Pattern drafting and a thought on using good products.

In Technische Inzichten by Ruben Bakker6 Comments

I’m feeling like posting and I have a day off, so I took the time to move my laptop around (battery plug is broken) and shoot some, rather horrible I might add, pictures. But as pictures say a thousand words and everyone still loves to see pictures, here they are.

The image you see above is a commonly seen image. Bespoke tailoring is all about precision work. You take your client’s measurements, note them down, and then, according to your set of drafting rules start calculating the exact pattern pieces. Most English systems use a combination of a few direct measurements, combined with a working scale, which is most commonly the chest measurement divided by a number. A few points in the pattern are then calculated by having a set width/length + the working scale. But as most English literature is written using the Imperial system, instead of the metric system, we “mainland european tailors” will almost always use German literature, or literature available in our own language (which is very scarce to say the least). Most metric systems use a combination of again, a few direct measurements, mostly neck, chest, waist, hip and sleeve length. The rest of the measurements are then derived from a formula, which is actually quite similar to using a working scale, but is still a little bit different. For example, when we take a chest measurement we do not take 2 measurements for both back and chest, we take the full chest. Well then, how do you determine the diameter of the scye? For example, we take 1/8 of total chest, then add 3-4 cm depending on personal preference.

We do the same with the almost all other measurements. However, if we see that the person we are measuring has a slightly different posture (which is almost always the case) we take some of these measurements, note them down, and then check our derived measures from the proportional system to our own taken measurements and adjust them accordingly if needed. For example, the shoulder width in my system is determined by taking a point in the scye, going down 2 cm, and then drawing a line from nape of neck towards this point, and then lengthening that line 2,5 cm. In my situation, I ended up with a shoulder measurement of 15,6 cm. My actual shoulder is 16,8 cm. These situations are all about the judgement of the cutter whether or not he should note down extra measurements where he is expecting problems, just to be sure.

Then there are things like length of the shirt, waist height, shape/height of collar, button positioning, sleeve length and sleeve width which are all open to interpretation by the individual cutter. These are cosmetic changes and can be discussed with the client at time of measuring.

For example, I like a slim sleeve. other might like their sleeve a bit wider. On the picture below, you can see that from the sleevehead, down to the cuff, there is a rather shapely indent in the sleeve, right under the end of the sleevehead. Your complete scye measurement is, in most situations, alot bigger in girth then your actual biceps is. Continuing the line in a straight line directly from the sleevehead will thus result in a wide sleeve.

Again, this is open to interpretation by the cutter and may involve taking extra measurements, should the customer request a slim sleeve.

On the subject of scyes, the actual shape of the scye is also something under debate. Some cutters prefer a straighter scye, which is easier to work with and is most often also seen in the RTW industry, where time is key. A more shaped scye will result in a more complex shape to work with when attaching the sleeve to the body, and thus it will cost you more time. The result however is a scye that will be more body fitting.

Then, onto the subject of yokes. There have been some discussions on as to whether or not a split yoke is desired. I have tested the split yoke several times and except for the cosmetic effects (stripes will run parallel with the shoulder line when viewed from the front, and will also match at the sleeve), the “myth” telling us that a split yoke constitutes more freedom of movement, is in my opinion busted.

To explain why that isn’t the case I will have to tell you about the way cloth is woven. I will not go into much detail because you could write a complete book on that, but a simplified version is that regular cloth does not stretch vertically, nor does it stretch horizontally. However, it DOES stretch diagonally, which is called the BIAS. So when we cut something like a yoke “ON THE BIAS” , we enable that piece of cloth to stretch as the customer moves. For example, Anderson and Sheppard of Savile Row cut their shoulder seam slanting backwards, which enables this seam to be on the bias, and they like to believe that that constitutes more comfort in movement. The thing is however, that as the customer moves, NO strain is put on this seam and thus the effect of cutting this seam on the bias is completely negligible.

The same happens with a yoke. When you move your arms forward, the area directly behind the back scye is put under strain. Not the yoke itself. I have made quite some ridiculous movements in front of the mirror, and even tested it on some friends to see if the yoke ever comes under any strain. It just doesn’t. It would, if you cut a ridiculously deep yoke (going all the way to the under-back scye) which just looks weird.

So if anyone tells you that a split yoke constitutes a more comfortable shirt, or a backwards-slanting shoulders seam a more comfortable suit, don’t believe them.

Do choose for this if you have a nice striped shirt, because cosmetically it can be quite appealing. For ordinary cloths, it’s just not worth the extra effort.

In this case, we thus cut a single-piece yoke, as seen below.

Don’t confuse the split-yoke with the double yoke though; we always cut a double yoke, so there are no ugly seams inside of the shirt and the attachment of the label does not show on the outside.

Next up: darts. As I’ve said in my previous post, side-seams go a long way in creating shape in a garment, however to truly create shape where we actually want shape, we have to resort to darts, or ironwork, but ironwork can only be applied to suiting cloth. Shirting cloth does not react enough to manipulation with the iron and besides, one wash and one ironing job at home would ruin the work anyway if it where possible. I have a slightly hollow back. If I where to only use a shaped side seam, I would have to give it alot of shape. That’s doable, but it still doesn’t apply directly to the back. When we use back-darts, we can apply shape to the back ONLY. Nothing will happen at the front, which WILL happen if we only use a shaped side seam. This may result, in overly enthousiastic shaping of the side seam, in unsightly wrinkles around the waist, or pulling at centerfront. With darts, this does not happen and you will achieve a much better fit. Besides, darts are barely visible, especially on the back.

Waist darts, as seen on coats, is an entirely different subject. The only time you would use that on a shirt is if the customer you are measuring has 2 protruding objects on his chest. Well in males that does happen, but you will only see that in combination with a large belly. I’m talking about female breasts ofcourse. Because there is such a large difference in chest measurement and waist measurements, because of the breasts, to give enough waist suppression, and thus a good shape (especially women are VERY adamant on having tight-fitting clothes) you will have to resort to waist darts. Thus, for men, and even for bodybuilders, waist darts are not necessary and besides, they give a feminine look to the shirt.

We do use them in coats however, but that’s only because we want to accentuate the chest area.

Here is a shot of the dart in the back. The result is 3cm of back suppression, only across the back.

Going back to cloth marking, which I was talking about. Once we get the measurements, and derive all other measurements from the formulae determined by our drafting system, we get to work with our Tailoring Square’s, rulers, pencils and erasers. We draw the construction lines and then draft the pattern. When we are finished with that, we cut out the pattern so we can lay them on the cloth. Using tailor’s chalk, which you see above, we then lay down the pattern on the cloth, use the chalk to mark the cloth around the paper pattern.

We use thick manila paper (almost like cardboard) for our patterns. On most fashion schools you learn to use something that looks like smoking papers, and is equally thin, and thus breaks, wrinkles and gets ripped apart quite easily. Because we do not want to draft a new pattern each time we create a new garment, we use this thicker, more rigid paper to make sure we can keep the patterns until the next time our customer comes in. This saves us alot of time. Not only does it saves us time, it’s also alot better to work with. For example, we draw in the inlay used for the center-front of the shirt in the paper pattern. However I also want to apply the markings ON the inlay on the cloth. I just fold the paper pattern where I want it, draw the line, fold it back, give it a good press with my hand and the wrinkle is gone.

This is a picture of a pattern for the front of the shirt. It’s a little out of focus, but you guys have seen paper patterns before I guess so this is just for illustration.

I buy this stuff at Harolds, on rolls of about 10 meters. Superb stuff.

As said in my previous post, I have also experimented with drafting, cutting and making up coats. Here is the paper pattern for my very first coat:

Drafting a coat pattern is infinitely more complex than drafting a shirt pattern and this has cost me alot of practice and time to get a proper pattern. I have showed this pattern to Paul and he has approved it to be sufficient in creating my very first coat.

As said before, this has only come to scraps and samples of pieces of the coat, so I will not show any detailed pictures of that. I will need better products to work with before I go on.

Using the right products is FUNDAMENTAL in creating good garments, and especially coats. A bespoke coat takes about 60 hours to make by skilled hands, and many more if made by an apprentice like myself. Basting, Fitting, Checking, Adjusting, Rebasting, Fitting, Checking, Adjusting. And then there’s the interlining and all other stuff you need to do: inticrate ironwork to manipulate the cloth by creating length in certain areas and keeping it short in others (stretching and shrinking).

What I can show you is something I showed you before but have since then improved my technique. It’s the interlining for a bespoke suit. The Chest piece, combined with the shoulder padding, in bespoke tailoring, is all done completely by hand. It is made from multiple layers of cloth and we use all kinds of cuts, vees, wedges and manipulation with the iron to create shape in the interlining. This constitutes more comfort in wearing, a garment that accentuates your body and is overall just infinitely better then fusing.

To understand what we do to create shape, please take the time to take a piece of A4 paper from your printer. I will explain and show you what all the cuts vees and wedges do to the cloth.

Make a cut in your piece of paper, of about 6cm deep. Now lay the start of the cut, about 1,5 to 2 cm over each other. hold this, and give the underside of the paper a push. You can now see a bulge created by the overlaying of the cut. We use alot of these cuts, about 3-4 in a chest piece and about 1 or 2 big ones in the chest canvas. You can create more shape by cutting a V (the vees I was talking about before). And then doing the same as with the simple cut. Because more space is taken away by laying one side of the cut over the other, this constitutes even more shape in the chest piece.

Last up is the wedges. This again, starts with a cut about 6 cm deep. But instead of laying one side over the other, you separate the cut about 3 cm. This creates an indent and is one of the techniques used in creating the ultimate bespoke shoulder: the Pagoda shoulder, or saddle shoulder. In more common language, you can see this shoulder as having a concave line, as opposed to a straight or sloping lined shoulder. When we use this wedge on haircloth, we lay another piece of haircloth in between the wedge and fasten it with stitches to keep the shape.

Here are some examples of a chest piece in a bespoke suit; the lapels have not been done like before, nor has the body canvas really been completed. Included this time however, as opposed to last time is the hand-padded shoulder pad, which in real bespoke tailoring is fabricated completely from scratch, using 2 layers of felt or lining, and wadding sandwiched in between. It is then pad-stitched (gepikeerd in dutch) to create and hold shape over time.

To keep the shape, we have to pad stitch in different sizes and lengths to hold the shape over time. Drawing the stitching short where needed also helps in creating even more shape.

Front view

The pagoda shoulder, see the wedge between my finger and the nape of neck?

Back view of the shoulder pad.

Chest piece backview. The black cloth is Silesia, which is used to keep the protruding hairs from bothering the wearer of the garment. This is also normally covered by felt, to have some more ease in wearing.

The shape in the chest.

Again, the shape in the chest.

While the chest itself hold shape “quite” reasonable (you have to tug a bit at it, but in a completed coat this is not a problem), the shoulder, one of the most essential parts in a good bespoke coat, is not holding it’s shape correctly.

This is due to the use of bad materials.

Here in The Netherlands, tailoring is a dieing trade and getting good supplies is nearly impossible. Also, there are lots of differents types of products that you can use and each has its own properties.

The interlining we use is made with genuine horse-hair, which is extremely springy but also very flexible and holds shape very well. The quality of the interlining is determined by the AMOUNT of hair, and the way the hair is woven into the cloth.

If it is genuinely woven in, the longest hairs have to be used, which are scarce, therefore expensive, and here in Holland, impossible to find. So what we see here generally in Holland is “wrapped hair”. The hair is woven in using a string of wrapped wool and hair, twisted around each other. See the picture below:

The black pieces in this example is the horse-hair. Using this technique, alot of the springiness is lost which does exist in good haircloth.

Another bad thing about this is, and as you can see from the photo, is that if you pull the cloth to one side, the weaving gets displaced. This is a sign of very, very bad quality haircloth.

Good haircloth, no matter what you do with it, does not disintegrate. The weave stays intact. This is because it is woven more densely, and with a better technique.

Look what happens when you pad-stitch a lapel:

Here you can see how the haircloth gets displaced by simple pad-stitching. This should not happen. You can also see how much room there is in between the weft and the warp.

Horror shot.

Working with these products is therefore extremely hard, and never has the desired result. It is also much less springy then good haircloth and therefore the cuts, vees and wedges do not keep their shape. It should almost have the same rigidity and springiness as paper, but at the same time be as soft as normal cloth.

That’s where Rovagnati Vincenzo S.p.A comes in. It’s a North-Italian manufacturer of quality interlinings. Their products are quite expensive compared to what I’m using now, but is infinitely better. So I’d say worth the price.

This is genuine haircloth:

There are 22 strands of hair, full-length, in one inch of this haircloth. This constitutes an extremely springy, densely woven, flexible and quite rigid haircloth. A detailed shot of the weave:

This is taken at the same distance as the other haircloth which I now use. Can you tell the difference?

This is what happens, and shows the springiness and rigidity of the haircloth, when you do something like a vee or a wedge:

Pad-stitch this and it will keep it’s shape.

Here is the body canvas from the same manufacturer, which is also better then I use now. First one is Rovagnati Vincenzo, second picture is the stuff I use now.

At first glance you might not notice the difference but the haircloth in the first picture has more hair, longer hairs, and is thus more springy.

And thus a better quality ;).

Overall, if you use better products, you get a better end-result.

Now I’m feeling like dinner so this is it from me for today. Thank you all for all the kind words on the forum and I’ll be back soon with more, I’ll be doing a detailed picture report of my next shirt with most steps explained and shown.

For now, until next time!


  1. Dear Ruben Bakker,

    Congratulations on your blog. It is impressive. I am especially pleased with the way you support metric measures for your work.


    Pat Naughtin
    Geelong, Australia

  2. Hi Ruben Love your blog and work!

    Great to see a young guy (forgive me) putting in the hours to fulfill their passion and become master craftsman.

    I thought that you might be interested in our blog? We are bespoke handsewn shoemakers in London and do something similar – sharing our experiences and learnings online about our craft. We teach shoemaking courses so I hope that your blog will inspire some of our students to start talking about their experiences online.

    Thanks again for the inspiration and enthusiasm

  3. This is so beautiful. Thank you for your clear and concise explanation. I would really love to learn pattern drafting and dressmaking and maybe one day tailoring. I'm currently working on a PhD in plant molecular biology and I am so over it 🙁 Your writing inspires me to read more and save more so when I finish with my PhD I can afford to start doing what I really like =) Thanks for the inspiration and keep up the good work.

Leave a Reply