Here is a list of equipment to get you started from basic stationary, to rulers and tools.
I remember getting my pattern making kit before I started my degree in fashion design almost 15 years ago. I remember being super excited, but also a little overwhelmed, looking at some of the tools having no idea what they were used for.
However, it wasn't long until pattern making became my favourite subject, even seeing me win a Gerber (CAD) pattern making scholarship. I not only love the freedom that drafting your own patterns entails, allowing your to create (almost) whatever you want, but also the ability to transform something 2D into 3D that fits the curves of the body.
Seeing as we are in the midst of 'Me Made May' you may have the sewing bug, and be itching to crack on with your next me-made project. Therefore, I thought I would share with you some of the tools I would recommend (but are not essential) to get you started in drafting your own patterns, or altering a store bought one.
Pencils for initial tracings and labelling. I prefer a mechanical pencil so I am not forever sharpening.
Coloured textas to label your patterns. I use different colours to mark different parts of the pattern. For example, I use black to create the outlines and label the pieces, blue to indicate lining, green to identify interfacing, and red for grain lines. But of course this comes down to personal preference.
Sticky tape is handy for cutting and spreading or simply holding a pattern piece in place. I recommend the Scotch Magic Tape as you can write on it in pen or pencil, and I find it easy to remove if you need to.
Paper is obviously essential. The first step in any pattern making I undertake is to transfer my blocks to a large working sheet of brown paper ready to make adjustments. It is from this working sheet that I take any pattern piece tracings. You don't need to buy specific pattern making paper. I have used brown craft paper gift wrap (around €1 a roll), or if you head to your local hardware store (usually the moving section) they often have big rolls, or wads, of brown paper for quite cheap. Transparent kitchen greaseproof paper is also great for tracing off those smaller pieces.
Paper scissors for cutting out your working and final pattern pieces. Please don't use your fabric scissors to cut paper of any kind! It will blunt your scissors.
A grading ruler is my go-to. It is the perfect length at 50cm, allowing me to draw nice long lines in one go. It is transparent, so you can easily see what you are putting the ruler on, and has clear grid lines, which are great for adding seam allowances and hems. It is also wide enough to use with a Rotary Cutter or tracing wheel.
A French curve, which essentially looks like an elongated comma. This ruler makes altering your patterns easy, as you can create smooth curves for the waist, neckline, armholes, sleeve caps, and hemlines. It is also transparent and includes those grid lines, similar to the grading ruler.
A right angle ruler is great for creating that 90 degree angle needed for things like hems, or to check grain lines.
A sewing tape measure is super flexible, being perfect for accurately measuring the body or the garment itself. They are usually 150cm in length so are good for measuring long distances, and usually feature both imperial and metric measurement markings. I recommend remeasuring your tape occasionally, as these can stretch and your measurements may become a little off.
A notcher is a weird looking thing, but works like a hole punch. It provides clean rectangular cuts (or notches) that are used to indicate the positioning of darts, seam allowances, armholes, or to simply help match fabric pieces during construction. These cutouts make it super easy when tracing around your cardboard block, as your pen will simply fall into the groove. Or, while your paper pattern is still pinned to your fabric, you can simply position the tip of your scissors into the notch and make a small snip.
An awl is a very simple, yet versatile tool. This pointy, metal hand tool is used for transferring dart points, and drills holes from blocks or paper.
A tracing wheel looks a bit like a mini pizza cutter, but is used for transferring markings or tracing your pattern onto paper, alleviating the need for tracing paper. The wheel leaves small dotted perforations that you can then trace over. Be careful though, these things are sharper than they look, so be sure to keep your fingers clear and use a mat so as you don't damage your table or floor!
I felt like toiles could use a subheading of their own here. They are basically a test garment created in a similar, but cheaper, fabric, often good ol’ calico (cheap, and easy to draw on). When starting out, testing a pattern beforehand could save you a lot of heartache, and money, especially if you plan on investing a bit in your final fabric.
Please get in touch or leave me a comment, I would love to know if you found this article useful, or if you can recommended pattern making tools that your have used. Also share your makes from your own drafted patterns. I would love to see them!
Thanks for reading!
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