Saturday, November 6, 2010

Drafting - An Epilogue

Drafting Better
So here we are, four months after it all began. We've finished our drafting series, although it's taken me this long to actually say so! I feel silly confessing this, but I actually forgot that I hadn't properly closed the series. Suddenly remembered only last week that I had this epilogue post (original post date: July 7 - ulp!) sitting on my dashboard. Well, better late than never. Jen and I enjoyed writing it for you and for our own daughters and perhaps one day we'll put it into a real book. That would be fun, if a lot of work- sheesh.

Here is a summary list of links to all the chapters of our series:

Part I: Overview: Tools, Terms & Measurements
Part II: Drafting: The Front Sloper
Part III: Drafting: The Back Sloper
Part IV: Fitting: Front+Back Check
Part V: Drafting: The Sleeve Block
Part VI: Fitting: The Sleeve Block
Part VII: Adaptation: Sleeves
Part VIII: Adaptation: Necklines, Facings and Sleeveless Garments
Part IX: Adaptation: The Bottom Half
Part X: Adaptation: Boys, Men and Women
Part XI: Adaptation: Darts & Princess Seams
Part XII: Resources
Part XIII: Using Slopers With Commercial Patterns

And we were just skimming the surface!

One thing to remember: there is no single correct way of drafting. Another way of saying it is that everyone drafts differently. There is a lot of personal preference or personal style in it. Some people always like roomier drafts. Some people always make snug slopers. Some people draft big sleeve caps with a lot of ease. Some like them tight. Some never draft slopers and jump right into patterns. Some are purist drafters, and some like a combination of drafting-and-draping to get their final slopers. When I was drafting a sloper for someone with a very different body shape and size than mine, I had a discussion with mum about shaping. I was all for waist-shaping and underbust darts, but mum recommended concentrating most of the shaping within the darts (i.e. straight side seams). When I said I was on to my third fitting and still making adjustments, she said, "Your grandmother (who was a tailor) had almost 50 years of experience and sometimes still did more than one fitting."

Different books, written by different authors, will show you different templates for blocks and slopers. And have different formulae for various things. You will compare approaches and say you prefer so-and-so's more than so-and-so's because your sleeve block, drafted with so-and-so's instructions fit you better than so-and-so's which felt like wearing a potato sack. As if all that variation in approaches wasn't enough, there is also only so far a theoretical template can take you. Once you put it on a real human body that not only has curves, but also movement, you might need to close the books and take out your pins and markers and indulge in a little bit of draping. There is no shame in a sloper that fits badly the first time around. I've made many vile slopers in my life. And I have learnt more about fit and drafting from a bad sloper than from those that fit well the first time around. I've learnt to adapt and visualize. I've also learnt how unsymmetrical the human body is.

Tip: Make your sloper snug. Be conservative about the ease. Don't be afraid to plot exactly what you measured. A sloper that is too tight will show you more clearly where the fit issues are than one that is so loose that it is shapeless all over. When I began drafting, I almost always ended up taking in vast amount of inches at the waist, hips and chest because I was afraid it would be too tight and so cleverly added "just-to-be-safe" ease. Very common beginner's mistake, and one I still make from time to time, especially when low on nutella.

One of the consequences of only making your own sewing patterns and never using commercial patterns is not knowing how much fabric you'll need when you finally get around to sewing your garment. Here's a post I wrote earlier this year on Mum's method for estimating yardage. It helps me think I sound clever at the cutting table in fabric stores.

An update on the lined brown kraft paper that I use for drafting: The KOTTE paper I used to buy from IKEA is still available, but it is now called SNOVITA. At 99c a roll that's 8 m long, it's a good deal.

Bit o'gossip: While the series was going on, my good friend signed up for a sewing course! Not the How To Sew A Tote Bag type of sewing course, but the kind that I wish I had access to, so I could recommend it to you all. He (yes, HE- bravo, E!) will be learning to sew a skirt, various pockets, different seams and (if I remember the course description correctly) a shirt. I don't think he even owns a sewing book yet - but now he probably knows more than I do about proper skirt assembling and fit because he's taking proper lessons. Can you hear me cheering?

Other related news: I've been seeing a sign at Joann's cutting counter that they have Personalized/Individual Sewing Lessons at $40 for 2 hours. It is customized to your needs and may include alteration-to-fit modules. Whoo!

One last photo before I close the series - I thought you might like to see my pattern collection:

Four envelopes - one each for me, Kate, Jenna and Emily. All the clothes I've ever sewn for all of us this year fit in those envelopes. That's one of my favorite perks of pattern drafting from slopers - I only keep what fits each person- and usually that's just the front and back sloper and basic sleeve block. Most of the adaptations (i.e. patterns) I draft and toss, unless it's something I think I might sew again, like an A-Line skirt. Which means I get to save all the precious space in my sewing closet for the really usable stuff, like actual fabric, hardware and notions. And everyone knows how we already never have enough room for all of those!


  1. Congratulations!!! I have really enjoyed this series and while commercial patterns are still my security blanket - thanks to you and my measuring tape drafting from scratch will be my 2011 resolution.
    PS I can't believe the templates behind everything you've produced for the past year fits in those brown paper packages!

  2. Though I probably won't be doing any drafting myself, I just want to say that I think it's incredible all the time and work you've put into this series! I'm sure it will be very valuable for many people. Beautiful job!!

  3. I just recently found your blog and I've just begun drafting a few patterns for myself. Your posts are a valuable resource. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. I was very pleased to find your Humpty Dumpty pattern.I bought one in Tokio was a pillow and now i made it for one of my grand daughter's.yet she won't know the story beeing french .You can see it on Flickr under the name "coquelicots 2010".Y.S

  5. Thank you so much for this series. I have printed it out in its entirety and used it to draft a block for my daughter. The dress that came from the block is nearly finished and will be blogged shortly, with full credit going to you! And now I have to ask.... pants? I know, some people are never satisfied!

  6. Thanks so much for all your hard work on the drafting series! You put in so much time...I'm impressed! I enjoyed the posts very much...very nicely done.

  7. I know you put a lot of work into this and I don't want to be a pain but what happened to the 25 pockets you mentioned back in July?

  8. Thank you so much for the drafting series. Your drafting posts helped me a lot. I have a whole bunch of print outs filed in a huge folder :-) for easy reference. Thanks.

  9. I am going to make my hard-to-fit daughter slopers!! Eureka, even if I just sewed some shirts and dresses. (They look cute enough and fit her ok, but not how they would if I just did this before pulling random free patterns off the web.)
    I am going to make the slopers on cardstock for longevity -- she is 29 months old so they will still fit on a 11x 19 piece each hopefully.
    If it works then my shrimpy, oddly-shaped 6 year old son will get his own sloper set too.
    Thank you! Now to find some snacks and set the TV to On Demand to keep them out of trouble...

  10. Thank you again for the drafting series. The sound of a book from this series sounds very enticing. Even if publishing the regular way doesn't work out, what about a pdf of the entire series available via your store or your etsy store? I know I would definitely be very happy to buy a copy over any of the existing drafting books in the market, none of which have such clear and easy instructions or are geared towards drafting for kids like yours.

  11. Bless you and your family! You are so generous! How truly kind of you to share your golden experiences and knowledge of the sewing world with us all! I have three kids and love to sew and I continue to learn so much from the likes of beautiful blogs like yours. Oh and you are gifted to deliver all of this with such fabulous humour! Thanks again

  12. This has been awesome!! I attempted to draft my first little dress last night...hopefully it will sew up ok this afternoon!

    Any chance you could put these into pdf form so they could be printed and placed in my sewing notebook for easy reference??

  13. Thank you so, so much for doing this series! It is so clear and helpful!

  14. Thank for the shout-out! As a note of "encouragement" (aka bragging), I am happy to confirm that the skirt I made on the course (miraculously) fits! Unfortunately, I have no occasion to ever wear it, but it was important to me that I make a garment that actually fits the first-time round, since I'm on a series of courses, and if I can't get what is supposed to be the simplest bit right, I will have no hope when we move on to shirts next!

    Also, I have never owned nor read a sewing book; they're not easy to come by at regular bookstores, and so on this subject, I lag far, far behind. But I do encourage people to take a course if one is available, as the step-by-step instruction and guidance has been invaluable. I also learnt useful tips like how pressing can rectify sewing errors etc. And one more thing: Being a neat-freak finally pays off - according to the instructor, being neat and precise also helps tremendously in sewing. Do you concur?

  15. E: I so concur. Wait till you get to welt pockets. You have to be precise or they look vile. Embrace precision, even if it makes one feel anal. It will kick up one's sewing several thousand notches!

  16. I haven't gone through the whole series yet (no time, no room and no access to a sewing machine right now...) but I'm really looking forward to drafting my own sloper/patterns! It seems so much easier to me to just draft what you want instead of going on a commercial-pattern-that-looks-just-like-I-want-it hunt... Thanks for all the good advice!

  17. Between a "sloper" that is too tight versus one that is too loose, I disagree that too tight is better. If something is too small, it is more difficult to know by how much it is too small. If it is too large, it is much easier to take it in. It also saves you an iteration. You only have to re-stitch the too large "sloper" where as you must recut the too small one.

  18. I lurk on your blog quite a bit, and I just wanted to say thank you for this excellent series. I made slopers for my daughter and put together a few long-sleeved knit tops and some jumper dresses. Then I went insane and decided that she needed a princess dress for our trip to DisneyWorld.
    I'm proud to say that I drafted and sewed the whole thing from scratch (in consultation with the LiEr/mymeasuringtape drafting series) all in one night -- the night before our flight!
    I wrote about it here, on a site called mysewingcircle... (do you know it?)

    I wish you could see the look on her face every time she puts it on. :D I have pictures but know they don't belong in a comment post...

  19. Reeni, thank you for letting me know. I am not a member of mysewingcircle but I signed up so I could see the photos you told me about. The dress is lovely, as is your little girl! I can't believe you drafted and sewed it in one night - that is incredible!!!! It must have been crazy work sewing it all up in time for your flight, but I'm sure your daughter's delight made it worth it! Yay for you!

  20. Hi there! I just found you via Pinterest and I'm going to be reading through this very cool series. I wanted to share a true story. A friend of mine was drafting/making a sloper for herself one time (top). She went to put it on and had a terrible time getting the neck opening over her head, but she persevered because she thought surely it was a fit issue that she should fix later. So she got it on and discovered ...

    ... she had forced her head through an armhole!! We still laugh about that.

  21. @sonja
    Welcome, Sonja! Love the story! Oh, I laughed so hard. In gratitude for your having you make my stomach hurt, I will share that I cannot count the number of times I have sewn sleeves onto necklines. It must be a new fad!

  22. This is just wonderful, thankyou sew much!

    Lisa :)

  23. Hi There! I used your sleeve block instructions when making a costume for my wife.... worked like a charm! Thanks so much for the series... as an engineer I always wondered how those sewing patterns were generated. :)

  24. Dear friend. All i wish to say is : God bless you so much for using HIS talents within you to share to others. Thank you so much for your efforts.

  25. My wife wanted a sewing machine, so we bought one. I like using it a lot more than she does. I've been looking for resources for constructing my own patterns, and this one is great! Deconstructing existing garments is a piece of cake. Thank you, thank you!

  26. I confess I buy patterns onsale to read the instructions and see how they illustrated their solutions (or lack of same). Then I fold them up nicely and put them in the resale pile. Cheap patterns have ruined me for reading material.

  27. This series pretty much saved our Halloween costumes this year. I had a pattern and was trying to make the dress for my daughter and after sewing two seems I could see that it would not fit her well at all. I was searching for a way to adapt the pattern when I found your blog. I suddenly feel like a whole new side of sewing has been opened up for us. Thank you!

  28. I just found this series on Pinterest. I have been a sewer for years, but usually work with commercial patterns, making adjustments and re-styling as needed. After reading through your series of posts, I can't wait to draft a sloper and make my own pattern! Thank you!

  29. Great work done.

  30. I found your series on pattern drafting on a link from Curvy Sewing Collective. Thank you so much for all the hard work you put into this. I have a lot to learn!

  31. I just stumbled upon your series and am excited to dig in! But your pattern collection -- oh my! Like someone above, I often bought patterns for the directions, but sometimes to save me from having to come up with my own designs when I began sewing. Now I'm pretty comfy hacking commercial patterns, I buy way less. I'll never have four envelopes, but it's nice to know it's possible. :)

  32. Hi! I've been following your blog for years now and have finally made the leap into blogging myself. This series is an amazing resource for anyone looking to draft their own patterns which is why I recommended on my first tutorial that everyone interested in the subject should read it. Thank you so much for sharing your time and knowledge! (This is the link to the post -


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