Thursday, January 10, 2013

Draft at Home Patterns: A How - To

A draft-at-home blouse pattern like the one's available in my etsy shop.
Today I have an interesting tutorial on draft at home patterns for you. One of the questions I get the most often about these patterns from my shop is, "I thought I understood how these patterns work but now that I look at the files you've sent, I just don't see how the little pattern becomes a bigger one."
This question is referring to the draft at home patterns that use a ruler to scale a tiny pattern up to a full sized one, similar to the Lutterloh system.

This is a concept much easier to explain with pictures so should you decide to try one of these patterns, to make your lives easier I have put together a tutorial for you.

What you will need:
Your bust measurement,
Paper ( I use a roll of tracing paper that is 36" wide),
A thumb tack or push pin,
A small piece of cardboard,
A pencil,
A ruler or yardstick,
And tape.

A French curve will also come in handy but isn't a requirement.

First you'll want to print out everything. You should have your pattern and your measuring bands printed and ready to go. (Make sure that you print your measuring bands at 100% scale.) Once you've taped your measuring band pages together, you need to choose the measuring band that is closest to your bust measurement. If you're working with a tap pants pattern, use your waist measurement.

These patterns come from a 1930's French system so it uses centimeters. (Here is a link to an easy conversion calculator.)
For this example I'm using my bust measurement, which is about 36" and I have chosen to use the largest size closest to that, 92 cm. If you're off by a fraction, round up to the nearest size.
Once you've chosen your measuring band, cut it out. Make sure that you cut close to the edge of the outer lines of the band. This will help make your pattern as accurate as possible later.

The end of my measuring band, trimmed close to the edge on the size I plan on using.

Next tape your piece of cardboard to the edge of your table, making sure you have plenty of room on both sides for you to draft later. Think about how large your pattern pieces might be once full-sized and take that into account.

The piece of cardboard, about 2" square, is used to stick your push pin into, so you don't ruin your table.

Next you'll want to position your paper at the edge of your table, just over the cardboard piece. Then place your printed pattern centered over your cardboard. Tape it in place and use something like tape or weights to keep your drafting paper from moving round as you work.

Next you need to pin your ruler to your pattern. Start by finding the small cross on the pattern piece closest to your drafting paper.

Pierce your ruler with the push pin right at the little dot on the end of the ruler. If you're using the 92 band, put the pin through the end that says 92 on it. Then push the pin into the cross for the pattern piece you'll be drafting first. In this instance it's the one marked as 'Back'.

Now the ruler is free to swivel on the pin in any direction and you're ready to start drawing.

Grab your pencil and starting at one end of the pattern, find the first number given on the design. You can see above that the first number on the left is 27. Line up the edge of your ruler with the line above your number and then find the matching number on your ruler.

Make your mark on your paper and then move on to the next number. The X's marked are the main corners and edges of the patterns. The O's usually indicate the edge of a curve. If you find a number like 32 1/2, just estimate where it would be as there are no fractions given on the bands.

Keep moving along and mark off each number until you have a bunch of dots that roughly outline the pattern shape.
Now you get to play connect-the-dots! Using your ruler or french curve, just outline the curved and straight lines until you have a full sized fully drafted pattern piece.

The dots that outline my pattern edges, before they are connected.

A French curve comes in handy for drawing a smooth line along the curves of armholes and waistlines.

The full sized pattern piece after the dots have been connected.

Now all that's left to do is add the seam allowance. Seam allowances are usually not included in these patterns and this one is no exception. To add seam allowances quickly, I use my handy ruler tool from Fabric. com.
Photo from

I swear, this is the best $0.35 I have ever spent!
Repeat the same process for each pattern piece, using a new piece of paper each time to draft your pattern onto. Make sure that as you draft each new pattern piece, your desired pattern piece is on the same side as your drafting paper.

Things to remember:
  • Your pattern pieces may need to be lengthened to your height requirements. For instance, trouser and skirt pattern pieces might look a bit short until you lengthen them.
  • These patterns don't have sewing instructions and were intended for at least intermediate level sewers. However, the pattern pieces are usually laid out in their boxes in relation to how they're to be put together. 
  • These patterns also don't usually include things like facings and pocket pieces. It was assumed that the average seamstress knew how to draft these things on her own. Here is a quick and easy tutorial by Colette Patterns on drafting a facing.
  • Though this system can be pretty accurate, there are sometimes discrepancies in vintage patterns. There is also human error to take into account. Always make a muslin of these patterns before using your intended fabric to make sure the fit is right.
  • I highly recommend using tracing paper to draft these patterns. Once your pieces are drafted, it's easy to lay them out over each other and get an idea of how seams will fit together. (FYI, I buy my tracing paper by the roll here.)
 If you're interested in learning more about how these patterns were created, you can read the full description here.

Any questions?


  1. This is very interesting! Not sure I'd want to try it just yet, but I am intrigued!

  2. Thanks so much for this, such a clear explanation! I had a real fear of these patterns as have only just started to dip my toe into dressmaking, now I think I might just be able to give it a whirl!

  3. Great explanation! I haven't tackled the 1930's slip (#604) I got from you (always seems that more pressing sewing matters pop up!), but hopefully will get to it sometime soon!

  4. WOW. Fantastic tutorial. I feel like I learned a lot from this.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Even a novice/intermediate sewer like myself can understand this tutorial. This has given me such confidence - perhaps I can stop "favouriting" your pdf patterns and actually start purchasing and making them! *LOL*


  6. Thank you so much for that. I just bought a knicker pattern from you the other day and after looking at it I nearly burst into tears! I have huge problems numerically but this makes things so much clearer. I'll get my husband to help me, though, he's ok with this type of thing. Been sewing a long, long time but not dressmaking.

  7. Thank you,Perfect tutorial, it could not have a better explanation.

  8. Anna this is a great tutorial! Thank you so much for posting it. I have found that I have to draft my patterns larger using Lutterloh because I must be disproportionate. I have a small frame and almost tiny shoulders compared to my bust and stomach. Then I have smallish hips according to my size if that makes any sense? Thank you for all you do! Kathy from Arizona

  9. Great tutorial Mrs D! I was quit confident that I'd manage drafting the pattern I bought from you. Now I'm absolutely sure. Thanks!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this. I was always afraid of the patterns you offer using this system because I couldn't conceptualize how the rulers would work. This makes it perfectly clear! BTW.. in case you haven't already seen it is currently running a series on 1920's lingerie and loungewear. Lot's of stunning pieces. I just stumbled across the site today and had to share!

  11. I am so glad you posted this! When I bought the dress pattern this summer I was determined to figure out how to tackle it, now it will be much easier (when I eventually get around to it). But I am much more eager to buy more of these patterns in the future now. Thanks!

  12. Printing the measuring band onto overhead projector slides (transparency film)would make it easy to see the pattern markings underneath the band.

  13. Thank you for this post and also for these fabulous patterns, I have bought quite a few from your Etsy store and have found them really easy to use, I have already made up several of them and just love them, again, thank you! For anyone who hasn't yet tried these patterns because you think they look complicated don't stress, just give it a try. I actually find these easier to use than the big four as you have mpore freedom to resize a pattern just by changing the measureing band you use! I will be buying more in the near future

  14. I just purchased pattern Blouse C-1792. It has an unusual shape and I wanted to check that when actually cutting the fabric do I flip the pattern in order to avoid a centre front seam?

    1. HI Ann, Thanks for your question. I assume you're referring to C-1769. It is an unusual shape. I'm not sure that there is a way to lay this design out on fabric that actually avoids there being a center seam. Though why the original pattern book would illustrate it without any seams makes no sense to me. On the center front there would normally be a note on the pattern diagram that says cut on fold, or cut for seam, but there isn't. What I recommend to avoid a center seam is to make the neck tie portion a separate pattern piece seamed on so that you can cut the center front on a fold. Best of luck!

  15. I bought blouse 6108 this week. Drafting it was quite simple.
    Btw, after I put the correct band together, I turned it face down on a table then I covered it with a long strip of duct tape. I turned it face up and covered the face with scotch tape and then trimed it. Nice and sturdy.
    Great tutorial and I love your shop!

    1. Thank you for the idea on the duct tape!

  16. I just bought the 1950's beach set and fingers crossed that it's as simple as it looks (I nearly passed out when I opened up the file!) I'm glad I found this, otherwise I wouldn't even know where to start. Thanks a lot!

  17. i think it is easy and simple method, were did you buy the mesuring tape?

  18. Thanks for your question! The measuring bands are included with each draft at home type pattern in my shop:

  19. Superb tutorial - thank you. Perhaps I'll pluck up the courage to make the pattern I purchased (and love) soon! Rachel ☺

  20. I discovered Mrs DePew website and she kindly linked your page on how to draft her patterns. I had no idea the pattern guide looks like a zodiac chart, yikes!!
    I must say you explained it very well and kudos to whoever discovered this method on DIY pattern drafting, it's genius!! I can't wait to try this.