Missa’s Sense-Making Mathless Draft

Normally when you draft a block, you take a bunch of measurements, then use fractional amounts of them to draft half the body.  Often, you add ease directly into the draft, so it’s not really the same size as the person you measured.  And the hardest part is always getting all of the measurements back down relative to each other – getting the bust at the right hight, getting the shoulders in the right places, stuff like that.  So I feel like it makes more sense to use the measurements directly on the body.  You could drape things directly on a Real Live Human Being ™, but you need to be pretty good at handling muslin for that, and your RLHB needs to be really good at standing still.  Really, really still.  Most people suck at this.  But it turns out that there is a really, stupidly simple way to use body measurements direction on the body, and it’s relatively fidget-proof.

This draft owes a lot to last semester’s Flat Pattern students.  I was all proud of the work I’d been doing, and I showed them, and one said, “Melissa, I really do not think this is very practical.”


The problem was that I'd done all my early work with ribbons and pins.  My studetns were (rightly) horrified of using that technique on people.
The problem was that I’d done all my early work with ribbons and pins. My students were (rightly) horrified of using that technique on people.

So I changed materials.

The original title for this was “Missa’s No-Ease, No-Assumptions, Sense-Making Mathless Draft”, but my SEO plugin says that that’s too long of a title. There are actually a few assumptions built into this situation. I assume you want a princess-line draft (because you do, trust me – it’s easier and less dicey to go from princess-line to a one or two dart block than to go the other way), and I assume you want an easeless draft (because it makes you a custom dress form cover and it’s great for historical work), and I’m also assuming you’re at all interested because either a) you believe you hate math, or b) mathsy-drafts have always betrayed you but you assume it’s your body.

If you’re in camp b on that last one, I want to let you in on a little secret: it’s not your body. Every mathematical drafting system I’ve ever seen has assumptions about body shape built in to it.

You’re gonna need some stuff. Specifically:

Double-sided Velcro- You can find it in the plant section of a hardware store or DIY.  In the midwest, Ace carries it.
Double-sided Velcro. You can find it in the plant section of a hardware store or DIY. In the midwest, Ace carries it.

You will need a willing collaborator, because you won’t be able to do this on your own body.  Sorry.  You will also need muslin, a pencil, and a crap-tonne of pins. (Notice how there’s no rulers or measuring tapes on that list?)


I’m going to use a model-ish sized stand for this demo. Don’t fret. Last spring’s Flat students were deeply concerned that it wouldn’t work on a normal body, so I worked part of it it up on myself in front of them. Then they told me I was skinny (which really doesn’t happen often, honestly, what with me being 5’3″ and a 10-12, but it was cute). Then one of them went home and tried it and came in raving about how it worked on all the bodies. This isn’t exactly the version I gave them. I’ve improved it just for you, internet viewer.

I’m going to make the assumption that I’m working with a basically symmetrical figure, and work primarily with the right-hand side of the body. If you are working with a body that is definitely assymmetrical, you’ll need to do every step on both sides.

Here we go!

Run a line of Velcro around the bust.  Make sure it is dead level
Run a line of Velcro around the bust. Make sure it is dead level
Point of note: for most women, and some men, this tape will stand away from the breastbone.  That is good.  That is what you want, so don't fight it.
Point of note: for most women, and some men, this tape will stand away from the breastbone. That is good. That is what you want, so don’t fight it.
Next, add a ring of Velcro at the waist.  Hint: Your proper waist is where you bend when you stabilize your hips and bend side-to-side with your spine.  Sometimes it's not the thinnest part of you.  That's ok.  This draft should catch that.
Next, add a ring of Velcro at the waist. Hint: Your proper waist is where you bend when you stabilize your hips and bend side-to-side with your spine. Sometimes it’s not the thinnest part of you. That’s ok. This draft should catch that.
The next bit goes around at the level of the top of your hip bone.
The next bit goes around at the level of the top of your hip bone.
And the next round goes at the fullness of your hip.  If you're like me, that might be slightly below your actual bum.  The model shape doesn not share this issue. :/
And the next round goes at the fullness of your hip. If you’re like me, that might be slightly below your actual bum. The model shape does not share this issue. :/
All of these rounds should be pretty parallel.This is important to your ultimate success.
All of these rounds should be pretty parallel.This is important to your ultimate success.

next: vertical measurements


    1. Omg, awesome, thank you! *phew* And thank you for checking in on my neuroses. And JoAnn’s carries double sided velcro by you? I can only get it at Ace here!

    1. Love it! I’m so glad I’m not either of those women! I do think it’s cool that the velcro let’s you do something similar and put in your style lines as you go. I kinda wish it came in colors.

  1. Soo excited. So many questions!

    1) Does this work on male bodies? /without major changes? (Main difference is them usually being less “bumpy” in front, no? – so maybe some measurements/velcro strips can be omitted?)

    3) can anyone who’s tried this already post their rough measurements and velcro usage? It’s sold in 5 m units here, and is kinda expensive, so I don’t want to buy way too much – I realize I can pre-measure the relevant distances – will do and post the result if I remember to.

    2) and this is me being a drafting noob: Is it more acceptable to add ease at the sides of the resulting pattern pieces, or in the middle?

    4) Is there a good online ressource detailing how to draft x (darted bodices, blouses, skirts, pants) from these? I know where to find instructions on how to do bits and pieces of what I want, and have a book or two, but the currently-ultimate(tm) way of arriving at blocks deserves an accompanying comprehensive drafting blog/forum/online classroom.

    (hoping someone else than Missa knows how to answer some of these – you’ve done enough!)

    5) Is there any demand for a German translation for the instructions? I’ll have to do a rough one for whoever ends up taping me anyway, so if it’s any help I can spend the extra time for a proper and understandable one.

    Oh, and re: differently-coloured velcro: I found the green for plants and black or red for cables and stuff – it’s twice as broad, so you’d have to cut it along the middle, but it might work for style lines etc. Alternatively, take a sharpie to it, sew coloured ribbon down the centre or maybe experiment with dying? I know it’s vile and plasticky stuff, but I also know some people have had success dying buttons.

    1. Howdy – I think I can answer several of your questions.

      1) Yes, this should work just fine on male bodies, as well as children, pregnant women, etc. You might be able to get away with omitting some of the velcro, but I’m not sure I’d try. The contours of the male body in front are (generally) less extreme than those of the female body, but you guys are still human-shaped. The biggest difference is that you most likely aren’t going to need to worry about making sure the chest velcros don’t flatten against the body, because they prolly will (and should).

      3) A standard size 8 stand (36″/25.5″/36.5″) used less than the full 30′ roll. For myself (45/32/47ish – I’ve been dieting and I’d hate to ruin my sense of progress with the harsh reality of a tape measure) I’d expect to use 1.5 – 2 rolls.

      2) Ease on blocks is generally added at the side seams for the layers closest to the body, so as not to distort the neckline. As layers get farther away from the body, ease is added all around to account for clothing presumed to be underneath. Structured jackets will also be extended in the armscye/shoulder for padding and structure.

      4) Aww, thanks! That’s sort of where I was planning to go next, though. ;) There are plenty of books available on pattern drafting. Most start from a 1 or 2 dart front/back block set and develop the princess line. Getting a 1 dart bodice out of this block is super-easy – just place the upper-shoulder princess lines together and trace only to the waist. Presto! Block accomplished.

      5) I have no idea, but I would be completely and thoroughly flattered to have it translated. I mean, that’s just kinda cool.

      And *headdesk*, I never even thought to look in an electronics department! Sweet.

  2. Warning: massive textdump ahead, but I’m not setting up a blog for the sake of one post.

    To avoid future misapprehensions, I’m female. (That’s where mentioning electronics gets you) Just thought it’d be nice to make the boyfriend an equally well-fitting shirt. Turns out he’s not interested in standing still long enough.

    Gamma-testing write-up:
    I’m1,60 tall, with a proportionally longer torso than legs, European size 40 (US 8) top and 42 (US 10) bottom. Bought four rolls of velcro totaling 20m (22yd), had about half of the last one left afterwards.
    With two people unfamiliar with the process, the taping procedure alone takes about 2 hours.

    Bleeding obvious tip #1: if you’re the tapee, and the taper is unfamiliar with the process, talk them through it beforehand. So they know what they’re aiming for, what’s important, etc.

    Especially make sure that they see how the velcro behaves, what to do when a dangling bit of tape accidentally sticks where it shouldn’t and how to gently remove it without disturbing the others.

    Also locate the harder-to-find reference points before velcroing, maybe mark stuff like your shoulder tip (eyeliner or such for skin, tailor’s chalk and similar on clothes).

    As in all measurement-taking endeavours: get a tall mirror (also allows you to see what your taper does without moving around), make sure there’s enough space for the taper to walk around you, make sure the room is heated so the tapee is comfortable. Wear a well-fitting bra if applicable.

    The mirror also helps if the tapee has posture problems they don’t want reflected in the draft. I tend to stand with uneven shoulders, but I don’t want my clothes to encourage that behaviour. Same possibly applies for some hunched shoulder cases. I find it difficult to keep my shoulders level if I can’t see them, even with the mirror I was tempted to draw a black outline of how I should stand.
    I seem to recall for someone who tends not to stand up straight it helps to give them something to look at at eye-level or slightly higher. So go ahead and place a laptop on a shelf, then play your favourite TV series on it.

    Taping process is fairly straightforward, muddled through the upper cross-body velcroes somehow. Figured it wasn’t too important to get them absolutely right since we’re essentially “gridding” the body anyway. major question was where the median shoulder point lies. Is that what it’s called? My dictionary failed me, so I’ll have to find the same point in a german drafting instruction somewhere to know how to call it. And then learn how to describe it to people.
    Also it’d be useful to mention stuff like not making any tapes that cross the bustline too tight before you actually start taping those velcroes, and mentioning beforehand which velcroes will be doubled or offset. Not a problem if you read ahead, though. Non-Pro-tip: If you end up telling your velcrowrangler to just run the center back tape along the spine for convenience’s sake, you can carefully cut it apart in the middle and afterwards not have to move the CB line manually at all.

    After taping, even if you’re really cold from standing around in your undies, do not put on your favourite bulky wooly sweater. The velcro will know, even if you think you’re keeping a safe distance, and latch on to you immediately. Also make sure you weigh down any pattern piece you’re not currently using, because they might want to curl in on and stick to themselves. That said, as long as your velcro junctions are reasonably tightly fused, and as long as you’re careful, you can usually always separate rogue strips as long as you can remember which were the intentional joints and which the accidental ones.

    I got away with laying out the 4 resulting pieces and folded muslin on an ironing board, for instant pinnability. The velcro actually adhered to the muslin a bit, and even that was only kinda useful, since it hampered my ability to slide the pieces around without distortion. Turn the muslin around, lay it over a light-table, and trace through to the other side for instant mirrored pattern pcs. Also make sure to mark at least the bust and waistline or thereabouts for additional reference points when pinning it all together. Halfway through pinning I started wondering whether I should have trued my traced pieces, probably the combined fault of my lax attitude towards exact tracing and the light-table shortcut and the one inch seam allowance.

    By then my tapewielder had (deservedly) gone off to do his own thing, so I hid a separating zipper in all the needles (I’m quite tolerant of pinpricks as long as they’re self-inflicted, so the zipper went on upsy-downsy. I then played “hunt for the rogue pin” when I took it off. The boyfriend is somewhat paranoid of random pinstabs to bare feet.)

    Muslin fits fine as far as I can tell with all the wrinkles, except for some weirdness at the armscye (I suspect we didn’t place that velcro high enough). The pattern pieces are seriously bizarre (major swayback, massive bum – seen from the front I don’t have much of a waist, but if I compare the waist/hip differential to any “normal” pattern I seem positively hour-glass shaped), and there’s no way my CB could ever lie on straight-of-grain (especially below the waist).

    Brainflash – pants block. My thought was to go the usual route from skirt block to pants block, but theoretically one should be able to directly mold that region by gridding it in velcro as well. No more worries about preserving crotch curves and rise etc. Only you’d possibly have to do a second copy while sitting down:)

    Once more, apologies for the long comment, and massive props for developing the method and putting it out here.

    Now off to file a patent for the direct creation of coat blocks by putting on a bulky sweater before taking measurements.

    1. *laugh* Good luck with the velcro-sweater-coat-draft patent. Sorry about the gender assumption – I was going on the interest in men’s drafting and the e_rugby sign on.

      Thank you for trying this and sharing the results with everyone! That was awesome of you, and I really appreciate the feedback and the beta-testing. :) Good tip on centering the CB/CF velcros and cutting up the centers. Also good on using the mirror if you are worried about posture.

      Median of the shoulder? There are several terms I’ve heard used: Shoulder width, shoulder fullness, shoulder breadth. It depends on what book you’re using, I think. And yes, you’re totally gridding (or even wire-framing) the body.

      You’re totally correct about being able to work a pant block off of this. It’s really easy to develope a pant block from a skirt block (your torso block below the waist, extended to knee-ish length), plus a thigh circumference. I can’t find a good link on the google right now, but I know I have it in a couple books at home.

      Thanks again for jumping on this and taking the time to share the results with everyone! It’s always enlightening to know what happens with things in the wild, you know?

  3. I would like to use this at an SCA Arts & Crafts session. I have converted it into a text document to help everyone with the step-by-step. I will gladly send it to you for your approval/use. May I have your permission?

  4. Love, love, love this seriously clever method. So grateful for your generosity in sharing it Missa! The velcro is ordered, the manpartner is bribed, cannot wait!

    1. Tee! I’m very glad you’ve enjoyed it and are excited! Let me know if you run into any challenges or have experiences that can help to strengthen the method. :) Have fun!

    1. Yep – I really prefer drafts that catch the whole body because so few of us are truly symmetrical. Thanks for the Velcro link!

  5. I’ve been pondering for about 2 years now doing something similar with painter’s tape – I like the velcro idea enormously. I’m going to ignore your instruction about the inter-breast-dip and see if I can come up with a bra pattern, since the whole “start with a garment that fits you and trace it” business only works if you have ever owned something that fits. (My nursing bras say 12G Aus or 34I USA, but they don’t really fit or work the way I’d like. I want to make a hybrid between longline bra and corded corset.)
    I’m thinking if I lay out a large sheet of felt over the table for the velcro to be friends with once it’s off the body, it can’t do any curly-grabby nonsense.

    1. Omg, yes, a large sheet of felt should tame the velcro! I also cannot day enough bad things about modern bras. They are clearly meant for relatively straight bodies, and conceived with a sort of “but the band is stretchy – that should solve everything” mentality. Best of luck with your plans. I would love to hear what you end up with and how it works!

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