A Fashionable Stitch » sartorial sewing

Sloper Sweetness – Pt. I

I’ve wanted to talk about my experience with my bodice sloper since Christmas – when I finally got down to brass tacks and perfected the fit for it – and have been at a loss as to where to begin. I’ve decided to do a series of posts on this subject. Now, I’m not an expert on this subject, but hey, it never hurts to hear this stuff from someone who’s tried it right?

Today I wanted to talk about what a sloper is and how to go about getting one. Plus this is a great way to get input from you so that everyone gets more than just my opinion here. First, what is a sloper? A sloper (also known as a basic block) is a basic pattern from which other patterns can be made. There can be many different types of slopers, for instance you can have a bodice sloper, a sleeve sloper, and pants sloper. Within those categories you can even narrow it down even more and create slopers for various different types of say bodices – bodices with 2 darts and 1 dart, a knit bodice sloper and the like. Does that make sense? It’s the building block, so to speak. And hey, if you’re new to this and you feel that this might be a bit over your head right now, don’t worry – I did too when I got back into sewing several years ago. I’ve acquired a lot of knowledge from textbooks, blogs, friends who sew and trial and error.

Now how do you go about making a sloper, getting one, fitting one etc.? There are a few ways and I would be remiss to say that one way of doing it is better than the other. Firstly, you can draft your own. You can purchase a pattern drafting book and go from there. Currently I own Patternmaking Made Easy by Connie Crawford and Building Patterns by Suzy Furrer – both are excellent and high recommendations from me! They’ll take you through all the steps, techniques, and measurements to create your own slopers/blocks. To go along with pattern drafting books, I feel that a fitting book is a good companion as the two arts go hand in hand. Just because you draft the sloper does not mean it will automatically fit you. I recommend Fit For Real People or The Perfect Fit. Both have been indispensible standbys for me.

You can also perfect the fit on a basic fitting shell and use it as a basic sloper and even a way to create more slopers. Two amazing books to own on this way of doing it are the Adele Margolis’ texts How to Make Clothes Fit & Flatter and Design Your Own Dress Patterns. The former takes you through great fitting techniques to get a perfect fit for a sloper, the latter gives you a step by step guide to create your own patterns from your sloper.

Don’t have the money to purchase a bunch of texts? I know – its tight all around these days. There are some great tutorials on the web too! Have a gander at this one and this one from Madalynne and I also recall seeing several rounds of instructions on BurdaStyle from various members on how to do this too!

Next, you’ll want to splurge on a few tools, if you don’t have them already, to rip apart, slice and dice and do some nasty stuff to your pattern. Even if I’ve drafted the thing myself, I find I still have to make alterations and adjustments.
✂ First things first – paper! Can I just say, sometimes its hard to find the right pattern paper. I’m such a snob about certain papers and I’ve tried a ton! A great place to start is in the kitchen – I had a round with wax paper once, but I hate that you can’t write on it very well. Love parchment paper – but only for very final versions of a sloper I plan to use for altering as it doesn’t take tape well. Otherwise, using parchment works really well if you intend to use your sloper to adjust patterns, then you just have to lay your sloper over the top of a pattern and see where to go about making the adjustments. Recently I purchased this fantastic roll of paper and paper holder/dispenser from IKEA. The paper rolls are only $5 – best paper ever! I love it. There’s also pattern paper – I can’t find this stuff locally and finally I just stopped looking for it! And I’ve never wanted to pay shipping for it! Aw well! For the final pattern – I use oak tag found at a specialty framing store nearby. If you plan to pattern draft, having a sloper in oak tag is lovely.
Rulers! What would pattern drafting and slicing and dicing be without them? I highly recommend a hip curve, a yardstick and plain old straight ruler.
Pencils. Paper scissors. And I’ve also found a tracing wheel handy, which I use to trace off a pattern or sloper onto that IKEA paper which takes the tracing wheel very well. A rotary mat, unless you have access to actual pattern paper, otherwise this makes a great substitute for not having that. One of those cardboard cutting tables would do the trick too! Don’t forget tape – I just use scotch tape.
Last but not least, you’ll need muslin to mock up several versions of your sloper and get that fit perfect!

Alright! Now, that I’ve gone on and on, what do you say? A lot of info for one post, I know. Have you made your own sloper? Do you use it? Ideas or tips to share? What about your tool chest? What are your recommedations?

If nothing else friends, I hope this gives you an idea of where to start with getting your hands a little itchy for making your own sloper. I’ll have more installments on slopers coming up and how I’ve used them to alter patterns, which can minimize the making of muslins and that is the best news of all! Yay! Plus I’ll go over what I’ve started with here and give you things I’ve done that are much more in depth. Ok? Ok.

Sloping out of here,
Sunni

  • Claire (aka Seemane) - Great post Sunni – looking forward to the rest of the series too :)!ReplyCancel

  • Charl - This is really great- I see slopers referred to often, and love the idea, but need a lot more clarification on both making and using. Awesome thread! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • lisa g - i’ve been thinking about (and half-heartedly working on…) a sloper for myself as well. i would also recommend the book “how to make your own sewing patterns” by donald mccunn. it covers everything (drafting from scratch): bodice, skirt, pants, jackets, the works! even if you don’t fully draft your own sloper and fit it, it has helped me get a better grasp on how to alter existing patterns. i can pinpoint by just looking at a darted bodice pattern what changes i’ll need to make before starting a muslin.

    also, i’ve started searching for sewing books at the library instead of buying them right away. it’s nice to try out a book for a while when money is an issue before deciding whether or not it’s the right book for me!ReplyCancel

  • Janice - I’ve had a bodice block and a skirt block for awhile now and I use it all the time to check on fit. I also use it as a base to draft variations on patterns.ReplyCancel

  • Lauren - Ahh, I have that same paper roll & holder from IKEA :D I love it & I think it’s so cute – although the paper does tend to rip easily (but at $5 a roll, I think I can deal haha).

    I really want to make a sloper for myself, just to say I did. I actually have 2 or 3 of those sloper patterns in my stash. They were cheap but still… who needs more than one of those things, anyway? Other than me, I mean :)ReplyCancel

    • Sewing Princess - I never thought of using Ikea paper roll. I will try it out. Thanks for the tipReplyCancel

    • Alicia - Me too! I’ve just had my first foray in to drafting something myself, and that roll of IKEA paper finally got used. I just went and bought another one out of fear they’ll stop selling them :o)

      Thanks Sunni, great post. Out of interest, did you feel that one of those approaches worked best for you?ReplyCancel

  • Donna - Thanks for sharing your process! It’s always helpful to see what tools other people find handy, etc. I’ll keep my eye out for the next post. :)ReplyCancel

  • Tanit-Isis - This is one of those things I’m always meaning to get to, but haven’t quite managed, yet. I’m excited to read the rest of your posts! :)ReplyCancel

  • LinB - Learned to do this at costume classes in college. We started with an enormous set of measurements, and then set to with paper, calculator, rulers and a good, sharp pencil. I bought a T-square and a very long steel ruler from a hardware store (you can go to the drafter’s section of an art store, too) since a yardstick is often not long enough for a dress or pants sloper. A French curve is useful, either plastic or steel, but you can use a flexible tape measure in a pinch: stand the tape on its side to mark the curve. Learning to pattern draft from scratch is like learning to use an abacus — you may never have to use this method again for the rest of your life, but it never hurts to know the fundamentals.ReplyCancel

  • Lizz - Suzy Furrer is the founder of the school I attend. Right now, I’m lucky enough to have her as my teacher. Building Patterns is a great book that I highly recommend. There are basic rules at the beginning of each chapter that are easy to follow and memorize which make a huge difference in your final garment.
    I’m looking forward to seeing where you take this topic, Sunni!ReplyCancel

  • Robyn - Great information – having a basic sloper or fitting shell has made such a huge difference in my projects. I tried to make a sloper for years with mixed success. This year I finally ordered some fitting shells (they will make them as slopers if you ask) from Yourpersonalfit.com. It was so worth the money – and honestly, they were less than all the $ I’ve invested in books, curved rulers, special measuring tapes, etc! I did need help taking all my measurements – I wanted to do it all myself, but alas – no way. They sent the final shells on oak tag. Then I made the muslin and sent pictures to them – they helped me customize the fit across my back. Now I use them before I make a cut to any of my commercial patterns, and the fit is always absolutely perfect. No more “great except for this little wrinkle over here…” disappointment – Yea!!

    FWIW, I buy my swedish tracing paper (is that what it’s called??) from Amazon and buy enough so it ships for free.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni - Awesome! I’m definitely going to check out yourpersonalfit.com! Fabulous idea! And thanks for the tip with the swedish tracing paper! Off to check it out!ReplyCancel

    • Bella - Thanks for this info, Robyn. I am going to check out yourpersonalfit.com, after I lose weight. Is that sick or what? But it’s true…

      Anyway, I just feel like I can do it myself, but I’ll probably end up like you–spending lots of money, getting a good idea about what goes into it (expanding my mind), then still not being happy & ending up buying something an expert has made!ReplyCancel

  • Tilly - Haha great timing – I’m currently having a tea-toast-and-blog break to relax me after having wasted 3 hours creating a skirt block based on a mis-calculated half hip measurement! Ah well, it’s all good practice.

    Thanks for the tip off about the Ikea paper roll and dispenser – they look great! My paper is currently a mess of folded up bits that keep falling all over the floor so a roll on a handy dispenser is just what I need. Only trouble is I don’t have a car to get to Ikea but I’ve bookmarked it for next time anyone I know says they’re going…ReplyCancel

  • Curry Made - How timely! I drafted a skirt block some time back but I’m hoping to start on a bodice block soon. Looking forward to all the sloper sweetness!ReplyCancel

  • VictoriaR - Thanks for an informative post. My one problem when thinking about making a sloper (something I’ve been doing a lot of lately) is how do others fit a muslin on themselves without an assistant? I just don’t seem to be able to make adjustments properly while looking in the mirror and pinning on myself. I have a duct-tape dress form and that helps some, but it has settled a little and is not exactly this same as me, expecially for shoulders, and it is worthless for pants. How do people fit themselves? Do you have to make a million muslins each tweaked a little?ReplyCancel

  • Seraphinalina - If you ever wanted a reason to have a T&T or sloper, all you have to do is look at Diary of a Sewing Fanatic. It’s incredible the number of things that Carolyn has done with her basic dress.
    I do not have a sloper yet for myself. I was lucky enough to win the pants sloper from the Consultative Seamstress service that Three Hours Past the Edge of the World is offering. Pants to me are pretty scary and I’m happy to have a bit of hand holding to get the basic fit right so I can go from there.
    And how have I never heard the Ikea paper? I generally use parchment paper to trace patterns onto, but I agree, it doesn’t tape together all that well. I was in Ikea just two weekends ago, I totally would have picked up a roll just to compare. How can you lose at $5? If I don’t like it I’ll let visiting kids draw on it. Next time…ReplyCancel

  • Melody - I have never before heard them being referred to as slopers before!

    Since university I’ve always had them in sample sizes as well as my own size, but honestly, I’d only ever heard of them being called “Blocks”!

    Thank you for the book references, though, I’ve been on the hunt for some good patternmaking books for a while – and fit is definitely something I need to be getting sorted!ReplyCancel

  • Susan C - Don’t forget, when you have your basic blocks made, make them up in CARDBOARD. (That’s what they do in design college) then it’s quick to trace around them. I also highly recommend SWEDISH TRACING PAPER. So much easier to use, doesn’t tear and you can sew it up – is easier to fit on you especially if you don’t have a helper. Saves wearing out your favourite patterns too – especially if they are vintage and fragile. Wouldn’t it be great to have a proper cutting table for all those moments that you have to cut on a single layer of wide fabric! I don’t even have a sewing room and use the dining table for cutting :( which means I have to pack everything up every time I want to work a little on a project.ReplyCancel

  • StephC - Having a sloper/block completely changed the way I approach sewing for myself. It’s such a relief to know that I can sew something and it will fit perfectly every time. It takes all the trepidation out of my projects, I can just focus on playing around with lines and fabrics. :)ReplyCancel

  • maddie - Another post with me linked in it? You are too sweet! I’m really glad my post has inspired your post. A block or sloper is so important and I think everyone should know about it!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah H. - There is a sloper that you did not mention that I use and love. It is surefitdesigns.comReplyCancel

  • Summer - I made a fitted dress sloper last year and used it to cut a sheath dress. It needs more fitting but the fit overall was pretty good. Honestly I wish there were an easier way.

    The weirdest, but best, sloper I made was by covering myself in masking tape, a la duct tape dummy, to create a skirt sloper. It’s fantastic! Since you’re not starting with standard pattern shapes you get pattern pieces that accurately reflect your body, no matter how unusual they may look.ReplyCancel

  • sallie - A great overview Sunni – I’m looking forward to these posts! Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Alessa - I’ve been wanting to make a sloper for roughly a year now! I think I needed the time to learn and understand about some techniques, though, and I think I’ll attempt to actually make one in the next few weeks. Especially since I have some dresses and blouses on my to-sew list, for which I haven’t found the perfect pattern yet!ReplyCancel

  • Pam Ellen Hudson - Hi Sunni – I’m a huge fan of your blog. I use a slope and cannot live without one, now! Shaerie from Sew LA (www.sew-la.com) told me I should take her classes and she would free me from “patterns.” And, guess what, it’s true – I don’t have fit problems once I use this slope. I love it and it has increased my sewing enjoyment 300%. I love it. Great post – every seamstress should have fitted slopers for flat pattern drafting.

    We used the McCall pattern (or one of the big 3, from my memory) and fitted it to our bodies, skirt and bodice.ReplyCancel

  • Nethwen - I’m looking forward to learning more about this. I slowly am learning to draft my own slopers/blocks. One thing I learned, transparent paper makes things much easier.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - Oh, Sunni, I am so excited to see you doing this! For a variety of reasons, bodices can be difficult to fit for me, and for some time I’ve been thinking that I need to whip up a few slopers to help me with fit—a really bad experience with a dress pattern last spring has kind of scared me away from sewing dresses, my favourite thing, ever since. Pathetic.

    Just to make sure I fully understand, though…We can make a sloper that will help us adjust existing patterns to fit us better? Wooo-hooo! Can’t wait to follow along with the rest of the series. Thank you for the supply recommendations, too; in fact, I’ll be visiting family in Cinci soon and will now simply *have* to hit up IKEA while we are in town. ;)ReplyCancel

  • Bella - I may wimp out & go the yourpersonalfit.com route, but I am thoroughly enjoying these posts & really appreciate learning about it–even if I never use it.ReplyCancel

  • Kate McIvor - Thanks Sunni. This is perfect timing. I took my first Palmer/Pletch fitting class yesterday. I learned that I am a 14 with a FULL bust adjustment. I have been sewing size 18! I don’t know if I could have figured that out myself. I am so excited to start sewing button-down shirts that actually fit. Looking forward to your next posts!
    KateReplyCancel

  • Sophie - Thank-you! It was an insightful post!!!~I have found rolls of fax paper at the thrift store. I guess with emails, people don’t use faxed anymore….. Tho I have to tape a few together, they work great!!!
    SophieReplyCancel

  • PrudenceLee - Thanks for giving some over view on how to be a better sewer. It’s nice to know even just a little on it, for everyday use. You did a great job here!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - You know what I use for pattern paper is trace. It comes in rolls. I was introduced to it while learning to hand draft (architectural drafting) in college. You can get it in rolls from 12″, 24″ up to 36″ wide. It’s great because you can see through it but it’s also much thicker than tissue type paper. Any real art supply store will carry it. Here is a link I found so you can see the stuff I mean.

    http://www.dataprint.com/Store/c-141-sketch.aspxReplyCancel

  • Weekend - […] not the only one with a liking for slopers. Sunni from A Fashionable Stitch has a great post on what a block or sloper is and its definition (her definition is even better […]ReplyCancel