Auxiliary Reference Information | Draft | Truing a Draft

Once a pattern has been drafted whether for a Base Template, Working Template or any Flexible Pattern it is a good idea not to just rush ahead with either making a test garment or cutting out actual fashion fabric. Incidentally many manufactured patterns are not put through this truing process. If a pattern is trued up then it’s the sign of a good quality design.

After I create a draft then I true it prior to making a copy or a cutting copy. You don’t want to true up a cutting copy as those changes would be lost when you cut up the pieces into a pattern. You need the trued up details in the Master draft copy.

Truing can mean that you have to cut some lines on the draft so you will need to do this carefully after all of your hard work.

Truing is really all about check over the pattern to make sure that it is the best that it can be remember we are aiming for a quality garment at every turn. If a draft is trued it will sew up easily and there are a few things that we can check in order to make sure that this does happen. After every fitting and draft alteration we would going through the truing process, because if you need to make a new test garment then you know everything will fit together perfectly.

The photos presented show the diagrams in pen but you should use your pencil to do this. If your pencil is not clear enough because you have too many lines already then you could use a fine tipped erasable pen just to firm up the details if you need to.

Check the following items on the draft;

  • Firstly check that all of your draft lines internally and outlines are all very clear, if you have multiple lines make sure you have rubbed out the ones you don’t want to follow or at least drawn some lines through them so that you don’t get confused. You may have made mistakes but that is fine as you can clean up the diagram at this point to make it clearer. You want to eradicate any errors so that any future drafts don’t inherit the same mistakes

  • Ensure that the Front draft and the Back draft are labelled and you have identified if it is a Base Template/Working Template/Flexible Pattern for ease of reference. It is also a good idea to label which pattern that you drafted this one from as a client could have multiple Base Templates if they have gone up and down in size, or if you have made a Flexible Pattern from a certain Working Template anything you can do to keep track of the drafts is worth it while you think about it.

  • Ensure that you place the Client name and the Date off the Clients Measurements Sheet and the Weight of the Client somewhere on the draft.

  • Stand Back and look at what you have drafted, the bigger picture and see if you can spot anything obvious that you think might get changed during a fitting. I think it is good to do this for two reasons; firstly you are thinking about the fitting and considering what to look closely at, and secondly after you have done the fitting and alterations you can compare what you did with what you thought you might have to do. This way you are judging the draft and learning from the lines that you see, constantly improving. You could write on the draft with any notes of what you would like to look at in particular, I mark these areas with an asterisk and arrows to show what to focus on.

  • It is easier to true up a draft if you separate the Front from the Back and take off any excess paper up to about 3” away from the outline all the way around. So roughly cut them apart and trim them.

  • For Test Garments I don’t usually use a Seam Allowance unless it is Flexible Pattern and I know what I am going to use and I am confident of the fit. If I do have a Seam Allowance then the pattern will need to be trued up first then the Seam Allowance added then I like to true up again to make sure that the Seam Allowances are defined properly.


Seams are more easily trued if you true up Darts first.

We true up a Dart for the same reason as truing up a Seam, essentially to make it easier to sew. Truing the Dart will help determine where any Dart bulk will go and also to ensure that the Dart will sew properly and fit snugly into the flow of the pattern outline.

Sometimes the design or fabric thickness will have an effect on what you do with the Dart so it is useful at this point to consider all of these things, for example how are you going to deal with the fabric bulk caused by the Dart, you might place a Dart to one side or the other if it is opposite another Dart to share the bulk on each side, or you may decide to slice a Dart down the middle to spread the fabric on either side something done more in couture sewing often. But on the whole a Dart will be folded over on one side or the other;

  • Shoulder Darts tend to have the bulk towards the Armhole.

  • Waist Darts with the bulk towards the centre – unless you are trying to reduce bulk on the centre of the body in which case you would have the bulk towards the side.

  • Armhole Darts and side Darts including French Darts will tend to have the bulk going downwards (towards gravity).

At the end of the day, it is your choice where you put your Dart bulk, after all you are the designer for the pattern.

You will work on each Dart one at a time and true them up by;

  • Deciding which side of the Dart the bulk is going to go, this is important because it can affect the shape of the Dart at the outline as this will follow the shape of the garment outline at that point, this outline could be different on either side of the Dart on the main garment.

  • You will fold the Dart by bringing one Dart leg up to join the other Dart leg with the crease happening along the Centre Dart line. In order to make folding the Dart easier sometimes I will trace the Dart with the tracing wheel which scores the Dart making the folds form easier. You would trace along both legs of the Dart and also the centre Dart line. Using cutting mat underneath will help with making the score marks with the Tracing Wheel.

You would true up the Side Dart, the Armhole Dart and the Shoulder Dart on the Front draft. Also you would true up the Shoulder Dart on the Back draft although this Dart can be a little tricky to true up. You can’t true up a Dart on the inside of the draft.

This is a picture of a folded Side Dart.

I don’t recommend to pin the Dart when truing it as you want it to be as flat as possible just hold it in place with one hand.

In this picture you can see that the Side outline now has a little jog in it and if you were to cut the fabric like that it would be difficult to work out where to sew. So a new outline needs to be drawn in this case. You could pick a line and continue it into the other line or I prefer to split the difference and create a new line altogether between the two. Using the tracing wheel mark out the new line, as you do this press down and the scoring will go through onto the Dart bulk below.

You can then firm up the outline by drawing it in, notice in this next picture that the old lines have been crossed out to make sure everything is clear.

When this Dart is opened out the scored lines have gone down onto the Dart bulk below, this can sometimes create a V shape which can come into the original drawn Dart outlines and also go outside of it creating a Dart Extension.

This new Dart outline can be firmed up by drawing it in and any old lines crossed out.

This new shape for the Dart ensures that there will be enough fabric in the area of the Dart so that it meets the edge of the Seam allowance and will sew up nice and neatly.

Incidentally after adding any Seam allowance on a draft you would recheck and true up the whole draft again including the Darts.

As we have already found out in previous Auxiliary Reference information about Darts, some of them can be curved, and you won’t be able to fully true up a curved Dart but you can have a good go at it, I would still true it up the best I could by folding it as much as possible at the outline and going through the same process as above.

This next photo is of a trued up Shoulder Dart, can you see that when this Dart was folded out that the outline was redrawn from Shoulder High Point to Shoulder End to keep the line straight. The Dart will need to be checked to ensure it is still central on the Shoulder line and the Dart Legs may need a slight reposition. No doubt that this will change again after a fitting anyway, there is usually a little work to do getting the correct angle and position on a Shoulder Seam.


To true up Seams I think it helps to visualise the paper as fabric. Once the draft is finalised and the pattern pieces are cut from it and the fabric pieces cut from that then all of the pieces get sewn together. Usually for a bodice this will be at the sides and the Shoulders and sometimes Centre Back and Centre Front. So we need to check the Seam lengths but also check the curves and the flow of the pattern from one piece to the next to make sure that it will sew up nicely. If this is done then the whole sewing process will run smoothly and more quickly.

You want the Seams to line up so that when you pin both pieces of fabric together you don’t want one side to be bigger than the other and stick out at the end. So while we have it in paper form we have an opportunity to check all of the Seams that will be sewn up.

Caveat – sometimes you will have made a Seam on one side bigger than the other side on purpose for example when making a jacket the Back Shoulder Seam can have a little extra fabric to allow for wearing ease, to help the arms move forwards and Backwards. Sometimes a sleeve may have been designed with extra ease in the top of the sleeve around the sleeve head. During sewing this extra ease will be eased into the Seam as if it wasn’t there. So just be mindful and don’t trim away any excess on these Seams, as you have designed the pattern and you know it well you are less likely to true this up incorrectly. If a pattern has been fitted really well then extra ease is not used in many places and you would not need it in other Seams for example it would not be placed into the bust and princess Seams unless it is part of the design.

Side Seams

If this is a Base Template Draft then you will have not checked the side seam length yet so it is important to do this, but you should check any pattern anyway.

An easy way to do this it to place the Back draft over the top of the Front draft and compare the Sides Seam length, or if you prefer the shape of the Front draft you would place the Front draft on top of the Back draft. It is better to do this if you have cut off any excess paper off from one of the Side Seams, but don’t cut off any other paper excess for now because you may need to add on length and you may need the excess paper.

Start by cutting off along the Side Seam outline of the Back draft to remove any excess paper.

Assuming you have cut the excess off the Side Seam on the Back draft turn the Back draft over and make small marks to continue the main guidelines onto the Back of the sheet. If it helps use a pen at the end of each of the lines on the Front so that you can see it through the paper – or hold it up to the window

Then place the Back draft on top of the Front draft right sides together with the Side Seams lined up.

As both side outlines are not straight lines we are going to have to walk the pattern along the lines to see how everything lines up and this is a little more tricky on a Base Template draft as you have not had a fitting yet or smoothed out any curves.

Rather than starting from the top at the Base Armhole and going down the side or starting from bottom to the top I start at the Waist line and work down to the Lower Hip line and then come Back to the Waistline and work up to the Base Armhole. So peering over checking the waist lines on the Front and the Back drafts meet exactly and very carefully walk the Back draft down to the Hip bone line along the side length.

This photo shows lining up the Waist.

This photo shows walking the Back Side down the Front Side to the Hip Bone line, and you can see that because of the Hip Bone line jutting out on this draft there is a difference in measurement – even though the Hip Bone Depth was measured accurately. I prefer all of my guidelines to line up on the test garment so I change any discrepancy as I go along.

Do the Hip Bone lines line up? If not choose which side you want to change Front or Back (or split the difference and change both if there is a substantial difference greater than 1/8”). The Hip Bone line will be made into something called a notch later so we want these points to hit each other exactly. If there is a difference decide which one you are going to change the Front or the Back and make a mark.

Then take the patterns apart and make all the relevant changes on the drafts that you have chosen to alter. For example you are extending the Front Lower Hip line down 1/8” then extend it down all the way across the bottom of the pattern.

You can see how this pattern was altered to ensure that the guidelines will match up when sewn.

Continuing the checking down to the Lower Hip line.

Once the bottom side length has been checked then work on the side length above the Waist.

Remember that the Front draft may have a Dart in the Side Seam so we will need to fold up this Dart otherwise you may have a mini panic over the fact that your Back draft is not long enough in the side. To pin any Dart simply fold the pattern at the side on the bottom Dart leg and pinch this leg up to join the Front leg and crease down the Dart being careful to match up the lines. The bulk of the Dart will be folded downward below the lower Dart leg because this is how we would usually sew this Dart (think gravity pulling the Dart fabric downwards). With the Dart folded out pin down the Dart from the Side Seam towards the Bust Point to hold it in place.

This photo shows the pinned Side Dart that has already been trued up.

You can now walk the Back seam along the Front remembering to line up the Waist lines and moving upwards.

Look at the Bust line (for a notch position) and the side length and make any alterations to the draft that you feel necessary. On this draft I tweaked the Armhole position by only 1/16” it seems just a small amount but it is worth doing.

Next look at the shape down the sides.

The photo is of a Base Template can you see how this Front hip area on the Front draft sticks out, it does not seem correct when you look at its awkward lines, you certainly don’t want to be creating a bubble on the hip. If you have any situation like this you could try to remeasure to check the drafting lines but in this case I assess that I would be within ½” anyway if you look at my pencil line where I sketched where I think the outline may actually be therefore I did not alter the shape I left it like this for the fitting and resolved the issue on the body. This way I know that I am not going to be short of fabric in this area for the fitting.

You don’t tend to have issues like this on a Working Template or a Flexible Pattern as you will have already done some fitting and smoothing of the draft outlines and worked out any of these concerns.

When the draft pieces are together how does the shape of the side look, are they similar in shape. It does help when sewing the side Seam if they are close in shape and the sides do become more similar in shape in the Working Templates and the Flexible Patterns. If the shape is close but not exact then simply draw down the cut side onto the draft below to show where the new line would be then take off the top draft and assess if you like the new shape or does it take too much space away. You can get away with ¼” but if it is much more than that then you might want to consider splitting the difference and pencilling in a slightly different shape on both Front and Back in order to get them closer in shape. However if the shape is too far out to do this then don’t worry because you will be able to see where the Seam should really be when you do the fitting – which is really usually something to deal with in the Base Template as any Working Pattern a Flexible Pattern will have inherited a correct Seam position and a pattern should fit well if it has already gone through this process (unless of course you have different Seam positions in your Flexible Pattern as part of the design).

For a Base Template don’t worry about the shape of the side too much as there has not been a fitting yet and it is better to have too much fabric rather than trying to guess where the lines should be.

Once you have trued up the side Seam you can unpin the Dart.

Flow of the Draft

Another element to check is the flow of the pattern on the Side Seam on the Armhole. If you position the back seam next to the front seam and line up the armholes following the curve around, check that the line is smooth through the cross over between drafts. If you have any little peaks or troughs then smooth them out.

Actually I realised after taking this photo that I had not lined up the Side Seams properly for the shot they should be snug together as if they had been sewn not creating an angle as shown in the previous photo. So here is a photo that shows how to line this up and check it with the Side Seams lined up at the Underarm, just to clarify this.

The curve and shape of the Armhole will usually change during fittings.

If you have altered the shape of the sides or have lengthened or shortened the side length or made any changes when smoothing the Armhole curve then a final walking of the pattern down that Seam is a good idea as a final check.

Shoulder seams

You go through the same process with the Shoulder Seam as you did to the Side Seam, and this will be much easier as it is a smaller Seam to work with.

Before you start pin out the Darts on the Shoulder line for both the Front and the Back drafts if you have Darts here. You can only pin out the top part of the Shoulder Dart.

Fold back any excess paper on the Shoulder line on the Back draft so it does help if you have a straight line for the Shoulder (which will happen naturally when you have trued up this Dart).

With both sides facing upwards lay the Back draft in line with the Front draft lining up the Darts in the middle and the Seam lines as if the pieces had been sewn together and then opened out.

Check that the Shoulder Darts are central and matching on the Shoulders (if not then you will need to check and redraw them unless this is part of the design of a Flexible Pattern) because Darts are usually central on the Shoulder.

Assess the Shoulder lines and if they are different lengths decide which one you will change and where you would change it, at the High Shoulder Point or on the Shoulder end on the Armhole, and mark the appropriate draft. Again if you are out by more than ¼” then split the difference and spread the load. You may need to redraw the new line into the curve. Ensure that you firm up the correct lines that you will need to use – perhaps use a pen to do this.

In this photo just less than 1/8” has been taken off the Back Draft at the Shoulder End to make it line up with the Front.

Look at the curve of the Neckline and the Armholes where they cross over the drafts, is the line smooth, if not decide how to alter it on one draft or the other.

If you have altered the shape of the Neckline or the Armhole or have lengthened or shortened the Shoulder Seam then a final walking of the pattern down that Seam is a good idea as a final check.

Helpful note if the Seams of the Shoulder do not seem to join perfectly then you could change this for example takeout any trough or peak. But we will not be sewing this Seam and we will have a good Seam allowance here available during fitting so we will be accurately assessing this on the body so don’t worry about this too much for now.

Once you have trued up the Shoulder Seam you can unpin the Darts.

All Seams

One last thing to check on the Seams is that you have levelled off and squared off at the beginning and end of each Seam by about half an inch. This is going to help with smoothing out curves and lining up Seams.

Seams with Seam Allowances

After adding on Seam Allowances onto the Flexible Pattern they will need to be trued to ensure that they fit together neatly when sewn. I usually true them up in the order that I would sew them to ensure that outlines follow in the required positions.

To True up the Seam at the Seam Allowance simply fold back the Seam as if it was sewn and pressed then using the tracing wheel score along the adjacent sewing line to indicate the shape that the seam allowance will need to take on. This example is a Shoulder Seam.

Here it is opened out and the new Seam Line is firmed up and drawn in.

This would then be repeated on all of the Seam Allowances.

Here is another example at the Base of an Armhole.

Here it is opened and drawn in.

I would treat Hemlines simply as large seam allowances so if you know that you are going to do a double fold then the fold line would be marked on the whole hem folded at every point prior to scoring the outline.

Here is a Simple Hem extension on a Sleeve Shape mock up and with a ½” Seam Allowance drawn below.

The Hem is folded under as it would sit on the garment and the Seam Allowance is folded inside that as it would be sewn. The Sleeve Seam Allowance is then traced with the Tracing Wheel and opened up and the new outline is drawn. In this example the vertical lines are being treated as if they are Seam Allowances (so it is important to ensure the your Side Seam Allowances have been drawn in prior to drafting a Hem if you are going to use Seam Allowances.


Notches are key points usually around the edge or outline of the pattern piece that show significant pieces of information. There are a number of positions where it is advisable to place them but you can use them wherever you find them useful.

Notches are usually marked with a T and are perpendicular to the outline with the base of the T on the actual outline and the top part in parallel with the outline and not at an angle so that they are very clear. I usually draw them ¼ long with a ¼” T cap.

I have marked notches in red in this diagram to help you see them better.

Notches are later then transferred to the fabric so that these points can be used when sewing. Some people will cut fabric at the position of a notch but I don’t really like this idea because I like to keep my fabric intact until I really need to make cuts and secondly with multiple notches the chances of snipping in just a little too far increases. I prefer a different method that will be described in Auxiliary Reference Information for making a Test Garment.

Notches can indicate any of the following elements and is not limited to this list;

  • The Centre Front, the Centre Back on the outline on both ends if a pattern piece is opened out for a full Front or a full Back to show where the centre is.

  • Draft Guidelines on Centre Front or Centre Back and side for positions such as the Chest Lines, Shoulder Blade Line, Bust line, Waist line, Hip Bone line, Lower Hip Line, Princess Line etc. Check no duplication. I don’t notch the Cross Front/Back or the Armhole Lines.

  • To indicate the position of Dart Legs.

  • To indicate the position of the beginning and end for any Centre Back shaping or Waist shaping, a zip placement, collar placement, pocket placement, pleat, the space where fabric should be gathered, where extra ease is to be condensed etc.

  • In long Seams to indicate matching points to assist when joining the Seams together, I usually ensure that I have a Notch at least every 10”.

  • Where a hem is folded.

  • Or anywhere you would like to use them to help with construction.

Each Draft Front and Back should be reviewed then to ensure that all of the notches have been added in the correct places. So start at one point and work around clockwise checking and placing all of the notches. Checking vertical and horizontal lines (don’t forget the Princess Lines) and going down the centre Front and Centre Back. Maybe use an erasable pen for this to help them show up.

If you are truing up a pattern with a Seam Allowance then the notches get transferred and moved into the Seam Allowance.

Awl Points

A notch is not really clear enough to use in the middle of a pattern piece when an exact position is required, so a dot or an X is used, I do admit to preferring the X especially at points where I want to see the exact centre like at the Bust Point.

This is called an awl point as some manufacturers and designers actually place a hole in the fabric with an Awl Punch. Personally I don’t like this idea of putting holes in fabric because you can break fibres in a weave doing this, I prefer a much kinder approach to marking these points which we will discuss in a later chapter. Although I will punch a hole through a card pattern with an Awl.

I use an Awl I have for jewellery making, so any Awl will do. For want of a better name we shall stick with Awl Point as a label.

I actually place mine right on the money because I am not using a hole in the fabric and if I do it this way I feel a little more accurate, some people prefer to off-set them if they are using holes.

Awl Points like Notches are there to make sewing up the pieces easier, each highlighting something to be aware of.

Awl Points will identify positions such as;

  • The Bust Point and the Lower Bust Point

  • The Point of Darts on a pattern

  • Corners of collars or where pointed Seams join sometimes

  • Sometimes for button position or other notion although this can also be a X

  • Where shaping overlaps in a draft for example Waist Shaping on the Back draft and Back shaping

Each Draft should be reviewed then to ensure that all of the Awl Points have been added in the correct places.

This picture shows Awl Points for Bust Point and Lower Bust Point.

This next picture shows Awl Points on the Front Waist Dart and Front Waist shaping.

This picture shows the Awl Points on the Back Waist Dart and Back Waist Shaping.

I have marked these Awl Points in blue simply to make them clearer to you in the photo but you would use a pencil or a pen if confident to make them clearer.


If you already sew garments or weave fabric like I do then you may already understand about fabric grain. But here is an explanation for those that have not had that pleasure yet.

When you set up a loom to weave you will start by placing long threads lengthwise down the loom and these threads are called the warp. These threads are usually the strongest in the fabric because they need to be put under tension in order to allow them to be manipulated and woven. You then weave in under and over the warp threads with a thread called a weft. This woven effect can consist of any number of different patterns and manipulation combinations. This is how most woven fabrics on the whole are created. The Vertical Grainline goes with the Warp, the strongest direction of the fabric and therefore if you held up the fabric vertically it will hang the straightest, as opposed to holding it horizontally on the Horizontal Grainline.

So we have two different grainlines. To add a little more complexity to this we could hold the fabric up on a 45 degree angle to the grainlines and this would be hanging on what is called a bias. When fabric is on the bias it has a different style of drape which is a softer look than using the fabric on the grainline. This is covered more in the Draping Module.

When we draft a pattern then we need to make decisions on how we want the fabric to fall, on the Vertical, Horizontal or Bias Grainline. But we only need to draw one identifying line on the draft and that line indicates the Vertical Grainline for the fabric. Having said that it is your choice and if you give yourself some options then you keep the pattern more flexible. Changing Grainlines within a garment can be fabulous design feature especially if you are using a patterned fabric say a checked pattern. If we have a grainline marked straight up and down the middle of the pattern piece then the pattern piece will be lined up on the fabric parallel to the edge (selvage) of the fabric. If we wanted to place the pattern piece on a Horizontal Grainline then we would place the line horizontally on the pattern, and consequently to cut the pattern piece on the Bias we would be drawing a line at a 45 degree angle to where the Vertical Grainline would be.

To ensure that you get a true vertical or horizontal line for the grainline you would choose a line on the pattern that you know is a true horizontal or vertical line for example the Waist or the Hip Bone Line or the Lower Hip line or the Centre Front or the Centre Back and draw a Grainline parallel to this.

You would also place an arrow to show direction of the grain (as some fabrics have a nap where either the shine or the fabric fibres are different if you turn it the other way such as a velvet). If there is no nap and it makes no difference which way the pattern piece is positioned for example if you are using muslin then you could put an arrow at both ends of the line.

You should draw a grainline as long as you possibly can down the draft to ensure that when it comes to laying out the pattern piece that you can lay it out completely on the grainline. Don’t touch the outline of the draft with the grainline as you don’t want to mistake the grainline for a pattern drafting line.

This Grainline in this photo is drawn parallel to the Centre Back.

I used green pen here to make this line clearer you can use your pencil.

Grainlines should be added to every pattern piece, and this should be checked at every stage to ensure that they are in place, after drafting, after copying a cutting draft, after cutting a draft etc.

Bias Grainline

To draw a Bias Grainline first draw a Vertical Grainline lightly and draw a 1” square off of this to allow you to join up the corners to make a 45 degree diagonal line.

For the Base Template and the Working Template and on the whole Flexible Pattern drafts we will use the Vertical Grainline so make sure you mark your drafts with the Grainline.

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