UPDATE: I’ve launched a course that covers all the information to use Illustrator to make PDF patterns. It’s the course I wish I had been able to find when I was starting; you can find out more here:
Now back to the original post.
Today I feel kind of between posts – The Sew in Tune series starts next week, I’ve been guest posting a bunch, and I’m up to my eyeballs in pattern drafting/details for my Blank Slate Basics ebook. And I’m in the middle of some huge (exciting) personal changes that I hope I can share with you next month. But twice this week I’ve been asked about how I go about making my patterns, so I thought this post could be an overview with a lot of links to resources for anyone interested in learning more.
There are two basic parts to making PDF patterns. The first is pattern drafting, and the second is pattern digitizing. So let’s start with drafting.
I’m self-taught as far as drafting patterns. I spent years sewing store bought patterns, and after a while I noticed that I could swap bodices, skirts, sleeves etc between patterns and basically end up with my own design. That’s how my mom and I made my wedding dress, and that’s how I began costume designing in high school. For a long time, modifying store bought patterns was how I sewed, and I got to be an expert at fitting patterns to my body. For more inspiration in this vein, I love
Suzannah mixes up a lot of dresses starting with store bought patterns. In her weekly Sewing Circle posts, she also takes pictures of dresses that readers send her, and gives her best ideas for which patterns to start with and what modifications to make to those patterns to get the look.
And from there it was another small leap to drafting from scratch. I started with this book
Though it’s old (the 1970s photos are fun) it is thorough in explaining how to measure your body and draft slopers, then create patterns from them.
I also found this book at my local library. It covers the same material as How to Make Sewing Patterns, but it focuses solely on women’s wear. There are a few more style variations covered more in depth in this book, and it also had sample ease charts that I found to be very helpful.
Well, then I got into blogging, and discovered Ikat Bag. LiEr covers a lot of what those drafting books cover, sometimes in much more depth, but specifically for children (which fashion books don’t consider). Check out her drafting series here.
As for digitizing, well that’s another learning curve. This tutorial from Sewing in No Man’s Land explains the basic process of scanning and digitizing a paper pattern using Photoshop (regular version, not elements).
My process is a lot like the one explained in that tutorial, but I use Adobe Creative Suite 5 (CS5) and iWork Pages (for Macs) to write my patterns. This is partly because of my background – working in a school where I was friends with the technology teacher, I learned to use Illustrator and Photoshop way before I started blogging because they were great tools (and available at school) to design show posters for the plays I directed. Pages is super easy to learn and export documents to PDF format; I use it to write the pattern instructions, and then I use Adobe Acrobat to combine those with the PDF file from Illustrator.
The other reason I use Illustrator is that the more I learn about the software (and there is a pretty steep learning curve) the easier it gets for me, and the more shortcuts I have figured out. For comparison, the Toddler Blazer – the first pattern I wrote – took me weeks because I was learning the specifics of using Illustrator for patterns. Last night I created a draft for a shirt and graded it to 8 sizes within a few hours.
The best resource I’ve found for using Illustrator for pattern drafting is the series of videos produced by Ralph Pink. In particular, this one, which takes you step-by-step (it’s 45 minutes long) through drafting a bodice in Illustrator – without drafting on paper first! – is great to see the process. And this one rocked my world with the shortcut to adding seam allowances.
OK, that’s all I’ve got for now, short of producing my own tutorial series on how I do what I do. Which is a possibility in the future, as I’ve found that this information is hard to find (hence my attempt to compile it in one place for you) and has gaps that I’ve learned about and solved as I go. But I’m still learning too, and before I teach something I want to make sure I’ve mastered it.
I realize this post is kind of a departure from my normal fare, so hopefully I haven’t bored you! Stay tuned for some more departures from normal this week as I ramp up to Sew in Tune.
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