Things I’ve learned in school I never told you.


Currently I’m in enrolled at my local college for pattern drafting. Through my college there is a fashion department and within that program you have the ability to gain a certificate for pattern drafting. Enrolling in these courses is what I strongly felt was the right thing to do last year. I was trying to teach myself pattern drafting but kept having questions along the way that I couldn’t get the answers to, online or through textbooks.

After discussing the plan for which courses to take with the director of the department, my first class of the year was Pattern Drafting for Fashion Design 1. The course’s assigned textbook was Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong 5th edition. In this course we would learn the fundamentals of pattern making, learn how to draft all major styles, identify fitting issues, and design our own patterns. Final exam consisted of an actual test on paper asking some pattern making questions. Along with the grade we had to submit our own designed patterns. Garment sewn up and modeled.

I share my experiences on Instagram often and really share a lot about what I learn at school on InstaStories. But there are somethings I didn’t share because there was so much information I didn’t want to info overload you. So let me tell you them here.

1. Slopers

These are the foundation of pattern drafting. This is the 2nd skin shell that tells the pattern maker how to big to make the pattern they are making. All textbooks about drafting patterns usually start off with giving you instructions on how to draft a custom sloper. In my class we discussed a little about this, but we took a different approach to making our slopers. In a way, we draped them on ourselves using the help of the instructor to aid in fit. This meant using our own measurements to find a shell close to our measurements as possible, cut it out on muslin, then sew it up.

We would put it on. Then in front of a mirror the instructor and the student would fit adjust the muslin. She would explain how certain areas would need to look like and where certain markings would need to go. She would adjust accordingly and mark. Once everything was fitted and marked the student then needed to transfer that corrected muslin onto paper to make the sloper.

I was a little surprised by this because I assumed that all pattern makers drafted slopers from measurements . Which they do… so I asked the instructor why we were doing it this way. She explain that anyone can draft a sloper by measurements. It’s easy. You will have to fit it and make adjustments and fit it again. That would take some time. Doing it this way would help create a sloper faster (majority of the drafting done), then we can identify fit issues, and resolve them.

(My bodice slopers)

2. Seam allowances

As a self-taught sewist I learned most of my sewing from the commercial pattern companies (the big 4 chains). I thought early on that all seam allowances in clothing construction was 5/8″. And that Indie sewing companies just picked a seam allowances based on fabric type HAHA! I was wrong. We are were taught at school that all woven fabrics would have 1/2″ seam allowances because they were mainly sewn on sewing machines. Knit garments are sewn at a 3/8″ seam allowances because in the industry knits are sewn on sergers or overlockers. So basically if you are going to use a serger to make the garment you use a 3/8″ seam allowance. If you plan to use mainly a sewing machine to construct the garment you would use a 1/2″ seam allowance. Trim down certain seam allowances. For example lets say a collar, you would trim down the seam allowance to 1/4″ and down to 1/8″ on the corners.

3. Curved hems

Anytime you design a curve on a hem or alter a pattern which then changes the straight hem to a curve … just make a hem facing. Trying to do a fold over hem on a curve will give you lots folds and puckers. If you don’t want that just make a hem facing pattern piece.

4. Grainline of a Sleeve

On a sloper the sleeve is the only piece that has a grainline. This is debatable. (But I’m going to talk about what I learned at my school for this blog post only.)  When doing a muslin the sleeve should have some markings on it to help aid fit. This is the grainline and the bicep line.  If the pattern piece has an elbow dart or an elbow marking transfer that as well. Draw a line from one corner end of the cap (stitching line) to the other. This is your bicep line. Measure that line and mark the center. Draw a perpendicular line through the bicep at the center mark. Extend that line all the way to the top of the cap and all the way down to the wrist. That is your grainline. Key things to look for with those lines. Bicep line should be parallel to the floor . If it drooping or pulling high up then you need to alter the pattern. The grainline of the sleeve should be centered with the side seam when looking at the person from the side.

pattern piece 3

(My sleeve sloper)

5. Measuring pattern pieces and learning ease

Early on in the semester we were given the task of mearsuring pattern pieces and told to fix all fit issues by just measuring. That also meant to adjust the pattern. WOW what a big task for beginner pattern makers right?! Luckily this was something I learned and implemented in my sewing before school. So doing this was a breeze but really understanding why you do it is what opened my eyes and appreciate this tedious task. We also briefly talked about how much ease is ideally wanted with every fit catagory. Here are the reasons why its a good idea to measure your patterns:

  1. Being comfortable with measuring. Some people don’t measure their pattern pieces , but doing so will allow you to correct most fit issues on paper before making muslins.
  2. It teaches you know where to properly mearsure on a pattern. Learn the location of major fit points. (ex: bust, waist, hips, biceps etc.) Most indie patterns don’t have these labeled on their patterns. So knowing where to measure will make fitting so much easier.
  3. Learning about how much ease is in each fit category will help you guage what to look for when sewing up a garment.

Example : If the bodice pattern (woven) is intended to be fitted,  then around 2″ of ease is needed in the bust for the bodice to be fitted. It can not be your exact measurements because that is like your 2nd skin and there is no room for movement. I take my bust circumference (36″) add 2″ of ease = 38″ is what I’m going for (roughly) to have this garment fitted.


I’m sure there are plenty more little tidbits I can share but these are the things that came to mind one day when thinking about school. There is so much information that I learned going to school than I ever did on my own.

(My final design project for the semester) Lightweight poly button up top.


  1. What a great post, thanks so much for sharing. I’ve been wanting to take a similar course in my city. I’m especially interested in pattern measurements and getting a better understanding of ease, so crucial to getting a good fit! Great job on your final project, it’s lovely.


  2. Hey WinMichele,
    I enjoyed listening to you on the style maker podcast. I am curious about the school you go to.
    I would love to take some courses too!


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