We are taking a short break while Margu relocates to NYC! Orders for FW18 are currently disabled until we unpack our sewing machines. Any questions, issues, or restaurant recommendations? Send us an email at hello@margudesign.com.

The Making of a Dress, Part 2: Patternmaking & Grading

by Emily DeLong | 31 May 16

This is the second part of our series on what goes on behind the scenes to turn an idea of a dress into a finished product. If you missed it, check out Part 1 here.

Once I have roughly planned out all the pieces in a collection, it’s time to move on to the next step in the dressmaking process: patternmaking.

What is patternmaking? It’s essentially making a blueprint for a garment. It’s where I create flat paper templates of all the pieces of a garment before they’re sewn together. Once I’ve made all my pattern pieces, I can then transfer the pattern to fabric, cut out the fabric, and I’m ready to start sewing.

The process is a bit more involved than just that, though, so let’s back up.

I wear a size medium, so all the patterns I create first are a size medium. I will start with base pattern pieces (aka “slopers”) of the simplest possible top/skirt/dress/etc. that I know already fit perfectly. Below is a basic sloper for a sleeveless bodice I created:

How did I get the slopers to fit perfectly in the first place? A very haphazard combination of pre-made slopers, inspiration from commercial patterns, and some intense drafting from scratch. It was an imperfect process.

To turn a basic bodice sloper into, say, the bodice of the Daisy Dress requires some work. I wanted to turn the front of the bodice, what was originally one piece, into three total pieces with diagonal princess seams meeting at the center, so I cut into the sloper where I wanted the diagonal seams to be, did a bit of technical manipulation, changed up the neckline, and voila! The bodice of the Daisy. (I would add pictures of this process, but they look like a garbled confusing mess full of scissors and tape and scribbles, and you probably don’t want to see that.) After repeating that process several times, I was done with drafting Margu’s SS16 collection.

At this point, however, all I had were patterns for size medium. And as you probably know, we don’t just offer size medium (that would be weird!). I still had to make patterns for sizes extra small, small, large, and x-large, a process called grading.

Since I already had the size medium pattern, all I needed to do was expand and contract it in key places to fit all the other sizes in the collection. Waistband? That needed to decrease by 2 inches to make a small. Bust? That needed to increase by 5.5 inches to make an extra-large. Pockets? Those stayed the same.

The process takes a lot of arithmetic and a lot of different colored pencils. It’s a lot of fun, in a very technical, math-y kind of way.

Once I had finished patternmaking and grading, I was ready to move on to the next step, featured in Part 3 of this series: samplemaking and adjustments.