How to Draft Paper Sewing Patterns

paper pattern

Many of the patterns I have created for my blog often rely on using a pattern guide where you draft your own pattern.  It is a wonderful process that really allows you to understand the constructions of a particular garment along with a growing familiarity of the shape patterns need to be to fit your body.  I first began pattern drafting after I purchased a 1930’s sewing book which used a mathematics-based system.  Never being all that good at math, I grew overwhelmed looking at the guide provided to create what I was used to simply cutting out.  However, once I slowly went through the process I was delighted to find how easy it was to learn and how many more types of garments I could create on my own without having to be restricted to the sizes offered on pattern envelopes.

So, if you have tried but became frustrated with pattern drafting, or if you have never tried it at all, than this post is for you!

The first step in preparing for pattern drafting is to find a large table where you can keep all your tools close by.   I like to use several different types of rulers, a pencil or permanent marker, paper weights, a calculator, and a large roll of craft paper.  Next, have a list of all your body measurements as it will make it easier to draft the pattern quickly.



Now, take a look at your pattern guide and see how the pattern picture is labeled.  I personally like to use a Alphabet system with mine….

Picture Guide for the 1943 Ruffled Blouse

1945 Ruffled Blouse Pattern

But regardless of the labeling system, use the picture as a guide for the overall look of the pieces and the pattern guide for the actual measurements.  To see an example of a guide, here is one I did for the 1943 Ruffled blouse referenced above.  Simply click the link to download the PDF.

1943 Ruffled Blouse Pattern Drafting Guide

To show you an example of how I draft a pattern, I will show you a simple 1930’s block pattern.

I always begin with the shoulder line, making sure to match the slope shown in the picture, then follow up with the armhole using a curved ruler.


Then I begin working from the neck down using a curved or straight ruler to ensure I match the design of the pattern picture.



If it helps, feel free to label each point as you go, including the center front and side seam, to make sure you haven’t missed anything…


Once you have completed the drawing, go ahead and cut it out.


Now comes the important part: pinning it onto your dress form, or holding it to your body standing in front of a mirror.  This is the time to make notes on the pattern to add or take away length, or cut out a bigger armhole, or tape more paper if the armhole is too big.  

For example, this block pattern fits the dress form, but I can tell there is not much wiggle room.  So I would either make a note to add more width when I cut out, or I can tape on a extra strip.  This is also a good time to see if darts are needed and where.



Continue the process with the remaining patterns, then you are ready to cut out your fabric pieces!



While it may take some practice, you will find that it is surprisingly easy and exciting to create your own patterns that can be used again and again and again.

Happy Designing!


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4 thoughts on “How to Draft Paper Sewing Patterns

  1. It might be easier to drape, rather than cut out a pattern sans measurements and adjust the fit then. Generally when you drape a pattern, you take muslin and your dress form and you pin how you want the fabric to look. I generally pin along seam lines and I work with one pattern piece at a time (I’ll do half of a front bodice, then half of a back bodice, etc.). I then trace in using a marker or pencil the stitch lines and mark where any darts are to be taken. I then roughly cut it out while still pinned on the mannequin, then unpin it, and smooth out the lines, draw in the darts more evenly, etc, and re-cut it.

    This gives you a fabric pattern piece that could then be transferred to paper.

    But it seems like your method is a combo of drafting (using measurements to get a fixed shape) and draping (putting material on the form and adjusting it as needed). And tbh, that makes sense, considering that you often sew vintage and historical shapes which may or may not have patterns or drafting directions.

    But! Since you work from pattern shapes and adjust to fit, you’d probably appreciate this website if you don’t know it already: (if you’re not a member, you can search using the “sample” function). But this is the Commercial Pattern Archive. They give you the front and back of the pattern envelopes along with the sketch of what the pattern pieces looked like.

    Happy sewing!

    — Tegan

  2. Pingback: IT’S HERE: Pattern Book, Fashion Line, and Giveaway!!! | Inside Aimee's Victorian Armoire

  3. How wonderful! This is such a great idea! Especially for anyone who doesn’t have access to a good dress form to drape from. When I first started making my own patterns this was the technique I used. I learned so much about pattern fundamentals. It actually helped me when I learned to drape from a dress form. I think this is such a wonderful idea for a book! CONGRATS!!

    – Christina

    • Thank you so much! I am so glad that you like the idea! It’s one that is not as popular or commonly used as it once was, but such a great way to learn more about pattern construction.
      Thank you for your sweet comment!
      Have a wonderful day,

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