I am going to talk to you today about the value of a sloper. A sloper is a basic fitting garment that can used as the basis of endless designs. It has many names, sloper, block, or fitting shell. As far as design goes you can employ a couple different methods. You can drape a garment, using a dressform and a persons measurements combined or you can use the flat pattern method. For the flat pattern method you will need a sloper. You can then use this sloper as a foundation to create virtually any style you would like. This is achieved by a process of cutting and pivoting. You would cut your pattern and pivot to achieve dart placement and fullness in different places. You can change the neckline and style as well, and add fit and design ease. The sloper is like a second skin, made to fit the exact measurements of the wearer, threads describes it as a 2D dress form. Dress forms are actually made from slopers that are made from "ideal" measurements for different sizes. You can actually use your sloper to make a dressform, a process which is described in the book that I previously recommended, "How to Make Sewing Patterns" by Donald H. McCunn. Having a sloper is great not just for drafting patterns from scratch but also for altering your favorite name brand sewing patterns. You can use your fitting shell to compare to your pattern of choice to get a better idea of how the finished garment will fit and what alterations, if any, need to be made to the pattern. Making a sloper and on paper is of course not enough, you have to make the sloper in muslin and really judge if the fit is spot on or needs adjusting. Once done in muslin, you can rip it apart and use this a a durable pattern without worry that it could be damaged like a paper pattern.
Now to make a sloper you have a few options. You can draft one out by hand using the help of a good book that describes the process. This can be a bit involved and trying. It is a great experience though. I spent my entire weekend trying to draft my muslin from scratch with little success. I have gotten close but not close enough. Granted, I was battling a cold all weekend and just don't think my mind was sharp enough for taking on this endeavor. So I took to the internet for some assistance and found some great resources. The book I have is great but I was looking for a quick fix. You can purchase a pattern for a fitting shell from mcalls, here. You can buy this and make alterations if needed. Burdastyle also has some free downloadable options for slopers, here. Free is great right?! The only thing is that it comes in one size, and if you are far from that size, you will have to do a lot of altering, so you may be better off just drafting from scratch and using that burdastyle one as a reference. As far as how to use your sloper for pattern alterations, please read this threads article! Threads is an amazing resource for any home seamstress, and this article is no different.
Now to take sloper drafting to the next level, you can use a CAD software program for pattern drafting. Now I am no techie, by any means so this type of software is scary to say the least. It is something that I am interested in so it would do me good to get over it and quick. I started a google search on the topic of these software programs and found a good article about the different options out there which lead me to this program. PatternMaker has a free basic reader option that with a few measurements, will generate a free basic bodice sloper for you!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's right, and it is free!!!!! This is only for the bodice though.You can then print it out from your home printer, just like a burdastyle pattern!!! They also offer programs that you can purchase and do a whole lot more with, I may consider buying one in the future, if I work up the guts to spend my money. So I tried out the free portion of the software and generated my bodice block. I printed it out this morning and plan on making a muslin between today and tomorrow to see how accurate the fit is.
The value of a good sloper speaks for itself. This is a great home sewing tool that we should all have in our arsenal!!!! My hope with this project is to be able to recreate some vintage styles that I may not be able to get a pattern for. I hope to have a lot of fun with it and I hope that these resources are helpful to some of you who may be interested in making your own sloper. Happy Sewing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!