Category Archives: patternmaking

week 4 of flekka challenge finished!

OK, I finished on Friday, but just got time to post about it here. It was a simple sleeveless top, but more shaped, with darts and less flare than the A-line sleeveless top. Here it is:

More pictures and instructions here.

flekka challenge!!!

I haven’t been around here for a while, but that does not mean that I haven’t been online. Actually, some of the projects finished just before the Summer inspired a new project: Flekka challenge – from an idea to a finished garment. It is a big project that I plan to do weekly so it required a separate space which you can find here. I have completed two projects by now – click on the pictures below for details and more pictures.

I will be making many more garments by modifying the basic sloper (or previous patterns) so visit often!

A-line sleeveless top variation: 50s babydoll

As I was browsing earlier today I came upon a picture of this vintage McCalls pattern. I thought this was a perfect challenge for today – can I modify my pattern from the From sloper to sleeveless top project to make a similar pajama top? Here is what I did…

This pattern will be very similar to my A-line sleeveless top pattern except for three things: it will not have the front underarm dart, it will have a front and back yoke and it will have more fullness. To add fullness in the back, I redrew that leftover shoulder dart (that was ‘blended’ into the design my adding ease). But first I drew the yokeline (position is arbitrary, but I chose it to be about 1/4 of the bodice original bodice length measured from the top – based on “Paternmaking..” by Joseph-Armstrong). I changed the position of the dart slightly, so that it ends at the yokeline – this fullness will be added only under the yoke. I believe this is not really “legal”, but since the dart is so small, I thought it might not hurt. So to add fullness, I will move the shoulder dart into the fullness.

Next, I cut out the dart and also slashed along the dashed line all the way to the tip of the dart (this dashed line is where fullness was added to the original pattern).

And now you move the right side of the pattern around the tip of the dart until the dart is closed. That will “open” up the pattern below the yokeline, adding fullness. At this point you can retrace your pattern on a different piece of paper, but I was lazy, so I just taped the dart together.

Finally I redrew the yokeline because in the previous step, part of it, right from the tip of the dart, moved up slightly. And cut at yokeline. I decided not to add any more fullness however, you could cut up the pattern more – one cut could be parallel to the side seam about 1/3 up the armhole and spread open too. Or you could make several cuts equally spread along the pattern… but I thought this was enough.

The front neckline was too deep for a yoke so I taped a piece of paper under my pattern to be able to redraw a less deep neckline. I chose the yokeline to be 5cm from the middle of the neckline, again arbitrary – I measured approximate position on the dressform…

I cut around the new neckline, cut out the dart (which will be moved to add fullness) and cut along the line from the tip of the dart (BP) straight down to the hemline.

And finally – I moved the lower left part of the pattern until the dart was completely closed and cut along the yokeline. Again, you could add more fullness by cutting another line parallel to the side seam about 1/3 up the armhole, but this was enough.

And this is what it looks like finished…

Fit is good. As I expected it is very similar to the original pattern. All the modifications only added fullness, but did not change the fit. This new pattern is not wider around the bust and the yoke sits perfectly…

From sloper to sleeveless top

After I created the slopers (see previous project) the next step was to try and make something out of it. I decided to make a pattern for a simple A-line sleeveless top. Should not be that difficult, right?
So, here I will describe all the steps I took to create this top. From drafting the pattern, to basting, to making modifications. I will not go into sewing details, as the point of this project is patternmaking, but in terms of sewing this should be a simple project.

I used a sloper made using instructions from the Bunka Fashion Series, Garment Design Textbook 1: Fundamentals of Garment Design. But the same techniques can be used to modify any sloper.
This is the first step in modifying the front of the sloper. In this picture, it is shown in thicker line. I have removed all waist darts – they will not be used for this design. The majority of the work here will be to move the bust dart and add some fullness to create an A-line design.
1. Add length to the bodice: extend the length from the waist to the hem line by amount you wish p- depends on what the you want the total length to be (remember, you can always lengthen/shorten at the end).
2. Draw a line from the bust point “BP” perpendicular to the hem line. Mark point “A”. This line will help us move some of the bust dart to add fullness.
3. Decide the amount of fullness you want to add to the hemline and mark it as A1. In this case I chose 7cm – so distance A to A1 is 7 cm, which means I will add a total of 14 am to the width at the hem line in the front (as compared to the width around the waist). This is a completely arbitrary number, however, it is limited by the size of the dart: if you were to cut from A to BP and rotate the lower left part of the pattern clockwise around BP, to close the bust dart, and then measure A to A1 – that would be the max A to A1 length.
4. I will also add some fullness on the side – 2 on each side. So draw line from B (the original corner) to B1 2 cm long. Connect B1 up to the underarm point – this line will be the new side seam line. Again, choosing 2 cm is arbitrary, however, for an a-line design you want to add fullness all around not only on the sides.
Now we are ready for some cutting and rotating…

Note – thick black line – original sloper front, red lines – outline for the new pattern, the sleeveless top.
1. Moving the bust dart to add fullness: cut along the A-BP line and rotate the bottom left part of the pattern clockwise around BP until line A-BP aligns with the line A1-BP drawn in the previous step. Depending on the length of A-A1 you chose in the previous step, you will have some of the bust dart still left . You can close it al the way, which would add a lot more flare to the design, and you would not need to make the underarm dart.
2. Draw the shoulder seam. I wanted the shoulder seam 5 cm long, 4.5 cm away from the neck. Find D1 4.5 cm away from D on the original shoulder seam, and then draw a new shoulder seam by measuring 5 cm from D1 (line D1-E1).
3. Draw the neckline – I chose the depth to be 10 cm from the original (line F-F1). To help me draw the neckline – I drew a horizontal line from F1 and a vertical line from D (intersection at 0) and also one from D1 to 0. D1-0 and F1-0 are guidelines for the neckline.
4. Deep necklines might night lie flat across your chest and need to be tightened. To do that fine a point G on the neckline (about 1/3 lenght from F1, or what I did – drew a line from BP through 0 to neckline). Then find G1 – which should be about 0.3 – 0.5 cm from G, also on the neckline. The deeper the neckline, the more you need to tighten…
5. Mark the position of the underarm dart: measure 3cm from point C to C1 and then connect C1 to BP.

1. Tighten the neckline – cut along G-BP line and then rotate the top left part of the pattern clockwise around BP, until line BP-G aligns with BP-G1 line. Note that the neckline is not smooth – we will fix than in the final step.
2. Move the bust dart to the underarm position – cut along the C1-BP line and rotate clockwise around BP until the original bust dart is completely closed.
3. Finished dart should be a little shorter that the original sloper dart – this is to make the final design less “pointy” and thus smoother around the bust. Draw a line through the middle of the dart, through BP and then measure 2 cm along this line from BP to BP1. BP1 is the tip of the final dart in your pattern.
4. Finish all the lines – arm opening, dart lines, side seam and front fold lines, and then smooth the hemline…
And this is your front pattern! Remember – this does NOT include seam allowances. You can add them here if you wish, but I prefer my patterns without seam allowances so I leave it like this…

Now we are ready to move to the back…
Again, I used the back of the Bunka sloper, and I removed all the waist darts as we don’t need them for this design.
1. Lengthen – add the same length from the waist to the hem line as you did in the front.
2. To add fullness, we will move the shoulder dart – draw a line from the tip of the shoulder dart to the hemline (point A) and measure 7 cm to find point A1 (sam amount as in the front). Also add 2 cm to the side (draw a line 2 cm from B to B1) and draw a new side seam from B1.

1. Move the shoulder dart – cut along A-O line (A to tip of shoulder dart) and rotate the right part of the pattern counterclockwise around O until line A-O aligns with A1-O. This will close the shoulder dart partially, again how much depends on the length of A-A1.
2. The shoulder dart is small enough that it can be blended into the design – just a little bit of ease at the shoulder seam (in this case the back shoulder seam is only 1 cm longer than the front shoulder seam). Draw a line from C to D to make the shoulder seam straight and then measure 4.5 cm (to match the front) from C to C1. C1 to D1 will NOT be 5 cm as the front because we need to blend the dart. So to find D1 measure D to D1 to match the same distance in the front (this corresponds to line E to E1 in the front). In this case D to D1 is 3.2 cm long.
3. And that’s basically it – just draw a new arm opening, new neckline and smooth the hemline.
This is your back pattern, again, without seam allowances.

Here we will just check if the curves of the arm opening and necklines are smooth between front and back patterns.
Align your patterns along the shoulder seam. The back is a little wider, but that is not a problem.
1. Match the arm openings (as in this picture) and check that the curve of the is smooth. If not, redraw.
2. Move your pattern a bit to match the necklines and check the curve. Redraw, if necessary, to smooth across shoulder seam and fix that little nick created by tightening the front neckline (points G and G1).
That’s it. You are ready to cut…

So as I said, I created a pattern without seam allowances – I like it that way for at least one reason. In a pattern like this – you can change some things. For example, you might want to finish your neckline with a decorative bias tape (as I did) in which case you don’t need any seam allowances around the neckline. But if you wanted to use facing you would need seam allowances. So if I have a pattern without seam allowances I can make this adjustments easily. But, that’s just me.

I used a thrifted cotton sheet to make this… After basting and draping it on the form I saw I had a problem: it was too wide around the bust line, primarily under arms. As you can see in the first picture, it is supposed to lie flat just under arm and then flare out. But it does not. It kind of bulges out… Not a good drape. However, the neckline lies nice and flat.

So why is it so wide? We did not add any ease at the bust line? Why is it so different than the sloper?
That got me thinking… And I think I figured it out…
If you look at the original Bunka sloper, you can see that the bust line crosses almost all waist darts – the exception being the front dart that starts at the BP. By ignoring the waist darts we have added some fullness – in the front it comes to 0.7 cm (not much) but in the back it comes to almost 3 cm. Also, by moving the shoulder dart in the back (since it starts above the bust line) we added an extra 2.6 cm around the bust! So… we need to take some back!

So, with some trial and error, and basting a few time, I took 1cm in the front (at the underarm) and 1.5 cm in the back on both sides (so 2 cm from front and 3 cm from the back altogether). I did not take away from the hemline, just from the top of the side seam, and then redrew the line down hemline.


… this is what the top looks like.
I am very happy with the end result. For all of you trying this for the first time, it might seem terribly complicated, but I think, once you get a hold of moving darts, adding fullness, and other little tricks, you could do this easily. By the time you trace a pattern, figure out what’s wrong with it and what modifications you need to make, than figure out how to make those modifications… you could have drafted your own pattern, from your sloper, that you know will fit you.

I like this process so much (yes I am a geek, I have admitted it before) that I am going to make more of these projects. And I plan to share with you! Unfortunately, it will have to wait a few months… it’s vacation time and I cannot commit to a big project like this. But when school starts I will be starting too. I hope to learn how to draw patterns and I hope you will join me.

Would you like this pattern? You can get it here.

Size: Burda 38 (see size chart).

This file contains a pattern for the A-line sleeveless top in this project (front and back). It has 15 pages in total and does not include any instructions. In addition to parts included in the file, you will need bias tape to finish neckline and arm openings. Seam allowances are NOT included! Before printing the whole file, print only page 1 and measure the square – it should be 5 x 5 cm. Make sure you are printing at 100% scale, and that “borderless” is not checked. If you are using a Mac, use Adobe, Preview did not work for me (consistently scaled the printout, I could never get 100% scaling).

Ask away!

Comparing close fitting slopers: Bunka vs. Aldrich Part 5

This is the fifth and final part in a series of posts: Comparing close fitting slopers: Bunka vs. Aldrich

Drumroll please… let’s see how the slopers fit Greta


I transferred the patterns (which are drawn without any seam allowances) to the fabric and added seam allowances only on the side and shoulder seams. I had no sleeves and I wanted to see how the neck line and sleeves fit Greta (these are the “final” measurements). Oh, and I added a seam allowance at the front so I can pin the front pieces together.
Just a note – I made no alterations for a better fit. What you see is what you get when you draw a bodice according to instructions and sew it up. You can always make little adjustments to fit a bodice better, and most people will have to do it, to get the best fit for their body, but that was not the point of this project. Also, I was very careful when drawing these, and I checked and rechecked my calculations, but there still could be errors. But I would not expect any big ones…
So about the fit… Bunka sloper fit’s as a glove. I was very surprised! Bust point in the right place, waist where it should be, quite close fitting but still with some ease. However, Aldrich sloper was shorter and wider at waist and narrower at chest. Also it had more ease even though the calculations included 1 cm less ease when calculating full width across bust.

front side

Here you can see that the armhole is deeper in Bunka sloper (another surprise for me) and you can see another problem on the Aldrich sloper – see the extra fabric towards the back of the armhole?


Here you can see the difference is armhole size for the slopers, Bunka being deeper. Also, Aldrich sloper does not sit horizontally – back is lower than the front. The back neck on both slopers seems to high on both slopers, but that just might be the problem with the neck width I mentioned when adjusting Greta.


back side

This is the best view to see the problem with Aldrich sloper at the back near the armhole. Too wide. Bunka fits very well… there seems to be a little extra fabric in the back, between the bottom of shoulder and top of waist darts, but that just might be because the back is bit smaller on Greta (and somewhat flat if I can say so…).

So the verdict. Bunka fits very well, and I would actually not do any adjustments for a better fit. The Aldrich sloper does not fit so well, but that does not mean it would not improve with some adjustments (it probably would) or that it would not fit another body type. Or maybe I just made a mistake (not so likely 🙂 thinks the geek in me).

So why did I do all this. I have been reading/thinking about this for a few weeks now. I have been so focused on this, that I have even dreamt about it on occasion. So what is next for me? I will try to construct a few tops using the Bunka sloper (similar to Mrs Stylebook) and then I am planning to start a longer term project starting in Semptember when I will be creating more projects/garments and posting instructions here/on my blog. I am going to challenge myself to try and create a pattern a week just by looking at the picture of a piece of clothing I like, and manipulating the sloper. Will it work? I don’t know, but it might be fun! And it could be a good way to learn patternmaking. Would you like to make patterns and sew with me?

Comparing close fitting slopers: Bunka vs. Aldrich Part 4

This is a fourth part in a series of posts: Comparing close fitting slopers: Bunka vs. Aldrich

Adjusting the dress form…

dressform adjustment

I have been thinking bout getting a dressform for a while, but have not been doing too much sewing (clothing) to justify the purchase. But now, with this little project and another one in the works (later about that) I really needed it. Fast. I would have preferred Singer but Dritz seemed to be very similar, and it was available fast and with a good discount, so Dritz it was.
It took some time to adjust it to my liking, I ran into some problems, and I still feel I have some unanswered questions. It’s not perfect but it’s good enough.
First issue was the neck. As a reminder, I made the slopers to fit Burda size 38, so I wanted to adjust the form (let’s call her Greta from now on) to the same size. The neck out of the box is 34 cm and I needed 36 cm. The instruction say to adjust (see picture) at the knob marked A, and if you do measure at that position, it indeed it 36 cm (after adjusting). However, the neck measurement should be taken at B, right? Well, if you measure there, it is more than 36 cm. Actually, even if you leave the A position at 34 cm, and measure at B it is still more than 36 cm. So the neck is too big no matter what you do.
Second… the bust measure was 88 cm, however, the back width is supposed to be 35.5 cm. But how do you really measure the back width? And the front width? Is it F and E (back and front)? Or is it G and D (back and front)? I looked at all the books I have, but I am still not sure. The books either have illustrations or pictures of real bodies or mannequins with the measurements drawn in… but all of these looked different than my Greta. I looked at some professional dressforms, and they have a different shape too. What I am referring to here, is the the little arm part sticking out (see the picture). The professional forms do not have that (the ones that I saw) – the side line goes all the way to the tip of the shoulder in a continuous line. So, are these (on my Greta) really arms or is that still the back/front? I measures the shoulder © and it is the exact length as it should be, so maybe back should really be measured at G and not F. I am still not sure about this… but I assumed that G is the right measurement and went with that. If I took F to be back width, there would be no way I could get it to be 35.5 cm and still have the bust at 88cm. Maybe it would even be impossible on this size form. Even at G I couldn’t quite get to 35.5, it is just shy of 35 cm. That’s as good as it gets here…
And third… I could not get the bust point to be at 27 cm. No way. The bust point as is, on Greta, is at 25 cm. That’s almost an inch difference. So according to Burda, the bust should either be bigger cup size or lower – to maintain the front length! I tried a few different combinations, but could not really get all dimensions to fit. With the bigger cup size – I had to make the back smaller to maintain 88 cm bust. Similar with lower bust. So I decided to leave Greta as is, and assume that the bust point will not matter so much. Especially as I am not really interested in making corsets – for anything looser, I would imagine the bust point is not that crucial (darts are never sewn as on the sloper, they are always shortened to make a smoother silhouette).

If you have any comments/suggestions here I will be very happy to hear from you…

Comparing close fitting slopers: Bunka vs. Aldrich Part 3

This is a third part in a series of posts: Comparing close fitting slopers: Bunka vs. Aldrich

The slopers…

I created both slopers using the same measurements.The measurements correspond to Burda size 38 (all values in cm):
bust 88,
waist 70,
back length 42,
shoulder length 12,
back width 35.5,

for Aldrich method (combined with gedwoods instructions found here these measurements were estimated:
armscy depth 21,
chest width 32.4,
bust dart width 7,

Here is what the basic bodice block by Aldrich looks like…

aldrich original 38

And this is what the basic bodice block by Bunka looks like…

bunka basic 38I created both these slopers using the free CAD program for Mac called Caduntu. There was a little bit of a learning curve but I wanted to have an electronic version I could print any time I want. And I am a geek like that…

If we put them together they look like this…

bunka vs aldrich

To compare the slopers I did a few things… First I moved the armhole dart (Bunka) and shoulder dart (Aldrich) to the waist dart so I can compare front slopers more easily. And then I also moved the front slopers so they align at the bust point . The result was really surprising. In a good way. It seems that the bust points fall pretty much at the same distance from the shoulder. And the Bunka sloper seems to be longer. Really? I was very interested in this point to sew these up so I can see how they fit. Fit what? I need a dress form do I …

Comparing close fitting slopers: Bunka vs. Aldrich Part 2

This is a second part in a series of posts: Comparing close fitting slopers: Bunka vs. Aldrich

What is a sloper? Why I decided to use Aldrich and Bunka…

I thought the best way to start learning about patternmaking was to pick up a book (OK, I do admit I did some googling before that, but found it quite painful… so much information out there, I needed something more organized)…. I already had Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong, so I started there. Without going into the nitty gritty details, I acquainted myself with terms like basic bodice, darts, dart manipulation, adding fullness, etc…

Things were starting to fall in place… maybe I can do this! (I think I can, I think I can…) So the next step was to create a sloper (or a basic bodice). I was still not really sure about how you add ease, where you do it? What if I make a simple sleeveless top using the sloper – would I be able to pull it over head, or would it need a zipper (or some other closure)? I had many questions I though I could only answer by actually making the sloper…

Then I realized I had two more problems… First – I did not necessarily want to make the tops for myself, and the method described in this book basically assumes you are doing patternmaking for either yourself, or you have a model available so you can take all the measurements. For constructing the basic bodice and the sleeve, you need about 20 different measurements. Hmmm… that seemed like a lot! There is a chart in the book, containing standard measurements to use if you don’t have a model, but… and here comes the second problem… the standard measurements! Where does this standard come from? What height does in assume? And it starts with the size it calls 6, which is close to Burda size 38. What about smaller sizes?

I wanted to make my patterns in a few different sizes. All my sewing over the years was done using Burda patterns – I always liked how they fit (and I have been a couple different sizes myself), so I wanted to use the same measurements Burda uses (I tried a few patterns from other companies – not with good results). But the measurements found in Burda magazines and this website includes only a few of the measurements I would need to use this method. So what to do?

So I looked further and found two more books that use simplified methods to constructing sloper – which means you need fewer measurements.

The first one is the Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich. This method uses 10 measurements (this is for the basic bodice only, not including the sleeve). This method is very similar to that described by gedwoods here on Burdastyle (Constructing the basic bodice block). After reading the instructions in the book and gedwoods instructions, I found that I could construct the basic bodice using only 7 measurements from a Burda measurement chart (bust, waist, shoulder length, nape to waist, neck size and back length, back width) and the other 3 can be estimated (armscye depth, chest width and bust dart width). OK, so that would solve my problem of using the measurement chart that does not include all 20 measurements.

The second book I found was Fundamentals of Garment Design which is the first textbook in the Bunka Fashion Series published by Bunka Fashion College in Japan. Japanese pattern books (like Mrs Style Book, Lady Boutique and others) are quite popular, but many people have had problems using the patterns that come with these books since they have been made for a typical Japanese woman with the height of about 158 cm – just for comparison, Burda patterns are made for an average height of 168 cm. that is a difference of 10 cm or 4in!. That is a lot, and these patterns will not fit taller women.

The method described in this book, uses only 3 measurements: bust, waist, nape to waist. Actually, most all measurements are derived from the bust value – waist is only used to distribute darts around the waist, and the back length (nape to waist) is used only to set the back length of the bodice. So, even though this seemed very interesting, I was a little worried that the bodice would not fit well. From the book:
“Slopers produced in Japan accommodate mainly the standard body type of a Japanese adult woman 18-24 years of age (typically with waist measurements of 80 – 89 cm).”
So would it fit? Would everything be “shortened”, “riding up”? Would the bust point be too high? Would the armhole openings be too tight? I wouldn’t know unless I tried…

So I made the slopers using these two methods…

But first a thought about standard body measurements and sizes…

standard comparison

Reading though books I mentioned, I noticed that standards, or at least measurements published in various books/magazines do not match well. In fact they are all over the place. I made a little chart, using only “newer” standards. I matched them by bust size, not by the garment size so you can compare the measurements, not the size numbers (which make no difference right?). I only included 4 main measurements – but notice how for example, for bust size 34in, Armstrong waist is 24in, ASTM standard lists it at 26in, while Burda and Aldrich have about 27in. That is 3in!!! difference between the smallest and largest waist measurements for the same bust size. Hmmm… except for ASTM, which is an actual standard, books by Armstrong, Aldrich and Burda magazine do not state where their measurements come from…

Comparing close fitting slopers: Bunka vs. Aldrich Part 1


In the next few posts I will be comparing the fit of the basic slopers constructed using two different methods:
a) Bunka method – as described in the Bunka Fashion Series Textbook 1, published by the Bunka Fashion College in Japan.
b) Aldrich metod – as described in Metric Pattern Cutting by Aldrich

Recently I wanted to make some simple sleeveless tops but I wanted to make my own patterns. I tried and failed miserably. I then puled out some purchased patterns and tried manipulating them into what I wanted and failed again. I realized I needed to start at the beginning…

In this project you can read about:
1. What resources I used
2. Slopers I drafted
3. Adjusting my brand new dress form
4. Comparing the two basic bodices