I draft my own sewing patterns. I had been doing this on paper, but got tired of having to copy, cut, tape, and recopy patterns every time I wanted to modify a design. I also wanted to be able to save old versions of designs without drowning in a sea of paper.
I investigated professional pattern drafting software, but they typically cost about $5000, far out of my reach. I tried pattern drafting software for the home sewer, but found their CAD programs to be frustratingly difficult and inefficient. Then I remembered that I had Adobe Illustrator! I had never used it, but decided to give it a go.
And it worked!
Here is a tutorial on (or maybe just some examples of) using Adobe Illustrator for flat pattern drafting. It does assume that you know how to use Illustrator (and the Vector Scribe plugin that I added), but if you are clever enough to figure out flat pattern drafting, you are clever enough to figure out how to use the pen tool and dynamic measure tool, and that’s really all you need.
The first section discusses drafting a sloper – which contains all the concepts you need to draft any pattern. The second section discusses moving dart, and the third section discusses using layers to reuse shared parts of the pattern, reducing drafting time and making changes far speedier.
Part I: Drafting a Sloper
I started by drafting a sloper from scratch. I had previously installed the Vector Scribe Designer plugin for Illustrator, which contains a bazillion useful measurement tools, and started by using the Dynamic Measure Tool to lay out the pattern. My pattern drafting book (Patternmaking for Fashion Design, by Helen Joseph-Armstrong) gives detailed instructions on lines, measurements, and angles, and fortunately Vector Scribe does all three. Here is a picture of my screen partway through the measuring process:
Using the Dynamic Measure tool, I clicked on the first endpoint, then dragged the mouse out to create each of the red lines. As I dragged, the tool displayed the length and angle of the segment, and when I clicked, it added a line with measurements printed next to the line.
Here is my screen after I had finished all the measurements and laid out all the points:
Next I took the Pen tool and created anchor points at each of the points indicated in the pattern:
And then I used the Convert Anchor Point tool and the Direct Selection tool to convert the neck and armhole angles into curves:
Finally, I opened the Dynamic Measuring tool window and deleted all the temporary lines created by the tool, leaving only the finished sloper:
Part 2: Moving a Dart
Moving a dart in Illustrator is easy! Here’s how you do it.
First, draw a line where you want the new dart opening to be. (You don’t actually have to do this, but it makes visualization easier.) Then, use the Scissors tool to cut the path at the new dart edge and the tip of the old dart. You can see in this photo that the selected path is only the section that will be rotated:
Next, select all the points that you want to rotate, using the Direct Selection Tool. Use the Rotation Tool to put the rotation point at the end of the dart, then use it to rotate until the dart is closed. It should look like this:
You’re almost done! Redraw the dart line and delete the extraneous lines:
And, finally, measure 1/2 inch from the bust point using the Dynamic Measuring Tool, and move the dart point to the new spot using the Direct Selection Tool:
Ta-daa! You’re done.
But wait! There’s more…
Part Three: Using layers to reuse pattern pieces
Here is how I drafted four similar pattern pieces without having to redraft the shared portions.
First, I drafted the basic garment. This was the first layer:
Then I added seam allowances using the Dynamic Measuring tool, the Pen tool, and the Direct Selection tool. I put those on a separate layer, so I could toggle it on and off if I wanted to. (For example, if I wanted 5/8″ seam allowances instead of 1/2″, I could just make the layer invisible and draw a new set of seam allowances.)
Then, on yet another layer, I drafted the right collar, right up against the body of the garment.
I’m drawing the collar on a separate layer so I can toggle visibility on or off; this allows me to try many collar options with the same front panel, and just make the ones I like visible.
Next, I added the seam allowances for the collar and added a description of the pattern piece:
Now, I needed a right facing piece. The collar portion of the facing, which makes the upper collar, needs to be 1/8″ larger than the undercollar. Piece of cake. I used the Dynamic Measuring Tool to establish points 1/8″ away from the collar cutting lines, then created a new layer and drew the cutting line for the facing onto it. I then made the collar invisible, leaving only the facing.
And, finally, I made the entire right collar/facing invisible, and drew the left collar in its place. (The right collar is still there, just invisible!) This allowed me to “reuse” the body of the panel, so that if I later needed to adjust the body, I could do it just once, instead of having to change it twice, once on the right and once on the left side.
Here is the completed left front panel:
I hope this tutorial has given you some idea of how to use Adobe Illustrator for flat pattern drafting! It’s an incredibly powerful tool, and I really like it.