Friday, March 19, 2010

Sloper in Pictures!

As promised - here is my sloper! Or basic block, as we call it in Singapore. Unremarkable pieces of brown paper, aren't they? The one on the left is the back block. and the one on the right is the front block. There is also a sleeve block that I didn't take a picture of.

So these are the silly brown pieces of paper that Auntie Laura, Mum and I spent several nights poring over, discussing and arguing and penciling and erasing and redrawing. But those of you who are familiar with slopers will know how incredibly valuable they are, because when done right, they produce a fit like this

  • the fit of the armscye and sleeve, even when the arm is raised.
  • the darts reducing the fullness at the places they are supposed to
  • the side seam is completely vertical
  • the squarely-sitting shoulder slope
  • the skimming of the (bulgy) curves so you don't actually see the bulgy curves (which I possess in abundance, especially around the waist, let me assure you).
  • the smoothness of the fabric around the curve of the back

Chuckle - check out my unwaist (and that freaky slightly-longer right shoulder)!

I am so glad that I decided to do this in Singapore. Not only because I'd never have made a sloper anywhere as great as this on my bungling own here at home, but because I needed mum and Auntie Laura to take my measurements, and scrutinize the mock-up when it was sewn. A good sloper is not hard to make, but it is a lot easier with another person to help with the measuring and fit, particularly at the back.

It has been hard to describe in my previous blog posts on sloperism, what exactly a sloper is, and why it's so worth raving about and how it's different from a pattern. Perhaps the photos now will help.

The dress I'm wearing in the pictures is just the mock-up/muslin that was made from the sloper i.e. we placed the actual sloper from Photo #1 on some random fabric and cut it out as if it were a dress pattern. You can tell that this mock-up dress, while still extremely comfortable, is very close-fitting. It is also featureless i.e. it is a straight column-type garment with a round high neckline in front and back and basic, snuggish set-in sleeves. A person could conceivably wear such a dress but it is quite boring. However, no other person could wear this dress unless they had exactly the same body dimensions as I do. See?

So, relating all these visual clues back to the sloper, it is a snugly (but not tightly) fitting paper pattern that is made to fit the individual wearer. It has no features. It does have accurately-placed darts, the purpose of which is to reduce the fullness in the right places so that the sloper fits that particular wearer closely. Does that make sense?

This is a full-body sloper, which we made because I wanted The Works. It is more common to do just a skirt sloper or a upper body sloper, which is typically sleeveless. However, a sleeve block drafted to fit the armscye will give an indication of how the shoulder sits (or - ugh - rides up) when the arm moves. Similarly, a full-body sloper will include the weight effect of the skirt portion pulling on the darts and waistline. So we made a full-body sloper to check this overall continuity of the lines and darts. Very technical, I know, but I wouldn't be bothered to sew a garment for myself or any other adult unless I knew the fit was going to be great.

So what do you do with a sloper once you have it? Off-hand, I suggest two main uses:
  1. use it to make dress patterns. With the sleeve block, trace the armscye and adapt the rest of the shape to make different sleeves. The armscye, being unchanged from the original sleeve block, will always fit. Take the front and back blocks and put ease wherever you want, keeping the shoulder line, the waist height, the dart points, and the armscye, and make different garments - loose, long, short, fancy collars etc.
  2. use it to adapt commercial patterns so they will fit you better. The sloper has no seam allowance so you can place it on a commercial pattern and re-mark the dart points and all the other important bits and seams and redraw the armscye so that it fits you.

Endless possibilities. After a while, you might even lose interest in commercial (read: expensive) patterns and start making your own because it is just that much easier to start from scratch or, in this case, a good basic block. Fun, huh?

I'll stop here because the jet lag is getting to me, but I want to document as much as I can remember on sloperism over the next few months while it is still fresh in my mind. There are so many things a person cannot learn by reading a book, blog tutorial or watching a video. Working with Auntie Laura and mum over those two weeks was like being in dressmaking school (but with sweet starfruit and decadent Tim Tams to snack on during). It was more than just math and technical drawing. OK, I'll share just one last nugget: that side bust dart, for instance, can be placed anywhere as long as one end of it is at the bust apex. This is common knowledge in drafting circles, but I didn't know how to decide when to place it where - when does it open into the armscye, when does it start at the hip, when does it open into the shoulder and when does it lie horizontally under the armpit? And at what angle?

Mum and Auntie Laura stared at me in stunned silence for a while as if I had grown two heads, incredulous that I actually shared their genes and yet knew not this basic truth. Finally they indulged me with (among many other very subjective factors), three guidelines:
(i) for the most flattering effect, place it at the hollowest part of your body. Often this is under the bust.
(ii) depending on the print of the fabric, which you wouldn't want to mess up with a dart in the wrong place that results in a hideous seam.
(iii) depending on the grain of the fabric - something cut on the bias might need different dart placement (for stretch/give) than something cut along the grain.


OK, I'm done now. Gosh, I love drafting. I'm not promising I'll get to this soon but I will share. Before that happens, though, if you're interested in drafting at all,


Go! Or you get expelled from drafting school. And no, bringing nutella will not get you back in the teacher's good books either.

P.S. I know I've regularly hurled insults at my own waistline - and I don't mean to sound like I hate it in any way - it's all in the context of drafting. All those extra curves make odd sloper shapes that are that more challenging to draft for. Less curvy = easier pattern fit, is what I was trying (not very well) to say. And in spite of all my whining, I think it's actually more satisfying to draft for a less waifish figure and get those lines to fall and drape nicely. Much more fun!


  1. Very beautyful! Dress is like a second skin! Bye bye


  2. Your blog is great and I love reading your posts. One thing kind to yourself! You've had children and your body has grown even more womanly. Embrace yourself. There's a million and one women who would love your are beautiful, don't forget it.

  3. Great post. So much wonderful information. Although, I may never have a fabulous sloper like you. It's so much fun to learn new things and understand how they work. Thanks.

  4. The drafting is exhausting but so fulfilling. You look great-even in the mock-up! It is so nice to have things that fit well. After my kids, nothing fits me anymore, including all my old patterns. Sigh. I think you have inspired me to put in the time so I can make things fit the new me!

  5. Your mum and Auntie are geniuses! That really fits you so well. Congratulations! It looks like it was well worth the effort.

  6. thanks so much for sharing about this process! I took a flat pattern drafting class in college but am still feeling baffled about making/obtaining my own sloper. Maybe I will find out if the sewing expo in my area has a class on it.

  7. This post definitely makes me want to learn how to do this myself! Now to make the time to figure it out...


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