If you read my last post (found here) you would know that I recently purchased my first pattern making kit from Sure Fit Designs to create custom fit clothing. Something that has been difficult for me to do in the past. I stated in that post that I would be writing a series of posts sharing my experiences with you. This is the second article in that series.
This article will be about the importance of make a sloper. A step that I and many home sewers skip. Reasons for skipping this step vary from “I don’t understand the process” to “It takes too much time” along with many other excuses. But ladies and gentlemen, I hope that after reading this article you will join me in realizing this is the most important step in sewing clothing and won’t skip it ever again.
The great news is you don’t need to do this with every pattern like I had originally thought. Being a self-taught sewer, I don’t always know all the rules. Making slopers is one of those rules that I didn’t understand the benefits of. I thought if I make a new pattern, I need to do a test garment first (what I thought would be my sloper), and then make all my adjustments to that before sewing up the item of clothing. This (in my mind) meant every time I purchase a pattern I need to do all this extra work first…and then make the item? Are you kidding me? Just the thought of doing a test garment each and every time I want to sew something had me running scared for years! I used to say I hated sewing clothing, but the truth was, I hated sewing so many test garments.
The good news is I now know better. The sloper is (unless your weight or shape changes) is really only needed to be done once.
The benefits of making the sloper
The benefits of making a sloper is that you are taking all your measurements (yes more than 3) and then creating a 3-D shape of your unique body. This 3-D shape can then be transferred to any flat pattern you want.
In the past I like most sewers, would take only a few measurements and take out my commercial pattern to select my size. Typical measurements might include bust, waist and hips. I would use these 3 numbers to determine which size pattern to cut out. Unfortunately 9 out of 10 times the finished garment would not fit properly. My shoulders were off, sleeves might have been too long, or my waist was too tight, or loose etc. What could I have done wrong I wondered? The obvious answer is I didn’t create a sloper first. Remember this process is done only once unless your weight or shape changes. I suggest that you take the time to make a skirt, bodice and pant sloper and you will be ready to make any garment you so desire!
The image below (found on Laura After Midnight’s website.) shows a good example of how many measurements you really need for a good fit.
The reason for making a sloper prior to sewing clothing is so that you get a better fit. Measuring yourself properly, sewing up a test garment (sloper) in an inexpensive fabric will allow you to asses your fit. If you need adjustments they can be made to this test garment. You can then transfer all those adjustments to your flat (commercial pattern pieces) before cutting your expensive fabric.
Once you achieve the results you want, you can then use this blueprint to create many different garments. Garments that you draft or design and yes you can also use all those commercial patterns again and get a better fit than you might have before. I love the Sure Fit Designs system for creating my slopers as their system is one of the easiest methods I have tried so far. They include easy to follow instructions and a DVD with the kit. Their website is full of helpful video instructions which are also found on YouTube. These resources are free to use even if you don’t buy their products. Go to their site if you want see for yourself how hard they work to ensure you succeed.
Taking the time to work through this process will be well worth the efforts. However expect to spend some time on this process as it may take you days or weeks to complete. I made 3 or 4 attempts at making my skirt sloper before I got it right…and is one of the simplest garments to make. But now that I have my blueprint done I can move onto sewing skirts using commercial patterns or even drafting from scratch if I so desire. I have my pattern block created and it is using my own personal measurements…….not those of some perfectly proportioned mannequin.
What do you do if you don’t have the Sure Fit Designs System?
If you don’t own the Sure Fit Designs system you can still achieve these same results. There are many books and online resources to walk you through creating a sloper. In fact many of the big pattern companies offer actual patterns for sewing up a sloper. I recommend making a bodice, a skirt and a pant sloper so that you can make any variations of clothing items you so desire. Take the time and do it right, then move onto sewing your garments using all those wonderful fashion fabrics.
Understand your unique body with all its lumps and bumps create a sloper and then transfer those adjustments to your commercial patterns. There are more adjustments needed to get a good fit than just lengthening or shortening (which is usually all that is explained on the pattern). There are also more numbers needed than just your bust, waist and hip measurements in order to get that perfect fit. We don’t have perfect proportioned bodies which is what most pattern makers design for… so embrace your imperfect body and make a sloper. You won’t regret it.
Remember if you missed the first article in this series you can catch up by reading it here.
Next article: Sure fit Designs Bodice experience
By the way: I did sew up my first wearable skirt from my custom sloper. If I get the time, I will share that experience and my new awesome one of a kind skirt that fits me perfectly!