I’m Learning Patternmaking: My First Sloper

I’m much too cheap to buy patterns, even on clearance. I have made a couple of skirts using patterns from library books–they are printed on thick book-type paper, as opposed to the thinner sort of pattern paper, and one traces them. (Freezer paper is excellent for this purpose.) My first foray into making a skirt without a pattern ended badly–the muslin was wildly unflattering.

Nevertheless, I persisted. I wasn’t that happy with the skirts I had made from patterns. They are fully lined with no waistband, and the lining never even came close to lining up with the outside. They also don’t really have enough volume to accommodate pockets. (I used The Essential A-line: Make 17 Flirty Skirts from 1 Basic Pattern, and I still think it can be a good starting place. I wear the skirts regularly, I just think I can do better.)

For my next project, I chose the book Skirt-a-Day Sewing, which I had rejected before as being too difficult. I think I’m ready now. This one offers 28 different skirt designs and walks the reader through how to take measurements, draft a basic pattern, and then alter it for each specific design. So the final result is prescribed and the instructions are very specific… but there is no pattern to cut out or trace.


Another one that I looked at is How to Make Sewing Patterns. This was a little too much like drinking from a fire hose for my current needs. The many complicated measurements that it prescribes probably won’t improve my results until my skills catch up–at which point I might find it very helpful. And it offers only a little design guidance.

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My first pattern. I was trying to “true” the darts. I still don’t understand this part and am not sure it’s important.

Guys, I’m having a lot of fun! All the measuring and drawing has been an enjoyable challenge and has really improved my understanding of garment construction.

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Yes, this is me, in my spectacularly messy bathroom, trying on my fitting shell while also wearing a pajama top and taking a selfie. This is not the glamorous part of fashion design.

So far, I have gotten as far as making a basic sloper–basically a fitting shell. Next, the book suggests making a second sloper that is specific to the basic type of skirt (flared, in this case). Since flaring the skirt involves “slashing and spreading” the pattern I made from my measurements, I think that’s worth the four dollars of muslin. (Maybe gingham would have been better but I couldn’t bring myself to pay seven dollars for two yards’ worth.)

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“Slash and spread”–not as violent as it sounds.

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My makeshift hip curve. I found it did not match my actual curve well.

I could have gotten away without buying anything, and at first I did. Some people say you can draw the curved hip portion of a side seam using a dinner plate, but I tried that and it wasn’t even close to the right shape. Which makes sense, because hips are not actually circular. So for a while, I used a downloaded hip curve ruler, which I pasted to a Cheerios box for stiffening and cut out. That worked OK. But I decided to go ahead and buy a flexible curve ruler (about $10, bought with Amazon reward points).

Skirt-A-Day prescribed a hip curve, but I thought the flexible curve, recommended in Make Sewing Patterns, would be more versatile. I guess time will tell.

Onward with the second sloper!

What are you making lately? How are the results?

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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

5 responses to “I’m Learning Patternmaking: My First Sloper”

  1. Lisa's Everyday Life says :

    My mom always made her own on Brown paper

  2. Amy K says :

    Totally off topic, but: Tom’s of Maine silly strawberry toothpaste. How well do your boys (or you?) like it? I bought some and all three of us think it’s gross because it’s strawberry-banana. Is it supposed to be? We were expecting strawberry on its own.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Well, I have used it a couple of times by accident and thought it was pure foulness. I use plain white Colgate (you have to look way down at the bottom of the rack), which is inexpensive and has a good Skin Deep score. The boys like it fine although they prefer that blue sparkly Crest for Kids stuff that they sometimes get at the dentist office. Given a choice between those two, I am happy to shell out for Toms.

  3. theforkedroadsite says :

    Nice work there. I’m still working with the upper wear. Do give my blog a read, I made my first top using patterns just yesterday.

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