Beginners’ Guide to Pattern Making

Pattern-making can be fun. It can be a richly rewarding experience if you use the right technique. 

Nonetheless, it can also be a challenging, depending on the angle you approach it. This explains why many beginner fashion designers struggle with it. But it doesn’t have to be a struggle. 

Put simply, pattern making is the art of creating a paper pattern (or template) for your garment idea. It basically involves creating a blueprint of the garment design you have in mind on paper. 

Mastering this art can make you become a better fashion designer, hence why we’ve put together this beginner guide. 

What is Pattern Making?

Pattern making

When we talk about patternmaking, we talk about translating a garment design idea into a paper sketch (or pattern as the case may be) and then using that sketch to create a wearable apparel product. 

To put it in another perspective, a pattern is a paper template used to trace out the shape of a garment unto a piece of fabric, after which the fabric is cut and assembled into a full garment. 

The act of creating these patterns is known as Pattern Making. 

The core essence of Pattern Making is to help you put your ideas to paper. Most importantly, creating patterns for your garments makes it easy to replicate them as many times as you want. 

P.S: Pattern Making is the same thing as Patternmaking or Pattern-making. So we will be using them interchangeably in this guide. 

Why is Pattern Making Important?

Are patterns only meant for replicating garment designs? Definitely not. The other reasons to create patterns are as follows: 

It Ensures a Garment Fits as Intended

Creating patterns lets you see how a garment will fit the wearer.  This helps to ensure accurate cutting and alignment during the sewing process.  

It Fosters Consistency 

By using the same pattern for similar apparel designs, you will be fostering consistency across your product’s collection. 

Speeds Up the Garment-Making Process

Learning the art of making patterns allows you to prototype and create products faster. It can also minimize sewing errors, which can be expensive to correct. 

Gives You a Competitive Edge

If you are looking to create unique apparel designs to separate your fashion brand from the competition, Pattern Making is the way to go. 

Essential Tools for Pattern Making

Like every other form of art, there are certain tools you need to successfully create patterns for your apparel designs. They are as follows:  

1. Pattern Paper

The pattern paper is the most fundamental tool you need for any patternmaking process. There are many types of pattern paper you can use. Your choice of paper depends largely on the project. 

That said, here are the popular types of pattern paper.

Artist Tracing Paper

As the name suggests, this type of paper is used for tracing patterns. For example, if you downloaded a garment pattern, printed it and want to trace it out, this paper will come in handy. 


  • It’s quite cheap
  • Excellent choice if you plan to do a lot of interactions


  • It’s very soft and so can easily tear

Dot Paper

This is the standard paper used for patternmaking. It’s fitted with dotted grids, making it easy for you to draft patterns on it. Although it isn’t transparent like an artist’s paper, you can actually see through it. 


  • It doesn’t tear easily, making it ideal for slash-and-spread pattern-making techniques. 
  • It erases easily
  • It’s wide enough to contain your pattern designs 


  • It’s pricier than artist tracing paper
  • You will likely not find it in a convenience store. Your only option might be to go online

Brown Kraft Paper

Brown Craft Paper

Oak Tag

Oak Tag

Sometimes called tagboard paper, an Oak tag is a thick, brownish paper used for pattern making. It is mostly used for making slopers, which are template blocks used for creating patterns. 

Their thickness makes them ideal for creating traces repeatedly, as they hardly deform or tear. 


  • They don’t break easily
  • They last well


  • Can be expensive

2. Pattern Notcher


As the name implies, pattern notchers are used for creating notches (marks) on a pattern design. Using notchers instead of scissors or blades ensure your pattern notches are consistent. 

3. Cutting Tools

A good pair of fabric scissors is essential. You may also want a rotary cutter for cutting out large pieces of fabric.

4. Tracing Wheel

A tracing wheel lets you transfer designs from a pattern onto your sewing design. But for this tool to work well, you will need carbon tracing paper. This paper ensures the traces are clear enough on the fabric material.

5. Pins and Weights

Pins are used to hold your pattern in place on your fabric while you cut or mark it. Pattern weights can also be used for this purpose.

6. Rulers and French Curves

Creating patterns requires drawing lots of straight and curved lines. This is where rulers and French curves come into play. 

For best results, use transparent rules.

7. Tape Rules

Rulers don’t always work on garment materials. Tape rules are a better alternative. They are cheap and you can buy them just about anywhere. 

8. Pencils

Pencils are also handy tools for creating patterns. You need them for tracing. 

9. Dress Form

Dress form

Think about dress forms as dummies you use for fitting and testing your patterns, allowing you to see how your design will fit on an actual wearer. 

Keep in mind that dress forms don’t come cheap.

Key Terms in Pattern Making

There are important key terms and industry jargon you need to know about while learning the art of pattern making. They are as follows:



Also called a toile, a muslin is basically the prototype/mockup of a garment design often done on a breathable cotton material called, well, muslin. Of course, not all muslins are done on a muslin. 


When you fit your pattern on a dress form, the highest point on the bust is called the apex. 


Darts are triangular portions of a garment material cut or folded and then stitched to make it take a desired shape. This is why dart manipulation is a technique used in pattern-making.



Similar to darts, pleats are folds on a garment done to give it fullness or design. Unlike darts, pleats are not stitched. 


Selvage is the finished edge of a fabric where the garment information is often imprinted. 

Pattern Grading 

Pattern grading is the process of altering the size of a pattern either by increasing or decreasing it to fit as intended. 

Pattern Making Techniques

Draping: An Alternative Method of Patternmaking

Draping is a technique that involves shaping and pinning fabric on a dress form to develop the structure of a garment design. It’s a more tactile and visual approach to patternmaking that can be particularly useful for complex designs or when working with unique fabrics. Once the fabric is draped and secured in place, it’s marked, removed, and laid flat to create a pattern.

Creating Patterns for Different Types of Fabrics

Different fabrics behave in different ways, and your patternmaking approach may need to change depending on the fabric you’re working with. For example, stretchy fabrics like jerseys might require you to reduce the size of your pattern to account for the fabric’s stretch. Conversely, thick or stiff fabrics might require you to add extra ease to ensure the garment doesn’t feel too tight.

Adapting Patterns for Various Styles and Designs

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can start to adapt your patterns to create a variety of styles and designs. This could involve anything from adding fullness with gathers or pleats, creating flared shapes, or designing intricate details like collars, cuffs, and pockets.

Dart Manipulation 

Dart manipulation is the art of folding and stitching up fabric to make it fit a desired shape or size. Often, it’s done around the waist and bust line on women’s clothing designs. 

There are two major methods for dart manipulation: 

  • Slash and spread 
  • Pivotal 


Splash and Spread

Splash and spread is a form of dart manipulation that involves cutting (slashing) fabric and spreading it to give it more volume. 

Pivoting Technique

Pivoting is another dart manipulation technique used in patternmaking. It involves changing the shape of a fabric by holding a pattern down with a pin and then moving and rotating it to add fullness. 

Unlike the splash and spread method, pivoting does not require any cutting. 


Mastering the art of patternmaking can make you a better designer and uplift your business. Hopefully, with the tips we’ve shared here, you can master the craft in no time. 

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