Pattern making involves the design and creation of templates from which clothing and craft items can be sewn. Patterns are made of pieces of paper shapes that are traced onto the fabric to be cut, with each individual pattern piece serving as a form for an individual part of the garment or item to be sewn. Pattern making can be done at home by more experienced sewers, or pre-made patterns can be purchased for home sewing projects.
A common way to make a pattern at home is to replicate a garment that one already owns. For example, if one has a particular clothing item that is worn out or aging and a replacement is desired, a pattern can be cut from that garment. This often involves taking apart the garment by ripping out the seams and dismantling the item into individual pieces.
The pieces of the old garment then can be traced onto fabric that will be used to create the new garment. This method will result in a pattern that can be used to create a new garment, but there will be no directions provided. This method of pattern making therefore is most often used by experienced sewers who know how to reconstruct the garment from the pattern without having details such as seams, cuff placement and button holes explained.
There also are computer software programs designed for both industrial and home use that can be used for pattern making. Computer-aided design (CAD) software can be purchased and loaded onto one’s home computer in order to help design new patterns or modify existing ones. These programs allow the user to resize and alter patterns for a more custom fit or to modify patterns according to one’s preference or need. The CAD will draw, adjust and calculate measurements for the pattern. The sewer then prints, cuts out and uses the pattern for his or her project.
Before the development of CAD software, pattern making had a long history, though sewing patterns were used almost exclusively to create garments for aristocrats or the very wealthy. Prior to the 19th century, it was rare for most people to have clothes that were tailored to their fit and figure. In 1869, Ebenezer Butterick pre-printed tissue paper patterns that were tailored for individual sizes and then sold. About the same time in industrialized countries, sewing machines became increasingly affordable. These two events gave rise to the pattern-making industry, with many companies mass-producing patterns for sale and many people owning sewing machines and being able to buy and use the patterns at home.