Throwback Thursday: Tools for patternmaking


Welcome to the very first post in my 'Throwback Thursday' blog series. In this series I will go back to some of my most popular blog posts from my previous blog, Em Makes Patterns. 

For today's post, I thought it would be good to start with a post about pattern making tools. If you are keen to start making adjustments to your store bought patterns, or want to start drafting from scratch, there are a few things you are going to need!

There are probably a million different gizmos and gadgets that you could buy to help you with your patterns, but I like to keep things simple, so this post will guide you through just the most useful tools. I learned this from experience... When I moved to London a few years ago, I arrived with very little (a 15kg backpack to be specific), and that very little did not include pattern making tools. Being in that situation, meant that I needed to work out what I really needed and learn to live without the abundance of things I had accumulated over the years in my home sewing room. Now I am back at home, I still try to stick to the basics.

So here goes... The pattern making tools I cannot live without are:


The first necessity is pattern paper. Without it there is no chance! 

While at university I fell in love with ‘dot and cross’ pattern cutting paper. It makes drawing parallel and perpendicular lines a piece of cake, and is transparent enough that you can easily trace off patterns when you are making changes. It is also nice and wide, so you don’t end up sticking twenty pieces of paper together to make a dress. I can't even remember where I bought mine from, because it seems it's a never ending roll! But there are lots of supplies around, or you can even check eBay.

But, all that said, you can live without it if need be. Some good old fashioned butcher’s paper or brown wrapping paper will also do the trick!

Next in my “pattern cutting tools I cannot live without” round-up is a pacer pencil. 


Okay, a good old lead pencil will do just fine, but a pacer gives you the kind of accuracy you need when making patterns. Think about it, if you use a thick lead pencil it may add 2 millimetres to your patterns. This may not seem like much, but if you continue to trace your patterns in this way, over and over, eventually that 2 millimetres will lead to a lot! And an added bonus... A pacer normally comes with an eraser on the end, so it crosses one piece of equipment off the list! An eraser in absolute pattern making staple. We would all like to think that we are perfect and won’t make a mistake. But we will. So always have an eraser in arm’s reach.

Another pattern cutting necessity is a ruler. Any ruler will do, but if you would like to make your life easier, invest in a grading ruler. 


Another pattern cutting necessity is a ruler. Any ruler will do, but if you would like to make your life easier, invest in a grading ruler. A grading ruler is long (so you can draw nice long lines in one go), transparent (great for adding seam allowance) and flexible (perfect for measuring curves).


 Some pattern cutting tools look like weapons. The tracing wheel is one of them. This is one tool you really do want a case for! Without it, the tracing wheel has been known to poke through handbags and poke legs. 

Apart from the danger surrounding this tool – it really is a handy tool to have when pattern cutting. It is great for tracing patterns (if your paper isn't transparent) or if you are tracing onto card. It is also good for transferring lines, markings, dart shaping or notches to the pattern.


A dressmaking tape measure is needed for taking body measurements, whilst also being handy for measuring long or curved seams.


The Patternmaster is a bit of a luxury when it comes to pattern making. I struggled to decide whether it should actually be on my list of “pattern cutting tools I cannot live without,” but it just managed to scrape in. I know a lot of people swear by them, but I often find it much easier to draw a curved line by pivoting with a straight ruler. The main thing I use my Patternmaster for is drawing right angles – it is very good for that!


The other contender for the most dangerous pattern cutting tool in the round-up is the stiletto (often known as an awl). This is another one to be careful with. It’s sharp point is great for making drill holes, as well as keeping the pattern in the right place when using the pivot technique to eliminate a dart or to add volume.


Scissors are a must, for obvious things like cutting out your patterns. You also need scissors for some pattern cutting techniques and tricks, like the ‘cutting’ counterpart of the ‘cut and spread’ technique.

in-the-folds-patternmaking-tools-masking tape

Masking tape is another essential. I could not live without it when pattern making. You will need it when making additions or changes to a pattern (like lengthening or shortening). Masking tape is better than regular sticky tape as you can draw lines over it.

That brings me to the end of my “pattern cutting tools I cannot live without” list.

I'm wondering if there is a tool that I haven't mentioned that you cannot live without?

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