[Module 4] Create the Base Template | 3. Introduction

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

"Luxury is the ease of a t-shirt in a very expensive dress."

Karl Lagerfeld

This module is probably the most complex one to go through, so I do recommend that you book onto one of my courses to walk you through the process and to get assistance with the fittings especially if this is the first time that you have been through the process or if you are going through this process in order to make garments for yourself.

Extra to this I do offer a service where I could create the draft for you from your supplied measurements however if you are going to continue with creating your own garments I don’t recommend this as you really need to start to get familiar with the system and having me do it for you is not going to help you with this. However some people like the Base Template and or a Working template and Flexible Patterns created for them so that they can take them to their local dressmaker. If you are a dressmaker and are swamped with time this is obviously a service I can provide for you.

Having said all of this I don’t want to scare you. It is not harder than previous modules it is building on the knowledge that you already have and you simply need to move through the process methodically step by step.

If you have made the decision to make your own garments and are committed to doing this and want to try to do this with a modicum of quality and also to enjoy the process through thoughtful sewing then read on. Now comes the hard work.

There are three main ways to make a garment at home in my view:-

  1. Use a manufactured pattern.

  2. Draft your own pattern.

  3. Drape a garment.

Option A. – Using a manufactured pattern;

The main issue with option A. is that the chances are whatever pattern or size you choose, a manufactured pattern will not fit you out of the packet, especially if like me you have body parts that are not a standard size (whatever standard size means). If you choose to continually make clothing using option A. then you will be forever altering patterns to fit regardless of your size and shape, which is fine if you are only every going to make clothing from one or two patterns. But I will guess that on the whole most people will want to try out different and new things. Also consider that if you are making these garments for yourself then unless you have a body form or mannequin that is exactly the same size and shape as your body then you will have no other option than to be fitting directly onto your own body which is easier if you have a sewing friend to help every time you make something.

Refer to Project – Creating a Body Form for your body shape for further information.

Manufactured patterns also tend not to have sewing lines marked on them and have a pre-determined seam allowance which changes by manufacturer and pattern piece so if you require a different seam allowance then you will need to start marking out on the pattern. There is a vast sea of very generous bloggers out there who have given up their precious time for free to try to get to grips with the whole world of fit and pattern alteration and my searches have helped me with some tricky fit issues so I am grateful for their time and help. If you already sew garments no doubt you will have YouTubed your fair share of them and visited their wonderful pages.

Having spent many years trying to make clothes from manufactured patterns, constantly changing them and copying them off so that I don’t damage the original (copying out on various papers and even interfacing so that it moulds a little more around the body, the things we do to look after our patterns), and constantly getting frustrated at my inevitable fitting sessions, even though I know that my sewing is exquisite and construction skills are second to none and that I have taken my time and done the best I can possibly do. What wasted time and money. If you are new to sewing I don’t want you to waste your time going down this path, many a sewer has thrown in the towel doing this and I think it is a real shame. This is actually one of the main reasons I set up this knowledgebase website – I just don’t want others to make the same costly mistakes that I did, why change a multitude of patterns, why not just make your own and then you can use it as the basis for everything that you make. Of course you are at liberty to disagree with this opinion and I don’t mean to undermine the work that other designers have put into creating their own manufactured patterns. I am simply stating some food for thought that I feel the best patterns are designed for the body they are meant to fit and in real life we are all different. If after all of that you still like to use manufactured patterns then please don’t let me stop you!

Option B - Drafting your own pattern;

After the explanation of A. above I really truly do believe that this is the way to go because you are going to be so much closer to a good fit from the very beginning and also for every single garment that you create thereafter and are therefore more likely to want to wear what you have made. If your weight goes up or down then you are more likely to be able to deal with that, by either altering or grading the clothes you have because you are so familiar with the patterns as you made them or starting again to create a whole new set of patterns of a different size. Your own patterns have your own thoughts blended in, you have made intelligent decisions about how you are going to use them, you know what the lines mean and you don’t have a multitude of lines delineating different sizes on one pattern.

However by drafting your own patterns you are putting in more time up front in the process and for some people who want to see anything created in a short amount of time this can be more challenging. But this time invested up front in the end works out to be less time in the end than going down the manufactured pattern route so you will reap it back. As you know the patterns that you draft you are more likely to spend the time to get them to fit than the manufactured patterns because you already have invested time into it.

Designing your patterns also gives you some time to reflect on what clothing actually suits your body shape, how you can work with what body particularities you have and enhance all the wonderful parts of it that you would like to in the most flattering way, what style of clothing would you like to make rather than picking the available best of the bunch.

Also dare I add, you are more likely to finish of the garment properly and not just tuck the hem in your trousers as you leave the house because you could not be bothered to finish it as one of my friends embarrassingly declared to me recently! (you know who you are!).

Look I am not saying that you will get the design right first time every time but with some practice you will get better. If all else fails go down the high street and try on what you think might suit to get a few ideas. You will get better at the design process, trust me…….those famous words!

The clothes you make will be unique and your own design and something to be proud of. It also forces you to be accountable for what you have made, you can’t blame the pattern if things go wrong, well you can but you made the pattern. However if you study the problem and fix it you can be proud of a job well done. Unless like me you are continually trying to improve every pattern you make (but more about that later).

Option C. - Draping;

Some garment shapes are quite difficult to work with more time consuming if you tried to start on paper. Draping can offer a fluidity that a two dimensional drawing can’t. The focus is always on the 3 dimensional body to get the best fit. With the best intentions to have the most accurate measurements in the world you can’t beat working on the body shape and if that is not possible the upgraded body form is the next best thing. This process if not easily done on the actual body as pinching and pining is a large part of the process and draping can take time as it is a more creative process so you would not really expect anyone to stand still for very long while you pin for a couple of hours. It is usually done on a body form or mannequin. This body form will need to be a replica of the client’s body though in order for the completed draped garment to have any chance of fitting the body. However if you have gone through the full process for Option B then you will have the foundation to upgrade a body form to the actual client size.

Refer to Project – Creating a Body Form for your body shape for further information.

Once you have a true 3 D version of your body in a body form upgrade then option C – Draping can then be done with gusto.

Having said all of this we will be starting by looking at option B, drafting your own patterns starting with making a Base Template.

If we simplify the types of people in the world of sewing we have the sewing industry that make the majority of clothing in the high street using a full manufacturing and product delivery process and I would include couture and design houses in this category, then there are home sewers who are beginners to progressed in experience who sew for friends and family and love to sew either for a hobby or a lifestyle choice and then I think there is a group that sits in the middle who I would class as advanced sewers or extreme sewers who will never live without sewing but are aiming to make a serious living out of what they do and either will teach or design and provide ideas/patterns or garments for sale to the general public. My reason for explaining my thoughts on this for what it is worth is to show that there are lots of sewing terms used by all three groups and depending on how you have learned or where you have learned you will be expecting to hear certain terminology. As my professional training is in the IT Business world and not Fashion I perhaps bring a different viewpoint to the table. So in that case I am giving myself free scope to rename some sewing terms to fit in with my observations and insight and vision which I know may be the subject of some debate but for me it simplifies how I think about sewing.

So although I am not reinventing the wheel, lots of people essentially use similar ideas I am giving you a Threadelicious view of how to look at it and I will use these terms throughout all of the processes.

BASE TEMPLATE to WORKING TEMPLATE to FLEXIBLE PATTERNS All three of the above steps lead to the creation of a pattern to make a garment and will require pattern drafting and are done in the above order. So let me explain…

Base Templates

Otherwise known as a Moulage in sewing circles (which translates as a mould of the body). This will help you create a snug fitting test garment for the torso to be used as a baseline for all future garments that require bodice pattern pieces. It generally consists of a Back and a Front draft and we usually only need to make one per person (unless there is a substantial change in weight). It is initially drafted without seam allowances but more about this later. When completed it will be in eight pieces, four for the front (2 upper bodice pieces and 2 lower bodice pieces) and four for the back (for upper and lower).

If you can bare it I will explain a personal metaphor for you that might help you understand my thinking here. If you are not IT literate then it might be best to skip over this bit because I don’t want to confuse you any more than I need to! Having spent a number of years teaching IT in Business I am very familiar with something called a Normal.dot template, this is used by Microsoft in Word for