When I decided to start making patterns here in London, I realised it was going to be a bit of a challenge. I had not brought any of my pattern making tools along with me when I moved here (unfortunately they did not fit in Monty the backpack) so I needed to start from scratch. Being in this situation though, meant that I needed to think about only the absolute necessities and learn to live without the abundance of things I have accumulated over the years in my home sewing room.
I pondered what I could not live without...
The first necessity was pattern paper. Without it there is no chance!
While at uni I fell in love with ‘dot and cross’ pattern cutting paper. It makes drawing parallel and perpendicular lines a piece of cake, and is transparent enough that you can easily trace off patterns when you are making changes. It is also nice and wide, so you don’t end up sticking twenty pieces of paper together to make a dress. I buy mine off eBay where it is relatively cheap and comes rolled so you don’t even have to worry about creases!
But, all that said, you can live without it if need be. Some good old fashioned butcher’s paper or brown wrapping paper will also do the trick!
Next in my “pattern cutting tools I cannot live without” round-up is a pacer pencil.
Okay, a good old lead pencil will do just fine, but a pacer gives you the kind of accuracy you need when making patterns. Think about it, if you use a thick lead pencil it may add 2 millimetres to your patterns. This may not seem like much, but if you continue to trace your patterns in this way, over and over, eventually that 2 millimetres will lead to a lot! And an added bonus... A pacer normally comes with an eraser on the end, so it crosses one piece of equipment off the list! An eraser in absolute pattern making staple. We would all like to think that we are perfect and won’t make a mistake. But we will. So always have an eraser in arm’s reach.
Another pattern cutting necessity is a ruler. Any ruler will do, but if you would like to make your life easier, invest in a grading ruler.
A grading ruler is long (so you can draw nice long lines in one go), transparent (great for adding seam allowance) and flexible (perfect for measuring curves).
Some pattern cutting tools look like weapons. The tracing wheel is one of them. This is one tool you really do want a case for! Without it, the tracing wheel has been known to poke through handbags and poke legs.
A dressmaking tape measure is needed for taking body measurements, whilst also being handy for measuring long or curved seams.
The Patternmaster is a bit of a luxury when it comes to pattern making. I struggled to decide whether it should actually be on my list of “pattern cutting tools I cannot live without,” but it just managed to scrape in.
I know a lot of people swear by them, but I often find it much easier to draw a curved line by pivoting with a straight ruler. The main thing I use my Patternmaster for is drawing right angles – it is very good for that.
The other contender for the most dangerous pattern cutting tool in the round-up is the stiletto (often known as an awl). This is another one to be careful with. It’s sharp point is great for making drill holes, as well as keeping the pattern in the right place when using the pivot technique to eliminate a dart or to add volume.
Scissors are a must, for obvious things like cutting out your patterns. You also need scissors for some pattern cutting techniques and tricks, like the ‘cutting’ counterpart of the ‘cut and spread’ technique.
I also use scissors to make my notches (as I decided that a notcher was too much of a luxury to purchase here – although I would recommend buying one if you feel like going all out with the whole pattern cutting equipment shebang).
Masking tape is another essential. I could not live without it when pattern making. You will need it when making additions or changes to a pattern (like lengthening or shortening). Masking tape is better than regular sticky tape as you can draw lines over it.