Why hello! I think the title for today says it all – I want to talk about drafting your own sewing patterns. If, like me, you got your start in sewing garments from commercial, pre-printed patterns from the “Big Three” pattern companies, or the printable PDF patterns available online, it has maybe never crossed your mind to draft your own patterns. After all, there are tons of great commercial patterns available, many of which include tutorials and helpful tips to make sewing your own clothes possible, even for beginners. Especially if you’re sewing for just one person (particularly someone who doesn’t change sizes frequently) and can get used to what alterations might need to be made to accommodate that particular body.
However, even then, buying patterns for everything you want to make can become expensive. Let alone if you sew for multiple people or growing children. Sometimes there are patterns that only come in a block of certain sizes. I’ve had to buy the same jacket pattern twice just to get all the sizes I need for my kids, and it wasn’t a cheap pattern either. If they liked different styles or were different genders, it would be even more patterns. My eldest is on the cusp of needing adult sizes now as well, but doesn’t truly have the proportions of an adult, and would be swimming in some of the clothing drafted for their height. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a pattern, ready to go, where I could plug in the kids’ actual measurements and have a pattern that is guaranteed to fit? As many times as I wanted?
Yes, yes it would. This is partly why I wanted to start drafting some of my own patterns. I like to sew what my kids wear, and for the most part that means a lot of athleisure wear, plain shirts, hoodies, and the occasional dressier item or outerwear piece. They don’t wear fussy clothes with a lot of embellishment, or anything very fitted. They are the perfect candidates for me to try out some drafting experiments, really. I hate the thought of wasting time and fabric on stuff that doesn’t fit. I know it’s not really ‘wasted,’ but it’s annoying regardless.
So with that in mind, I set out to learn some drafting. Very quickly I came across Seamly2D, a free pattern drafting program, and learned that I could do this digitally, no T-square required. But after downloading and installing it, I had literally no clue what on earth I was looking at. Or, you know, how to draft a pattern. Thankfully YouTube came to my rescue once again. There are a lot of helpful videos on there for the entire process of drafting in Seamly, especially the series by MinimalistMachinist. I eventually realized the first place I needed to start was by choosing a pattern drafting book.
I found a few online, but the one I had the most success with was a book by Winifred Aldrich, Metric Pattern Cutting for Children’s Wear and Babywear. Here is a link to the book on Amazon. I started with a different book, but the proportions of everything seemed really off to me when I got into the drafting. This could have been user error, as I was a total newbie, but I also prefer working in centimeters, so I appreciated the metric measurements in the Aldrich book.
The book itself (at least my digital copy) was laid out a bit confusingly, but I settled on this trouser block as my first project, from which I would draft a loose-fitting, elastic waist shorts pattern:
I chose this because a) I know what pants patterns should look like, roughly, and there’s not a whole lot to them in this style – the thought was I’d be able to tell if it was ten miles too long or something, and b) this would be easy and fast to sew up, so if I had to do it ten times, it might not make me want to throw everything out the window. Following the instructions in the book, I was able to draft the block to my oldest’s exact measurements, and it looked like it should, too:
By continuing on with the tutorials, and loosely using the “sports shorts” pattern in the book, I was able to get to a shorts pattern that looks like this:
The nice thing is that I can resize this for my other kids’ measurements and print it off again – no matter how many times they change sizes. Just plop in the measurements and it changes right before your eyes. But did it sew up properly? Yes! The first iteration was very roomy – way too large with too much ease. I had to cut off a ton from the rise and the waist to make them fit right. I realized that I had been using the “relaxed” or “easy fit” shape measurements in the book. So I changed it all to the “standard” and got much better results. Here are the final product, a couple of very basic basketball shorts (that look much less wavy after being washed a few times, by the way):
I didn’t do the split hem on the red pair, and I wouldn’t bother in future – there’s enough room there that it’s not necessary and was unnecessarily fiddly. I also didn’t work the colour blocking into the printable pattern pieces, just cut up the paper copy, so that’s something I might adjust in future. Same with the pockets – I just drew a rough pocket shape and made side seam pockets. I know the child in question loves these shorts because they get worn regularly, and I’ve even had to do a double take a few times to see if they were a pair I made, or one of the inspiration pairs from the shop that rhymes with Bold Gravy.
Was it a lot of work for a couple of pairs of shorts when I could have traced the ready-to-wear pair and been done with it? Yes. Am I still happy I did this? Also yes. I think it was a worthwhile project to dip my toes into the world of pattern drafting. I’m not sure I’ll be drafting womenswear any time soon, but how nice would it be to actually have clothes drafted for my particular body?! Maybe one of these days. 🙂