Pattern Drafting 101 – The Basic Block Pattern

13 July, 2010

A few days ago, I opened up a commercial pattern for the first time in close to 6 months. It was a simple button up shirt pattern that I was going to lengthen into a cute, light, breezy summer dress.

I felt like such a cheater.

I could have drafted the pattern from scratch if I really wanted to, but I’ve been drafting EVERYTHING lately. Shirts, corsets, skirts, jabots- everything. I just wanted something I could whip out right out of the packet and VOILA! New dress!

Boy, did I ever ask for it. Turns out, no matter what I did, the sleeves would not go on. I sat there for almost 2 hours, just trying to ease on this one sleeve, to no avail. I felt like a sophomore in high school again, when I would whine to my “infinitely more talented with a needle and thread” friend Dvorah about my sleeve dilemmas.

Stupid commercial patterns. This never would have happened if I’d drafted the thing. And then I started thinking all the fun little things I could have thrown in had I just made the pattern myself. Ruching! Pleats! Canadian smocking! Keyholes! The list goes on and on and on and…

Anyway, I started learning to draft patterns about 2 years ago, and since then- oh my goodness. The ability to draft your own patterns opens up such an amazing array of possibilities for design, you may need never buy a pattern ever again.


Well, you’ll have to buy paper and tape, but that’s so much less expensive.

So how do you get started on this yellow brick road to Fashion Design? The first thing you’re going to need is a “sloper”, also known as a block pattern. It’s a basic, bare-bones pattern fit to your measurements, without any embellishment or seam allowance. Many pattern publishers also carry a sloper or block pattern that you can buy from them, but because they know the power these tools can hold, they’re rather pricey. A much less monetarily taxing option is to download and print these free sloper patterns from Burda Style.com

Sleeveless Top Sloper

Skirt Sloper

Dress Sloper

But say none of these fit you- they’re either too big, too small, or some odd combination of the two. What now? You go back one step farther and you make your own sloper. Gedwoods, from BurdaStyle.com posted wonderfully illustrated instructions on drafting your own basic block patterns from your own measurements. However, a word to the non-mathmatically gifted – Remember when you thought you’d never use that geometry crap they made you take in high school? Well, I regret to inform you that you were wrong. There will be a lot of measuring and math involved in this, so you may want to take a moment to go dig out your old math books.

Despite being an AMAZING internet resource for the budding pattern drafter, I will admit that some of the instructions given in the original posts can get a little convoluted and long-winded at times, so over the next week, I’ll be posting my own step-by-step instructions for each of the above block patterns. Stay tuned!

Wednesday: Basic Women’s Bodice Block Pattern

Thursday: Drafting the Sleeve for the Women’s Block Pattern

Friday: Drafting Men’s Shirt Block Pattern and Sleeve

Saturday: Drafting the Men’s Shirt Collar

Sunday: Basic Skirt Block

Monday: Basic Trouser Block

Tuesday: The “Easy Fitting Over Garment” Block



  1. This is just what I’ve been looking for. You’re amazing. 🙂

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