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?

146 responses

  1. 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.

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    • 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!

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  2. 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.

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    • 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.

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  3. 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!

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  4. 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!

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  5. 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!

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  6. 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….!

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  7. 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.

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    • 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!

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  8. 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! :)

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  9. 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…’

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    • 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!

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  10. 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.

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    • 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!

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    • 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.

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  11. 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!

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  12. 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.

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      • 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

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  13. 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!

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  14. 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 :)

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  15. 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?!

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  16. 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!

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

  18. 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!

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    • 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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