On Teaching fashion: Pattern Cutting, where to start?

On my Masters course I became fascinated by Pattern Cutting and how a high level of knowledge in this discipline is also crucial in the design development process. I am fascinated by how accuracy in shape lines can result in creativity and innovation when a garment is constructed. On my Bodywear specific course it was crucial to be constantly accurate as it was re-enforced to us that millimetres of error here and there could result in completely different size garments. I also extended my skills during my study to including Tailoring, where I loved the structured accuracy in shape and silhouette.

When you began your Fashion education how easily did pattern cutting come to you?

In my teaching career I have approached pattern cutting in many different ways- some more successful than others. When I have a mix of students with a breathe of previous skills, I find it a good basic level to introduce them to block templates. So students understand the shape, markings and core lines compared where they fall on the body. I allow learners to draw around given blocks, meticulously copy and understand all the markings into a version of their own. I then teach how to add seam allowance, in order for learners to gain the knowledge of the difference and purposes between patterns and blocks. Next I guideall the students through drawing the basic block onto calico and sewing this together, a process introduced to me as a French block. This is also a great time to cover a sewing machine induction and a baseline assessment of core abilities.This block is then pinned to the mannequin and students can draw their individual developed design onto the form in 3D. It is very important to draw all of the technical features from the paper pattern onto the calico.

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As next I ask students to cut up their fabric block into the individual panels of their design then we lay these back down onto spot and cross paper to create patterns. If students were new to this area of fashion I would encourage basic style lines and minimal seams, and those who are more confident they could create a more advanced design, therefore every member of the class makes recognisable progression.

Modelling and draping on the stand are good methods for students who could be struggling with imagining their designs on 2D paper and are more visual in their creativity. This therefore allows the individual to tape a design to the stand and develop the shapes using fabric. This will then need to be transferred to paper, alike the French block method.

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This term I have introduced learning to read and use patterns very smoothly, where students were all given the same pattern and taught how to make the same garment. I have teamed up with the Dance department to make 30 tunics and 30 wrap skirts. This works very well and allows all studentsto progress at their individual levels, and progress equally and independently from their previous experiences. I have seen other colleagues at lower levels use this method, where all students were given a basic bustier pattern to construct, but were given free rein into the surface decoration.

For more advanced learning, my second year students’ are currently making an individual dancewear outfit each from their design projects. Yes everyone needs a variety of different basic blocks to begin, so a good store is crucial! But students soon remembered their knowledge learnt in the first year of their course, which allows time for me to work with the learners one to one. Also when you are working in this individual manner- slowly you will see peer teaching appear, and also student independent investigations as they experiment and come to conclusions about how they could create their ideas. More independent learners are often more adaptable to experimentations, referring to pattern cutting books (I always have a stash in my room) or looking for tutorials online to help guide them in their learning.

What methods do you have to approach pattern cutting with large groups? Do you allow students free rein from the beginning? Or do you teach class core skills activities?

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