how to draft a pattern…

Tom at work

All Bespoke suits are cut from a hand-drafted pattern. Here are the main three main drafting methods used by the very top-end, Savile Row tailors:

1. Pattern Manipulation.

This is the most common system used. A pre-existing basic block pattern (40, 42 Reg, 44 etc.) is used as a template, a starting point to create an improved, individual bespoke pattern. This will obviously match your dimensions, but most importantly, it will have the correct figuration details, such as how you stand, erect or stooping etc.

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(‘Pattern Manipulation’: a basic, template block pattern)

Don’t confuse this with a factory made-to-measure- all you’re getting there is the most basic of adjustments- chest, waist and length etc, to gain an ‘adequate’, standardised fit. But the suit will be designed based on a mannequin’s measurements, not your own.

With Bespoke Pattern Manipulation, an experienced Savile Row cutter will tweak with all the points of the pre-existing pattern to produce a new, individual template that’s true to your figure. Though not my preferred method, in all fairness this is a good system when used by experienced hands. The main benefit is that the cutter is starting out with a well-tried and tested pattern that he’s familiar with. Also, sparing him from any nasty surprises he may encounter, it saves him the time of drafting from scratch.

2. Drafting Formula.

Using your individual measurements, a pattern is drafted by scratch using the most exacting of standards. It’s very clinical and scientific. Everything is measured with a ruler to the greatest degree of precision possible, much like an engineering drawing, using a drafting square and a scale formula. It’s extremely complicated, and everything must be checked and double-checked. There are slightly different methods you can use, but they all involve a lot of measuring and calculation. When you are taught this for the first time, you feel as if you’re studying nuclear physics, rather than pattern drafting.

Again, in the experienced hands of a good Savile Row cutter, this will work fine. Every tailor lives and breathes his preferred system; it just depends on how he’s been taught. But either of these two aforementioned systems are good ones.

3. “Rock Of Eye”.

This is the system I specialise in. This is where the second system, the above Drafting Formula is calculated mentally in my head, however I just cut the pattern freehand, using only my tape measure and chalk to guide me. This method is used for the jacket only- to draught trousers without a square and stick would be folly.

This method does sound slightly vague, because it is. However as Mr. Hallbery told me, on my first encounter in the Anderson & Sheppard cutting room, “Show me a right angle on a man and I’ll let you use that square”.

This statement utterly terrified me, as we all prefer to have figures and defined points to work with. These had been obtained by a scientific method, so they had to be right, Right?

Wrong. Because what I found out “the expensive way” was that there were times when I had drafted a pattern, checked and double-checked it, and although the measurements were exact, something still looked wrong.

I was blinded by science, not creativity.

This is something everyone in this or any other business has experienced- a gut feeling that you wanted to listen to, but logic wrongly forced you to ignore. Then sadly you’d proceed down this path, and as soon as you saw the results at the suit’s first fitting, you knew your gut was right all along, and you have to kick yourself.

Often when creative matters are involved, “practice makes imperfect”.

Although this “Rock of Eye” system is based on a scientific method, it’s not constrained by it. As Mr. Hallbery told me, if the pattern doesn’t look right, how will it sew right? Then ultimately how will the suit look right?

This feeling, or I suppose you could call it ‘experience’, this is why I find “Rock of Eye” so wonderful to use. I know how a pattern works; if I don’t like how a pattern looks, I change it. Simple.

Comments

  1. says

    I have been creating historical costumes for around 10 years now and have heard somewhere that there was a method of consructing a pattern (georgian period)for the main body of men’s jackets by using a square of paper (the size of the half measure of a man’s natural waist and the height of his centre back), and then folding it several times to provide key points for the pattern. Does anyone know of this method and could they shed some light on it? I have been searching all my books and the internet for the last few years for the answer. There is a link to email me on my website at http://www.mysticminds.co.uk

  2. says

    hello thomas mahon, good night. i am from pakistan.at this time i am searching about good and expert tailor then i got your site,looking not good looking very very good never seen before specially your single breast coat in double breast collar style with watch pocket WOW. i like and empress to much.if we will negotiate each other then i will defocused next time.i am also a tailor and have 40 year experience in my field.i will wait for your reply.thank you

  3. Edward Tagg says

    Where can I learn – I live in New Zealand, and am an absolute beginner, but intelligent and experienced in other arts and crafts – do I buy a cheap damaged second hand suit on ebay and reverse engineer it?

  4. Philip Goularte says

    Edward, I am wondering the same thing here in California…I have always admired fit and texture of mens clothing and recently wanted a pair of plus fours and decided to make my own. I’ve never had a sewing needle in my hand and recently found I can’t go long without it there. I’m still working on the plus fours and wondering about next step to formal training.

    Thanks you so much Mr. Mahon for taking the time to post on this site. As I type, I’m aware that you are an hour North in San Francisco, CA and would relish the opportunity to buy you a cup of coffee or a pint to pick your brain a little…

    Cheers,

    Phil

  5. Danny says

    I had my first ‘proper’ suit made 12 months ago and before that I would have said there isn’t a huge amount of difference between a Savile Row suit and one from a High Street store. How wrong I was!
    I can’t really feel the suit I had made on my back, it’s just a delight to wear. The only issue I now have is that it’s difficult for me to go back to a ‘normal’ suit. I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone looking for a suit to spend as much as they can afford. From what I hear most tailors on Savile Row are very good. I happened to use Souster and Hicks who provided an impressive service and I’d go back.

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