What are pattern cutting blocks and what are the quarter and half-scale ones for?

Updated: Feb 23

What are pattern cutting blocks?

Pattern cutting blocks, also known as slopers in the US, are the stencils used to create 99% of sewing patterns.

The blocks act as a sized stencil which can be drawn around as the basis of a sewing pattern design. They tend to come in generic sizes but can be adapted to your size and shape too. They can then be traced around and altered to the design required. This means that the size of the garment is preset before designing so the focus isn't on sizing but on the design.

What's the difference between pattern cutting blocks and pattern cutting pieces?

Pattern cutting blocks are the stencils to 99% of designs, they must never be cut into, cut up or altered (unless you want to change the fit of the blocks for all of your future designs). Blocks are normally made out of card to make them easy to trace around and to make them last longer.

Pattern cutting blocks never have any seam or hem allowances added onto them. This is so that they don't get in the way of your designs when you're pattern cutting.

Pattern cutting pieces are the sewing pattern pieces that you create from your pattern cutting blocks. They are the pieces that you use to know what to cut out of fabric. Pattern cutting pieces are just made from paper, a fairly lightweight paper too so it can be pinned though.

What's the difference between woven blocks and stretch blocks?

Woven blocks, aka pattern cutting blocks for woven fabrics such as cottons, silks, linens etc, need to allow for the shape of the body as they don't naturally stretch and form to the bodies shape. This means that the blocks need to have darts in them to shape to the body unless the garment is a baggy fit. Below shows some examples of woven blocks:

Stretch blocks, aka pattern cutting blocks for stretch fabrics such as jersey, lycra and elastane, naturally stretch around the bodies shape due to the stretch in the fabric so they naturally form to the shape of the body. This means the blocks don't need to have any darts in them. Below shows some examples of stretch blocks:

If you'd like to learn more about the basics of pattern cutting I've created a FREE eBook, An Introduction to Pattern Cutting for your reference and you can find it here.

Why are there full-scale, half-scale and quarter-scale blocks?

First of all, I think it's important to know what scaled blocks are. They are pattern cutting blocks that have been scaled down by a certain percentage. This means that they have the