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Pattern Cutting – A New Skill I’m Learning

Many of us who make our own clothes begin to wonder at some point how to design our own patterns. Sometimes the skill is learned from repeated pattern alterations or hacks, sometimes it comes from books and courses. I’m going down the second route: this September, I’m starting a course on pattern cutting and garment construction (while also reading as many books as I can on the subject).

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Designing and creating my own patterns feels like a natural progression in making my own clothes

Where the inspiration to learn pattern cutting came from

My interest in learning to create my own patterns has been around for a while – at the beginning of lockdown I worked out how to set up Affinity Designer (the graphic design software I use) for digital pattern cutting based on a series of YouTube videos. I didn’t really know where to go from there though, so pattern design got put on the back burner for a while. My interest in it was reignited at Christmas, having received How To Design Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele P. Margolis as a gift from my mother-in-law – and a conversation with my sister-in-law also sparked an interest in designing my own crochet patterns.

I think the thing that appeals to me the most about designing my own patterns is the ability to truly determine my own style. I know what I like and what I don’t like, but often that means hunting through existing patterns to find what I’m looking for – when looking for a coat pattern to put on my Make Nine list for this year, I went through pages and pages of patterns before I came across one I liked.

I don’t tend to wear dresses or skirts particularly often and I definitely don’t like big statement collars or bows – to be clear, I’m not trying to disparage anyone who does like these things, they just aren’t for me. Yet these are the things that are often the biggest trends amongst the sewing community. These things mean that I’m often left a little uninspired by the available patterns.

Far from wishing to produce “boring” basic patterns, I wanted to take a look at the types of clothes I wear regularly, work out which I like (and which I just wear because they’re already in my wardrobe) and come up with patterns I love to wear that are interesting takes on these types of garment design. As I’m also interested in sustainability and reducing waste, the idea of creating minimal and zero waste designs which are beautiful garments in their own right also appeals to me.

Choosing to learn a new skill

Pattern cutting is a skill I've wanted to learn for a while
Pattern cutting is a skill I've wanted to learn for a while and something I'm often asked about

Sometimes, choosing to learn something is more about choosing how to learn it than anything else. I love the availability of online courses these days, but I also know that I don’t really think of them as a priority – so if I chose to learn pattern cutting online, I wouldn’t really get anywhere with it. I also love books, but sometimes I need someone to show me rather than tell me how to do something. That leaves in-person teaching.

I’ve been lucky enough to discover an adult college course specifically teaching pattern cutting which is in Manchester. Setting aside three hours a week to go and learn is definitely the best way for me to truly learn – I can give my full attention to pattern cutting during those three hours, regardless of what’s happening in other areas of my life. I’ll get real-time advice and responses to my questions and ideas, and I’ll have homework to do each week which will keep me engaged.

I can take what I learn week by week and apply it to Affinity Designer; learning to create my own blocks and slopers on paper is the best way of learning to do it on a computer. I keep getting emails and comments on YouTube asking me to do more videos about pattern cutting in Affinity, so hopefully I can pass on what I learn by making more of these videos. I’m also interested in learning how to create line drawings which represent my patterns. I’ve found what looks to be a great book – Technical Drawing For Fashion by Basia Szkutnicka – which I can hopefully figure out how to do in Affinity too.

What does this mean for my shop, blog and videos?

For those wondering if this means an end to my haberdashery shop, the answer is absolutely not. I’ll still be designing and sourcing new products with as much of an emphasis on sustainability as before – I have plenty of ideas on that front to keep me very busy for some time. It does, however, mean that in the (hopefully not too distant) future, I’ll have a section of the shop dedicated to sewing and crochet patterns.

As for the blog and YouTube channel, expect to see more posts and videos about this in the future – both in Affinity Designer and in general. You’ll see a new category on my blog just for pattern cutting, so anyone interested can find all my posts about it in there – plus I’ll be doing the same with YouTube and creating specific playlists for all things pattern cutting.