Unlike what some people might think there is no "secret" formula to patternmaking for fashion design. Pattern drafting is basically a process of the following 3 sets of steps:

  • carefully measuring a form
  •  manipulating seams, darts, fabric grain and design lines to create a garment (fabric shell) that will comfortably fit the form
  •  and knowing how to mark and notch your pattern blocks to facilitate correct sewing procedure, grading and any necessary alterations that need to take place

 A Homemade Or Store Bought Dress Form Is A Must

You don't need to buy an adjustable dress form if you make your own. There are a good number of online instructions available to help you build a custom made form from inexpensive materials such as duct tape, fiber fill, a wooden pole, wheels, and a wooden "plate" to help keep your dress form upright. Get a friend to assist you when making a custom dress form from your own body, or if your want to make a dress form in a size suitable for producing runway samples find a person with fit model proportions in a size 'S' and build your dress form from their shape. If, however, you would rather buy a dress form it's best to buy and adjustable dress form with all the locations clearly marked (bust, waist and hips).

The Need For Accuracy

When measuring your dress form, it's critical to make sure your measurements are as close to 100% accurate. If you're a perfectionist, now is the time to put it to practice because as Connie Amaden Crawford states in her book "Patternmaking Made Easy", you can't afford to make more than 1/16" of an error, simply because everyone in the process of producing the final garment is almost guaranteed to make their own slight errors. Combining each of these errors can become costly and/or time consuming mistakes in either the sample room or on the manufacturing floor.

Proper Fabric Manipulation For Fashion Design

When patternmaking for fashion design, your use and manipulation of seam contours, shape, length and placement of darts as well your use fabric grain and design line placement have to be correctly handled to produce professional results. This is not only to do with the appearance of the garment either. For example you want your finished garments to "hang" correctly this is why garment centers should always be perfectly aligned on the straight of grain unless they are to be cut on a perfect bias (45 degree angle) and also why back and front pattern blocks often differ slightly from each other. These factors contribute to a longer life of a garment allowing it too keep it's shape over time and wear.

Finishing Touches For Patternmaking

Patternmaking for fashion design unlike pattern drafting for home sewing projects, requires you to share information with the other people involved in the development and manufacturing process so both correct and adequate marking and notching have to used. Seam line widths have to be determined and marked (the width of seams also effect the finale "hang" of a garment). Bust, hip and waist locations have to be marked for alterations and grading that may take place later on. Button hole placement, hemlines, grain line, zipper placement, gathering as well as any pleats or darts all have to be marked for the use of both the pattern cutter and seamstresses during construction. The same goes for pattern notching. Correct placement of pattern notching is necessary to prevent miss matching and reversing of seams and pattern blocks. A few pattern notching rules are:

  • never center pattern notches along a seam line
  • make double notches on the back pattern block and match them with the single notch in the front for blocks that are to be sewn together. 

The best patternmaking resource

If you're an aspiring fashion designer and really want to learn patternmaking for fashion design the best way to do it is by getting your hands on a copy of Connie Amaden Crawford's book "Patternmaking Made Easy". Currently replacing the former teaching manuals in fashion design schools, her book covers all the basics you need to know to draft any kind of professional fashion pattern in easy to read instructions and illustrations. You can get free access to a copy at your local library, purchase it from your local bookstore or you can buy it new or used online.