Lesson 1 – Meet Suzy Furrer
What You’ll Learn
This class aims to teach you the foundations for pattern making by drafting a sloper and design details in which can then be used in production patterns.
About Flat Patternmaking
It’s important to note that this class is not about draping to make a pattern, rather a flat pattern is used to make the pattern and then later tested on a mannequin.
Lesson 2 – Measuring and Setting Up the Sloper
Working With A Dress Form
Suzy points out that whilst dress forms are usually accurate across brands, you need to keep in mind your target audience for the finished product: woman women in today’s society doesn’t necessarily have the same bust, waist and hip ratios as a dress form.
Tips for Measuring on a Person
You may also be drafting a pattern for a specific person – yourself or a friend – in which case their accurate measurements ought to be used.
Suzy mentions some little tips on how to measure a person, such as how to stand. She does not however show you how to measure a person; this is assumed knowledge.
Measuring the Waist and Hips
When drafting patterns, you aren’t just using the waist and hip measurements. You need to also include the high hip and low hip where a person’s body may dip or bulge and thus effect how clothing may sit.
Measuring Skirt Lengths
All the measurements are taken from the waist downwards.
Suzy shows you how easy it is to calculate the measurements that you will need to work with to draft your pattern pieces.
Creating the Skirt Block
The skirt block in this lesson is essentially a rectangle referring to the waist, high hip, low hip and length of the skirt. Lesson 3 will teach you how to draft the final skirt. You cannot skip this step to continue the lessons.
Lesson 3 – Drafting a One-Dart Sloper
Suzy shows you a pre-sewn skirt sloper, emphasizing that it doesn’t have finished features such as a proper waist or hem, but rather is the barebones of the design.
Drafting the Front
This is where the heavy lifting starts. You will most likely pause and start the video, perhaps even rewind, several times. I suggest you watch how Suzy drafts the skirt before repeating the lesson and doing it with her.
I also highly suggest that for your first pattern to use the size 8 model measurements with Suzy; it starts to get a bit complicated when trying to follow her instructions whilst doing your own calculations. I tried doing this with a half scale size 12 dress form; I had to figure out the size 12 measurements and then scale them down for the dress form. Not fun!
Drafting the Side
Drafting the side is quick and easy; draw lines between the marks you made in the previous step.
Drafting the Back
Pretty much the same in-depth process of drafting the front; heavy on referencing maths and given measurements.
Truing up Dart Legs
If you have altered patterns before then you should be familiar with truing up your darts. Basically just make sure that your dart has the proper fabric between each leg point to be sewn.
Adding Notches and Grain Lines
Notches and grain lines provide necessary information for the sewer – it’s helpful for when you return to your pattern months later, or give it to someone, the pattern makes sense.
I really like how Suzy shows you a quick example of how different types of grains can affect how a fabric falls. However, I think if you are at the point in your sewing that you are making your own patterns, I would hope that you have some idea of the differences of grain already.
Lesson 4 – Making the Muslin and Fine-Tuning Fit
Truing Up Front and Back
Suzy places one pattern piece on the top to make sure that both pieces are the same size. This technique only works if your front and back halves use 1/2 of the entire body measurement, compared to a separate front and back measurement.
Positioning Pieces on the Muslin
Line up your grain lines to the selvages. Even a beginner should know this.
Adding Seam Allowance
Choose to add whatever seam allowance you are most comfortable with; the industry standard for sewing patterns is 5/8″, though ready to wear seam allowances are closer to 3/8″.
Cutting the Muslin
Cut your fabric as usual.
Suzy uses a pattern awl to mark the dart end. You can choose to use a tailor’s tack if you prefer.
Sewing Up the Muslin
Stay stitch the waist to stop the fabric stretching at the curve. Standard stitch side seams and the center back, leaving a space where a zipper would be placed so that the skirt can be placed upon yourself, your client or your dress form. Note that you can just pin the “zipper” closed as we are just testing fit at the moment.
Troubleshooting the Fit
When sewing, keep note of whether you had trouble matching up any seams or notches.
Check that the side seams fall straight – this is an important check for people as we all have slightly different shaped bodies that can effect the side seam draping.
Transferring to Tag
This is the step where you transfer any fit problems back to your pattern. Keep in mind that 1/8″ change will result in a 1/2″ change to the final pattern, as that single change on the pattern will result in it being replicated 4 times on the entire fabric cut.
Your master pattern is transferred to tag. If you don’t have tag, you can always use poster board or cardboard from a stationary store. Don’t forget to record the size, the pattern reference number (if a couple designs get mixed up) and the pattern piece name to the tag.
Lesson 5 – Drafting Flared Skirts
Tracing Off the Sloper
Tracing is as you would expect; trace the outlines and all markings such as notches. Note that your sloper doesn’t have a grain line – this you will add to the skirt pattern.
Drafting an A-Line Flare
Suzy does a great job of showing you what our skirt sloper should look like when altered to make an A-Line skirt. She clearly explains what you will be doing to create this. She also shows you a finished product just to make sure you know exactly what you are making.
Furthermore Suzy informs you important measurements that you need to be aware of; for example if you extend the A-Line skirt insertion too far, you will actually lose that straight hem that is iconic with the A-Line.
Bias Flare Skirt
Again Suzy clearly explains any math that you need to be aware of. When splitting the single dart into two darts, I at first was confused about why she didn’t split the skirt in equal 1/3’s between each dart. She however explains this, reminding me that since we are drafting on only half the pattern, we have to account for the skirt being sewn on the fold at the center front.
The Circle Flare
If you have ever followed a circle skirt tutorial, this is exactly what this part of the lesson is.
Lesson 6 – Drafting Pleated Skirts
The Inverted Box Pleat
I was a little disappointed to find that the inverted box pleat lesson only includes a singular pleat down the center front. It would have been nice to see how to add more than one box pleat to a skirt – such as all the way around the skirt as a decoration feature. Of course, the knowledge learnt from this lesson is enough that you can do this on your own.
I love accordion pleats – they are those little sexy pleats that flash out on the back of skirts when you walk. I honestly can’t help envisioning fish net stockings and high heels to go with this skirt… Again, accordion pleats can be used all the way around a skirt to create a decorative feature which sadly wasn’t covered. Of course, the knowledge learnt from this lesson is enough that you can do this on your own.
The knife pleat lesson is somewhat more complex compared to the box pleat and the accordion pleats. Despite saying this, once you have practiced it once or twice it will seem quite obvious.
Suzy shows you how to reduce bulk on knife pleats – a necessity if you are a person with a bit of a belly.
Lesson 7 – Waist Variations and an Easy Pocket
Lowering the Waistline
Not everyone likes a skirt that sits at your waist; perhaps you are like me and prefer skirts to sit at your hips instead. Suzy shows you how to remove the dart and lower the waist to your desired height.
Drafting a Contoured Waistband
Who knew that drafting a waistband was honestly so easy!? This lesson shows you how to draft a contoured waistband for your skirt that also includes an extension for a button to help it be secured.
The Empire Waist With Facing
If, alternatively, you prefer a skirt that sits higher than your natural waist then you will want to use an empire waist. You can chose to use the contoured waistband lesson previously to draft your waistband, or you can follow the instructions in this lesson to draft a facing.By using a facing that ends slightly lower than the waist, it helps the skirt from not bunching up.
The Pencil Skirt
The pencil skirt is very similar to an A-Line Skirt, with the exception that you are removing fabric as opposed to adding. You do need to keep in mind any ease that you may need at the hips; for example, I have much larger hips and thus will need more ease there to make sure I can sit comfortably.
Adding a Slit
This lesson is like adding pleats in the last lesson.
Drafting a Pocket
Suzy very clearly explains how to draft a pocket through various stages. She starts by drawing directly onto the sloper, before transferring pattern pieces to paper. She uses these pattern pieces as visuals on how the patterns are layered in fabric, so even a beginner can easily follow.
Lesson 8 – Flounces and Drapes
Adding a Flounce
By now you should be familiar with the process of cutting your pattern pieces with hinges, and swinging them to add or reduce material. Adding a flounce uses the same method.
Adding a Peplum
Suzy not only shows you how to draft a peplum, but also mentions several tips such as only adding a peplum at a natural waist – not a lowered waist – for best results.
The Side Drape
Side drapes are a pretty common way to add decoration to skirts; I see them a lot in pencil skirts.
Adding a side drape is a bit more complex compared to examples in previous lessons; you don’t simply cut a hinge and spin. Like all of Suzy’s lessons, she walks you through the steps in a way that are a clear and make sense, so that you can easily do it yourself with your own changes if desired.
Drafting a Wrap Skirt
Suzy shows you how to draft a wrap skirt so that the skirt is weighted the same for both sides of the front (thus it will drape as desired), how to adjust the skirt so that the wrap will hang vertically, and even how to calculate the proper measurements so it will stay closed when sitting and moving.
Lesson 9 – Waistbands, Facings, Linings and Knits
Straight, Contoured and Yoked Waistbands
A straight waistband will sit at the waist (above the elastic on a dress form). A finished waistband is usually 1 1/4″ in height when finished.
If your skirt is designed to sit at your lower waist, you will need to use a contoured waistband. Drafting a contoured waistband was discussed in Lesson 7 – Waist Variations and an Easy Pocket.
For the waistbands, Suzy also discusses important information such as what type of grain line you should use, whether the waistband should be interfaced, and more.
A facing is a great alternative to a waistband; it stabilizes the waistline and cleans up the raw edges.
A quality skirts will have a lining; it helps the skirt drape properly when worn and its slippery fabric allows you to move more easily. A lining will traditionally be slightly smaller than the skirt pattern; for example the lining will be shorter than the skirt so it’s not seen on the right side.
Drafting a Sloper for Knits
Knits have much more stretch than woven fabric; if you were to use a standard sewing pattern that’s designed for woven fabric, your skirt will just swamp you and fall off! Since you can design amazing knit skirts, Suzy shows you the necessary steps to convert your woven pattern into a knit pattern: the best of both worlds.
Lesson 10 – Production Patterns and Examples
Most people taking this class don’t just want to learn how to make their own patterns, they want to know how to sell or give their patterns away. You need a more “finished” pattern to do this.
Marking and Notching for Production
Suzy covers information such as
- seam allowances (including areas such as corners where it might need truing or variations such as at zippers),
- cutting on the fold,
- differentiating stitching and cutting lines,
- where to add notches, and
- other important markings that need to be added (such as dart legs or button holes).
You should also include the season the skirt is made for, the name of the pattern, the piece number (and optional name), the size and number of cuts needed. It’s also helpful to include what seam allowances measurements you are using; not everyone sticks to the standard 5/8″ that’s commonly found in home sewing patterns.
Circle Skirt Example, A-Line Skirt Example and Empire Pencil Skirt With Flounce
Suzy covers three different skirts that were drafted in pervious lessons, showing you what the final pattern should look like with all the necessary markings and details. She references sewn skirts to convey her examples.
When it comes to drafting the different types of skirts, I like how Suzy explains the different options you have; you don’t simply follow step-by-step, but rather she explains what she has done and why and where and how to adjust your pattern to your own preferences.
Whilst you might need to pause the lesson often as you draft along-side Suzy, after practicing once or twice you will honestly be drafting just as fast as her. It might not sound like much, but drafting a custom skirt in ten minutes and a contoured waistband in three minutes… What’s the point of even buying sewing patterns when you can make custom tailored clothes so quickly?
Whilst teaching how to draft a contoured waistband in Lesson 7 allowed the lesson to flow, it would have been nice for it to be found in Lesson 9 where drafting other types of waistbands are taught. It just makes sense for later referencing.
The biggest downside with this class is that Suzy did not teach grading. It’s not practical to redraft a skirt pattern for every single clothing size, and I think that teaching students how to grade would perfect this class.
Patternmaking Basics: Skirts, taught by Suzy Furrer, is honestly a wonderful class. Suzy Furrer is a wonderful teacher. All her steps are very clear and designed to be easy to follow – even a beginner without much experience with sewing will be able to follow along without too much trouble.
If you are looking at creating your own custom designed clothing or want to get into the pattern design business, then Patternmaking Basics: Skirts will teach you all the basics that you will need. The information isn’t just limited to skirts as well – remember that a dress is basically a bodice and skirt joined.
Overall I would have to rate the class 9/10. The only issue that I found was that how to grade was not covered in the class. Grading sizes is an important aspect if you are looking at selling your patterns; you don’t want to be drafting each size separately, it just takes way too much time.