Written by Cady Brimacombe of Cady Made
Pattern Making Essentials is a 5-week course at The Makehouse taught by the very experienced Alexandra Morgan. Alexandra studied a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Fashion Design at Ryerson University and has worked as a pattern maker, designer, technical designer, and fit technician since 1995, specializing in women’s wear. She has her own pattern making company, In-House Patterns, and also teaches private lessons here in Victoria.
Over the last five weeks I attended Alexandra’s pattern making class. Pattern making is the practice of turning a sketch into flat pieces that will be sewn together to fit and flatter a three-dimensional body. I loved this class. It was the best combination of math and precise measurements mixed with creativity and problem solving. The workshop covers foundational knowledge about how a pattern is designed as well as how the design and layout of a pattern on a certain type of fabric will affect the end shape of the garment. Alexandra has so much knowledge about pattern making. She explains and demos the pattern making techniques in easy to understand methods while also giving students lots of time to practice the techniques.
I attended a pattern making class about a year ago at the Makehouse and I was excited to further improve my skills with this new 5-week course. This class is perfect for you if you are new to sewing and want more of an understanding about how patterns work together, or if you work with sew-at-home patterns a lot and would like advice about how to manipulate them to better fit your body.
In the first few classes we covered the bodice and skirt blocks and how to manipulate those to make different shapes. With the skirt block we started with a straight skirt pattern, and manipulated it into different styles of skirts including an A-line skirt, flared skirt, and four-gore skirt with a yoke. With the bodice block we worked on single and double dart manipulations and moved darts around the bodice to create different looks.
In the last few classes we worked on understanding how to add ease and remove ease in order to change the way a garment fits. We started with adding ease to the bodice block in order to make a basic button up shirt. With this we removed darts, changed the styling, added a pleat, a facing, and a collar, and shortened the sleeves from long sleeves to short sleeves. This practice was a great opportunity to see how something can be changed from one shape to another while maintaining consistent fit measurements.
Next, we focused on removing ease to create a contoured dress that fits closely to the body. This project was mostly bodice manipulations where we removed ease in relation to the bust point. Then we separated the bodice block to create an empire waist and changed the neckline to be deeper and the shoulder width to a strap. For the skirt of the dress we changed the straight skirt into a flared skirt.
Throughout the course Alexandra offered many tips and techniques for creating a more professional looking finished garment. Here of some of my favourite ones that she shared with us.
Tips for pattern making:
- Walk your patterns and make sure that all seams match up properly. This is especially important if you have changed any styling or manipulated any darts. This will make things so much easier when you are trying to stitch pieces together and are wondering why certain seams aren’t lining up.
- When manipulating darts for the bodice, pull the dart back from the bust point about half an inch to get a better fit and no pointy corners. As cool as Madonna’s cone bra was, you don’t really want that for your handmade summer dress.
- When creating patterns and when cutting the fabric, make sure to draw on the notches. This will help you keep track of back and front pattern pieces and will lead to less confusion when you are trying to put together a yoke and a skirt piece and wondering which are the front and back pieces.
- Ensure that seam lines and waistlines are at 90 degree angles. This will create a nice straight edge when the two seams are sewn together rather than dipping down or creating a point on the seam where the front and back pieces meet.
Pattern Making Essentials is one of my favourite classes at The Makehouse. The next class will be held in the fall, so make sure to pencil it in to your calendar. Other ways to get your pattern making fix are the Fit Nights where you can bring your latest project and get some feedback on how to make it fit better, and the Skirt Block and Bodice Block classes where you can create blocks that fit your personal measurements.
Keep on designing on.