Ever look at a pattern and think, “I wish that came in my size!”? Or maybe you’ve made several muslins of a pattern only to find it still doesn’t work for your body? Want to design your own patterns? These are all situations where using a sloper could be the answer to achieving a better fit with less frustration! Today, I’m hoping to provide a look into how to make a sloper and in future posts explore how to use it.
- Still available are sloper patterns from Butterick, McCall’s, and Vogue dress/pants. The upsides to these are that they are pretty easy to acquire (if you live in the US) and they’re physical patterns rather than PDFs. Butterick’s offering even has an expansive size range, going up through a size 32W (54/49/56). The downsides are that each envelope only includes one size, which can make personalization more difficult, and that the size ranges from McCall’s and Vogue are not terribly inclusive.
- Burda has a few different sloper options including knit dress and swimsuit options. These are great if you like PDF patterns and come with a selection of sizes nested. The downside is the size ranges are hit or miss, often only coming in a range of 3-5 sizes per style. Burda also offers a couple of online courses to create your own sloper from either patterns or drafting: Slopers 101 and Draft Your Own Personal Sloper Collection
- Connie Crawford has extensive options for slopers going up to a size 6X (74/69/76) and breaks out the pattern options by cup size A/B through H/I.
- Craftsy has a whole series with Suzy Furrer on drafting a custom sloper based on your measurements. They also offer a course on draping a knit sloper.
- There are many tutorials on making your own sloper, including a popular post from Madalynne.
As for me, I’m a home sewer looking to use a sloper for my own personal projects. If you’re looking to create a professional pattern line, then you might want to look into other options, but for the average home sewer any of the above options would work. For this post, I used the Butterick sloper for the simple reason that it was already in my pattern stash. The pattern even came with darts pieces for size C and D/DD busts! Helpful as a starting point! Additionally, it came with step-by-step directions on how to use the sloper, as well as diagrams on common fit issues.
Once you’ve picked a size, I highly recommend measuring each piece before cutting a muslin. This ensures there is enough seam allowance to manipulate during fitting. For mine, I also rotated the side dart to the shoulder so my block can more easily transition to a princess seam block as well. Once your first pass pattern changes have been made, it’s time to cut out your muslin pieces, sew any darts in the pattern, then baste your seams together in a mock-up.
And this is the catch with making a sloper for yourself…it is much easier and more accurate if you have a partner to help. Getting a good set of measurements is nice for starting with the best size, but it also makes fitting so much easier at this point. My progress paused for a few weeks until I could arrange for a friend to help measure the changes I would need.
Round one of fitting went pretty well overall, but there was some pulling across the bust, in the upper back hip, and over my lower stomach.
Note: I highly recommend that you either make your sloper open in the front or the back. For some stupid reason I make the bodice open front and the skirt open back and it made the fitting process much harder. Please learn from my mistake!
After implementing the changes from round one of fitting, the second mock-up worked much better. With a few further improvements in that round, I was happy enough to add the sleeves.
I started without the sleeves for a few reasons:
1) It is easier to see the shoulder line without the sleeves attached.
2) It is easier to mark where you want the sleeve to sit.
3) Sleeves, ugh.
Is this sloper perfect? Nope. But muslin is notoriously unforgiving and I used a lightweight muslin which did not help. That’s why it is good for fitting your sloper. You want to see all the issues, but some things will disappear once you add style ease and use a different fabric. I will revisit those sleeve caps specifically, but with summer ahead I felt okay moving forward after the third fitting so I could knock out some sundresses.
Bodies change, skill sets improve, and slopers will need updating with time. It is okay to fit it to a happy, but imperfect place and come back to it again once you’ve tried out a few designs. Odds are good that a decent sloper will get you better fitting results than buying ready-to-wear clothing and will also help achieve a better fit with commercial patterns.
To go from muslin to permanent pattern, it takes a few simple steps. After marking the seams with a permanent marker, I took out all the stitching, carefully pressed each piece, then traced them onto oak tag. Make sure to true the seams and double check everything transferred well. This seam allowance-less block can now be traced off to make any number of designs including dresses, blouses, skirts, tunics, and more!