Some Basic Advice

Okay, I lied.  I have some advice first.  (Be glad you don’t know me in person.  You’d be innundated with this for far less useful a purpose)!

If you have never drafted a pattern before, I highly recommend that you get some really cheap fabric (muslin or Salvation Army sheets) and make a garment that will test for basic fit.  When I was learning pattern drafting, the book that helped me the most never mentioned a crucial concept in clothing design — wearing and design ease.

Theoretically, Butterick’s has a chart that explains how much ease a garment should have for its design.  Nice theory, of course, but in practice, it doesn’t apply in all situations.  If you can buy garments in Wal-mart off the rack in the smaller sizes, this chart will work just fine for you.  However, if you are a little larger (as I am) you’ll want to add a couple more inches of ease.  I found this out the hard way.  I can only bless my stars that I had the sense to do a muslin mockup of the jumpsuit I was trying out.  I am now the proud owner of an unbleached muslin catsuit that fits my curves exactly.  However, unbleached muslin on me just doesn’t do what latex does to Michelle Pfieffer.

You can use almost any kind of paper for pattern drafting as long as it is big enough.  I bought a roll of paper that one would use to wrap parcels for mailing and I like it.  (Aren’t those tissue paper things you get in the store the worst )?  Patternless Fashions by Diehl Lewis recommends that you simply draft your patterns directly onto the fabric in tailor’s chalk, but I have yet to get that brave.  However, I could see doing it for a basic pattern I know well.

NB: Since writing the above paragraph, I often draft directly on the fabric. The salwar kameez in that picture a few pages back was drawn in chalk directly on the fabric.  Just remember about measuring twice and cutting once!  Also, I would not recommend it for a first attempt.  Do a muslin the first time. No, really.  After you get comfortable with this, you’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t.

Before you begin (are you getting tired of getting ready to get started to begin to commence, yet?), you’ll need a few tools.


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