UPDATE: I have course called Creating PDF Patterns + Pattern Grading available now to teach you how to scan, digitize, format for printing, and draft within Illustrator and grade to create your own PDF patterns. The course is taught through a combination of written course materials and video, and each lesson includes printable resources.
This is the course I wish I had been able to find when I started – it covers only what you need to know in Illustrator as a pattern designer, not all the other bells and whistles that graphic designers love about it. It is a vast program capable of a lot, but there are only a few tools needed as a pattern designer. So instead of sorting through hundreds YouTube or Vimeo videos about how to use it, and googling to figure out how to do what you want to do, I’ve focused the content for you – this is just what you need as a pattern designer.
I also have another course, Draft a Child’s Bodice, which is specifically for those who just want to dip their toes into drafting methods. You don’t need Illustrator to do this one, and you’re free to draft with your child’s measurements or the measurements tables I provide.
You can read more about any of these courses by clicking on their buttons below – or you can also enroll through those buttons and join the hundreds of satisfied students I’ve already taught.
Now back to the original post.
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. This book How to Make Sewing Patterns was one of the first drafting books I owned.
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.
Later when I got into blogging, I 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 usually 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 Illustrator and Adobe InDesign 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. InDesign I had to teach myself, but it wasn’t a huge learning curve and 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 with regards to pattern drafting. 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.