Finished: Patternmaking I (PM 121)!

Hi, all!  If you heard a gigantic sigh of relief radiating from the east coast of the U.S.A. last week, that was probably me turning in my final project for my first patternmaking class at FIT!  It was such an adventure– I’ve been excited to tell you guys about it, but struggled to find the time to post!

The class, PM 121 (Patternmaking I: Misses’ and Womenswear), is the first class in the patternmaking certificate program at FIT, a credit program for evening/weekend students.  Over the course of 15 weeks, we learned the basics of drafting front and back bodice slopers as well as sleeve and collar variations.   We started with the absolute basics, spending time learning how to take careful, accurate measurements before we began developing and fitting basic bodice slopers first in paper, then in muslin.  (Just a note if you’re planning to take the class– you’ll be working with a single dress form, so unless you are lucky enough to have the measurements and proportions of an older dress form, you probably won’t be able to fit into anything you make).  Once we perfected the fit of our slopers, we studied variations for bodices, yokes, sleeves, collars, and necklines, and our final project was drafting, patterning, and sewing a blouse to fit our dress form and conform with industry standards.

Here’s my bodice sloper in muslin form! Remember darts are drafted to the apex, so excuse the, erm, pointy bits…

One thing I really appreciated about the class was getting a little better grasp on some of the rules of pattern drafting.  I tend to be a sort of “let’s wing it and see what happens!” type of person (probably not the ideal seamstress, ha), so it was good to learn the textbook method for things I’ve been doing wrong all along like adding seam allowances to patterns or drafting facings.  Once I learned some of the rules it was fun to learn where I have more freedom to experiment (for example, you can draft a collar to any size, but you want to make sure it’s always 1/4″ deeper than the collar stand so your stand doesn’t peek out beneath the collar).  These are probably really obvious to most of you, but I didn’t know them coming into the class.  I also appreciated the emphasis on working from seamlines– it really does make fit or style alterations much quicker to work from a sloper without seam allowances, something I haven’t experienced before since I sew mainly from commercial patterns with the SA already added in.

The final project in all its glory! The poly charmeuse (brought in by a classmate who works for Vera Wang) was tough to press and there are some odd wrinkles from the twill tape on the dress form underneath it, but you get the idea.

I’m really glad that I learned some techniques that will be really helpful for my personal sewing (things like drafting a sleeve placket or a collar stand).  While many of the things we drafted are pretty old-fashioned or dated, it’s still good to know how to do it.  But, if I’m being perfectly honest, I found the class experience to be a bit frustrating at times.  Since my crazy job schedule leaves me with limited time to sew, I tend to be a results-based sewist and enjoy quicker projects more rewarding.  Sometimes it was hard to make myself work and work and work on patterns and muslins for garments that I couldn’t fit into and wouldn’t wear even if I could.  Patternmaking is time-consuming and can be very, very tedious, and there was a lot more homework than I anticipated.  Since class and homework sucked up almost all of the free time I normally dedicate to sewing my own garments, my fun hobby turned into a bit of a chore and I had a tough time keeping up with my Mood Sewing Network deadlines.

Look at those sleeves! The cropped bodice with the 1/4 circle sleeves looks like Daisy Duke joined a church choir, ugh!

If I sound a little negative about the class, it’s not because of the quality of the class, but rather because patternmaking isn’t really my strong suit.  I’m sloppy, don’t enjoy detail work, and am terrible with numbers, so I continually made lots of dumb mistakes that took a long time to fix and really frustrated me.  And I’ve never been much of a student, so it was an adjustment to be back in class, especially a nearly-four-hour class at the end of a long work day.   But the information I learned in the class was really good and I’ll definitely be utilizing it in the future.  Plus, if you’re a NY resident, the tuition is really affordable (the rate for an entire semester is about the same as what you would pay for a four-session class at the average Manhattan sewing studio, and I’ll guarantee that you will learn a lot more).  I’m really impressed by the wide variety of classes offered at FIT, and if my schedule and budget allow, I’d love to keep taking classes there (not to go all Portlandia on you guys, but I spied students working in a jewelry lab with soldering irons and little blowtorches and guys, I WANNA USE LITTLE BLOWTORCHES!).

So, let’s hear from you guys!  Do any of you have any experience with patternmaking or with sewing classes?  What were your experiences like?  And for you patternmakers out there, does it get easier?  Am I basically doomed if I’m the kind of person who goofs up measurements or adds them up incorrectly?  Are you interested in drafting your own patterns?  Would you take a patternmaking class if you could?

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146 responses to “Finished: Patternmaking I (PM 121)!

  1. Thanks for the review of the class Sonja! I really enjoyed reading this, if I ever get to fulfill my dream of living in NY I’d like to take a class like this. I can totally understand your frustration with though, especially with the not being able to wear the clothes thing. I don’t think I’d be able to do it! No, I would because the stuff learned on the long term is valuable but I definitely understand the frustration. How long was the class and how many hours per week did it go?

    • I hope you do get to come to NYC sometime! I’d love to get to know you better! The class was 15 weeks, once a week for almost four hours. I don’t know why I thought it wouldn’t be a full semester, but it was!

  2. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with the thought of pattern drafting. Part of me would love to get better at it, mainly so I could have a higher rate of success when I want to play with frankenpatterning. Part of me is convinced that it would drive me absolutely crazy, since numbers are not my strongest point. (I often joke that, as a musician, I can count to four repeatedly and that’s about it!) I think the part about not having wearable clothes would bug me, too, since I already feel like I have this huge pile of things I want to make and not enough time to do it.

    Living where I do, I’ll never have the option to take one in person, sadly. I did see that Craftsy now has online classes for drafting bodice and skirt slopers, but at the heftiest price tag I’ve ever seen on there. So that idea will most definitely have to wait until I work my way through some of the other classes I’ve registered for!

    • I think that investing in a good book would probably be your best bet. I’m just not sure how in-depth you could get with a Craftsy class. I mean, it could walk you through developing the slopers, but that’s only part of the battle– you’d also want to know how to alter the slopers to make different styles, and a textbook would really help with that.

  3. I tend to draft most of my clothes now and it does get easier! It used to take me days of fitting and adjusting to get it right but my most recent skirt was drafted in about two hours tops, i’ve been drafting for about 2 years, learning most of what i know during the summer. I think drafting is good because you an exact fit that even independant pattern companies can’t give. Props to you for making stuff to fit the dress forms size! Once you make your own blocks its more fun as you can imagine every single detail of what your going to make!

  4. I’ve considered taking classes at FIT several times. Lately though my crazy work schedule wouldn’t allow it. However, I NEVAH thought about taking patternmaking classes because I learned long time ago that I’m not detailed oriented enough to take these classes. I wanted to take the tailoring classes more. So will you take the second class and go on to get the certificate?

    • I’m still on the fence! I just don’t think I’m any good at it and I’m not really enjoying it, but I’m thinking about taking the second class just to have that information. I’m really considering the tailoring classes, too– I was torn between the two tracks when I signed up for this class!

      • you have me salivating over these classes. ANY fit classes. i loved being a student!! TOTAL GEEK! if i could be in a class with the two of you i think i’d skip to school every night.

        your poly charmeuse looks frigging awesomesauce.

  5. Hmmm! Thanks for a thorough review of the course – I’ve actually been hemming and hawing over taking the same one this spring. After reading this, I think I actually might not! I was interested in taking a patternmaking class because I always struggle with having to make a gazillion adjustments to commercial patterns to achieve a reasonably good fit, and although I’ve tried a few times to draft a sloper to my measurements, I tend to throw in the towel after the fifth muslin or so – that said, the prospect of spending my (severely limited!) ‘fun’ sewing time making a sloper and garments that STILL won’t fit me? Sounds like a set-up for some major disappointment! Although I’ve no doubt I would learn a ton from a class like this about the right way to draft patterns, I think maybe I’d be better off using the cost of tuition on a few good fitting books and rededicating myself to working through the issues with the muslins from my self-drafted sloper.

    • To me, the class is sort of like the kale and chickpea salad I had for lunch– good for me, but not very much fun to work through! I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was in a stage of life where I had more free time, but starting the class at a point in the year where I already felt completely burnt out was not a great idea. It’s probably a good use of time to find a measuring/fitting buddy and dedicate a few Saturdays to really sorting out a sloper.

  6. Sounds fascinating and a little bit hardcore. Great when you can devote the energy and exasperating when you can’t and the fun gets sucked out of it. It’ll be interesting to see what carries over into your real life sewing!

    • That’s it exactly– great if I had the energy, frustrating since I don’t! Patternmaking is really pretty interesting, though, if you ever have the time to check out a book or something. I kept having all these lightbulb moments, like, “Oh, THAT’S why the notch at the sleeve head is positioned there”.

  7. It is great you are learning this basics. It will really help you in your work. I am looking forward to see you new creations :-)

  8. I would love to take some classes at some point. I’m entirely self-taught with my sewing and also tend to have a pretty “wing it” attitude toward things. I bought myself a big book about pattern making but haven’t really tried anything from it yet. I think I’d do well in the class format, but I agree that it would be frustrating to spend all that time sewing something you can’t wear! I think I’d like to start with a little less ambition and do a fit or pattern alteration class….

    • I hope you find the time to take some classes! I’m thinking that classes that have more of a costuming focus would probably be closer to what I’m looking for, rather than this patternmaking track that’s really focused on industrial methods.

  9. It sounds like really useful information and a very practical course, but I don’t think I could do it myself. The numbers wouldn’t bother me, but I’m just a very results-oriented person, so knowing that I wouldn’t fit anything I was making paired with making dated-looking things would drive me a bit batty (although I gotta confess, I kind of like the Daisy Duke church top). I think frankenpatterning and just sort of winging it works best for me, since most of what I want to make there’s either a readily available pattern for or I can just botch my way through it with relatively little harm or risk. Probably not the most efficient and maybe not the most creative, but eh, it works for me!

    … the jewelry class, on the other hand, has me intrigued, and not just because the Portlandia song is now stuck in my head.

    • That totally makes sense– if commercial patterns suit and interest you, then it’s probably a timesaver to just use them! Developing slopers and patterns would probably be more helpful for people that really variate from standard sizes and struggle to use commercial patterns.

  10. You’re so lucky to have that resource at hand. I can only imagine the time commitment! I’ve played with pattern making a bit lately, but from online sources like and others I’ve found. I just drafted a pair of jeans but haven’t had time to make a muslin, and I have no faith in my measurements. I definitely need a fitting buddy.

    Just recently I ordered European Cut (drafting basic slopers) by Elizabeth Allemong and she spends a couple chapters just on measurements. Should be interesting. Hope you get some good use from all that knowledge you’ve gained. Have fun.

    • That’s the thing– I know I’m so lucky to have this resource, and as I may not stay in NYC forever, I’m really glad that I took advantage of it!

      A fitting buddy is definitely key. Even though we were insanely careful with our measurements and were working from dress forms (instead of bodies that move and change shape from week to week), we still had to make fit adjustments in both the paper and the muslin fitting stages! There’s just no shortcut to perfectly-fitting garments!

  11. Thanks for your post – the course sounds fascinating! I had thought I might like to learn more about pattern making (though where I live I have never heard of evening courses other than sewing technique courses), but actually I think I am like you: I enjoy having results rather than a longwinded tedious process. So given that there are so many ready patterns out there and that I don’t have any majour fitting issues with them I think I will use my time in front of hte sewing machine.

    • I bet it would be worth it to pick up a book on the topic. It’s not too hard to learn some basics so you could alter commercial patterns (drafting a Peter Pan collar or adding a waistband to a skirt), although now that I’m thinking about that, many of those things are available in online tutorials now, too!

  12. Seriously, you New Yorkers are SO COOL. I just recently finished getting an associates via night classes and it sucked pretty hardcore; now that I have all this freetime at night, I don’t even know what to do with it.

    I vote that you keep it up and follow through. Who knows what you might miss out on, and how relevant it would be to your IRL sewing! And agree with BlueSewnCat that once you have your personal blocks, it’ll be worth the frustration and time-suck. DOOOOO IT! For us who have to live vicariously through you! =D

    • Congratulations!!! What did you get your associates in? It’s such a time commitment to do classes above and beyond a FT job– way to go!

      I really feel like I should take advantage of these resources since I may not live here forever, but I may rethink the class track a little bit since it’s really geared for industry professionals and not at all for home sew-y types. I hope you can find some classes sometime! Maybe a local college with a theater costuming department offers them?

  13. I think its mental that all that time spent to make something that doesnt even fit you! If the same principles apply for fitting to a body as fitting to a form, it makes more sense to fit to the body right?

    That said, here in Melbourne one of our fashion schools, RMIT runs two short course classes – one is Pattern Making and one is Pattern Drafting. Pattern drafting teaches you how to create your own sloper and how to make custom clothing from there. The pattern making course you are making clothes to fit a standard form. The difference being, if you want to become a fashion designer, you need to make things fit commercial standard sizes – so you’d do Pattern Making. But if you want to be a seamstress/couturier etc where you are making one-off garments for individuals, then you would do Pattern Drafting. I guess they each have their own uses. I’m sure there’d be similar courses in NY!

    • Yep, this class sounds like the patternmaking program you’re describing. FIT is really geared towards fashion industry types– almost everyone in my class already works in fashion production in some way, so it’s meant to teach you industrial standards and not fitting to the quirks of individual bodies. I’m looking into classes in their wardrobe/costuming department rather than technical design– they may be geared more towards fitting on real people.

  14. As an undergrad in Home Ec a looooong time ago, I had one course in fashion design which included draping (yuck), flat pattern & drafting. I loved the drafting because of the drawing & detail. All of our work was done in 1/4 scale and on 1/4 scale dress forms. Fast forward 30 years…now I have the time to go back and I’ve started a project of drafting several bodice slopers

  15. Ok, iPad is freezing on me… I have amassed several pattern drafting books and am hoping to compare the drafts and then use them for fitting patterns. I would take a course in a heartbeat and sewing for a grade at that level is pretty intense. Don’t give up, the knowledge & experiences gained is yours to keep, forever. Wish I lived in NY 😄

  16. Congrats on finishing your pattern drafting class. It’s such helpful knowledge for anyone who loves to sew. Now you can have some fun again at your hobby. Hooray!

  17. Oh wow! I didn’t realize that you’ve been super duper busy!
    I can totally appreciate how frustrating it must have been to spend so much time making things you can’t even wear. I just finished an advanced sewing class in night school, too, and half of our projects were half-scales. Inserting teeny tiny set-in sleeves … so not fun!
    But congrats on finishing the class!!! That program sounds super informative! Are you going to finish the certificate?

    • Yikes! Half-size sleeves?!?! That sounds really, really scary! You know, my plan coming in was to finish the certificate, but now I don’t really want to. You need to get into pattern grading and computerized patternmaking, and I just don’t have an interest in that at all. But I will probably take another patternmaking class or two, if I can stand it, ha, so I can learn how to draft skirts and trousers.

      Where did you take your class? Did you find it really helpful?

      • Haha! It was really scary/painful, especially making the sleeve cuffs and teeny tiny button holes.

        I know what you mean, I thought maybe I’d want to do a Fashion certificate at Saddleback College (where I’m taking my courses) just really slowly in the evenings, but there are a lot of classes I’m really not interested in as well (like the business of fashion or merchandising). On the other hand, most of the classes I’m interested in aren’t mandatory for the certificate, like the dye processes on fabric class or corset construction.

        My advanced sewing class was helpful in that I made things I would never make – like everything we made had to be fully lined with a lot of hand sewing and couture techniques (gah!). But I now get all the fuss about lining things – it makes the garment look really pretty, and feel really good :) But I’m dying to make something easy and knit with my serger really really soon! :D

  18. Thanks for the wrap up!! I really want to find the time to take a class at FIT, but I don’t think I’ll spend my money on pattern making for the same reasons you listed (bad at math, hate homework) but I liked hearing about your experience all the same!

    I’ve never really taken a hands on sewing class….I sometimes think I should, but I’m always swayed by something else and then POOF the money is gone! lol

    • I’m thinking I would get more out of actual sewing techniques classes or maybe the tailoring classes– something where I’m working with my hands and using the machines. Plus the intro sewing techniques class is about 1/4 the price of the patternmaking class… not that that’s totally swaying me, but…

  19. Shanna

    I took PM121 this summer and really loved it. My professor was amaaaaaazing. But patternmaking is really right up my alley: mathematical, detail-oriented, I loved it. But I do agree that it took some time to put my college brain back to work. The ‘finish my homework” mentality is not always an easy one to return to. Who was your professor? Would you recommend him/her? I’m considering PM122 sometime in 2014. You really can’t beat the price for such incredible tutelage. Yay for living in New York!

    • Oh yay, I’m so glad you loved it! That’s awesome! I bet it was even more challenging in the summer session to keep up with the homework, wow! I had Professor Williams, who was really sweet and kind. She also teaches computerized patternmaking, I think, but she’s not teaching 122.

  20. i think future me has interest in a patternmaking class, but at the moment i’m just trying to fill my closet and replace all my RTW! like you, i’m really interested in knowing the rules and how to correctly draft the extra bits in order to modify patterns. thanks for sharing your experience!

    • I’m right there with you! I’m just trying to replace the RTW clothes that are disintegrating faster than I can sew (let’s not talk about the sorry state of my two pairs of jeans… and I just don’t think I’ll be sewing any in the near future). I think if I had more time to dabble, I would enjoy patternmaking classes, but right now it’s not super practical.

  21. Wow, so interesting! Kudos to you for hanging in there. I have a feeling I would have become a drop-out, for all the reasons you mentioned. If I go to all that work, it has to be something that will be a wearable garment for me. But it is fascinating how a basic block can be changed to make countless variations. I’m glad you learned some things that will be useful for you, even if patternmaking isn’t your thing.

  22. Kat

    Wonderful post and luck you to take a patternmaking course at FIT! I’ve taken a patternmaking course and made a skirt block at TAFE here in Perth and loved it. Good thing was is that we fit it to ourselves, so I took home a block that fit. Also, nice to learn the techniques, as you say. I’ve also learned a lot from books, but it is nice to have an instructor there. I LOVE your blouse and the sleeves! May have to copy that for an elegant winter blouse. Very well done, I’m impressed! :)

    • Oooh, that’s perfect– it’s so useful to have your own skirt block! Have you made many patterns/variations from it? If you like I can send you the info on how to draft those sleeves!

      • Kat

        Hiya! How generous, thank you! You can send it to zulakk at gmail dot com. Yes, I have made several variations from my block – it’s super easy once you know what to do, eh? :)

  23. Bella

    I’ve been doing an evening pattern drafting class for the last year and I’ve really loved it. It has demystified so many things for me, and I feel so much more confident than I did at the start of the year. It sounds like my class was a bit more informal than yours though, we made our slopers to our own measurements so from the very beginning the garments I’ve drafted have been for me to wear. I feel such pride knowing that not only did I sew my clothes, I designed and drafted them too! In saying that, there’s nothing like the instant gratification you get from using a commercial/independent pattern where all the work has been done for you.

    By the way I’m constantly messing up in my class. But my good natured teacher says there’s no mistake she hasn’t seen before!

  24. Kristin P.

    Congratulations on finishing the class! I think your analogy of kale and chickpea salad to pattern making is HILariOUS! I work in a professional costume studio where we custom-make each garment for our performers, and to be perfectly honest, we use draping to develop about 95% of our patterns. Flat-pattern manipulation, however, comes in realllllllllllly handy when you’re making alterations to a paper pattern, and that (unfortunately?) is a large part of my job description. I am pretty detail oriented though, and sort of geek out over proportional equations and such, so I can’t complain too much! I bet once you get back to fun sewing, you’ll realize how much you’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned… And maybe that will get you excited for more classes…?

    • I’ve never tried draping at all– how do you like it in comparison to flat pattern alterations? And, I’m curious, do you guys use commercial patterns in the studio or do you have a collection of stuff that you’ve drafted over the years? It sounds like such a fun job!

      • Kristin P.

        We very rarely use commercial patterns–mainly for those rare occasions when we’re mass-producing a simple garment, like knit leggings, we’ll use a Kwik Sew pattern or something… But more typically, the designs for our productions are so specific and body-types vary so widely, (say for instance, a cast of 30 women, ranging from size 2-22, who each need a different 1930′s style day-wear dress) it’s much easier to start from scratch and build to the individual. That’s really the fun part about what we do; we get to take an individual rendering from a designer and make it a real garment that is built to flatter an individual person! To me, draping is the easiest way to translate a design into reality, because you can actually see how your choices reflect in 3 dimensions… Whereas with flat patterns, you take a bit of a gamble as to how certain 2-D style-lines will translate when they’re taken into that 3rd dimension…. Does this sound like gobbledygook? I’m still cutting my teeth at draping. Though it’s still a technical process, it’s definitely more organic, and having flat-pattern knowledge definitely helps me to visualize what is happening between the 3-d form and the flat fabric on the table. I hope I’m not boring you… What I’m trying to say is that flat-patterning is important as a foundation! But maybe you would really be able to take off with your ideas by draping :)

  25. Wow. You’ve done a pattern drafting course too? So have I.
    You’re right that this learning does demystify sewing by a country mile. I found a decent class here in Sydney. I think my maths ability is improving. I do hope you continue to use your new skills!

  26. I’ve taken a basic pattern making class at sew LA where we drafted our custom bodice and skirt slopper. While it was cool to have a custom slopper, I didn’t know what to do with it. It’s probably because I took the class before I was ready. I put it aside to sew from patterns in an attempt to build my sewing foundation. I probably took the class too early. Now, I feel like I can try to draft many patterns from my slopper. I’m excited because it provides me the challenge I crave. I bought a pattern drafting book to help me along.

    I wish there were more evening classes like that in L.A., they’re all day time classes. :(

    So I think it gets easier. I’m sure you have the basics to draft your own slopper and from there start drafting away!

    • Oh, cool! I hope you’re able to work from your slopers now that you’ve got a bit more sewing experience. There were a couple of people in my class that didn’t know how to sew at all and I imagine that would be really difficult (and I’m not sure why you would want to draft patterns if you don’t know how to sew). Does FIDM offer night classes at all?

  27. I enjoyed reading through your first patternmaking experience and totally agree that working with patterns without seam allowances makes modifications so much easier.

    I actually finished a traditional 3 year dressmaking apprenticeship (in Germany) which includes many classes about patternmaking. Due to time constraints I barely ever make my own patterns nowadays. But I can use my patternmaking knowledge to alter patterns or to draft a new sleeve or collar pattern if the original does not fit. So even if you don’t end up drafting all patterns from scratch, it is good to know how to change patterns to your liking. And it certainly gets easier!

  28. I took a pattern-making class last year and had similar frustrations – I wanted to be working to my own measurements, creating less structured designs that I’d actually wear. The foundations it taught me where invaluable, but ultimately it didn’t give me quite what I was hoping for. Well done for persevering :) (I would love to use a blowtorch too). x

    • I should’ve known better, I guess. I knew that we wouldn’t be working from our own measurements, but I just didn’t think it would be so time-consuming! I’m sure that what you learned will continue to help you, though. Now let’s do some metalsmithing! ;)

  29. I am SO damn impressed! And I really liked the fabric, the drapey sleeves, and the littlw comment {“A friend who works for Vera Wang”}—oh, yeah, that’s normal. LOLOL So cool. You are a jedi master at sewing lady. ;) All the homework was worth it in the end I hope.

    • You’re too kind! I felt like a dweeb because almost everyone in the class already worked for a designer or for J. Crew or something like that and I was all, “Um, I’m a home sewer?”.

  30. “Daisy Duke joined a church choir”–LMAOLMAO.

  31. I have been on a couple of pattern cutting/drafting courses; in fact my last class this term is tomorrow! I’m similar to you in that I’m used to being able to whip up commercial patterns really quickly, and for me it’s all about the end product. I too found it frustrating that everything takes so long. But – the one advantage of my class is that we all drafted bodice blocks to fit ourselves rather than to fit a dress form. Once we did that, we designed our own dresses and made the pattern. So at the end, you do get something wearable that you designed yourself, which is great. I’ll be blogging about my dress soon! Anyway – I think these courses are really good for learning, they really make you see commercial patterns in a new way, and I think give you the confidence to make alterations, or even completely deconstruct a pattern. Well done on completing the course!

  32. I love your honesty :-) While I’m probably one of those perfectionist type who will do all the maths but I can’t say pattern making has interested me, like you I’m more interested in making stuff I can wear. I’ve only ever done a Craftsy courses and have picked up a head of new skills that have been really valuable in helping me improve my sewing – the most valuable piece of information that I have learnt is to use the sewing line :-)

    • It’s such a revelation to learn to depend on the sewing line! I think it makes for much more accurate sewing and fitting. I hope you get a chance to study patternmaking more because it sounds like you would like it if you enjoy giving attention to detail. :)

  33. I love hearing about your experiences. Yes, I’d jump at the chance to take a patternmaking class but can totally relate to your frustrations. I think we all have to be careful when we take sewing, the thing we all love, and put expectations and obligations on ourselves…the last thing we want to do is start regretting the very thing we love most. I love the idea of taking a ‘proper’ class – complete with all the old-fashioned stuff – as opposed to just tutorials online. I bet you’ve learned more than you even realise – can’t wait to see how it all plays out in the garments you sew from now on. Good luck – and well done sticking with it – couldn’t have been easy with work and blogging commitments competing for your time. xx

    • You’re totally right. People often ask me why I don’t start my own sewing business and, even if I could figure out a way to make a living doing it, I’m not sure I’d want to turn something that’s so fun for me into a job. I’m not sure how the indie patternmakers do it and still find the energy for personal sewing– I’d probably take up pottery or woodcarving or something else for fun if I sewed all day for work!

      • Yes, yes, and yes! I’m totally there! As soon as sewing becomes an obligation I find myself procrastinating. What IS the overall goal though? Just to keep sewing as you’re doing or for it to lead to something ‘more’? Or maybe just take it one day at a time. You know what I’d like – to take a class on fitting. I hate when I make something and it doesn’t fit quite right but then I’m not exactly sure
        what to tweak to make it better. Anyway – I’m super glad you took the class – it’s all a learning experience, even to learn the things we DON’T want to pursue. x

  34. that sounds like a really grea experience.. i do draft some of my patterns, but mostly those that are loose fitted or ones made in jersey fabrics.. but i would love to be able to draft anything i invision, and hope to get there eventually.. have a few books on pattern drafting, and i’ve always been into math, so it should be a fun experience :)

    • I bet you would really enjoy patternmaking and I would love to see what you would come up with! Your unique style would be even more apparent! I hope you give it a try with wovens– you would be awesome!

  35. This means that very soon we will see even more beautiful clothes from you?

  36. This was really interesting to read. I am nearly half way through a Pattern cutting certificate at a college in London and although I am really enjoying it, I do understand your frustration with the tiny details. I am quite a numbers person, so I think that side of it appeals to me naturally but I just can’t be bothered with multiple attempts at getting a perfect fit! Having said that, we’ve spent the first 10 weeks drafting skirts and it has really opened my eyes up to how different styles are approached. I am looking forward to being able to draft them for myself too – unfortunately my current daily body changing is a bit of a problem ;-)

    • I think it really takes a very specific personality to be able to fit and fit and tweak and fit some more! I’m sure not that person– I just don’t have the patience for multiple muslins. :) I’m excited to see what you make with your knowledge when you’re sewing for yourself again!

  37. I’m a wing it kind of person too and even though I’m an accountant by day (you would think one would be good with the math buuuut…), I’m horrible at reading a ruler and having to add measurements. I would love to take a patternmaking class but in my little podunk town it’ll probably never happen.

    • I hear you about being bad with the ruler– I can’t tell you how many times I read it wrong or just wrote down the wrong number or other stupid mistakes like that. Probably didn’t help that the class went til 10– at that point in the day I’m pretty shot when it comes to focus and concentration! I hope you have a chance to take a class someday– I hear there’s a Craftsy class about developing a sloper?

  38. We minimally covered patternmaking when I was at uni, but that’s because I studied costuming for theatre, not fashion sewing. I’ve actually been looking at their certificate programs, since it would give me a huge boost on my resume, so I’m really glad you took this and reviewed it! I’m hoping to have the money to take one in the summer, but since I’m out-of-state, I think the tuition is a bit expensive. It would be fun to take it with a friend! I think the millinery ones sound exciting.

    • I hope you’re able to take a class! I bet you would really enjoy it. The quality of the instruction was impressive, and as a small apartment dweller, it was so nice just to be able to spread out and work on a large surface with good overhead light– what a treat! I’m looking into classes in the costuming department– that might be closer to my interests and style.

      • I didn’t think they had any on costume construction (unless you count millinery). It’s all theory, except for some basic hand sewing and alterations because it was geared towards people working in wardrobe (That’s me! lol)

  39. Emma

    I’m just wrapping up a pattern making class at MassArt (up in Boston) and I have really similar feelings. It was interesting, but there’s no way in hell I could make a career or really excel at it! I have so much more respect for independent pattern makers.

    I’m also so excited to get back to my own sewing, and to never ever look at my final project for this class again!

    • I hear you! I just don’t have the patience to fiddle with armscyes until they’re perfect. I appreciate doing a good job, but I’m just not a perfectionist in the way that you need to be to work in tech design.

  40. HEY!! Congratulations on finishing your class!! I’ve never taken a class before (in patternmaking or sewing or fibers or what-have-you) but I kind of think that I’d have the same mixed feelings that you’re describing. Especially the “what am I doing back in CLASS?!?!” feeling. I still have school-related anxiety nightmares! And the numbers thing… yeah… that hasn’t improved with age… But on the flipside, I’d love to learn how to properly draft a pattern, or how to get more bold with my pattern alterations. I’ve toyed with the thought of signing up for patternmaking classes at a community college in Houston, but the hour long commute has always dissuaded me, and also I’m not totally sure what my motives are – do I really want to draft my own patterns…? Meh. Probably not. Haha!

    But tinkering around with jewelry… now THAT sounds fun!

    • Dude, I’m the same way with the school anxiety thing! I tell you what, it’s not nice to go back to having that nagging feeling of “I should really be working on my homework” that plagued me all through undergrad! But, you’re so good with detailed work that you might find the process really interesting. My vote is try it! And we should both totally get blowtorches and start making bracelets.

  41. I may have found a private teacher which would be AMAZING! So happy you finished it and SO jealous I live nowhere near FIT. SIgh.

  42. Congratulations on getting through that class! I can’t believe you continued posting at all here, it’s so hard to do a class like that when working full time and living your normal life! The class sounds really helpful and interesting, but hard! In the Bay Area we have a slew of sewing classes offered at Canada College (a junior college), and they sound great, but I just can’t imagine adding something so intense to my schedule!

    • I really had to force myself to keep posting– I really lost my drive to do anything that I didn’t absolutely have to, which is odd since I generally really enjoy blogging. I think Cindy from Cation Designs just took a pants drafting course at Canada– it sounded like she had a great experience!

  43. I did a pattern cutting course at the Fashion and Textile museum in London earlier this year. It was a short course, only 4 evenings so it was a fleeting introduction. Our course was a bit different to yours as it was project based and everyone had to made a shirtwaister style dress. We traced round a bodice block which was closest to our dress size and used this to make a bodice for our dress. We were able to alter the pattern to our body measurements but were told we must make a toile to check for fit. We drafted necklines, did a bit of dart manipulation and created a skirt and sleeve pattern. The course was full on, we seemed to be up against the clock and 9pm came all too quickly. There was a bit of homework if you needed to catch up with the class. I really enjoyed it – dart manipulation blew my mind and I’d like to do more but they are really expensive in London. I’ve finally got round to making up my pattern and will be exhibiting all on my blog soon.

    Your blouse in a creation to behold, what decadent sleeves! Well done for persevering with the course.

    • Wow, 4 weeks to draft a dress?! That’s really fast-paced! Dart manipulation is totally mind-blowing the first time you see it– it’s crazy how easy it is to do! I hope you’re able to take some more classes eventually.

      The sleeves are 1/4 circle, so there’s a LOT of volume! If you wanted to make the same look, you basically take a sleeve sloper, straighten the sleeve seams (so they’re parallel to the grain), and then slash and spread until the front and the back are at a 90-degree angle. Then you decide your length and measure down from the bicep line. This creates a bias effect, so you probably need to trim them one they’ve settled, but it’s still pretty easy.

  44. Amy

    Great post and review! It’s probably no secret to you that I love patternmaking but I got very bored when I actually took classes. I know it is easier to teach the basics by drafting basic slopers and using dress forms but I really wanted to go faster than that, ha! I fall asleep thinking about pattern shapes and despite being someone who avoided math for most of school, I’ve discovered through patterns that I actually love geometry, calculations and engineering! It’s too bad there aren’t more courses that are oriented toward folks who aren’t going into the profession–like learning to alter or re-style existing patterns. Do they offer draping or fitting courses? That’s sort of a different approach but more tactile.

    • I think it’s so cool that sewing opened up these new interests and abilities in your life– I bet you never would’ve dreamed that you’d be interested in something like this when you were in geometry class! It’s kind of sad, but I’m just not much of a student– it’s always been a struggle for me to focus and pay attention. They do offer draping classes, and I’m very tactile, so that might be a better fit for me.

  45. Wow – this looks like some serious schooling! I must confess that, like you, I’m a bit flakey with numbers and have no patience for details. After reading about your experience I don’t think I’ll be giving patternmaking a go and will stick to working from commercially available patterns. Blowtorches, on the other hand, are awesome – my metalsmithing class this fall was so much fun that I have signed up for another one starting in January!

    • I think that patternmaking is worth digging into a bit, but maybe not in a formal classroom setting if it’s not very exciting to you. I’m really seriously considering a metalsmithing class– it sounds like so much fun and the pieces you made were so beautiful!

  46. I am so jealous that you get to take classes like these. I would really like to do a patterndrafting course but I can’t do one locally. It would also be difficult to fit into my current schedule, I’m usually exhausted after a workday and the class I would like to take (in a different city) isn’t offered on weekends. A well, someday…

    • I hope you’re able to take one someday. I’ve been wanting to take a class for a while, but haven’t had the work schedule, but I started a new job just after the class started, so I was able to negotiate an early leave time one night a week. It’s not easy to fit in class with a full-time job! But maybe your situation will change at some point down the road and you’ll be able to do some more studying!

  47. What a wonderful opportunity you’ve had! I can understand that it’s been a lot of work but totally worth it! I’m sure it will be very useful in the future! I feel the same as you do about pattern making but my husband is a whizz! Together we’ve made a few things – he’s an engineer and can take a piece of clothing and make a pattern from it from scratch. He’s quite the pattern master! Unfortunately he’s not interested in sewing at all!
    I’m so impressed that you’ve been working full time, doing this course and keeping up with your blogging and making stuff! I’m time poor and do all of my blogging and sewing after 10pm and it totally shows but you’ve kept all the balls in the air! Well done! I hope you manage to do more courses.

    • I feel the same way about my husband– I kept telling him how great he would be at patternmaking as I worked on my projects! He’s analytical and detail-oriented, but also pretty creative (I know, it’s not fair). I don’t feel like I’ve done the best job of managing my time and I’m completely worn out, but I’ve got two weeks off over the holidays to catch up on sleep and recharge before the new semester starts up again. :)

  48. Well done, you! I would hate to have to make things I didn’t like, or that didn’t fit! I’m curious: how does fitting on a dress form then translate to fitting on yourself, when you don’t have that 360 deg view?
    I do like the idea of a fitting and drafting course, but it’s finding the time. I’d love to understand so much more about garment construction.

    • My suspicion is that it’s not so much about achieving a perfect fit on the dress form, but about how learning to draft to the standard sizes (FIT is closely linked to the garment industry here in town so the focus of their classes is on industrial methods and sizing). In all our grading, the fit on the dress form was considered, but the bigger thing was that she checked all our measurements on the patterns and always referred back to our slopers to make sure we did everything correctly.

  49. I am so jealous! I would love to do a course like this, but sadly there’s nothing like this where I live. I can understand why you were a bit frustrated though, it’s annoying to have put in all that work, and not have anything to wear to show for it. But on the plus side, sewing learning is always fun. And I didn’t know about the 1/4″ on a collar! I love the idea of Daisy Duke in a church choir! That’s hilarious!

    • You’re right– it’s way more fun to learn about sewing than almost anything else! I hope one day you have the opportunity to take some formal classes, but if not, it seems like there are more and more opportunities to take cool online classes.

  50. I am jealous too! I really loved being a student, although I agree pattern making can be tedious. I am sure it will give you the confidence and know how to draft some things up for yourself, and it sounds like you have the basics of draping, then truing up your pattern down! I don’t think that you have to be a perfectionist when you are doing it for yourself. When you are drafting something for you that you really love you will enjoy it! Awesome notched collar BTW!

    • That’s a good point– I feel much more relaxed sewing for myself than for other people and certainly than sewing for a grade! It won’t be so difficult when I’m drafting for myself, I bet.

  51. Bravo to your for your persistence and good spirits. I tried to take a pattern drafting class here in Baltimore at the city college program about 14 years ago but they were not teaching it during the week that semester. Now I am glad that I didn’t since I too dislike the detail of drafting for a dressform and the computations bore the heck out of me. My lifestyle is so simple that all that it would probably be overkill. But you did make me grateful that I can made adjustments to a commercial pattern to achieve a good fit and I promise not to complain (too much) over the time it takes to make those adjustments.

    • If commercial patterns work for you and you can do what you want to with them, then that’s awesome! I just wanted to learn more about sewing, but everyone else in the class wanted to work in technical design or they wanted to make their own patterns, which is so not me. Some of the other commenters have taken patternmaking classes where they drafted for themselves, which would be a lot more fun!

  52. I’m going to do a pattern making class in 2014! Haven’t enrolled yet, but I will do it!!! A girl from my gym just completed the course and loves it, highly recommended it, so I’ll get some enrolment info from her :)

  53. That’s awesome that you gave this class a try! Even though it may not be for you, some great skills were learned. I had thought about taking a class at FIT, but now I appreciate reading this because I too don’t like the math involved in patternmaking. Also not a fan of homework. Already have a full-time job – evening and weekend time is for sewing fun! I’d hate for sewing to feel like a chore. It’s such a nice escape for me.

    • I agree completely– sewing is my escape from the everyday grind, so it was kind of silly to turn that into a chore! But I’m thinking about taking another class, maybe a sewing techniques class, that’s more hands’ on and not so math-y.

  54. congrats on finishing! i dont think i could do it now that i know that you can’t wear anything you make… i’m all about the self-gratification at the moment. but congrats for doing what im sure very few home sewists do!

  55. There’s a proper way to add seam allowances?!

  56. rosiewednesday

    This is amazing! Congratulations on finishing the class! That’s a bummer that you weren’t sewing it for yourself, though. The class I’ve been taking is all tailored to me, so I’m getting 3 new garments out of it. I would have been frustrated, too!

  57. I took an evening draping class at the Art Institute (in Chicago) years ago and I was pretty frustrated most of the time. And I never finished the final project! I think it was frustrating because most of the other students were in fashion design (or a related subject) and so they were way ahead of me. And there was very low level teacher contact; like 5 minutes one-on-one in a 2-hour class. But I wish I had stuck to it. I still have my textbooks…sigh. :) Your final project looks well executed – bravo!

  58. This looks like a tough class for anyone, going from 2D to 3D and back again, unless you have awesome spatial skills (I definitely do not). I also have deep respect for anyone who does schooling in addition to working for pay, so clap-clap-clap on that front.

    If you want to use little blowtorches, you can always make creme brulee! :) My grandmother-in-law bought me a mini torch many years ago that I use just for desserts, although jewelry, hm….!

  59. I am glad you completed the class. Sorry to hear that you did not enjoy patternmaking as much. I am not particular good at math, which is my least favorite part on patternmaking. I wonder if you would enjoy draping more.
    I have taken several patternmaking class. The first one was at Moore College. I really enjoyed it, just wished I finished that project. I also have taken some here in SD. I think you would like the class here better. The one class was not math-y at all and it was free.
    I do enough patternmaking, I like that it works both sides of my brain. Yup, I have my Shaner dress and currently working on some patterns now.

    • I’m thinking I may try some draping– I’m much more of a hands-on person, so it may suit my poor illogical brain more.

      I’m so impressed that you were able to take a FREE patternmaking class! That’s so awesome!

  60. I’ve never taken a pattern drafting class but I REALLY WANT TO. Like you, I tend to wing it, am terrible with numbers and overlook details but I know I could learn something. Lucky you to live in NYC and have this class available.Congratulations on completing the course! :)

    • I think you would really excel at patternmaking– you’ve got such a fine eye for details, in my opinion! And you’ve mastered fitting so well that you probably need a new challenge. :)

  61. I have done pattern making classes and I have the certificates to prove it!! I thoroughly enjoyed the process, but we made all our blocks and patterns to fit us, so I can see how spending all that time measuring and drafting something which doesn’t fit anyone to be really frustrating! I like the idea of having the knowledge to see something I like and creating a pattern that would fit me. I’m not a conventional size.. I’m tall, plus size but I do have a shape, so I don’t even fit into commercial pattern sizes very easily, I have to spend time on every pattern tracing, cutting spreading etc to make it fit which can be equally frustrating, so it’s nice sometimes to start from scratch and make something that I know will fit perfectly. I’m confident enough now not to buy skirt patterns, I can make those quite easily, shirts / tops / dresses still need a little more work but I’m getting there! I really enjoy the process, but I think if you can use a bought pattern almost straight out of the packet, I can understand the process being too time consuming, especially if you want that quick sewing fix! I think you’ll find that you start to use your new skills more and more when you are pressured in a class situation, at the moment you may be a little fed up with it all, especially if you felt what you made was also outdated. You wait, it will creep up on you…you’ll see something you like and say ‘I could draft a pattern for that…’

    • That TOTALLY makes sense– patternmaking is probably super rewarding if commercial patterns don’t fit you well. I’m already finding myself tempted to start drafting things– seems silly to pay for patterns that I could draft myself!

  62. Ha! I just finished up Pattern Grading in that same classroom! I hear you on the almost 4 hour class length… I am so glad the semester is over. I really like patterndrafting though so I get cranky when commerical/indie patterns aren’t drafted perfectly. Anway, I have 2 more classes left till I have my certificate.

    • It’s so tough at the end of the day to spend another four hours in class (especially since I go in to work really early on class days so I can leave in time for class)! Ugh! Good luck finishing up your certificate– I’m so impressed! Pattern grading seems really hard and horrible!

    • And I totally agree about getting cranky when patterns I’ve paid for aren’t drafted exactly right. There’s an indie pattern that was very widely purchased and sewn that I pulled out a few weeks ago, and it’s just not drafted right. It wasn’t cheap, either! That really annoys me.

      • Pattern grading isn’t rocket science, but precision is important so it’s definately not for everyone. Plus, the class length was a brutal waste of time.

  63. So cool to read your review of the class! I’m in FIT now in the textiles department (development, not surface design) and I’ve been wanting to start the pattern making certificate too but haven’t had time yet. My friend at school warned me that it might be a lot of homework to deal with when we have 6 other classes to take! But I can’t wait to get started when things lighten up, and it was great to hear your perspective on it!

  64. Ohhhhhh. Congratulations on finishing the class!!! Go you!! Doing that, working and still doing your MSN things – I’m tired just imagining it. I can’t believe you had class AFTER work.

    Makes me want to take another one but you are right it is a LOT of work. Knowing how to draft made it difficult for me to use commercial patterns since I figured I could just make my own especially since I like math and puzzles. Fortunately we made custom slopers as well as industry standard ones when I took my class.

    • Oh, that’s so awesome– it would be great to be able to do custom AND standard slopers! Do you find yourself working from your sloper very often?

      • ALL the time. Seriously.

        I now have a small library of bodice and skirt styles that I sometimes mix and match to make dresses. I am going to make a “fitted” sloper as well one of these days.

        It’s a great way to know when you are gaining/losing weight too. :P

  65. I really appreciate your review of the course! I’m interested in pattern-making, but probably not enough for this class. (Limited time + results oriented + sloppy… haha, yeah, this might be a bit beyond me.) It does sound super informative though, so thanks for the tip about FIT classes… jewelry-making with tiny blowtorches sounds AWESOME!

  66. I’m doing the first class (pattern making as well) of a design diploma in the new year. I found your comments really interesting. I’m quite a detailed person and really enjoy the sewing projects that take the longest, and am quite mathsy so hopefully from what you’re saying I’ll really enjoy it! I know I’m doing my masters part time that it’s a lot of work though. Well done for getting through it and I’m sure that you’ll be able to put all the valuable information into your future sewing projects :)

  67. Amy

    I’m glad you got a lot out of the class, even if it did take a huge amount of time in your already busy schedule. It sounds like you learned so much! What’s next? Just some fun sewing?!

  68. Thanks for sharing about your class. I did the whole certificate program, so I loved reading about your experience. Hope you’re having a great weekend!!

  69. sally

    Sounds like someone needs to run a class tailored more to people making clothes for themselves! Working on block measures is a great way to teach the basics but making patterns to fit individual physiques is such a step away from this. It involves a lot of fitting tricks that industry pattern cutters don’t necessarily use often as most cutters will start designs from blocks that have had any general fit issues ironed out already. Well done on investing all that time on things you can’t wear, I really hope you got a lot from it. The more you learn the rules, the more you realise you can break them, and ultimately if you do something and it works for you who cares if it’s right or wrong!

  70. Pingback: Review: PM122 Patternmaking 2 | Frau Fleur

  71. fangaroni

    Thank you so much for reviewing this class – your post and the comments of your readers have been so useful! I’m interested in patternmaking but for myself, not as a professional in the industry, so it was very valuable for me to hear your experience. In one of the comments you mentioned the Sewing Techniques 1 class, I took it and I liked it but I don’t know if I’d recommend it for you – it was good for me to learn how to use an industrial machine, merrow and buttonholer! But since you’ve just taken this patternmaking class I think you know that already! Also there are a few projects, and the final project is a shirt that looks veryyy similar to your final project! We learned some techinques, and also basic concepts (like bias, grain, etc which you already know. My opinion was that if you were a complete new sewer, the class would be challenging because you are thrown into all these new terms, concepts, and a new machine; but you would learn. If you were a home sewer it was good but I was even surprised at how long everything took (and I’d been sewing for a few years). I ended up throwing away my projects because they didn’t fit/and I wouldn’t wear them if they did…

    I think on other blogs I’ve read about custom fitting classes, like Kenneth King moulage classes – I don’t think I’m ready for that, but I think it may be a good fit for you! I’d be interested in say a four part class on patternmaking for yourself, but doubt FIT is where I’d find this type of course!

    • Oooh, thanks for commenting! This is really interesting! I worry that FD 131 would be too boring for me since I’ve been sewing for a few years, but I don’t have any experience on the industrial machines (in patternmaking, there’s very little actual sewing, and even on your final project, you’re allowed to have someone else sew it for you. The emphasis is entirely on drafting, not construction). I’m kind of torn now because I’d like to learn how to use the equipment, but it might be a bit of a time waste for me if the pace is really slow. Thanks again!

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