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The size 6 working pattern Part:1

by CJ Flores 2 years ago in how to
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Acquiring the tools

We have finally arrived at the size 6 working pattern. The working pattern is vital to future projects. It will be the basic form of the fit and production of every silhouette we will do going forward in the weeks to come. Before we can get into the working pattern, however, it is important to go over several items we will need to make the pattern successful.

Pattern making is an art form, a precise art form. It does not sway to ifs or buts. Precision is key to any working pattern. Although precision is key, there will always be errors in the process of making the working pattern. In the next few weeks we will go over how to remedy specific issues that will arise. It is important for any successful design to check your work to make sure everything is optimal for successful creations.

The grid ruler (top), aligned with the 1/8 inch ruler (bottom)

Reading a ruler

Before we discuss the items we need, we must go over how to read a ruler. In pattern making we use several different rulers. Reading a ruler is about 75% of a working pattern. Guessing is never good enough. I use two rulers almost exclusively when I create my patterns. The first is called a grid ruler. A grid ruler is the most important ruler any pattern maker, or seamstress can have. Between every inch it measures down to 1/16 inch.

If you are not good at fractional math, the 1/16 inch grid ruler will be your new best friend. In pattern making we measure down to 1/16 inch and sometimes even to 1/32 inch. Typically though 1/16 inch is enough to get you through most, if not all, designs. The bigger 24 inch ruler I have measures ⅛ inch between each inch. This ruler is important when we are measuring across the body like shoulder slope, new strap, full length, and center front length. Although it cannot give us precise measurements like the grid ruler, it is important all the same for longer measurements.

Fractional math is important for the creation of patterns. When we add ease to a bodice, we must add it to the measurement that we acquired from the dress form or the client. Ease is the way the body will fit on the 3-D form. Smaller increments of ease will be more form fitting, and larger increments will be less fitted. When we add the ease to the measurements, regardless of size, they must be added correctly.


Probably one of the most important tools after the rulers is tape. Tape will help secure the pattern to the pattern paper, or to the surface beneath the paper. It keeps the paper from moving, resulting in precise tracing.

Grid rulers

As we have discussed before, the grid rulers are important to any successful design. The grid rulers come in a variety of different sizes. It is important to have an array of different sizes, but it is not essential. A 1 inch by 12 inch ruler will be ideal for most designs. The grid ruler is also important for squaring lines within a design.

Mechanical pencil

I will admit, during school, I was not a fan of the mechanical pencil. As time has passed, sharpening pencils became more and more of a nuisance. Mechanical pencils became essential for quicker and more efficient line making. Mechanical pencils also help with controlling pressure. With full control of pressure, the lines become more precise and thinner which is essential for pattern drafting.

French and curved rulers

French curves and curved rulers are essential for armholes and necklines. They are also important for curving the waist arc of patterns, princess lines, and specific collar designs. It is, again, important but not essential to have a variety of curved ruler sizes and shapes. If you choose to continue designing beyond these exercises, eventually you will have a collection of beautiful curved rulers.

Hip ruler

This is an important ruler. So important it needed its own section. I did not realize how important this ruler was until I actually bought one. I thought the curved rulers were enough to get a precise hip curve. I was wrong. The hip ruler helps with the subtle hip curve on the outer skirt, as well as a more graceful waist arc curve for skirts. When I first started drafting skirts and pants, I still believed good enough was enough. It was not, and my skirts and pants suffered for it. This item along with the french and grid rulers are a must have.

24 inch by 6 inch ruler

This behemoth is not essential, but you would not regret having this in your arsenal. Not only is it a massive ⅛ inch grid ruler. It helps with shoulder slopes, measuring longer projects, and helps keep a pant length or long skirt, straight and precise. I recommend having this ruler, but it is not completely necessary.

Awl and notch maker

An awl helps mark the bust point and the lowered dart. It helps with dart manipulation. It can also be replaced by a push pin. I love my awl, but there are always creative ways around things that you do not have. A notch maker is helpful when you are notching your patterns. It is strong enough to notch fabric. However, this can be replaced by a good pair of fabric shears. These are both nice to have, but also not completely essential

Cutting utensils

This is taboo, I know, but I use an older fabric rotary cutter to cut precise lines for my pattern work. I feel better for finally admitting this to the world. Throughout my pattern making class I would get docked points for sloppy cutting because I was forced to use paper scissors. It aggravated me more than anything else. But it forced me to look at how I cut my patterns. Precision is essential, I will say it till the end of time. I use the fabric rotary cutter for my cutting because of its precision. I suggest starting with paper scissors, and work your way up to the rotary cutter.

Tracing wheel

So the tracing wheel is important, but it is more essential for construction. It also helps with truing darts, which is why I kept it in the essentials for pattern making. It is typically used with carbon paper. Again this is more useful during the truing and construction process.

Pattern paper

There are a variety of pattern papers out there. I use a sheer medical paper. However, for working patterns, blocks or anything that you are going to continuously trace off. I recommend using oak tag, cardboard, or anything that can sustain being retraced, pierced, transported, torn and even soaked with coffee.

Filing system

This was the last thing to be added to my arsenal. I recommend having a way of filing your creations. May it be hanging every piece together in a sealed file. Or just placing them within a confined area, it is a good idea to have a way to look at your work and be able to show your clients what you are capable of. It helps with the longevity of the pattern and it can also help by allowing you to pull various pattern pieces and apply them to other designs.

These are a few of the things that are essential for any pattern making project. Now that we have all of that out of the way, we can begin drafting our first working patterns. See you in part 2.

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About the author

CJ Flores

Hello, my name is CJ D and I am writer. I love to garden, travel, and explore the world

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