The pattern-making process can produce 1,000 examples of success as easily as it can produce 1,000 examples of failure. Whether you have your pattern reproduced once, twice, or dozens of times, you—by the way you prepare the pattern for cutting, oversee its draft, and apply the finishing details—control the outcome.
Pattern-making has three very distinct stages: design specifications, draft execution, and detailing. The first stage, commonly referred to as the “pre-drafting” process, is the series of steps taken to prepare your project for pattern-making. In pre-drafting, the pattern-maker takes the sketches you created along with the measurements and specs you linked to them, and translates them into a form that is trued and workable.
The pre-draft process for a pattern, among other things, involves design specifications, also known as a “spec sheet”. It is the process of gathering information together and reviewing all the elements necessary to translate what you have created in your sketchbook. Most patternmakers work with this prepared checklist.
The spec sheet is a work sheet listing the various components of the style. It has linear measurements to determine the size and dimensions of the project. The selection of closure or flap for the main compartment of the bag. The choice of a strap style and width, that will compliment the intended function and style of the design. Selection of the bag material and colour are often listed, along with its hardware. All are found on the spec sheet with a flat sketch of the bag design. Front, side and top views of the bag design are shown to scale, with any important features and/or measurements included.
With your sketches, spec sheets, and drafting tools at the ready, you are now set to draft the pattern.
Use a pattern grid to ensure the pieces are perfectly aligned front to back for easy assembly. The pattern grid allows what details are applied to planes and surfaces. Grain is controlled with grainlines centered on each pattern piece to show how each pattern piece is positioned on the chosen material (aka – the marker) to achieve the most economical use of space. It ensures the pieces are perfectly aligned front-to-back, side-to-side. All intersections of seams should be measured and trued. And the contrast components, if any, are separated by fabric, colour, or texture for making individual markers. It is often a good idea at this point to make a mock-up of your pattern in an inexpensive fabric to test your pattern before cutting into your fashion fabric. Keep in mind however that the mock-up should be constructed in a similar weight fabric. For items like leather, a wool felt is compatible in thickness and in weight. Don’t be disappointed if it does not ‘turn out ‘ on the first attempt as planned; that is why designers do the mock-up. These mock-ups allow you to modify the end result, correct the pattern, and work out the sewing/assembly process — an added bonus.
To finish your pattern-draft, label it and add all seam allowances between pieces that connect. Often from the original draft, you can trace off macros such as facings and pockets. A lining, whether drop-in or fixed, can also be traced off the initial rough draft.
At minimum, the finished pattern will require a name or style number and a description for each pattern piece of the bag design, along with any other specifications linked to them; the cutting quantity of the number of times used to produce them; and the size, if applicable. I often date or indicate the season as well for a time reference. Some designers like to number each pattern piece out of the total number of pieces that make up the pattern. (ie. 3/5 = #3 of 5 pcs.) to ensure a piece does not go missing when making a marker.
Here is a sample of design spec information for a spec sheet and an example of technical flats drawn to scale for those who want to create their own work sheets. Feel free to add any other information you think appropriate:
Determine the Size
Choose type of closure for main compartment:
• Open tote
• Magnetic snap
• Strap at Center
Choose Flap Closure:
• Hook & Loop Tape
• Magnetic Snap
Straps (pick type)
• 1 strap from side gussets
• Fixed Length
• 2 straps, attached to front and back
• Fixed Length
• 1 strap from front right corner to rear right
• Fixed Length
• Outside Front:
• Outside Rear:
• Outside Gusset:
• Inside Pockets (front):
• Inside Pockets (Rear):
• Inside Pockets (Center Divider):
Choose Bag Material and Colour
Choose Lining Material: