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5 Essential pattern cutting tools, books and mannequins to start creating your own sewing patterns

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

I always receive lots of messages from my lovely Sewing Retreat community asking about the equipment I use. So... Here's PART 2: Our recommendations for pattern cutting equipment...

You can find part 1, our recommended sewing equipment, here.

And part 3: My recommendations for course creation tools will be coming soon.

*** Anything I am recommending is because I love it, I've not been asked to recommend these products but if you decide to purchase anything using an Amazon link I will receive a very small amount as an affiliate but this doesn't cost you more at all and it helps us, as a small business, to grow ***


5 Essential Pattern Cutting Tools to Get Started Today

There are 5 things you need to get started today and you'll probably find that you already have most of them around the house.

1. Pattern cutting ruler

This is the most important pattern cutting tool and it'll speed up the process of creating sewing patterns. Check out this video tutorial here on how to use a pattern cutting ruler to understand why they're so vital and why a normal ruler won't really do the trick.

Please note this is a link for a metric pattern cutting ruler. You can also purchase imperial rulers too and there are different shapes available that will function in the same way.

2. Propelling/Mechanical pencil & rubber

A normal pencil gets blunt far too quickly and means that your patterns won’t be accurate as the thicker you line the more you'll be adding to your patterns. I advise getting a 0.5mm propelling pencil and refillable leads.

>> Click here to purchase a propelling pencil << 3. Pattern Blocks/Slopers

Pattern blocks (also known as slopers) are basically stencils that you can use to start creating your sewing patterns.

The exact pattern blocks I use to create my own sewing patterns are available on my Etsy here and I also include them inside my courses. These printable blocks are the perfect starting point when pattern cutting.

They come in three different sizes, quarter-scale, half-scale and full-scale. You can learn more about the different scales here and what to use them for. You can also choose between stretch blocks and woven blocks to create your desired look.

Want to learn more about pattern blocks and begin working with them to create your dream clothes? Click here to read my blog post all about pattern blocks.

4. Pattern cutting paper

I recommend using a nice lightweight roll of paper, approx. 50/70gsm. This is to prevent your patterns from ripping easily and you should also be able to see through the paper so you can accurately trace other pattern pieces.

You can also buy rolls of recycled brown paper about 75cm wide which are great and more ethical. The only issue with them is you can't see through the paper if you're tracing a pattern off.

5. Paper scissors

To make your scissors last longer, only use your paper scissors for paper and fabric scissors for fabric.

Using fabric scissors for cutting paper will make them go blunt because you are effectively cutting through a tree. The best scissors are sharp, so sharpen them when needed.



Sit/stand desk + chair

Both my desk and chair are from Ikea and the table can be adjusted to different heights for when I want to stand when pattern cutting and sit when sewing. It's a lot easier standing to pattern cut as you can walk around to the side of the pattern you need rather than always turning around the pieces of paper

I got the 160cmx80cm desk which you can find here but there are smaller options available on the website as well as a more expensive electronic version.

I personally didn't need the electronic desk and adjust the height by manually winding the handle. The electronic version has buttons that you press to automatically adjust the height of your desk which is amazing if you are unable to manually wind the handle.

Pros: The height of the desk is adjustable and big enough to spread my patterns out whilst pattern cutting. Cons: Manual handle to adjust height - I personally don't mind this at all but some prefer the electronic version.

Hanging Ladder from eBay:

This bamboo ladder is great for hanging my pattern blocks on and any toiles I'm in the process of working on. It's the perfect organiser that is also trendy, sustainable and cheap. I used to use it in the bathroom and didn't know where to put it but it's perfect in my studio!

I also use pattern cutting hooks from Moreplan, and bulldog clips, to easily hang everything up on my bamboo ladder to make it super organised and easy to find what I'm looking for.


There are soo many different mannequins out there and I've even seen people papier-mâché their own half-scale ones too.

It all depends on what you'd like to use your mannequin for and what you want to get from it. For creating a good fit, I'd suggest a mannequin that is adjustable however, there are drawbacks to both types (adjustable vs solid/foam). For example, for the adjustable mannequin, you end up with gaps where you've opened it up which means you can't pin it there. So if you do decide you just want it for trying ideas I would go for just a foam one. I have a cheap foam dummy I've had for years from eBay which is ideal.

Pros: You can easily pin it anywhere and it's great for testing your designs and draping. Cons: You can't adjust it to your size if you have different proportions or if you're making something for someone else who is a different size.

Adjustable dummy/mannequin

Pros: You can buy adjustable mannequins which are great if you have a very different proportioned body shape. Cons: If you don't have a differently proportioned body shape then I wouldn't recommend an adjustable one as there tend to be lots of gaps between sections which means you can't pin into it in specific areas (I used to have one and sold it for this reason).


My Top 5 Pattern Cutting Books

1. Metric pattern cutting for women's wear by Winifred Aldrich

This is an amazing book to have to be able to use in collaboration with an online pattern cutting course or an in-person course. It includes step by step instructions with short simple sentences and clear diagrams too. It also shows great visuals of what the pattern will look like. It's more for pattern cutting tops, coats, trousers, shirts etc. rather than lingerie or swimwear. It's my most used book and I definitely recommend it. You can read a more in-depth review here that I've written about this book.

2. Pattern Magic by Tomoko Nakamichi

Nakamichi's books are so good for design inspiration for pattern cutting. It will help open up your mind to different ideas.

>> Click here to purchase this book << 3. Pattern Magic 2 by Tomoko Nakamichi

Another one of Nakamichi's books and again it's amazing for inspiration. If I have an idea block I always reach for her books to get the ideas flowing again. It will also give you some great ideas on how to tweak your designs and patterns. You can read a more in-depth review here that I've written about the two Pattern Magic books above.

>> Click here to purchase Pattern Magic 2 << 4. Pattern Cutting for Lingerie, Beachwear and Leisurewear by Ann Haggar

A great book if you'd love to start pattern cutting your own bras, underwear, swimwear and more.

5. An Introduction To Pattern Cutting by The Sewing Retreat

This is actually a book that I've written and the feedback I've had from it has been incredible. It's perfect if you're starting to pattern cut. It's totally free and a great starting point. I've included lots of information such as the difference between stretch and woven pattern blocks, different pattern cutting terms and symbols broken down, seam and hem allowance charts and so much more. This eBook is super useful if you've just started sewing too. It'll help you understand the sewing patterns that you use a lot more, making your sewing journey a lot more enjoyable. >> Download my FREE eBook here << If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a DM on Instagram Happy pattern cutting, Sarah xxx



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