Know What You Wear

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Basics of Pattern Making in Garment Industry

Garment pattern:
Pattern is a hard paper which is made by following each individual component for a style of garment or apparel. Actually pattern is a template from which the parts of a garment are traced onto fabric before being cut out and assembled. It is one of the most important parts of garment manufacturing industry. Pattern making is a highly skilled technique which calls for technical ability, sensitivity for design interpretation and a practical understanding of garment construction. Pattern making is a bridge function between design and production.
Pattern making
Figure-1: Pattern making (Image courtesy:
A basic or foundation pattern can be created by any of the two methods, namely, by drafting or by draping fabric on a model. Pattern drafting is defined as a technique or method of drawing patterns on brown paper with accuracy and precision, based on the body measurements or standard measurement chart. This is an efficient and economical method and can be manipulated to create the pattern for different styles by a technique known as flat pattern designing.

Types of Paper Pattern:

1. Standardized paper pattern: Paper patterns prepared using standardised body measurements are called standardised paper patterns. This method is followed in training and tailoring schools.

2. Individual paper pattern: The measurement of a particular person is taken and a pattern is prepared using these individual measurements. The pattern prepared for a particular person will not suit another person. These are usually done at home and some tailor shops.

3. Final paper patterns: Once the individual is satisfied with the paper patterns, they are made into final paper patterns. Though, while making individual patterns all the precautions are taken, yet, there could be some minor points, which are to be considered. These minor details are corrected and finally made into permanent patterns.

4. Block paper pattern: Normally these are made with standard sizes with thick cardboard. These are mostly used in the garment industry. The garment made out of these block patterns will fit those who have measurements equal to that of the standardised body measurement.

5. Readymade patterns: These are made using a unique type of tracing paper. These can be procured from the market and are more useful for people who can do stitching, but not drafting. These can be bought readymade and can be easily used by placing on the material and cutting and stitching accordingly.

6. Graded paper pattern: Patterns of five consecutive sizes (e.g. 30″, 32″, 34″, 35″ and 38″ chest size) are marked in one single pattern. The required size according to the individual body measurement is traced separately, cut and used.

7. Commercial paper pattern: The paper patterns for different designs are available in readymade forms. These patterns are called commercial patterns. These patterns are enclosed in an envelope along with an instruction sheet. The instruction sheet will provide information about selection of fabric, preparation of fabric, marking, cutting, and steps for sewing. The front side of the envelope contains the front view, side view and back view of the garment design along with the body measurements.

You may also like: How to Take Body Measurements for Dress Making

Advantages of Paper Pattern:
  1. A better pattern of the appropriate size manipulated to individual requirements results in a better fit.
  2. A pattern made in a thick paper or cardboard shall be maintained for a longer period of time and can be reused several times.
  3. By modifying the basic pattern pieces using the flat pattern technique, it is feasible to make patterns for intricate and original designs.
  4. A paper pattern of a specific size can be used to produce patterns of other sizes by means of a grading process.
  5. The errors that occur during pattern drafting can be corrected in the pattern itself.
  6. Patterns can be changed/modified according to the latest fashion trend.
Pattern making tools:
In garment industry pattern makers use different types of tools and equipments for pattern making. We have also published a comprehensive post on pattern making tools. You can see below.

You may also like: Pattern Making Tools and Their Uses for Beginners

Principles of Pattern Drafting:
Pattern drafting can be carried out on an ordinary brown sheet paper which is not too thin. To achieve an accurate and precise pattern draft, use of appropriate tools should be practiced, for example, for drawing a straight line a sharp pencil and a ruler have to be used and to draw right angle lines, an ‘L’ square or set square can be utilised. Prior to pattern drafting, it is essential to know the procedures and instructions. 

The basic principles of pattern drafting are given below:

1. Patterns must be created larger than actual body measurements to permit free body movements, ease of action and comfort in wearing. Normally used ease allowance for various parts of the body are as follows.

   a. Bust – 3–5″ (3″ for a tight fitting garment and 5″ for loose fitting one).
   b. Waist – 1/2″.
   c. Hips – 3–5″.
   d. Upper arm – 3–4″.
   e. Arm hole depth – 1″.

The ease allowance must be incorporated in the pattern drafting before cutting out the pattern.

2. For a symmetric garment (the right and left sides of the garment panels are similar), the paper pattern could be made only for half front and half back. But for the sleeve part, a full pattern must be made.

3. It is better to draft the basic pattern blocks such as plain bodice, plain sleeve, and plain skirt without including seam allowances. However, while marker planning or keeping the patterns directly on the fabric for cutting, adequate seam allowances have to be ensured between the patterns before cutting. Otherwise, to avoid the risk of cutting without seam allowance, it is better to add seam allowances in the paper pattern itself after completing the draft.

4. The following construction detailed information should be recorded and marked clearly on the pattern after drafting to aid in further processes.

  • Identification mark of every pattern piece by its name (bodice front, bodice back, sleeve, etc.).
  • Number of pattern pieces to be cut with each pattern piece.
  • If seam allowances are not included in the draft, this should be pointed out in the pattern. If it is included, then seam and cutting lines should be clearly drawn on the pattern.
  • Length grain line should be marked in a different colour pencil on every pattern piece.
  • Notches should be provided for easy matching of components while sewing.
  • Centre front (CF) as well as centre back (CB) lines should be marked in the block pattern.
  • Fold lines in the pattern should be clearly marked and should be visible to show the location where the material should be folded.
  • Dart and pleat markings, etc. should also be marked clearly on the pattern.
Commercial Pattern:
These are generally made on tissue paper as it permits compact packing of many pattern pieces in an envelope. Normally, in commercial patterns seam allowances are included for safety purpose. It normally comprises all the pattern constructional information such as grain lines, seam lines, cutting lines, darts, centre lines, etc. and common information like name of the pattern piece, pattern size, number of pieces to be on each pattern piece, etc.

If the personal measurement is closer to the standard measurement sizes, then a commercial pattern can be procured from the market to draft on our own. It saves time and gives a better fit than a homemade pattern.

Commercial patterns are normally costlier compared to drafted patterns and patterns for various styles of garments are not available.

Steps in Pattern Drafting:
The sample measurements (7 years old): Chest 24″, waist length 10½″, waist 23″, back width 11″ and sleeve length 5″.

Basic front bodice and back bodice pattern:
For children, back and front patterns can be drafted within the same rectangle as it is not necessary to make the front larger than the back
Pattern drafting of front and back bodice
Figure-2: Pattern drafting of front and back bodice
First, the rectangle ABCD has to be constructed with the following measurements:
  • AB = 1/4 (bust + 5″ ease allowance)
  • AD = BC = back waist length + 1/2″
  • Mark AG = 1/2 back width
  • AF = 1/12 chest
  • AH = 1″
  • AJ = 1/12 chest + 1/4″ = AF + 1/4″ and GK = 1″
  • Connect points H and F with a bold line, which is referred to as a back neck line
  • Connect points J and F with a dotted line, which is referred to as a front neck line
  • Connect points F and K with a straight line, which is referred to as a shoulder seam
  • Mark BL = 1/4 chest
  • Draw GO parallel to and equal to BL
  • Mark KX = 1/3 KO and XY = 1/2″
  • Connect points K, X, and L with a bold line, which is referred to as the back armscye line
  • Connect points K, Y, and L with a dotted line, which is referred to as the front armscye line
  • Mark CM = 1/2″. Connect LM. This is the side seam
For a dart, mark DN = 1/2 DM – 1/2″ and NP = CL −1″. Mark R and S 1/2″ on either side of N and connect RP and SP.

Basic sleeve pattern:
In Figure-3, AD is on fold and is equal to sleeve length. AB = 1/4 bust – 1/4″ (for adults, this was 1/4 bust – 1½″). Mark BE = 1/2 AB and DF = 1/2 lower arm + 1/4″. Connect AE. Divide it into four equal parts and mark a, b, c. Mark CG = 1/2″, BF = 1/4″, AE = 1/4″ and AD – 1/2″. Connect AGFE (back armscye line) and AGBDE (front armscye line).

Figure-3: Pattern drafting of sleeve
Pattern Draping:
Pattern draping is otherwise known as toiling or modelling. Pattern draping is the manipulation of two-dimensional fabrics on a three-dimensional torso or body form to get a perfect fit. The dress form generally used for draping is a muslin padded dress form, positioned in an adjustable stand that duplicates the human body structure. The dress form should be firm, yet resilient and should not resist pins. A range of dress forms exist in standard sizes for children’s and men’s figures. The steps for the preparation of a dress form are given below.

  1. The dummy should be checked for both bust and hip measurement.
  2. It should be padded to get the required measurement by using high density foam. The foam is adjusted in such a way that it assumes the shape of the human breast.
  3. A square piece of quilt batting is pinned onto the formed breast. While pinning the batting, care is taken to see that it is slightly larger than the required size at the sides. When it is covered with muslin, it gets compressed to the right size and looks more natural.
  4. Batting should be done equally on both sides.
Flat Pattern Technique:
The flat pattern technique is a method of manipulating the pattern while the pattern is laid flat on the table. Pattern manipulation is a common word applied to the act of slashing and spreading or pivoting a pattern section to alter its original shape. Darts play an important role in the flat pattern technique.

The darts can be shifted to any location around the pattern’s outline from the pivot point without affecting the size and fit of the garment. There are three methods of flat pattern technique, which are as follows:

  • Pivot method: By this method, darts can be moved from one point to another. For this, a thick cardboard, which is firm and sturdy, is required. Seam allowance is not added.
  • Slash and spread method: In this method, darts are shifted by cutting and spreading the pattern along the dart to the desired position. This is a relatively easy method provided the slashes are made correctly. Care is taken to see that the cuts are not made through the pivot point.
  • Measurement method: This method is commonly used when the darts have to remain in the same seam line and the width of the darts can be divided into two or three darts.
In all three methods, the darts on the bodice play an important role in creating the different patterns.

Types of Darts:
A dart is a wedge-shaped cut out in a pattern used as a means of controlling the fit of the garment. A dart is a fold of a fabric stitched to taper gradually to a point. The location, length and width at the base vary according to the style. Wider darts provide better shape to the garment. These are used as the basic pattern in all positions where a bulge or hollow occurs in the figure. Darts can be single pointed or double pointed (Figure-4). Single pointed darts are mostly used for saree blouses and plain skirts to give shape and fit. Double pointed darts are mostly used for tops and long blouses, cholies and kameezes to give shape at the waist.

Types of dart
Figure-4: Types of dart
There are two terms that are used in relation to darts – fitting darts and decorative darts. Decorative darts do not have any functional purpose in a garment and are used only for decorative purposes. Fitting darts are functional darts, which are triangular folds in a cloth making the flat fabric fit to the curves of the body.

Locating the dart point:
The basic of the flat pattern work is locating the pivotal or the dart point. The dart point, also called pivotal or apex point of the front bodice, is a place on the pattern from which the darts radiate. Two darts – one near the shoulder and another at the waistline – could be found in the back bodice. Each of these darts has its own pivot point.

Method of locating the dart point in the back bodice:
In the back bodice there is no well-defined location for the common pivot point to be located. The pivot point is at about 11/2″ away from the tip of the dart. Figure-5 shows the position of the pivot point in the back bodice.

Pivot points in the back bodice
Figure-5: Pivot points in the back bodice
Method of locating the dart point in the front bodice:
This method is used for the pattern having two darts in the front bodice. The two darts are the bust fitting dart and the waist fitting dart. The bust fitting dart originates from the side seam and moves toward the bust point. The waist fitting dart originates from the waistline and moves toward the bust point.

Pivot point in the front bodice
Figure-6: Pivot point in the front bodice
For locating the dart point, a line has to be drawn from the middle of both bust and waist fitting darts and it is extended until they intersect. The point of juncture of these lines is the dart point in the front bodice. In Figure-6, point A and B are the centre line of the waist fitting dart and bust fitting dart, respectively. The lines are extended and the intersecting point C is labelled as the pivot point. The other vital aspect is the drawing of bust circle, which encloses the bust area in the pattern. The bust circle is generally drawn around the bust point with varying radius, which depends upon different sizes. For instance, 1 1/2″ of radius is used to draw the bust circle for sizes 8, 10 and 12, and 2″ radius is used to draw the bust circle for the sizes above 12.
Figure-7: Shows the pattern with the bust circle.
Rules for dart location:
  1. Minimum length of the darts – The fitting darts of the front bodice must extend to the bust circle. This is the minimum length.
  2. Maximum length of the darts – All the fitting darts must extend to the bust circle but should not lengthen outside the bust point. This is considered the maximum length of the darts. In some of the patterns, there would be one larger dart that would be extended until the bust point for proper fitting.
  3. If both fitting darts are equal in size, both darts will end at the bust circle.
  4. Darts may point away from the bust point for certain design effects but they must not point outside the bust circle.
  5. A decorative dart, which does not help in fitting, does not point toward the bust circle. It should be kept small in angle so it does not create a ‘bulge’.
Pivot Method:
The pivotal point is the designated point on the pattern that is used as a basis for the slash and spread method and the pivot method. The pivot point on the front pattern is the bust.

Front Bodice: The example of shifting of the waistline dart to the neckline dart using the pivot point method is shown in Figure-8.

Pivot point method for front bodice
Figure-8: Pivot point method for front bodice
  • The dart leg AB has to be marked on the front bodice pattern.
  • The new position of dart C has to be marked as indicated in the figure, at the neckline to which the dart needs to be shifted.
  • Tracing of the pattern from point C to point A has to be done so that the dart can be moved as shown in the figure.
  • Thumbtack the pattern at the bust point and slowly the pattern has to be moved from point B to A, thus closing the dart at the waistline.
  • Tracing of the pattern from point B to point C has to be continued and then the block bodice can be removed. Now an opening at the neckline can be observed, which can be marked as DE. This is the new dart located at the neckline.
  • Label the pivot point. This would be a guide for locating the new dart.
  • The midpoint of ED should be marked and a dotted line is drawn until the bust point.
  • The dart legs are drawn by joining E and D to the bust point.
  • Point F is located at 1/2″ above the bust point and the dart legs are completed as shown in the figure.
Back Bodice: The back bodice has two darts, namely, shoulder dart and the waistline dart. The shoulder dart is often used in creating new designs at the back. The steps followed are shown in Figure-9.
Pivot point method for back bodice
Figure-9: Pivot point method for back bodice
  • Take the back bodice block with the pivot points located on it.
  • Mark the dart legs as AB and CD as shown in Figure-9.
  • Mark the location of the new dart E on the neckline.
  • Starting from point E, trace the pattern toward the centre back, then to the waistline. Trace the dart AB at the waistline and proceed to tracing the side seam, armhole and the shoulder until point D as shown in the figure. The dotted line shows the traced pattern.
  • Thumbtack the pivot point corresponding to the shoulder dart and pivot the pattern thus closing the dart.
  • Remove the pattern. You would notice the dart opening at the neckline. Mark the new dart opening as FG.
  • Locate the centre point of the dart opening FG and mark the point H.
  • The length of the dart is the same as the length of the shoulder dart. Measure the shoulder dart. Draw a line from point H parallel to the centre back line or slanted slightly away from the centre back.
  • Measure the length of the shoulder dart and mark the point on the line drawn from H. Draw the dart legs and complete the dart.
Slash and spread method:
The sloper or block pattern has to be traced on a separate paper for moving the darts in front and the back bodice using the slash and spread method and the pivot points on the back bodice have to be marked as well. The factors that need to be considered during the slash and spread method are given below.

  • The slash should always be made along the lower line of the horizontal darts.
  • For vertical darts, the slash needs to be made along the line nearer to the centre front or centre back.
  • Make all the slashes go to but not through the pivot point.
Front Bodice: The steps involved in creation of a dart in the front bodice using the slash and spread method are shown in Figure-10.
Slash and spread method for front bodice
Figure-10: Slash and spread method for front bodice
  • Take the front bodice pattern.
  • Locate the pivot point on the front bodice.
  • Label the dart legs as AB.
  • Mark the position of the new dart point C at the neckline to which the dart needs to be shifted as indicated in Figure-10.
  • Draw a slash line from point C to the bust point.
  • Slash along the line marked from point C to the bust point but not through the bust point.
  • Similarly slash along line B to the bust point but not through the bust point as shown in the figure.
  • Close the dart AB by overlapping the dart legs.
  • Trace this on another sheet of paper.
  • You would now find an opening at point C.
  • Mark the opening as DE.
  • Mark the centre line as F. 
  • A line has to be drawn toward the bust point and then the dart legs are drawn.  
  • Locate a point G 1/2″ above the bust point and redraw the dart legs.
Back Bodice: The steps involved in shifting of the shoulder dart of the back bodice to any part of the seam line in the upper portion of the pattern are shown in Figure-11.
Figure-11: Slash and spread method for back bodice.
  • The shoulder dart of the bodice back may be shifted.
  • The back bodice paper pattern is prepared and the pivot point is marked.
  • Mark the dart legs at the waistline as AB and at the shoulder as CD – the dart to be moved.
  • Mark the position to which the dart needs to be shifted as point E at the neckline.
  • A line is drawn at the point E to indicate the full length of the new dart. The line is extended to the pivot point and indicated as a dotted line.
  • Cuts are made from the shoulder dart to the pivot point and along the new dart line to the pivot point.
  • The shoulder dart is closed and pinned. The neck line opening is filled for the new dart by pinning the pattern to another piece of pattern.
  • A dotted line is drawn to indicate the centre of the new dart. The new dart can be parallel to the centre back or it could be a slant line from the centre.
  • The new dart lines, that is, GH is drawn in such a way that the length of the new dart coincides with the original shoulder dart.
Measurement Method:
This method is commonly used when the darts have to remain in the same seam line and the width of the darts can be divided into two or three darts. The method of shifting the darts is described wherein the darts at the waistline are manipulated.

  • The front bodice pattern is traced onto a new paper leaving the space of the dart which is to be divided as shown in Figure-12.
  • Measure the gap left for the dart and divide into two halves by using dressmaker’s tape.Dressmaker’s tape is a strip of paper folded to give a firm, straight edge.
  • The two halves would give the dart space on each dart.
  • Locate the position for two darts on the waistline.
  • Now, keep the section between the dart and the centre front of the original sloper unchanged. This part is called the centre panel or centre section.
  • The two dart points need to be located so that the distance between the two darts is 1″.
  • Draw the guidelines for darts as indicated by a dotted line toward the bust circle.
  • The tips of the darts are located toward the bust circle. Draw the dart legs and complete the dart on the pattern.
pattern Measurement method
Figure-12: Measurement method
Pattern Grading:
Grading is a technique used either to maximise or minimise the size of a pattern. This becomes necessary when large numbers of different sized garments have to be produced in a relatively shorter time as is done in the garment industry. If we define pattern grading, then we can say it is a process of enlarging or diminishing a style pattern, making it possible to obtain proper fit for all sizes without changing the title for a given compilation of anthropometric measurements that are suitable for a person whose body measurements lie within certain tolerance limits of the garment size measurements.

The different terms associated with grading are as follows:
  1. Suppression grading: The controlling features of the garment like darts, pleats and gathers when decreased in size undergo suppression. To suppress the girth measurement, of say No 28″ size in relation to the girth of 26″ waist size, only a tuck has to be placed at the waist. This has nothing to do with styling.
  2. Three-dimensional grading: This technique is commonly used for tight fitting and knitted garments. This involves not only suppression, but also the changes in girth and height.
  3. Two-dimensional grading: In this simple and easy method, only girth and height measurements are changed without altering the shape.
  4. Cardinal points: The points where the grading increments are applied are called cardinal points.
  5. Balance: This refers to the perfect relationship between the units as explained earlier. It explains that when the increase is done in the front, then care should be taken to increase at the back also.
  6. Nested or stacked grading: In this method, the difference in the increase in size is made visible by superimposing one size to another. The progression of sizes can be more noticeable.
Types of Grading Systems:
There are two types of grading systems commonly used.

  1. Two-dimensional grading
  2. Three-dimensional grading
Two-dimensional grading:
The two-dimensional grading could be done using two techniques:

1. Draft technique: This involves the increments being applied to the actual pattern draft. For example, if you are grading for one size up at the front bodice, the sloper is taken and the measurements to be added at the different cardinal points like shoulder, armscye, centre front, etc. are added simultaneously.

2. Track technique: This involves applying grade increments to individual pieces of pattern by moving the base pattern piece along predetermined tracks. In this method, the pattern is altered section by section along the predetermined tracks. Let us take the example of grading the pattern for one size up at the shoulder, neckline, centre front, etc. The tracks are drawn on a separate sheet of paper and the pattern is moved as follows:

  • Shoulder: The pattern is moved along the track for grading the shoulder, and then returned to the original track.
  • Neckline: From the original track, again the pattern is moved for grading the neckline, then again returned to the original track. The process is continued until all the sections of the pattern are graded.
Three-dimensional grading:
Three-dimensional grading is used not only to increase a pattern for size, but also to increase or decrease suppression in the following areas:

  1. Bust to shoulder
  2. Hip to waist
  3. Elbow to wrist
You may also like:  
  1. How to Take Body Measurements for Dress Making
  2. Pattern Making Tools and Their Uses for Beginners