions on new patterns. Until you have had a fair bit of experience it is difficult to imagine just how a new pattern is going to look and behave. I have a suspicion that this is not what you are looking for.

    Do you have a local dressmaker who would be prepared to make you a few calico garments, very carefully fitted, which you could then take apart and use as patterns?



  5. Bernie1 | | #5

    FYI, please don't give up on taking measurements. I know, it seems complicated. When I had hit that proverbial wall of frustration I found Nancy Zieman's book on fitting and it opened a whole new world. It uses the pivot and slide method which is about as easy as you can get. Also, Burda patterns seem to fit better than any others. If you read Threads, you will see there are number of companies that advertise custom made patterns but you have to take careful measurements. Bests wishes.

    1. Mariesews | | #12

      Thank you ALL for your responses. I will definitely get a Burda pattern, am trying to find a magazine one, since it makes sense that the magazine would have a more European cut in the crotch, which I think that I need. The idea of using a Unique pattern made to specific measurements also sounds feasible. Also the idea of being scanned appeals but, I have no idea of where I would find that! Also, through all of this, I heard from Ms Fred Bloebaum re: her Daphne pants, which I will also try, but Fred also suggested that I look up Professional Association of Custom Clothiers and there is one registered who works in Sioux City, Iowa. Since I travel there frequently on business, I plan to see if she would help me.

      So, my plan...make 1,2, or 3 different patterns, and then "consult" with the PACC woman in Sioux City. When I finish, I will make a heavy cardboard pattern, and then sew up the 5+ fabrics that I have collected. Thanks again.

      1. GinnaS | | #13

        Be careful of Unique Patterns.  There have been many complaints about them.  The scanners have not always produced good numbers.  If you decide to try them do not cut good fabric without making a muslin first.  There have been many postings at http://www.sewingworld.com regarding them.


        1. Bernie1 | | #14

          I agree about the Unique scanner. I don't think it was all that accurate on me. But if you take the measurements yourself you should get a good pattern. The system comes with a very detailed video on how to take the measurements. Personally, I hold the tape measure a bit snug because I prefer a closer fit than most patterns give you and because I'm petite. Otherwise everything hangs like a sack. You can find the scanner at any of the Original Sewing & Quilt Expos, or simply look up Unique Patterns on Yahoo and call them for the video and measurement template.

  6. kayl | | #6

    You might also consider learning basic draping. Though I *can*

    draft and alter patterns, it's not a process I enjoy. I do, however,

    enjoy starting with a length of fabric and cutting and pinning

    till I have what I want.

    The major rules in draping are to know where structural seams

    belong, and keep the grainlines straight. I like working with

    processes with so few rules. <g>

    Draping classes, alas, are not all that common, but you can

    probably learn the basics of draping on your own with a good

    textbook and either a mannequin or someone you can persuade to

    stand still for a bit. <g>

    The draping book I like is Connie Amaden Crawford's Art of Fashion Draping.

    Connie also does private patternmaking sessions, and classes. She

    taught draping and patternmaking for many years at Fashion Institute

    in Los Angeles, many years of experience in ready to wear patternmaking, and only recently moved into plus size patternmaking.

    I've used her pants book to draft pants for all sorts of bodies with

    great success.

    Kay Lancaster [email protected]

    1. carolfresia | | #7

      "Draping classes, alas, are not all that common, but you can probably learn the basics of draping on your own with a good textbook and either a mannequin or someone you can persuade to stand still for a bit. <g> "

      I can get 'em to stand still, they just don't like me to stick pins in them.


      1. kayl | | #8

        Masking tape can replace pins in at least some cases... for some reason, I find husbands can be persuaded to be draping mannequins if offered proper blandishments... but duct tape doubles are less




        1. carolfresia | | #9

          Hmmm....I have a husband, and a large bag of Ghirardelli chocolates at home. Unfortunately, said husband is shaped very unlike me...I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and finish my "MY Twin" dress form, much as I'd rather not see it!


          1. kayl | | #10

            Ah yes, same problem with husband not shaped like wife here... but

            it does give you something to learn on. Sounds like the My Twin

            is the best bet, unless you don't give DH all the chocolate.

            Kay, of the expanding waistline

          2. carolfresia | | #11

            The My Twin already looks as if I've had my share of the chocolate--that's why I don't enjoy looking at it! But I do think it will be a wonderful fitting tool once I get the expanding foam into it.


    2. Bernie1 | | #15

      Personally, the thought of draping scares the heck out of me. I don't think they make a form small enough for my stumpy person, anyway, and my DH is much taller and broader than me and no amount of bribery will get him to model a dress.

  7. SewNancy | | #16

    I have been struggling for the past year and a half with a fitted pants pattern.  I have read everything in my collection of Threads magazines and  an old issue also reprinted in a Taunton press book( if anyone knows the name?) had two articles by Margaret Komires and Jan Jaspers that really helped.  But, recently I bought the new Palmer Pletsch book on Pants for Any Body and this really helped pin it all down.  The pictures are really good.  I found that I had not gone far enough in my fitting before I sewed the finished pant.  I just made two pants that I am really happy with.  I also start with Burda magazine patterns.  They fit really well and the styling is very current.

    Enjoy and good luclk


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