drafting patterns

How to : Draft a simple summer top

Summer is here for all of you lucky people in the northern hemisphere, and I thought it would be a great time to show you how to draft a quick and easy sleeveless summer top! You may wonder what I'm thinking, as most of you know I am based in Sydney, where it is currently quite chilly (well at least as chilly as it gets here), but I really wanted to start showing you how to turn your bodice block into a functional garment (as who really wants to wear a bodice block?) and I haven't shown you how to draft a sleeve yet, so sleeveless top it is!

This is a really simple tutorial and a great place to start if you are trying your hand at pattern drafting.

Where to start


Trace a copy of your front and back bodice blocks without seam allowance. Be sure to also mark both darts on each piece.

Relocate shoulder darts to the waist

Relocate the shoulder darts on the front and back bodices to the waist, using this method or this method

You won't actually be needing the darts in the waist, so you can redraw the hem with a smooth curve, removing the darts altogether. 

Trace the pattern

Trace the pattern pieces onto a separate piece of pattern paper, leaving enough space in between the pieces for alterations. 


It is likely that you will want to lower the armhole of your top for a more comfortable fit. The bodice block is designed to sit right under your arms, and I'd say for a summer top you will want a bit more breathing room. 

Decide how much you would like to lower the armhole by. Mark this distance on the side seam, measuring down from the armhole. Mark this point on both front and back patterns (this is your new underarm point). This is when it's great to have a toile (muslin) to refer to, so you can see exactly how low you want your armhole to be.

It is a good idea to reduce the length of the shoulder seam too. As it stands, it is a decent sized shoulder seam and for a summer top it is likely that you will want something a little slimmer. Remove some of the length from each side (the end close to the armhole and the end close to the neckline) to keep it balanced.

Work out how much you would like to remove from the shoulder and mark this distance on the shoulder seam, measuring in from the armhole. 

Create the new armholes by joining the points marked on the side seam and shoulder seam with a smooth curve. 

Cut along the new armhole line to remove excess from both front and back armholes (or trace off separate to create a new pattern).


For the same reason I suggested lowering the armholes, I suggest also lowering the neckline. Use the same method used for the armholes. On the front shoulder seam, measure in from the neckline and mark the point where you want your new neckline to be. Mark the same distance on the back pattern piece. Also work out how much you would like to lower the neckline by and mark this point on the centre front and centre back. This doesn't need to be the same distance - you may want a low front (or even a low back).

Re-draw the front and back necklines by joining the points marked on the shoulder line and centre front/back with a smooth curve.

Cut along the new necklines to remove the excess from both front and back pattern pieces (or trace off separate pattern, with lower armhole).

Lengthen the pattern

At this stage, the pattern is still only waist length. If you'd like a cropped tank then you're done, but if you'd prefer some extra length then keep working your way through the tutorial.

The best way to lengthen a pattern is normally to slash the pattern horizontally and then add length through the middle of the pattern, so that the hemline stays intact and the silhouette of the garment doesn't change too drastically. In this case though, I'd suggest just adding length to the bottom of the pattern, as it is likely that you will need a bit of extra width around the hips. 


Work out how much you would like to add to the pattern, and extend the centre front, centre back and both side seams by this length. 

Join the lines with smooth curves to create the new front and back hemlines.

Remember to meet each side with right angles so that you get smooth lines when you sew the pattern together. For more on this, check out this tutorial on checking patterns

To complete the pattern, add seam allowance and pattern markings and you're done! 

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How to : Draft a bodice block

After weeks and weeks (or was it months?) it is time to move on from the Skirt Series, and up to our upper halves! And also for me to get back to blogging. It has been at the top of my To-do list for weeks and weeks, but somehow I've managed to ignore it and find other things to occupy my time (for further reading on why to-do lists don't work, check out this post).

So, without any more rambling from me, it is time to draft a bodice block! 

The bodice block

A basic bodice block is a great starting point for most patterns involving your top half – it can be used to make tops and dresses, and paired with a sleeve block can be used to make shirts, blazers, jackets and coats. Many patterns evolve from this block. So if you are ready to start making your own patterns, then a bodice block to your specific measurements is a great place to start (although, if you want something a little easier, I would suggest starting with the skirt block).

This tutorial has been adapted from this great "how to" on BurdaStyle.com, which was taken from Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear (5th ed. Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, 2008, pp 215). I changed the order in places and added more measurements, to hopefully create a better fitting bodice and an easier to follow tutorial.

So, even if you are an absolute beginner, with the right measurements, the right tools and a little patience, you will have a great fitting bodice block in no time!

A little note

I originally posted this tutorial a couple of years ago, on my previous blog, Em Makes Patterns. If you saw it there, do not fret. This tutorial is the same. I've just updated the aesthetics of the tutorial. So there is no need to do it all over again!

One thing I did realise though, after posting this, is that this tutorial will only work for you if you have a smallish bust cup size. It hadn't occurred to me that this would be an issue (as I am very small busted), until a woman contacted me to say that her bodice toile had turned out much too short, and we worked out that it was due to her large bust size. So, if you have a bust size any bigger than a C or D cup, I would suggest using this tutorial to draft the basic shape of your block and then doing a full bust adjustment to get the right cup size. I definitely plan to do a tutorial on how to do this, so please watch this space, if it sounds like an adjustment you think you might need to make. 


The measurements you will need for this project are:

Nape of the neck to waist

This measurement is a little tricky to take on your own. Start at the nape of your neck and measure vertically down to your waist. 

Waist measurement

Your waist is the bit in between your rib cage and your hips. It is often the most narrow point of your torso.

This measurement is one you will need all the time. To find it, simply wrap the tape measure around your waist, ensuring that the tape measure remains level all the way around (horizontal to the floor at both front and back).

Do not suck in your tummy like I accidentally did in this photo! You want to be as natural as possible, so that your clothes fit well. Make sure the tape isn't too loose, or isn't pulling you in either!

Bust measurement

For your bust measurement, find the fullest point of your breasts and take a horizontal measurement from there.

Ensure the tape measure remains horizontal as it wraps around your back, for an accurate measurement (this is when measuring yourself in front of a mirror helps). 

Armscye depth

The armscye depth is the measurement I initially found the most tricky to get my head around. For one, I am quite certain I had never heard this term until I started reading sewing blogs (I don't think it was mentioned once in the four years I studied fashion design), but since then, it seems to pop up all the time (always the way, right?) It also seems that there are many different ways people suggest to find it. 

When I first drafted my bodice block, I placed three fingers under my arm and then measured down from my last finger to my waist. I don't really know what the direct correlation is between this measurement and the armscye depth, but apparently, due to the ratio of the body, these two measurements are the same.

The more obvious way of finding this distance is to measure down from the nape of the neck to the (imaginary) horizontal line that runs across your back, between the bottom of your armholes.

Neck circumference

To take your neck measurement, wrap the tape measure around the base of your neck, making sure it is not too tight.

Shoulder length

To measure the length of your shoulder, first find the peak of your shoulder (this is the bony bit before your shoulder becomes your upper arm). Now measure between the base of your neck and the peak of your shoulder.

Back width

Your back width is the horizontal measurement of your back, from the bottom of a standard armhole, across to the other armhole.

Shoulder to bust measurement

For the shoulder to bust measurement, hold the tape measure in the middle of your shoulder (approximately where your bra strap sits) and measure down to bust point, following the curve of your breast.

Bust point to point

Knowing the distance between bust points (I like to call this measurement "the nip to nip") can help when adding bust darts or drawing panels that you would like to cut through the bust (princess panels, for example).

Simply take the horizontal distance between your breasts.


You will need a large sheet of paper (approximately 1m x 0.5m), a sharp pencil or pacer, a long ruler, and french curve or Patternmaster (or a plate if you don't have a french curve). An eraser will also come in handy!

Okay... Let's go!

Drafting the block



With a large piece of pattern paper mark a point A close to the top left corner (always leave some space around the starting point when drafting patterns). From this point, draw a vertical line down the left hand side of the paper that is the length of the nape of neck to waist measurement. Mark the end point as B. This line will become the CENTRE BACK seam of the block and the grainline of your back pattern piece.


Extend line AB by 1.5cm (1/2") from A, and label new endpoint as C. This extra 1.5cm (1/2") allows for back neck shaping. Label AB as CENTRE BACK (CB).

CONSTRUCT the bustline

Next, we will indicate our BUST LINE (the horizontal line that runs through both the front and back of the pattern at bust level). Take the nape of neck to bustline measurement. Then, measuring from point A, mark this length as point D on line AB. 


Square out from point D with a line that is half of your bust measurement (only half bust is required as we are making the pattern on the half – i.e. the front will be cut on the fold, and a pair of the back will be cut) plus ease. For the example I decided to add 5cm (2") ease to the bust. Remember to halve the amount of ease, before adding it to your half bust measurement,


Label end point of this line as E. Mark this line as BUST LINE.



Square out from point B,  drawing a line the same length as your bust line. Mark endpoint as F. Label this line WAIST LINE.



Square up from F (passing through E), the length of the CENTRE BACK (including the extension), and mark the end end point as G. Label FG as the CENTRE FRONT (CF). This will also be the grainline of your front pattern piece.


Join G to C with a straight line. 

Mark the armscye


Take the armscye depth measurement and add 0.5cm (1/8"). Measuring from point A down towards point B, mark this distance on CENTRE BACK. Label this point as H


Square out from H and extend the line until it intersects the CENTRE FRONT line. Mark the intersection point as I.

Construct the back neckline


Take your neck measurement and divide it by 5. Measuring from point C, mark this measurement on line CJ. Label this point as point J

Join points A and J with a shallow curve  – this curve is the back neckline.



When working with curved lines, always check that they come to a right angle when they meet a straight seam (for example, the centre front, centre back or side seam). By doing this, you ensure that you will get a nice smooth curve when you cut a pair of a particular piece, or cut it on the fold. 

Construct the front neckline


Take your neck measurement, divide it by 5 and then subtract 0.5cm (1/8"). Mark this measurement on line GC (measuring from point G) as point K.


On the CENTRE FRONT (GF) mark a point the same length as CJ down from point G (neck circumference divided by 5). Mark the point as L.


Join K to L with a deep curve – this is the front neckline. As we did with the back neckline, check that the curve of the neckline meets the centre front at a right angle (so that you will get a nice smooth neckline when you cut the piece on the fold).



Take your armscye depth measurement and divide it by 5 and then subtract 0.5cm (1/8"). Mark this distance, measuring down from A on the CENTRE BACK as point N.

Square out from point N. This is just a guideline, so does not have to be a specific length.


Take your shoulder length measurement and add 1.5cm (1/2") (this is the allowance for the shoulder dart). With this length in mind (or written down if you have a bad memory like me), use a ruler to pivot from point J until your measurement passes through the perpendicular line drawn from N. Draw a straight line to create your shoulder line. Label the endpoint as O.

Drafting the back shoulder dart


Mark the  midpoint of the back shoulder seam (line JO) (i.e. the distance halfway between J and O) as point P.


Mark a point 15cm (6") down from point A, on the CENTRE BACK line, and square out from this point. Once again, this is only a guideline, so does not need to be a specific length.


From point P, draw a guideline parallel to CENTRE BACK, extending down until it passes through the perpendicular line that you marked in the previous step.


From where these lines intersect, mark a point 3cm (1 1/4") towards the CENTRE BACK and label as point Q. Q will become the point of the back shoulder dart.


Mark a point 1.5cm (1/2") from P on the back shoulder seam (line JO), towards O. Label this point as point R


Join P to Q to create the first dart arm, and point R to Q to create the second dart arm. 

Mark the bust point


Move your attention to you BUST LINE (line ED). Take your bust point to point measurement and divide it by 2 (as we are working on the half) and add 0.5cm (1/8") (allocated ease). Take note of this measurement. From point E, on the bustline, mark a point, the distance you just found from point E. Mark this point as your BUST POINT.


Draw a vertical line, parallel to the centre front and centre back, passing through the bust point, intersecting all your horizontal guidelines. This line is the VERTICAL BUST LINE. Where it intersects CG label as point R and point S where it intersects the WAISTLINE (BF). 

Draft the front shoulder dart


Mark a point 0.5cm (1/8") up from L on the CENTRE FRONT (line GF) and square out from this point. Again, this is just a guideline, so it doesn't have to be a specific length. 


This is one of the equations taken from the BurdaStyle tutorial that is very handy (I am not sure if I would have been able to work this out without this guidance!)

Add or subtract 0.6 cm (1/8") to 7cm (2 3/4") for each 4cm (1 1/2") bust increment above or below 88cm (34 1/2"). For bigger busts you will need a larger dart (add to 7cm), and for a smaller bust you will need a small dart (therefore subtract from 7cm). 

For example, my bust measurement is 84cm (33"), which is 4cm (1 1/2") below 88cm (34 1/2"), therefore I need to subtract 0.6cm (1/8") from 7cm (2 3/4"), leaving a dart width of 6.4cm (2 1/2"). 

Take dart width measurement and mark this distance from K as point T.


Move down to the BUST POINT and mark a point 1cm (3/8") above it on line RS (vertical bust line) as point U. This will be the point of your dart. The reason why we lift the dart point a little above the bust point is that if the dart point was right at bust point you would be left with Madonna style pointed breasts! 

Join K and T to U with straight lines to create the front shoulder dart.

Drafting front shoulder seam


Take your shoulder length measurement and, with this length in mind, and using your ruler, pivot from point T until your measurement passes through the perpendicular line drawn from above point L. Draw a straight line - creating your front shoulder line. Mark the endpoint as point V.

Drafting the armhole


On line HI mark a point that is the length of half of your back measurement plus 0.5cm (allocated ease), from H. Label point as W.


Square up from point W until the line intersects the perpendicular line drawn from N. Mark the intersection point as X.


Find the midpoint of line XW. Mark as point Z.


Take the distance from the CENTRE FRONT to BUST POINT (i.e length from E to BP or half bust apex to apex measurement plus 0.5cm) and mark this distance on line HI, measuring from the dart arm closest to CENTRE back. Mark point as A1.


Square up from point A1 so that the line intersects the front shoulder seam (line VT).


Take the armscye depth measurement and divide it by five. Mark this length on the line just drawn from A1, as point A2.


Find the midpoint of the line between W and A1 and mark as A3. Square down from this point so that the line intersects waistline (line BF). Mark intersection point as A4


Draw diagonal lines (lines drawn at a 45 degree angle) inwards from points W and A1. From W the line needs to be 2.5cm long (1") (mark endpoint as B1), and from A1 1.5cm long (1/2") (mark endpoint as B2). These diagonal lines will help in the next step, when we are at the stage of drawing in the curve of the armhole.

Join O to Z to B1 to A3 to B2 to A2 to T with straight lines.


creating darts

At this point, the waist measurement is the same as the bust measurement. For a lot of us, our bust measurement is larger than our waist measurement. To remove this excess width from the waist and to create a well fitting block you will add waist darts (one in the back – remember this is on the half so when you make your block there will be two in the back, and one in the front, as well as slightly tapering the side seam, which we will also treat as a dart at this stage).

To work out how much width you will need to remove with your darts, subtract your waist measurement from your bust measurement and divide your answer by 2. Add 2cm (7/8") ease (which adds a total ease of 4cm (1 1/2") throughout waist) to this measurement. 

Divide this number by three, so that it can be distributed evenly throughout back dart, front dart and side seam.



To mark the placement of the back waist dart, find the midpoint of line HV and label as C1. Square down from this point so that line intersects the WAIST LINE (BF). Mark the point of intersection as point C2. This will become the centre of your back dart.


Distribute the dart width evenly either side of C2 and join endpoints to C1 to create dart arms. 

Draft the side seam


For simplicity, at this stage, treat the side seam (line A3-A4) as a dart at this point. Distribute one third of the dart width to the back of the bodice and two-thirds to front of the bodice, either side of A2. Join the endpoints to A3 to create the front and back side seams. 

Draft the front waist dart


Distribute dart width evenly either side of S and join the endpoints to a point 1cm (3/8") down from BP to create dart arms. 

Balance the waistline


At this point the waistline of the pattern is straight. But as the front of our bodice must pass over the fullest part of our chest (our bust), we need to add a little extra length to our CENTRE FRONT, to prevent this part of the waistline from riding up when the bodice is made.  

Mark a point 0.5cm (1/8") to 1.5cm (1/2") down from point F as point C1.

(0.5cm (1/8") for small bust / 1cm (3/8") for medium bust / 1.5cm (1/2") for large bust)

 Join point B to point C1.

Trace the pattern


With a second piece of pattern paper, trace off the back pattern piece – being sure to include all important details (i.e. bust line and darts). 


Leaving a space between the pieces, trace the front pattern piece.

Add seam allowance to the pattern


To finish, add shaping to the darts (following this tutorial) and then add seam allowance to the pattern. As it is a bodice block, I find that it is handy to have it available without seam allowance (as when you are making alterations or adjusting a pattern it is far easier to do so without seam allowance), but as you will need to make a toile to see how it fits, add seam allowance to the seams that will be sewn - the side seams, centre back and shoulder seams. The other seams - the neckline, armholes and waistline - can be left without seam allowance so that you can get a true indication of what it will look like without having to finish these seams or add a facing etc. I went for 1.5cm (1/2") seam allowance on the shoulders and side seams, and 2cm (7/8") on the centre back. For more details on adding seam allowance, you can take a look at this tutorial

Add pattern markings and cutting instructions


Add pattern markings to the pattern – being sure to mark drill holes (I always mark my drill holes 1 - 1.5cm (3/8" - 1/2") above the dart point and notches.

And voila! There you have a basic bodice block to your very own measurements!

Sew it up (in calico or something similar you may have hiding in your sewing box), see how it fits and then you are ready to start getting creative making your own patterns!

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How to : Draft a waistband for a wrap skirt


As you may have seen, last week I showed you how to draft a wrap skirt. The post started to get a little long, so I decided that I would leave the waistband for a seperate tutorial - that I am writing today!


The waistband required for a wrap skirt, is one of the most basic to make of all. It is rectangular in shape (with no shaping or darts) and is secured by a waist tie. Depending how long the ties are, you can either secure it with a bow at the front or back of the skirt.

Measure the waistline


To work out the measurements for your waistband, first, measure the front and back waistline seams of your skirt.

If your pattern has seam allowance, be sure to measure the stitch line and not the edge of the pattern, for an accurate measurement.

You may notice that my pattern pieces have notches for an in-seam pocket. If you would like to know how to add a pocket to your pattern, head over to this tutorial (it's super easy and there is even a printable pocket pattern piece included at the end of the tutorial, if you don't feel like drafting your own!)

Construct the waistband


Take the total waist measurement and divide by two (we will be making half a pattern and marking it "Place on fold" - to create a full pattern piece).


Decide on the width of your waistband.

This is up to you, although be careful, do not make it too small, as it needs to be wide enough to place a button hole that the waist tie can loop through.

As a guide, my waistband was 4.5cm wide.


Complete the shape of the waistband by forming a rectangle, and label the centre back on your pattern piece.

Mark notches


Before you can complete the pattern, you need to add notches, to make it easier to sew the two pieces together. 

To do this, line up the centre back of the waistband with the centre back of the skirt, as if you were sewing the two pieces together.



With a stiletto or pin, pivot the waistband pattern along the waist of the skirt - as if you were sewing the pieces together - until you reach the side seam. If you need more guidance with this technique, check out the tutorial on pivoting, that I posted earlier this week. 

Mark side seam


When at the side seam, transfer the seam location onto the waistband with a notch.

Move to the front pattern piece


Remove the waistband from the back pattern piece and move it onto the front.

Line up the side seam notch on the waistband with the side seam of the skirt, so that you can continue pivoting the waistband on the front waistband. 

Mark the centre front


Pivot the waistband along the skirt until you reach the centre front.

Transfer the centre front point onto the waistband with a notch.


Continue pivoting until the end, to confirm that the waistband and the skirt are the same length.


Extend the notches, cutting through the waistband pattern piece. You now have the centre back, centre front and side seam marked on your waistband pattern.

Add pattern markings


You now need to add pattern markings / cutting instructions to the pattern. The centre back will need to be placed on fold, and a pair of these will need to be cut. Add notches at the centre front and side seam (and the centre back seam, when cutting).

Make the waist tie

Work out how long you would like your wait tie to be. 

A good place to start, I think, is your waist measurement plus 30cm.


Work out the width you would like your tie to be. Remember, it will need to be slightly thinner than your waistband, so that it can fit through the buttonhole when the skirt is "wrapped."


Take the figure you have worked out for the length of your tie, and divide this measurement by two (as we will only need to make half the pattern piece). Draw a rectangle this long, and the width you have decided on. To complete the pattern, draw a horizontal line, through the centre of the pattern, and mark as a "fold line."

Add cutting instructions (cut 1 pair - on fold) and seam allowance.


Mark the buttonhole


You will also need to mark the location of the button hole. The buttonhole is how the waist tie wraps around the skirt and only needs to be marked on the left hand side of the pattern.

And you're done! I really hope you have enjoyed this tutorial.

What do you think? Pretty easy, right? Would love to know if you are drafting yourself a wrap skirt!

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How to draft a shaped waistband


Last week, I showed you how to draft a straight waistband for your skirt block (it will also work for other garments, such as trousers) as part of The Skirt Series I have been running for the last couple of weeks. Today, I will be showing you how to draft a shaped waistband. 

Before starting, though, I'd like to a little re-cap of a couple of things (which you may remember, if you read the previous waistband post).

two types of waistbands

Most waistbands on skirts or trousers are based on these two basic waistband shapes:


A straight waistband - which is a long rectangle that generally does not have side seams. 


A shaped waistband - which may, or may not, have side seams. 


Either option can be drafted for the skirt block, and which is better for you comes down to individual preference and body shape. For me, I am a little too curvaceous in the lower half to feel comfortable in a straight waistband (as the top of a straight waistband tends to gape on me).

If you followed the tutorial to draft a straight waistband, you will see the first few steps are the same, so if you'd like to go back to the construction of your straight waistband, then you can! If you haven't already drafted the straight waistband, not to worry, just skip over the next two steps and start with 'Take measurements.'

Trace your pattern


On a seperate piece of pattern paper, trace a copy of the straight waistband, without seam allowance.

Indicate the centre front and centre back.


Using the notches to guide you, mark the points of interest (front dart, back dart, side seam) with vertical lines on the pattern.


If you haven't already drafted the straight waistband, you will need to start by taking some measurements from your skirt block. 


Remember to measure along the stitch line, not the edge of the pattern.

Measuring along the waistline, on the front pattern piece:

1 - Centre front to first dart arm

2 - Second dart arm to side seam

On the back pattern piece:

3 - Side seam to first dart arm

4 - Second dart arm to centre back


There are several ways to draft a shaped waistband, including using the waist section of the bodice block to construct, but as I have not yet shown you how to draft a bodice block (but definitely plan to in the future), I'll show you how to draft the waistband using the skirt block.


Add the four measurements taken in the previous step together to find the length of the waistband. Remember this measurement gives you half the waistband, as the pattern piece can be cut on the fold. Draw a line as long as this measurement. 


Decide how wide you would like your waistband to be - consider a measurement around 3 - 6cm (1 1/4 - 2 1/4in). Draw a perpendicular line from either end of your original line, the height of your waistband.


Complete the rectangle by connecting the end points of the lines drawn in the previous step.

So now that you have the basic shape, it's time to get some markings onto your pattern piece.


Going back to your original measurements (from your skirt block), measuring from the right hand side of your waistband, mark in each point of interest with a perpendicular line. You need to mark the location of your front dart, the side seam and back dart. You can also label each end as the centre front (right hand side) and centre back (left hand side).

And this is where the tutorial takes a turn away from the straight waistband tutorial...

Label your pattern


Label each section of the waistband, with the following:

1 - Centre front

2 - Side front

3 - Side back

4 - Centre back

Measurements required

You will now need to find the difference between your waist measurement (where your skirt sits) and the top of your waistband.


A good way of doing this, is by putting on your skirt toile (as you can see, my skirt is a digital one!) and working out where the top of your waistband will sit (this will depend on how wide you are making your waistband). Take a tape measure and measure around your waist at the point where your waistband will end. Take note of the measurement.

Compare measurements

Work out the difference between the measurement you just took and your actual waist measurement. Take note of this number.

You now need to divide this measurement by 2 (as you will be cutting your pattern on the fold) and then divide it by 3 (as you will be distributing the measurement evenly throughout the pattern piece).

For example, if the difference between your measurements is 6cm, you need to divide that by 2, which gives you a result of 3cm. You then divide the 3cm into 3, giving you 1cm. That number (in this case, 1cm) is the one you need in the next step.

Waistband construction


Take that number and, on your waistband, mark a point to the right side of each vertical line (excluding the centre front and centre back), that distance away from the line. If you were to use the same numbers I used in the example above, for this step, you would need to mark a point 1cm from each vertical line. 


Label these points as A, B and C.



Cut down each vertical line, from the top of the waistband. Do not cut all the way through the pattern, leave a small "hinge" to keep the pattern pieces attached.



Being careful not to break the "hinge," rotate the centre back piece, until the slashed line overlaps point A. Tape or glue in place. 


Repeat for the 'side back' piece (which is now attached to the centre back piece). Rotate until the slashed line overlaps point B and then stick in place. 


Rotate the final slash line, aligning the cut line with point C.

As you can see, your waistband is no longer a rectangle! The top edge of your waistband is now narrower than the bottom edge. 

Trace the pattern


Take a piece of pattern paper and place it on top of your waistband construction so that you can trace it. 

Start by tracing the centre front (and labelling it as the 'centre front'). From the centre front draw a perpendicular line at either end of the line.


By doing this, you will ensure that you get a nice smooth waistband across the centre front and back (as you can see in the example above) - when the piece is cut on the fold.

Repeat for the centre back.


Now, using a ruler, or a hip curve, join the perpendicular lines (drawn in the previous step) with smooth curves, creating the waistband shape.

Add notches


Before removing the pattern from the construction underneath, mark each point of interest with a notch. These notches will make it much easy for you to sew the waistband to the skirt, without the worry of stretching the waistband. 


It is also a good idea to add notches along the top edge of the waistband. I like to put them in a different spot to the notches on the bottom edge, to save any confusion. 

Add a side seam


If you would prefer to have a side seam in your waistband (rather than all-in-one), at this point you should draw in your side seam.  Draw a straight line from the middle notch on the lower edge of the waistband up through the centre of the respective slash line (through the centre of the overlap).

Add seam allowance


You should have now transferred all the necessary details from your pattern construction onto your pattern. You can now add seam allowance to the top and bottom edges, as well as the centre back. I would suggest 1-1.5cm (3/8 - 5/8in) on the curved edges and 1.5-2.5cm (5/8in - 1in) on the centre back. 

If you have added a side seam, I would suggest adding seam allowance of 1.2 - 1.5cm (1/2 - 5/8in) to this seam.

Add grainline and cutting instructions



Mark the grainline (parallel to the centre front) and add cutting instructions (cut 1 on fold).

If you have added a side seam, the grainline on the back piece will run parallel to the centre back, and the cutting instructions will be 'cut 2 pairs'. 

You may consider fusing you waistband, but that will come down to your fabric choice and design. 

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Adding pattern markings to your patterns


For those of you have been following along with The Skirt Series, we have almost finished our blocks! We have drafted the pattern, added shaping to the darts, added seam allowance, and today we are going to finish it all off by adding pattern markings.

Pattern markings

There are a number of markings you should always add to your pattern pieces. They help you with laying patterns on the fabric correctly when cutting your fabric, and also help when sewing your garment together. 

The grainline

The grainline ensures that the pattern is placed on the fabric the right way. If the grain is not straight (and it is intended to be), you may end up with a badly fitted garment.

The grainline usually runs vertically through a pattern, although in some cases it will run horizontally or even diagonally (bias cut patterns). I like to use arrows to indicate the top and bottom of the pattern - this can help when you have a directional print or a pattern piece that is an unconventional shape. The double arrow points towards the top, and the single arrow points towards the bottom. I also like to draw grainlines so they run from one edge of the pattern to the other, this is really hand when using a striped fabric, to ensure your placement is exactly right. 


Notches are small cuts in the fabric that guide you while you are sewing (they are also commonly indicated with small triangles). If you have sewn The Rushcutter, you will know how much I love a good notch! 

Notches are used to indicate:

  • seam allowance
  • dart arms
  •  the location of design details such as: pleats, gathers or pockets
  • the centre front
  • the centre back
  • balance points

Balance points are pointers on your pattern that help you put pieces together correctly, as well as help you when you are sewing a very long, or curved seam.

For example, I tend to add a balance point (or even two or three - depending on the length of the seam) part way down a side seam to ensure that the pieces are sewn together correctly and I am not left with excess fabric on one side of the seam at the end. Balance points also help to prevent stretching the seam when sewing. In the skirt block, for example, the notch at the hip line acts as a balance point.

A notching no-no

Try to avoid notching both sides of a corner as this can weaken the fabric (as well as the pattern itself). 

Double notches

Double notches are normally used to indicate the direction a piece should be sewn in (and generally indicate the back of the pattern piece). For example, a double notch is used on a sleeve cap to indicate where the sleeve cap meets the back armhole. In a side panel, a double notch is also often used to show where the piece meets with the back pattern piece.

I also like to use a double notch to indicate the end of a zip (if I am using a zip in the centre back).

Drill holes

Drill holes are used to indicate a dart point. I prefer to place drill holes 1cm - 1.5cm up from the actual dart point, so that when the dart is sewn, the marking is hidden inside the dart.

Drill holes can be used to indicate other design features, such as:

  • placement of patch pockets
  • placement of belt loops
  • or any other design feature that is in an area where you are unable to mark a notch on a seam

Pattern instructions

Pattern instructions are your way of keeping track of, and identifying, pattern pieces.

On each pattern piece, you should include:

  • the name of the pattern
  • the name of the pattern piece
  • size
  • cutting instructions
  • number of pieces
  • date

Some of these things may seem quite obvious, but the clearer your markings are, the easier your pattern will be to use. Particularly if you decide to use the pattern in a month, or even a year! If the instructions are clear, you won't waste any time trying to remember the details of your pattern. 

And that's it! You can go ahead and make a toile of your skirt block and see how it fits!

In the coming weeks I am planning on showing you some different ways to hack the skirt block into a different design. Do you have anything you would like to see in particular?

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Throwback Thursday : Drafting a skirt block


As I mentioned last week, I will be diving into the Em Makes Patterns archives every Thursday to bring you some juicy pattern making goodness. 

For this weeks Throwback Thursday post, I thought it was worth starting right at the very beginning. If you are thinking about learning to your own patterns, then the best place to start is by drafting a skirt block. 

The skirt series

This is the first post of the skirt series, and each week I will be adding more posts, so that by the end of it, you will have a skirt block made to your measurements, and also have some pattern making techniques under your belt, so that you can make the skirt of your dreams!

What is a pattern block?

A pattern block is a basic pattern drafted to specific (or custom) measurements.

It is the starting point for most patterns (when flat pattern cutting), and can be manipulated and adjusted to meet individual design preferences.

It is a good idea to transfer your blocks onto cardboard, to keep them strong, as once you have a set of these, you will be using them a lot!

The skirt block

A skirt block is a fitted skirt that sits on the waist. Generally skirt blocks have two darts in the front and two in the back, although it is common to see a variation on this (for example, four darts in the back). By drafting a skirt block, you will get to know some basic techniques, and also get a sense of flat pattern making.

Tools + supplies

To draft a skirt block, you will need:

  • a piece of pattern paper
  • a ruler
  • a pencil
  • a tape measure
  • You may also want a french curve (or plate) for drawing the hip curve. To be honest, I don't use a curved ruler very often, and would rather use a standard ruler to draw my curves. But I will leave that tutorial for another day!

Measurements required

For this tutorial, you will need the following measurements: 

This distance will depend on how long/short you would like to make your skirt block - I made mine to finish just above my knee. 

Let's get drafting!

Mark the centre back


To start, draw a straight line down the left hand side of your pattern paper, the length of your WAIST TO HEM measurement.

Label the ends as A and B. 

This will become the CENTRE BACK seam in your skirt.

Mark the waistline


You will need to add a small amount of ease to the pattern (which will allow you to walk/sit/dance in your skirt). It is up to you how much ease you add - but as it is a block it should be quite close fitting, I suggest adding about 5cm to the HIP measurement and 3cm to the WAIST measurement.

Take your HIP measurement and add ease to this measurement, then divide result by two. As for all symmetrical patterns, you will be making half the skirt pattern (as the front pattern will be cut on the fold, and a pair of backs will be cut, to create a full skirt).

Draw a line from A (perpendicular to the CENTRE BACK seam ie. AB) the length of the measurement you found above. Label the end point as C.

This line (AC) will become the waistline of the skirt.

Mark the hemline


Move down to point B and draw a line, perpendicular to the CENTRE BACK, the same length as the waistline. Label the endpoint as D.

This line (BD) will become the HEMLINE of the skirt.

Mark the centre front


Join points C and D. This will be the Centre Front of the skirt.

Mark the hip line


Take your WAIST TO HIP measurement and mark a point this distance from A, down the CENTRE BACK line. Mark point as E.


Draw a perpendicular line from E that intersects with the CENTRE FRONT (CD).

You can mark this line as the HIP LINE.

Mark the side seam


It is now time to mark the side seam. 

Take your full HIP MEASUREMENT and divide by four (once agin because we will be cutting on the fold). Add 1.5cm to the result. This extra 1.5cm will move the side seam slightly beyond the halfway point - to allow room for your derriere in the back of the skirt.  

Mark this measurement on your HIP LINE, measuring from point E. 

Mark point as F.


Draw a perpendicular line from F, that extends up to the WAISTLINE (mark intersection point as G) and down to the HEMLINE. 


At this stage, your waistline is the same length as your hip line. This is not the case in most women's bodies, so you will need to remove some width from the waistline. This will be done by creating four darts (two in the front and two in the back) and curving the hip line at the side seam.

To do this, take you WAIST measurement and subtract it from your HIP measurement. 

With your result, subtract the width of your four darts (4 darts measuring 3cm each = 12cm). The result is how much you need to remove from the side seams. 

Take the result and divide by two (as we are making half the pattern) and distribute either side of point G, on the waistline (half the measurement on the front pattern and half on the back). Mark points as H and I.


Join H to F with a smooth curve. 

If you have quite a big difference between your waist and hip measurements and are worried that the hip curve is too extreme, you may choose to increase the width of your darts to compensate. 


Repeat for the front by joining I to F with a smooth curve. 


You will need to extend your side seams slightly beyond the WAISTLINE to accommodate the curve of your hips. Extend lines from H and I by 1.5cm, at the same angle as the curved hip line so that each becomes one continuous line.



Join the new point (extension from H) to A with a smooth curved line. You have now created the back waistline of the skirt.


Repeat for front pattern. Join the new point (extension from I) to C with a smooth curved line. This is now the front waistline.



Now it is time to draw in the darts.

Mark the midpoints of both front and back waistlines. Label the midpoint of the back waistline as J and front waistline as K.


From point J, mark a point 1.5cm towards the CENTRE BACK. From this new point, mark another point 1.5cm towards the CENTRE BACK.

If you have decided to increase your dart width, then make sure you remember to add in this width now. For example, if you plan to make the darts 3.5cm wide, then mark your points 1.75cm apart. If your dart value goes beyond 4cm, I would suggest creating two smaller darts instead - you will get a more flattering shape that way.


These points mark the centre of the back dart, and the dart arms 1.5cm either side (to create a dart that is 3cm wide).

Draw a line that is 14cm long (this will be the length of your back dart) from the middle point. The line should be perpendicular to the waistline.


Join the points either side to the endpoint of the line you just drew. You have now created the two dart arms.


Move to your front waistline.

From point K, mark a point 1.5cm towards the CENTRE FRONT. From this new point, mark another point 1.5cm towards the CENTRE FRONT. These points mark the centre of your front dart, and the dart arms 1.5cm either side (to create a dart that is 3cm wide).


Draw a line that is 13cm long (this will be the length of your front dart) from the middle point. This line should be perpendicular to the waistline. This will be the centre line of your front dart.


Join the points either side to the endpoint of the dart centre line. This will complete your front dart.


By this point, it should really be starting to look like a skirt pattern!

Finishing up


Take a seperate piece of pattern paper and trace a copy of the front pattern. Remember to include all markings (hip line, dart, centre front). 


Leaving some space between the pattern pieces (you still haven't added seam allowance), trace around the back pattern piece - once again, marking all important points. 


And now you have a front and back skirt pattern! Add grainlines (parallel to the centre front and centre back) and label each piece.

For labelling I always use the format:

  •  pattern name
  • name of pattern piece
  • sizing information (if required)
  • cutting instructions
  • You can also add the date and whether or not there is seam allowance added

Some of these things may seem very obvious, but I'm telling you, it makes it much easier if you pick the pattern up in a few months time!

Before cutting out the pattern, you will need to add shaping to the dart at the waistline, and seam allowance. You can go right ahead and do this, or you can wait for me to show you on the blog (very soon)!

How did you go? Would love to know if you have any questions related to drafting a skirt block?

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