Week 4: Making Working Patterns

Making a Pattern from a Basic Block is an art form, and it is at this point in the process that it would be beneficial to have a Pattern Cutting book to hand. Obviously I would recommend Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting however; there are many others out there.

I shall try to impart as much advice as possible however; I will be writing this article as if you have some help at hand in the form of a Pattern book. Towards the end of the piece I shall list some helpful websites if you do not.

Really, the hard work has been done at this point, you have a Basic Block which has been adapted to fit your form from your Toile. Now all that is needed is a little imagination and magic to create the pieces about the Basic Block to create your design.

You will need to start by creating a Technical Illustration of your design. this differs from a Fashion Illustration in that it should be a picture of what you would like to make however; it should contain all of the seams, pleats, details and information you need to work from to make the Pattern. You should illustrate both the front and back, as this is what you will be using to create your Pattern. It is incredibly important to create a Technical Illustration to work from, as it will stop any second guessing and random making up of details!


I have chosen to make a simple Top with some small design details. As you can see, I have illustrated everything I’d like to be included in the Top, with annotations to explain the finer details. The next step will be to decide which patterns I need to draft, what changes will need to be made to those Patterns and finally, what details I will need to draft to create finishing details for the garment. The easiest way to decide and start forming an action plan is to make a list:

  1. Most obviously I will need to draft the Sleeve Block, then adapt it to create the pleat at the Sleeve Head, and the Scallops at the Hem. I will also need to make a facing for the Hem as it is the easiest, neatest way to finish a Scalloped Hem.
  2. I will need to re-shape the Neckline of the Front Bodice to make it a V-Line Neck.
  3. A Collar will need to be drafted for the Front and the Back.
  4. The Front Bodice will need to be adapted to allow room for the series of Tucks I want to place at the Waistline, and a Button Stand will need to be added to the Centre Front.
  5. I’ll have to split the Back Bodice in to two sections to make the Yoke, then add in allowance for the Pleats/Tucks I want along the bottom of the Yoke.
  6. Seam allowance will need to be added to all of the Pattern Pieces as I complete them, and all will need to be annotated with Grainlines, Piece Names etc.

The following illustrations annotate how I would break down making this pattern up. Each change needs to be traced from the Basic Block- which I cannot stress enough- needs to remain intact, unharmed and unchanged! I am sure none of you relish the idea of starting from scratch all over again, which is what has to happen if you start cutting up Basic Blocks!


As you can see from the above, listing the things to do and components needed for a Pattern is very important- it’s so easy to forget something, or get a little bit sidetracked!!


There are nearly as many changes to be considered on the Back however; a lot of the time these can be simpler because there are not the fitting considerations to be made as there are for the Front Bodice.

As ever, click the images to enlarge.

If anything more complicated is to be attempted, a Pattern Book of some description will need to be purchased. They are invaluable when drafting more fitted garments, or for drafting things like Sleeves and Collars.

So, at the start of this post, I mentioned that I would be sharing some other posts on Pattern Making however; I have a confession: there aren’t many!! Burda have some helpful advice, as always, and this article will take you through making a Princess Line Dress from your Basic Block. I have shared Madalynne’s great Pattern Cutting Tutorials before but they are well worth a look as she has Tutorials on some interesting finer points of Pattern Making. A pretty straightforward Tutorial on how to lift basic Pattern from clothing can be found over at Sweet Verbena, there are  many Tutorials on YouTube which take you through the process but I am going to reiterate that trial and error are the best teachers. Until you give it a go, and make up your first pattern it will all be academic and you simply wont know if it works or not!

Happy Patterning!

7 thoughts on “Week 4: Making Working Patterns

  1. Great post! I’ll be updating my basic bodice block soon in preparation for making my wedding dress next year and these posts are really getting me excited about the process!

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