Sewing pattern design: Making the princess-seams.
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Designing a dress (part 1)

My longtime goal has been to learn to design clothes that I love. Many sewing patterns are quite expensive and, as I don’t really need (or read) the instructions and usually end up doing many modifications, I feel that I pay extra for all the things I don’t end up using. If I managed to make a set of basic slopers for myself I would also lose many of the fitting issues that come with commercial patterns. So, I decided to do some sewing pattern design and see what I could make!

Useful reference

I found this book very useful when making my first slopers: W. Aldrich: Metric pattern cutting for women’s wear.

This book has instructions on how to draw all the basic blocks for women and how to size and alter them. I don’t have any experience in pattern cutting but I was still able to understand the instructions which were mostly basic geometry.


I have previously drawn some pattern with paper and pencil but those are hard to modify, store and share. The most pattern designing programs are really expensive but luckily I heard about two that were completely free. Yes. F-R-E-E!

The main window of Seamly2D.

These two have actually originally been a single project that split into two different branches as the developers had different ideas. The first is called Seamly2D and the second Valentina. Both are still practically identical, so if you learn how to use one, you’ll know how to use another. Valentina seems to have a few additional handy tools that Seamly doesn’t have. The last time I checked I was able to open all of my Seamly-made projects with Valentina, but I can’t open Valentina files with Seamly.

If you want to start using either one of the programs I recommend this tutorial that works for both of them. Without the tutorial I couldn’t understand how even get started with pattern making but after completing the panty pattern with the help of the tutorial I knew all the basic things and could figure out the rest.

Drafting the pattern

I started making a pattern for the basic close fitted women’s bodice sloper. It ended up looking like this:

Sewing pattern desing: The close-fitting bodice block.

Then I added the waist shaping, but here started my little tweaks. I drew the front darts so that they touched at the bust point:

Sewing pattern design: The close-fitting bodice block with waist shaping.

I wanted my dress to have ruffles and a princess seam that started at the middle of the shoulder. That means that I had to twist the upper dart at the front bodice and then transform the darts into princess seams:

Sewing pattern design: Making the princess-seams.

As I was making this dress out of wool, I went for the two-piece sleeve:

Two piece sleeve sloper.

I then printed my design out in size 36 and made a toile out of the bodice. (I could have also used my own measurements but I wanted to see the sizing first.) The first thing I noticed was that the neckline was very restricting. I had to lower it immediately. Otherwise, the fit was surprisingly good. The sleeves were a bit wide for a dress but those were an easy thing to fix at the final version. There were also little fit issues that I managed to fix by lowering the sleeve cap a tiny amount and rotating a sleeve slightly.

The draping the skirt

I hadn’t made a skirt sloper, yet. Rather than drawing something that may or may not drape as I want after I transforming the design onto fabric, I decided to drape it on my mannequin. 

I draped only half of the skirt and then made a proper toile. This is what it ended up looking like:

No, it’s not perfectly symmetric but I only wanted to use half of it for my pattern. The sleeve was still a bit twisted at this point which resulted in some wrinkles. 

I was happy with the overall width of the skirt and thus I finally was able to start cutting my wool…

To be continued in part 2!

Have you ever designed clothes for you or for others? I hope this post will inspire you if not designing a dress then adding some of your own little tweaks to your existing patterns! Happy sewing and designing!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


  • Joanne in Montreal

    Hi. I saw your Instagram post and came over here to read your blog post. This is very interesting. I have also been wanting to try patternmaking software but don’t want to spend the money buying one because, frankly, I’m not sure I would use it that much. Thank you for your explanations. I look forward to reading Part 2.

    • kk

      I get what you mean. It’s different spending the money for patternmaking software if you are doing pattern design for business. It’s great that there are free alternatives even if they have less

    • kk

      Thank you for the comment! I get what you mean. When you just want to try something, you don’t want to spend thousands. I’m so happy that these free alternatives exist even when they have fewer features as the commercial options.

  • steelyseamstress

    Thanks for alerting me to this freeware. I have drafted a few patterns in the past, but am keen to make my own bodice sloper. I find that tops seem to have multiple fit problems for me. Can’t wait to see your dress!

    • kk

      So great that I could help! Using the computer is great since you can save, organize and modify your patterns more easily. The paper patterns get mixed up so easily!

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