Image Map

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Draping A Basic Block From A Dress Form

Today I'm draping a basic child's pattern block size 5 from my dress form.

If you sew, do you have a basic block yet? Learning how to make a basic block and then how to create some basic designs with it is one way to create your own patterns.
There are two ways to make your basic, whether you are making it for yourself, your child, or in my case, creating a pattern that you can eventually sell. ( Or maybe just give away.)

You can make a flat pattern, or you can drape your original block on a dress form like I did here.
If you are creating a pattern only for yourself or for your child, then I would recommend making a flat pattern based on the individual's measurements. If you are making a flat pattern, you will need a fit model to try the pattern on as you go, to make sure everything fits right.

If you want to make a pattern to fit different sizes, it's recommended you use a general size chart or a dress form . 

size chart courtesy of
Commercial dress forms are created with industry sizing standards so you will have an industry standard fit in a range of sizes once it is graded.

What if you are NOT an average size, for instance, a very thin tall person with wide shoulders, or a busty, short person, or have a chunky child, and you draft a pattern based on that basic block you drafted for those not typical measurements then grade it up or down several sizes? Then you will have a pattern that will only fit a specific body type well. You may have some complaints if you try to sell that pattern.

For instance, I love Colette Patterns because they fit me very well in the bust area. I'm full busted for my figure, and it's very unusual to find a pattern that fits in that area without doing a Full Bust Adjustment or other alterations like lengthening the pattern in front, but Colette patterns fit perfectly. I have a feeling the original fit model for Colette Patterns was probably busty. Not the best news for smaller busted women, but great for me!

Most commercial patterns and clothing you find in stores for women are drafted for the average size B cup for women.

So let's see how I drafted my pattern, shall we?

I always mark GRAINLINES first, to make sure my pattern is on grain and balanced.
I line up my center front and back first and pin them down.
Then I smooth over the fabric as I go, pinning.
Making sure my CROSSGRAIN is straight, I  finish draping the basic bodice, clipping into the neck line and pinning and marking around the armholes. I use the flat part of the pencil to trace the side and shoulder seams on the form. It's very straightforward for this size 5 child's dress form. No darts.
I pin it together and readjust the fit. I had to make the armholes bigger.
After studying children's patterns I've learned learned that the average ease for a child's basic block is 2 inches. This allows for comfort and wiggle room.
Below is a chart I unearthed giving ease allowances for average ladies patterns.
That's a lot of ease!
Every designer has their own opinion about ease. I prefer close fitting clothing myself so I would use a minimum amount.

Then at this point I take off the pattern pieces and TRUE them up, using a ruler. I can add about 1/4 to 1/2 inch at the side seams to build in some ease one to two inches, to the basic pattern at this point. By the way, that 2 inches of ease is for woven patterns only. If you are making a knit pattern, there isn't as much. Sometimes knit patterns like bathing suits have NEGATIVE EASE, meaning the pattern is smaller than the body.
But the subject of ease needs it's own blog post!
 I also make sure all of my seams are the same length on both pieces, ( side seams, shoulder seams.)

I tape my pattern to manila and cut it out.
Below is my basic block. I don't add seam allowances to my basic block. I add them after I design. This makes it simple to slash and spread, etc.
Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks to see how I use the basic block to create a dress, and then how I grade it with a grading ruler.
Thanks for reading!
Here is link to another post I wrote last year where I made a basic pattern block based on the directions from a book and using Gigi's measurements as a guide:

Are you new to Sew Country Chick and would like to keep up with the weekly tutorials and handmade goodness? Sign up for an e mail subscription here!


  1. Oh well, Amy I don't have a sewing room if that makes you feel better! All the magic happens in the dining room!

  2. LOVE this post, thanks for sharing more in-depth sewing instructions....

  3. Me too! Love this post so much! Thank you for showing us how to do this!

  4. Such a great post! So interesting to read about the process.

  5. Such an interesting post. Thank you for sharing.

  6. WooHoo! I love my dress form! Learning how to drape the basic blocks is a giant step in pattern making. Great job on sharing the technique!

  7. Thank you for this post!! I've been wanting to learn how to drape, but of course there's not really any teachers available in my town. I don't have a dressform, but your post is putting it back on the top of my sewing wish list. I've linked to your tutorial over at Craft Gossip:

  8. I have never draped, this is really interesting. Although I've sewn most of my life, I'm completely self taught when it comes to pattern drafting, I rely on the Aldrich books and flat drafting. Very interesting to see you draping. x


Don't be shy! Your comments are really appreciated and fun for me to read! If you have a question I usually respond via e- mail which is easier for me, being a busy mom. Please don't leave anonymous comments, instead just put your name in the Name/ URL box if you don't have an account. Thanks.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...