How to begin working with pattern blocks - The basics of pattern cutting - Part 2/3

Updated: Aug 11

Pattern cutting is such a valuable skill and it's the one thing that will upgrade your sewing game as it helps you understand your sewing patterns and allows you to adapt them to your style, shape and size.

To create your own sewing patterns the easiest way to start and the most common way to start is to use PATTERN BLOCKS (Otherwise known as slopers).

What's the difference between pattern blocks and sewing patterns

Before you begin your pattern cutting journey, it's really important that you know the difference between pattern blocks and sewing patterns. It's so easy to get confused between them so let me help you spot the differences.

What are Pattern Blocks (Slopers)?

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

  • They don’t have any seam or hem allowances or design features and represent the minimum amount of fabric needed to cover the body.

  • They are usually made from thick card so they can be used over and over again as stencils.

  • They act as templates which can be drawn around to make a copy and then adapted to your design.

Below is an image of a half-scale front bodice block and a back bodice block. I'll explain more about the different scales below as they're very useful.

Okay, so let's break it down a bit more...

Let's say you want to make a top and you have something in mind that you'd like to make.

You start searching for a sewing pattern online that is as similar as possible to your design. However, you can't find one that's just right.

This is where the pattern blocks come in... Instead of searching high and low for the perfect shop-bought sewing pattern, you would draw around your pattern blocks (your stencils) and start drafting your pattern from these.

You can add design features, annotations and more when drafting your patterns which you can learn about here in my FREE eBook. Finally, you would add seam and hem allowance to your pattern pieces and just like that you've created a sewing pattern for your dream top!

TIP: Never alter your pattern blocks. Always trace around them onto a different piece of paper and create your pattern from there

Did you know: Each clothing company will have its own set of pattern blocks that they will use to make all of their designs. This is why you may be a certain size in one shop, but have to go up or down a size in another shop.

What really is a sewing pattern?

A sewing pattern is normally made up of different pattern pieces. The image below shows a variety of shop-bought sewing patterns which are ready to place on your fabric and cut out. They already have seam and hem allowance included, so all you need to do is trace around each pattern piece on your fabric, cut it out and sew the fabric pieces together to make the garment.

With just a bit of pattern cutting knowledge, you can adapt your sewing patterns to fit better and alter them to your style too.