Sloper blocks are basic pattern pieces, usually bodice with darts,
sleeve, straight skirt, and pants. They are made with minimum ease
from the wearer's measurements, and are the start of EVERY design,
from bikinis to heavy winter coats.
There are no seam allowances on these pieces; the design is
manipulated, then the seam allowances are added as the last step. I
couldn't work without mine, but mine are stored in my computer these
days. There is a special tool for cutting a 3/4-inch hole in each
piece, so that it can be hung. We called ours a rabbit, because
that's how it was shaped. There are also special hangers for the
pieces that fit through the holes, so that a complete set can be held
on one hanger.
The pros us oak tag (manila envelopes). When used in the finished
design to be cut, the oak tag was tinted green on one side, so that
left and right sides were cut properly (no folded edges).
Blocks are the foundation patterns. For instance, I have a very plain
custom pants pattern... 4 darts, no pockets, about as generic as it comes.
From that pattern, I can make jeans, pocketed pants of various descriptions,
change the width of the hemline, make shorts, pleated pants.... and on and on.
I also have a custom darted bodice that I can use for generating a dartless
blouse, shirt, swimming suit, princess seamed top or jacket, etc., etc.
And I have a sleeve block, from which I've generated shirt sleeves, blouse
sleeves, jacket sleeves, darted elbow sleeves, cap sleeves and a bunch
of other styles.
Add styling to the blocks and they become patterns.
Try Dick Blick or one of the other art supply stores online. I'll bet
you can get sheets. Oak tag is different than cardboard. It holds an
edge, is flexible, and easily cut with scissors or knife. I prefer a
box cutter for cutting.
Probably what is similar here (in Oz) to "your" manilla is coloured (or
plain) cardboard sheets they get for arts and crafts.
I've learnt a new word from you Kay - oaktag (must be an American word) :-)
Thanks again everyone. I am enjoying reading the replies.
Yes, I have Wild Ginger's Patternmaster Boutique. Before it was
available, I taught pattern drafting with AutoCad and AutoDesk. I
also taught fashion drawing by computer, using AutoDesk. But the
idiots changed the program so that one had to be a physicist to use
"Kay Lancaster" wrote...
It occurs to me that I don't even know what these things are in German,
although I spent three months in a clothes factory (practical training, I
thought I'd like to become a clothing technician or whatever it's called,
but I hated every minute in that place, so I gave up the idea and turned to
working with wood).
Just to get this right: sloper blocks have the rough form of the individual
parts of a certain type of garment (e. g. bodice, jacket, trousers etc. ).
If you'd cut out fabric after them (plus a seam allowance), and put the
parts together you'd get a garment that fits you, but it's just a basic
form. So if you'd make the same garment for two different people, you'd need
two different sets of sloper blocks? Or would you be able to use the same
set for both, just tracing the stuff on different paper and then adjusting
the parts for each person?
I suspect they are a rather individual thing, and that is probably why I've
never come across them in that factory. They'd get the patterns for each
size, lay out the fabric in many layers and then put a paper with the parts
on it. Then comes the guy with a kind of saw and cuts out stacks of parts,
and off they go into the lines where the busy bees sew them together as
piecework. Sloper block are probably no part of the whole process. You'd
find them in an oldfashioned tailor's shop, right?
U. - racking her brain for a German word for the whole thing. ;-)
The patternmaker at your factory would have worked with these blocks.
I'll try to demonstrate. A basic sloper block for a dress has one or
two darts pointing to the bust point. The designer wants a princess
line top, with the princess line going from the shoulder to the
waist. In this case a waistline dart would be the sloper used. The
patternmaker would place the sloper on a piece of paper, and would
stick a pin in the bust point. Then the patternmaker would start
tracing the sloper at the shoulder where the new design line would go;
continue to the dart; pivot the pattern to close up that dart,
continue tracing back up to the shoulder. There will be a little
connection at the bust point. This is trued, or separated, which
would become ease when sewing, and the pattern is now two pieces for
the princess line.
But I doubt that this is done anymore, along with the "man with a
saw." It's done quickly in the computer, and the patterns aren't even
put on the fabric. The fabric is on a vacuum table, and a laser cuts
through as many as 300 layers.
The term is "engineer." And you're right about slopers being
individual things. That's why RTW is so ill-fitting for many of us.
Stock sizes simply don't fit real people. And the way RTW patterns
are graded is also curious. The sizes are changed by adding (or
subtracting) 1/8 inch at a time in several places, both vertical and
horizontal. But even when we gain several dress sizes, our shoulders
don't change. So when a person purchases a size 24, after being a 14
for most of her life, the shoulders hang down to her elbows.
Obviously, I didn't teach grading. I don't think it works.
"jones" wrote in message
Katherine in Oz you can buy the genuine oaktag from the TAFE college shops
where thehy teach fashion/sewing courses. You'll have to pay more then the
students since you won't get the student discount but that is the only place
I've seen the genuine stuff. I've considered buying it but not done so as
for a homes sewer it really presents me with a storage problem.
My slopers are done on paper and I keep them in old boxes that once held
Avery labels. I also use them to store my most used patterns or ones that
will be long time projects like my tailored jackets and I cut open the
pattern envelope and stick the envelope to the top of the box.
I find these boxes invaluable as they are very sturdily made and as they
only have the capacity to hold about a tenth of a ream of paper so they are
perfect for limited amounts of pattern pieces and they slide nicely into my
sewing room bookcases.
Not rough... actually quite polished. It's not like a wood blank that you've
glued up for say, a bedpost, but haven't taken to the lathe to turn. It's
a basic, basic pattern for a garment. No buttons, no trims, no design features
just a very minimalist pattern.
There may be some styling done --
for instance, the basic block you start with is typically a fitted
garment with darts, and just enough room to allow you to breathe and move
and sit. The neckline is high and round (jewel neck), the sleeves are long.
It looks like something out of the 1950s, but ultra plain. This pattern
will be balanced, perfected, honed... it'll sew together like a dream because
you've made sure everything is perfect -- every seam line will match, every
seam will fall in the correct place, every grain line will fall precisely.
Because when you start making, say, a princess-seamed garment from that
darted basic block, you want the princess seamed block to fit just as well
as the original block did. If something's off on the original, it'll get
more off as you make other blocks and designs from it.
Nope. My blocks are custom blocks because I have some fitting peculiarities
that I want addressed from the start. I make clothes for my family (and some
other custom patterns for people with other odd fitting needs), but I don't
make generic garments to fit the vast majority. I'm the person you
want to know, though, if you suddenly need a leg brace and now you need
one pants leg larger than the other, but still "looking right". I will make
you a custom block that fits *you*. I don't do production patterns. You and
whoever sews for you can make style changes on that custom block I've made
If I were making patterns at, say,
ABC pattern company, I'd be using a basic block that fits the target person
they want to sell to -- let's say she's 5'6" tall, 36-24-36, B cup. They'd
have mannequins that size available to me, and fit models (real people with
those measurements) available to use for fittings. If I were working for
XYZ company, their target market might be women 5'2", 36-30-38, D cup, and
my most basic pattern would fit that fit model.
The resizing to different
size women (2-4-6-8-10 etc.) would be done in the grading process-- which is
done after the clothes that have been designed and approved (let's say this
company is going to sell princess-seamed jackets, dartless shirts, and A-line
and pencil skirts next season. The patterns for those would all be made
and approved in the fit sample size before those patterns are graded and
the whole size range sent to production.
Nope, you just never saw the front end of the process... the designer and
the patternmaker and the samplemaker and the fit models. You were
dealing with the production end of things.
You saw the finished patterns when they came in already
sized (graded) and printed on long rolls of paper with the grain lines already
absolutely aligned with the edges of the paper, and the various parts and
sizes nested carefully to minimize fabric waste. That roll of paper is called
a "marker". That's all done on a computer now for most factories. The factory
lays out stacks of fabric and then staples or otherwise adheres the marker
to the top of the stack, and cuts and bundles the various pieces for the
production sewing group.
In the old days, before markers, the head cutter would have spent days
carefully tracing off each pattern piece in correct alignment on the
stack of fabric. My husband knew a guy who inherited his family's underwear
factory, and still traced all the patterns in chalk on the fabric. It
would typically take a couple of weeks to get the best possible (least
wasteful but still correct) arrangement down before cutting. And every time
they changed fabric widths, it would take them another couple of weeks
to get ready to cut because the "markers" were all hand-done.
Probably not in a tailor's shop -- those guys draw their patterns out
directly on the fabric and start cutting, at least the ones I've seen
work. But there were most certainly blocks available to the
patternmakers in your factory that you just didn't
Sorry, can't help you there... my German doesn't go beyond reading scientific
papers on botany.
The other interesting thing is that if you were a patternmaker in a factory,
your basic blocks that you'd be working from might not be the most basic.
Let's say you were a patternmaker at a men's dress shirt factory. You probably
wouldn't be working with a darted basic block, you'd be working with
a basic shirt block... no darts, back yoke of a certain depth, shoulder seam
X inches off the shoulder point, a basic long sleeve, a basic short sleeve,
collar stand of a particular height and shaping. This season, we're going to
be doing prim little pointed collars held with collar pins. Next season, the
collars are a little longer, but less pointed corners. The following season,
the collars are buttondown. But you'll be using the company's basic shirt
pattern -- its shirt block -- to work from, instead of going back to the
most basic, ancestral, darted original block. Working from the company's
shirt block saves the patternmaker a ton of time (and the company lots of
money!) and makes sure the customers get the fit they were expecting.
If they fire this year's patternmaker, the new one they hire will still
be producing shirts that fit the company's target customer base because the
company owns that basic block New Patternmaker will be working from.
As far as the custom end of things go, I just got a new custom two-dart
bodice block for myself. It's all balanced and ready to go, but I don't wear
clothes other than bathing suits that fit that closely. Here's what I'm
going to be doing with it:
First thing I'm going to make is a dartless blouse block -- set in
sleeves with a fairly roomy fit through the body, so I'm going to be
adding some ease through the body and eliminating the darts (some of which
is going to become ease). I'll also lengthen it so it's got enough length
to tuck the bottom of the blouse into my jeans. When I want a blouse,
I'll take that block and add collars, change the closure (I happen to like
french plackets) add design ease, add pleats -- whatever I want that particular
blouse to do.
The second block I'll make will either be a shoulder princess blouse block
(with the darts converted to princess seams) or a jacket block with princess
seams -- I need both, and I like princess seams, so which one I do first is
up for grabs.
The fourth block I'll make will be a shirt block with a slightly dropped
The fifth block I'll make will be a saddle raglan, made off the shirt block.
Those are all basic garment styles I wear a lot of... and when I want to
do theme and variations, I'll get out the most appropriate block and
start designing from it. I won't bother to make some of the other blocks I
could -- like a traditional raglan -- because they don't flatter me or I don't
But just like I have a library of basic blocks for myself, a garment company
would have a library of basic blocks for their patternmakers to work with --
the difference being that the custom blocks fit just one person, while a
company's blocks would be designed to fit many people.
Thank you FarmI, I may try the TAFE shop one of these days (after I organise
this room) :-)
The boxes idea for patterns is good too. I just have them all together with
a rubber band.
I am at the moment working on making a basic pattern, where I can alter
necklines, length, sleeves etc and try not to keep buying more patterns.
Thank you all for taking the time to explain this thing to me. Wow, I had no
idea! I think I need to mull this over a little longer. And I want to learn
how to do it. I just checked my local adult education centre for a course
that might teach this but I haven't found the right one yet. However, I'll
keep it in mind.
U. - wanting to learn more than she has time for (DD is making her usual
strange morning noises downstairs, so I gotta go) ;-)