‘Sample’ Measurements?

August 20th, 2012 — 1:22pm

I am frequently asked the question:  What measurements will I use to make my samples?

As measurements, or data, are used to develop a size coding scheme for the production of clothing, it is a very important question.

Size coding schemes, the world over are proving to be somewhat problematic because they were devised a long time ago and populations have changed in size and shape over the last 100 years. So you may ask, ‘why haven’t countries conducted   a scientific anthropometric survey of their populations to obtain current data?’  Good question??

Many countries in fact have withdrawn their ‘standard of measurements chart’ because the measurements are so far off the mark.  The best that one can hope for is that industry can provide sufficient evidence through market research in order to provide themselves with appropriate measurements.

At any rate, this does not solve the issue for anyone working or studying independently!!

In order to address this issue you will find a comprehensive set of measurements for each figure type in The Fashion Design System resulting from the scientific anthropometric study conducted by my co-author Kath Berry (2001).  Also accompanying the measurements are specifications for drafting a full library of master blocks using this system.

But . . . back to the original question of what measurements to use for sampling?  It will depend on the market segment.

For example I have just engineered a set of master blocks for casual wear.  The client’s brief: ‘the market segment – athletic females ages 20 to 35 years; fabrication –  organic woven polyester-linen mix.’  For this brief, I selected the measurements for Figure Type X to draft the original, or generic, master blocks.  As the client required blocks for Bust 85cm to 105cm, I then provided a graded nest of blocks to cover the size range. The patternmaker would then presumably select the size block preferred for applying design styles and making the samples.

For another task the brief was to ‘engineer the master block and set of style patterns plus sample garment assembled in cotton-elastane.’ The style was for the decidedly lithe young figure types, so I chose the measurements for Figure Type I from The Fashion Design System.

Reportedly the set of measurements for Figure Type A, The Fashion Design System, are very close, given a few millimetres, to that used by a wide number of Australian manufacturers.

Other options for obtaining measurements, include taking a complete set of independent measurements of the size and shape ‘model’ or ‘muse’ best suited to the market segment.  The Fashion Design System gives instructional photographs to follow and proformas for recording measurements as well as specifications for working out the formulas in order to draft the blocks and patterns. Alternatively one could measure a dress stand to obtain a set of measurements if appropriate to the task at hand.  This could be beneficial to learning for many starting out.

Happy measuring!!  L


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Acquiring Workroom Skills

March 21st, 2012 — 8:31pm

Whether part of a design team or going it alone,  one needs to take an orderly account of skills required for engineering patterns.  In the main the acquired skills may be summarised as . . .

Knowledge of  pattern engineering systems and knowledge of the structure and form of the human body

Ability to measure the body and through continued practice, analyse and tweak the measurements in order to produce the  block fitting & silhouettes required.

Recording critical information on ‘specifications’

Cut and Sew skills to enable patterns to be tested in fabric of similar behaviour to the final garment

In The Fashion Design System we give a detailed account of ‘workroom setup’, ‘work practices’ of squaring, tracing patterns, trueing blending and smoothing the flow-through of adjoining pattern pieces and dart shapes, and marking balance points.

Also we provide a comprehensive list of the ‘tools of trade’ and a ‘process or logical procedure’ to follow. (p71 to p74)








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Specifications – records

March 14th, 2012 — 9:24pm

Affectionately known as ‘specs’, fashion specifications are so named because they set out specific information for the user.  This may be a technical drawing or written information such as measurements.

Pattern Engineers may use a number of specifications in the process of creating a pattern.

In The Fashion Design System you will find a Specification for each part of the patterning process.  This is desirable to keep track of all information in an orderly process.  Excellent for keeping everyone in the know !!  Especially important when the ‘make’ process is not near the ‘design’  location.

The very first “spec’ a pattern engineer generally needs is in the ‘measurement taking’ process – see example below:  A standardised sheet for recording the measurement information.  Most workrooms like to design their own with their logo or brand for ease of identification.

There are no set rules for how many ‘specs’ a workroom may need – rather one for each part of the process to be tracked.

This might result in a range of  ‘specs’ for pattern engineering such as:

Specification Pattern Engineering Measurements

Specification Pattern Engineering Technical Drawing

Specification Pattern Engineering Block Measurements

Specification Pattern Engineering Method & Procedure

Specification Pattern Engineering Fitting Process

. . . . and for pattern design such as:

Specification Pattern Design Technical Drawing

Specification Pattern Design Method & Procedure

Specification Pattern Design Fitting Process

Hope this has been informative – next thing will be a few words about workroom practice and then some discussion about measurements and the fit of things!!!

cheers L




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Systems and Measurements

March 6th, 2012 — 5:13pm

Patterning – Where to start?  Experience proves a structure or system makes the most sense.

There are any number of Pattern Engineering systems found in the fashion industry.  Some dating back to the early 1800’s when science in the form of mathematics joined the field of art. The most popular systems in use are either ‘direct measurement’ systems or ‘proportionate measurement’ systems.  As the name implies a direct measurement system uses measurements taken on the body and used directly in obtaining the pattern or draft, whereas a proportionate system calculates a set of ‘proportionate’ measurements for the draft. ( p.16 FDS)

The Fashion Design System is a ‘direct measurement’ system.  The beauty of this newly devised system lies in its simplicity and efficiency for today’s world.

Once the initial master bodice/sleeve, skirt and pants are drafted these can be systematically modified to provide a full set of blocks for all silhouettes.

‘Seeing’ how to go about drawing up a pattern. . . 

‘Seeing’ unlike ‘looking’ is a fascinating yet complex business – one simply has to observe how individual designers interpret a fashion sketch?   “Seeing’ is an acquired skill and develops over time.

‘Seeing’ one’s way through patterning is greatly simplified when the engineering system, ie The Fashion Design System, allows for ‘seeing’ what to do and problem solve, as opposed to blindly following instructions or just joining the dots.

To pattern engineer one needs to ‘see’ the human body and ‘see’  how to measure it correctly for the pattern silhouette required. (p17 – p43 FDS)  Self adhesive stickers are a great help when measuring and learning how to tension the measuring tape is critical.

Of course the proof is in the pudding as they say, and judging the self paced efforts of those mentored I’m really thrilled with the results . . . with permission see example of Ruth’s bodice/sleeve toile in process. . .


In discussing the differing methods for obtaining master blocks, thanks to Karen for the following:

1. Proportionate Measurement Systems – systems whereby a few basic measurements are taken and the rest are calculated.  It is based on each part of the body being a ‘proportion’ of the whole, eg back length = 1/4 total height, chest 2/10 bust etc.  It assumes that the body is in a predetermined proportion.

2. Direct Measurement Systems – this system requires that a full set of measurements be taken for each client thereby managing individual characteristics, eg large bust, rounded shoulders etc.  It provides for the current size and shape of females.  If volume manufacture is required an averaged set of measurements can be used, as supplied in The Fashion Design System according to the 5 different figure types identified.

3. Draping Method – The pattern draping method is used for unusual designs that are hard to obtain through the flat pattern methods due to the way a fabric will drape or hang on the body.  A pattern is obtained by pinning calico/muslin fabric directly on a dressmakers form then transferring the muslin outline and markings onto a paper pattern or using the muslin as the pattern itself.

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What excites me about being a Pattern Engineer?

April 17th, 2011 — 3:49pm

When you find a creative field that allows you to develop and express your own personal style it is extremely satisfying!!

As a young person I was always encouraged to own my own style and appreciate and respect the individual style of others.  I lived in a creative household where assembling garments was central.  I loved messing about with paper and pencil and drawing lines with ‘character’.  Drawing  lines to improve the shape of my mother’s early mail order patterns started a passion that quickly led to a fascination for the process of pattern making, and from there to the art and science of engineering patterns using actual body measurements.

The challenge of creating design using two-dimensional shapes that work on a three-dimensional body, and in fabric that has its own unique habits and movement really enthuses me.  I can quite lose myself  in the whole  engineering process – especially if I’m hot on the trail of developing a new silhouette!  This in technical terms might be the foundation ‘master block’  for a new fashion shape, or more recently for a range of specialist sport performance blocks – ‘style blocks’.

It is a thing of continual fascination to me, that lines can be arranged and organised in ways that are limited only by one’s own imagination. . . .

happy patterning – Lois

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