Tailor’s Tacks, #2

Just in time for the weekend, it’s a new episode of Tailor’s Tacks – Issue #2.

Sarah Veblen in Threads Magazine

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If you’ve been enjoying my fitting articles and would like to know more about Sarah Veblen’s fitting techniques, you can find an article from her on skirt fitting in a recent issue of Threads Magazine (June-July 2015).


Just about everything you learn about skirt fitting directly applies to pants fitting.  The article had some great information about darts I used during my pants fitting.

Nancy Zieman’s The Absolute Easiest Way to Sew


I just placed an order with Nancy’s Notions for some sewing supplies, and I picked up a copy of her latest book, The Absolute Easiest Way to Sew, including the companion DVD.

I will probably write a longer review at some point.  This book is for beginners, and the amount of content in this book that’s new to me is somewhat limited, but some of her techniques and shortcuts are useful to anyone regardless of skill level. Having never sewed darts before this pants project, I appreciated Nancy’s method for sewing easy, fail-proof darts which appears in this book.  You can see it at 5:27 in her online video.


This book would be a great introduction for a brand-new sewist.  It covers the basics of sewing machines, sergers, patterns and notions, as well as basic techniques such has how to sew a straight seam and press properly.

David Coffin’s The Shirtmaking Workbook online content now available


I’ve been holding off on a detailed review of David Coffin’s latest book, The Shirtmaking Workbook.  When I wrote him with an apparent glitch in the online material – several of the links weren’t active – I was surprised to get a reply from David telling me that the links were missing because the full online material wasn’t yet ready!


Now that the online content is available, I’ll be offering a full review soon.  The online component of the book is so significant, I don’t think it’s possible to review the book properly without having seen the online content.

But y’are, Blanche….Y’Are!

George W. Trippon was a clothing designer for Hollywood stars, and had his own sewing show, Sew What’s New, in the ’70s and ’80s. I discovered this show from a link in a PatternReview forum discussion.

On topic to this blog, here’s a show where George shows us how to sew a pair of pants. Unfortunately, this video was a promotional tape sent to television stations to sell the show; an announcer cuts in at different points and does an annoying voiceover.  Not even this interruption can mar Trippon’s performance.  “Fabulous” only scratches the surface.

There are a few more episodes of the show up on YouTube, along with a documentary on George W. Trippon.

Oh, how I wish the entire run of the series was available.

The Road to Pants, Part 3

When I left you all at the end of Part 2, I had just printed out a pattern I digitally traced in Wild Ginger’s Pattern Editor. I left you with the impression I was ready to cut out fabric and start sewing.

That was when I encountered The Problem.

The Problem

I figured it would be a good idea to take the prinout and compare the pieces to the original tissue I scanned into the computer.  This would be a sanity test to see just how faithful the digital version is, compared to the original. I overlaid the tissue atop the printout, and lined them up.

And – they didn’t match.

Let’s take the back pattern piece, and align the tissue and the printout at the bottom hem and the grainline.  Right away you can see a discrepancy – the printed pattern seamlines are about 1/8 of an inch narrower than the tissue.


Moving up both patterns to the crotch point, the seamlines on printout are about 3/8 of an inch below the seamlines on the tissue.


And finally at the waistband the discrepancy is also about 3/8 of an inch.


I encountered the same problem with the front piece – the seam lines on the printout were way off compared to the tissue.


I wasn’t expecting a perfect concordance, but this discrepancy was severe enough to alter the fit. Clearly it wasn’t acceptable.

I was sad to see this terrible result, especially after the work I put into scanning and tracing the pattern. But I was also happy I took the time to double-check before sewing an actual garment. I would have been massively confused by the incorrect fit.

What Happened?

I posted my question to the Wild Ginger thread on PatternReview and got some helpful responses.

Maybe it was the Printer

One simple answer is perhaps the printer is performing some sort of reduction on the printout to fit the drawing to the page.

I tested this theory by drawing a 20-by-20 inch square inside Pattern Editor.   I made it large to force it to print across several pages, as the pattern printed.  I taped together the four pages and measured.


My quilting ruler said the square on the printout was still 20 inches wide.  So the printer wasn’t the source of the problem.

Maybe it was the Scans

Another source of error might have crept in when I stitched together the scans in Inkscape. So I went back to the Inkscape files and took a closer look.

Sure enough, when I looked closer (at 150% zoom) I saw places where the individual scans didn’t quite overlap properly.  To get them to overlap just right, you have to rotate them very finely so the grain lines on the scan line up with Inkscape’s on-screen grid.  You also have to carefully nudge them so that each piece aligns well with all of its neighboring pieces.

With the zoom factor turned up, I very carefully fine-tuned the alignment of the scans, using the horizontal and vertical alignment lines on the patterns as a reference.

And maybe it was the Alignment Box

When I imported the composite image into Pattern Editor, it thought the 2-inch alignment square was approximately 30 inches wide on both pattern pieces. So the “Calculate and Scale” command scaled down the pattern image by a factor of 15. I’m thinking that if it down-scaled the drawing that dramatically, there was more chance for it to “overshoot” and make the result a little smaller than the original paper pattern.

I discovered the precise size of the 2-inch alignment box you trace over the scan is crucial.  It makes a difference even if you draw your lines to the inside or outside of the scanned lines.  That’s enough to affect Pattern Editor’s scaling accuracy.

I went back to make sure that the square I drew over top the scan went right through the very center of the printed lines.  Again, zooming up an extreme amount was helpful to obtaining a precise result.  This screenshot shows the black line of the scan, and the (very thin) red lines running right through the middle. (Click or tap to supersize).


With those two problems addressed, I adjusted the lines and curves of my digital pattern to match the revised scans.  I made a test printout, this time without bothering to add new seam allowances and waistbands.


The revised pattern block aligns much, much better with the original tissue pattern.

The back waistband:


The back crotch seam:


And the front of the pant.


There is still a small discrepancy on the side seams and inseams at the lower portion of the leg, less than 1/8 inch.  That’s perfectly alright by me.

Lessons Learned

Here’s the lessons I learned that nobody taught me:

Always compare the printed pattern trace to the original. I recommend you do this by measuring the original pattern with a ruler, then comparing against the measurements displayed in Pattern Editor.  Avoid measuring the hardcopy printout, in case unintended scaling by the printer is the source of your troubles. If you click on an item in Pattern Editor it tells you how long it is, whether it is straight or curved.  Select several items and it tells you the total length of your selection.

Pay careful attention to alignment when combining scanned pattern pieces.  Any errors here can cascade and produce a composite scan that doesn’t faithfully match the original pattern.  It helps to draw the grainline along the entire pattern piece, as well as several alignment lines perpendicular to the grainline; this helps align things when the pattern is chopped up into smaller pieces by the scanner.

Draw the alignment box carefully. By drawing through the center of the scanned lines, you ensure your alignment square is as close to 2 inches in real life as you can get.  Errors here literally get magnified by Pattern Editor’s “Calculate and Scale” tool.

What’s Next

I’m going to draft a new waistband, walk and true the inseams and side seams, put in proper alignment notches (I missed notches on the waistband first time around), and digitally draft some pockets.

The Road to Pants, Part 2

In this article, I’m covering my experience using Wild Ginger’s PatternMaster software to digitize my pants pattern and to create detail pieces such as a new waistband.

I originally thought this series of articles on digital pattern drafting would run for two parts, but it will be at least three – especially since much of this article is a capsule review of Wild Ginger’s PatternMaster software.

About Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger Software has been in business for over 20 years developing their fashion design software.  Their main product is PatternMaster, and its professional cousin Cameo.  Cameo has a four-digit price tag, so I’m working with PatternMaster – their product for home sewers.


PatternMaster comes in several different flavors. Each is geared toward designing a different type of apparel, and is purchased as a separate application.

  • PatternMaster Boutique drafts women’s wear.
  • PatternMaster Knits drafts knit patterns for women’s wear.
  • PatternMaster Curves drafts lingerie, activewear and swimwear for women.
  • PatternMaster Child’s Play drafts children’s wear.
  • And finally, PatternMaster Tailor Made drafts men’s wear.

Child’s Play and Tailor Made are the two most inexpensive products at $125.  Knits and Curves retail for $150, and Boutique runs $225.  So here’s a case where being a menswear sewist saves money.

I’m using PatternMaster Tailor Made version 6 (July 1, 2015 release) on Windows 10 with only some slight glitches.

Style Editor and Pattern Editor

Whichever version you choose, PatternMaster comes as two applications bundled into one install – Style Editor, and Pattern Editor.  Style Editor opens when you launch PatternMaster from the Windows Start menu.  You can get to Pattern Editor from inside Style Editor.

Style Editor can “automatically” draft patterns for several styles of garments. You begin by measuring yourself. Plug in your measurements, and Style Editor creates a fitting shell you sew up in muslin and try on.  Then, fit yourself and tweak the settings within Style Editor to create a sloper that fits.

Once you have a fitting sloper, Style Editor can create a vast array of different types of garments.  You can add many design details, such as collar treatments, just by clicking a button. Here’s a screenshot of a pair of jeans, straight out the Style Editor’s starter catalog. (Click/tap to enlarge).


For ultimate control, PatternMaster also provides the Pattern Editor.  This is a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) application that allows you to directly edit the curves and style lines of the pattern. It works similar to a drawing application such as Illustrator or Inkscape, but its feature set is geared specifically towards creating flat pattern drawings.

You can create a garment with Style Editor, then open in in Pattern Editor and tune subtle details.  This is a one way trip, however – once you edit a Style Editor creation in Pattern Editor, there’s no way to work on it further in Style Editor.  Wild Ginger expects you to use the Style Editor as much as possible, then move to Pattern Editor for final touches – if that’s even necessary.

Another way to use PatternMaster

But that’s not the only way you can use PatternMaster. I’ve decided to completely ignore the Style Editor, and use the Pattern Editor exclusively.  (You can see in the Style Editor screenshot above it says “Sample Measurements” in the upper right corner – I haven’t even bothered to enter in my own measurements).

It’s possible to draft new patterns totally from scratch using just Pattern Editor – it’s simply more work to do so than relying on Style Editor to do the heavy lifting for you.  Or you can scan/photograph a paper pattern, then trace it in Pattern Editor and further refine it digitally.  Which is what I’m doing with my pants.

I was glad to see some external validation of my intent to use PatternMaster this way.  Catina Ferraine is a professional patternmaker who uses PatternMaster and its professional counterpart, Cameo.  She’s been answering questions on PatternReview, as well as hosting a series of YouTube videos and Google Hangout videos.  Her videos focus exclusively on the Pattern Editor and demonstrate how to perform the same kinds of flat pattern manipulations you might do with pencil and paper.

Most of what I know about PatternMaster I’ve learned from her videos – which is good, because Wild Ginger’s product documentation for the Pattern Editor is pretty sparse. The user manual is 20 pages including cover and index, and simply describes what the commands do.  Even the online tutorial videos bundled with the product only provide an onscreen demo of how to use each command.  You don’t get any idea how the features are supposed to be used to create and edit a pattern.

This fits in with Wild Ginger’s thoughts on how they want you to use PatternMaster – you should be spending most of your time in Style Editor, which has more documentation and handholding. Wild Ginger does sell additional tutorials for Pattern Editor that supposedly provide more insight, and they even sell an entire textbook about flat pattern drafting using a CAD tool such as Pattern Editor.  But I haven’t purchased them.

 Digitizing the Pants Pattern

Here’s Catina’s YouTube video that demonstrates the process.

Essentially, what you do is import the scanned image of your paper pattern (she uses a digital photo, taken dead-on to avoid distortion).  Then, you use Pattern Editor’s CAD tools to trace lines and curves over the scanned image.  You can zoom in at any time to place more precise points and lines.

Here’s a screenshot of my digitizing work in the Pattern Editor.  I’ve imported the digital image of the pants front I stitched together from several scans using Inkscape.  The black outlines are the curves I’ve drawn using Pattern Editor’s drawing tools.


Calibrating the Scan

Note the white square.  This is the 2-inch calibration square I printed and taped to the pattern.  It is used to make the dimensions of the pattern inside PatternMaster match the “real world” measurements of the tissue I scanned.

In her video, Catina does this calibration using an older version of Pattern Editor. She pulls out an onscreen calculator to do some math by hand and then do a percentage reduction. PatternMaster 6 has a new command, “Calculate and Scale” which automates this process.

I drew a square over top the scanned alignment box and asked Pattern Editor how big it thought the square was – 30 inches to a side.  This is much larger than the square’s size in real life – 2 inches.  I don’t know why PatternMaster was off by a factor of 15, but it may have something to do with the pixel dimensions and resolution of the scanned image.  I can only speculate.

In any case, I selected everything on the canvas, then invoked “Calculate and Scale”.  It has a form with two blanks – one is how big something is (30 inches), and how big it should be (2 inches).  In one stroke, Pattern Editor resized the alignment box down to 2 inches, but also resized everything else proportionally – meaning the pattern should now be the same size in the computer as it is on the tissue.

Creating the pattern

In this screenshot, I cloned the front pants outline for the various stages in its refinement.


The middle version has been aligned perpendicular to the canvas and has notches, circles and grainlines added.

The rightmost version is a copy of the center, but with a 3/8 inch seam allowance added everywhere except for fly and bottom hem.  Pattern Editor’s “Offset” tool creates a parallel line or curve a fixed distance from the original, making the seam allowances a snap to draft.

Drafting the Contoured Waistband

With both front and back pattern pieces traced, I was ready to draft the contoured waistband pattern piece.

The original contoured waistband from Vogue 8940 was two pieces – a left and right – joined at the center back seam. The righthand piece was longer than the left to allow for an extension for a button or other fastener.

I kept the same approach for my new waistband. I began by making two pattern pieces from the front and back pants.  In each case, I used Pattern Editor’s Offset command to make a curve parallel to the waistband seam of the pant. Then I drew short lines to close the waist band piece, making the lines perpendicular at center front/center back.


I used Pattern Editor’s Align tool to join the front piece to the back piece at the side seam.  This is the block for developing the left and right pattern pieces.


Here’s the finished contoured waistband.  The left and right have separate extensions, and 3/8 inch seam allowance has been added all around.


Printing the Pattern

Once you have created the pattern pieces, PatternMaster has some useful tools to help with layout and printing.

One tool, which I’m not covering here, allows you to calculate the amount of fabric you need to create your garment.  It gives you a virtual piece of fabric that you lay out the pattern pieces on.  When you’re done, it tells you how much fabric you used for the layout. You can enter the width of your fabric bolt, and you can even define simulated stripes and plaids so you can get an idea how they affect the layout and your fabric needs.  The yardage tool is not very refined – I found some aspects initially confusing – but in the end it did get the job done.

Once you’re ready to print, the Print tool works in a similar way. You lay out your pattern pieces to print out across multiple sheets of paper.  Here, I have laid out by hand the entire pants pattern to print across 12 sheets of 11×17-inch paper.  I carefully arranged things so that I didn’t have to tape the seams running down the very middle of the printout.


The printer spat out my pattern in less than a minute.


With 11×17 sheets and no need to join down the center, the trimming and taping went fairly quickly.

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Next Time

We’ll talk about the problem nobody warned me about.