About

About Me

Hi! My name is Maria Prus-Grzybowski

I studied Patternmaking subjects at Sydney Ultimo TAFE but I am not a professional patternmaker and have never worked in the fashion or the garment production industries.  As I started learning patternmaking and sewing from about the age of 40, if I can make my own sewing patterns, so can you.

As I make patterns and clothes for myself,  I only make women’s patterns in styles that I like and think suit my figure.   The patterns you see on this website I have made based on my Personalized Block, and I have cut out and sewn the garments.

Patternmaking Did Not Come Naturally To Me

Patternmaking and sewing did not come naturally to me.  I started later in life and what drove me can be summed up in the expression: “Needs must when the devil drives,” or the more colorful version (courtesy of Blackadder): “Needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle”.  I have struggled all my life to find clothing that fit well and looked good, due to my body “deviating” from the Standard Figure in a lot of ways.  I just got sick of not being able to find clothes that fit, in styles that suited me in fabric that I liked and decided I had to learn to make my own clothes.  I was sick of uncomfortable clothing.  You may think “Well then, why not learn to sew?  Why learn patternmaking?”

My full story about why I studied patternmaking rather than just sewing can found in the articles under My Story, and also in the article Fit vs Size.

I really struggled in making my own Personalised Blocks and I didn’t have anyone to help during most of that time.  I didn’t know anyone personally who did patternmaking or sewing in the first few years (other than my classmates during the time I was studying at TAFE, but I didn’t get to know any of them socially) and had to figure out everything for myself.  I had two difficulties: (1) getting correct measurements of my figure, and (2) understanding the concepts of the how the measurements translated to the 2D Block I was making.  In the process of persevering, I gained the detailed understanding I have of Block Making.

My Background & A Short History

I trained as a High School teacher but ended up in adult training, a position where I wrote lots of Instruction Manuals.  Due to health reasons, in 2006 I decided to start retraining in a field where I could work from home,  so I started studying Web Design and Graphic Design.   I didn’t pursue formal qualifications, instead, I learned HTML, CSS and a lot of software (Dreamweaver, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, etc) through Lynda.com (I love Lynda.com!) and studying the concepts of Graphic Design through textbooks.  My plan was long term – I had a huge amount going on in my life and I knew I would have to put my studying on hold every so often due to being busy or ill, so I just plodded along over the next ten years, studying when I could.  I remember thinking at the time that it was a ten-year plan, to guard against the possibility of my health making it impossible to hold down a normal full-time job.

After resigning from my last paid employment in 2012 I moved from N.S.W to S.A. and had a go at making a living through Web Design but that didn’t work out.

I was quite unwell for a while, wheelchair bound for almost a year, then bed-bound, while waiting for both of my hips to be replaced.  Recovering also took a very long time. Through all of of this, when I’ve been able, I’ve worked on this website.

Creating this Website

I worked on the content of this website for about five years before putting it online – two of those years were when I was unwell.  It took so long as I have built the site myself, taken the photos, created the graphics, written the instructions, made the patterns and sewn (and worn!) the clothes.   I wanted a certain amount of content before launching it.  There are a lot of Garment Elements still to be covered, and lots of Patterns to be made.  I plan on adding to the website on an ongoing basis; this website will be a work in progress for a number of years.

You don’t have to make the patterns on my website to learn patternmaking through my instructions and exercises.  Rather than making full-scale versions of the pattern or sewing the clothing, you can just follow along with the Third Scale Blocks I supply and make a third scale version of the pattern.   This way you can learn and practice the theory.  After you are comfortable with the principles you can then apply what you have learned to make your own patterns that suit your style and figure.  (After you have first made and tested your own Personalized Block, of course!)

The Start of my Patternmaking Odyssey

The first image above is a vector graphic I created using a photo taken in 2003, the second is the original photo.

I created the vector graphic when I first had the idea of this website, to use on the About Me Page, and until recently this was the photo at the top of this page.

The photo has sentimental value to me as it relates to patternmaking.  The top I’m wearing is the first top I tried to make myself, without a pattern, before I started studying patternmaking at TAFE.  It was basically the very beginning of my patternmaking odyssey.  (It was certainly more than a “journey”!!)

When I first had the concept of this website I created the vector graphic to use on the About Me page.  However, I am now so much older that I felt I had to update the photo with the one currently at the top of the page, but I’m keep this one here for sentimental purposes.

Maria Prus-Grzybowski

47 Responses

  1. Hi Ted, thanks for the positive feedback, glad someone is using it. I do have plans to add a lot more information….

    Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your comment – the Comment System hasn’t been advising me that comments have been posted. Have to sort out that problem now….

  2. Hi Maria,

    You inspire me much (heart). Here our imagination is limitless and it turns to reality! I thank you for having us with you on your journey in dress and patternmaking.

  3. Hello Remy

    I’m glad you are finding my information useful. I would like to hear about my readers are doing and making, and what their challenges are. How is your patternmaking going?

  4. Yes, I too have been on a similar journey, and on the way have amassed a stash of fabric for using when I have perfected the fit of a bodice! I can now see why doing the standard FBA did not solve the fit problems in my bodice front and am looking forward to drafting a set of blocks. I would love to know how to relate the blocks to a commercial pattern, but I think in the meantime just taking elements of design from other patterns (necklines, sleeves etc.) will be sufficient.

    Thank you very much for the incredible detail you have so generously posted here, and I hope to see you publish a book at some point, or run a class on Craftsy..

  5. Hi there. Great to hear from others who have had the same problems as I did. I remember the frustration I used to feel…..

    When you say “how your blocks relate to a commercial pattern,” do you mean how you could use your block to make the necessary changes to commercial patterns?

    Maria

  6. Maria!

    Thank you so much for creating this website. It’s abundant with resources, and I feel a little more confident exploring patternmaking with your clear tutorials by my side. Your journey to how this website came about inspires me, and I’m sure it has inspired many others. I am excited to create clothing that’s unique to me, and hope to someday share my journey with you! In a way, you’re my virtual sewing teacher 🙂 Wishing you all the best! <3

  7. You are such an inspiration to me, knowing that you went through the trail you went through and you came out of it in the end has really encouraged me to keep going. I too might create a website to document my ordeal. I have gone to several classes, wasted money and I still do not have a personal block I drafted myself. I am using a commercial pattern that I quite like the fit of however I want to be able to make a personal block for different clients. I booked on to a pattern making class thinking I would be taught how to make a personal block but no we worked from a standard block sigh and before the lady can teach me how to make a bodice block I will have to learn a skirt block. So money down the drain basically

  8. Thanks Maria for this insight into your life and pattern making.It is 2020 and I am near 50 started at TAFE Ultimo to learn pattern making which I have to say I am struggling with already! I love it though… crazy! Hope I get there, all the best // Luisa (heart)

  9. Hello Luisa

    Good luck with your patternmaking studies. Like everything, if it doesn’t just come naturally you can still get there by perseverance.

    Hope you’re OK at the moment there in NSW, these are difficult times. Take care.

  10. I can’t even tell you how absolutely incredible your website and information is. I have been working for YEARS on slopers that still haven’t fit me properly. Why do all the textbooks think larger busts are an afterthought!? Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your story and your hard work. I can’t wait to get started by following your instructions for the upper bust measurement (which is truly brilliant).

  11. Hello Christine

    Glad to know you are finding it useful. I do hope you end up with a well fitting block. Please let me know how you go and if you have any issues.

    Maria

  12. THANK YOU!!! I’m just starting to try to draft my own patterns since adapting existing patterns to my small shoulders, small breast, full bust and small taille hasn’t brought me anything else than a lot of frustration. I’m hopeful and so happy I found your beautiful website, with lots of information that’s understandable for a hobby-sewer. Will let you know how I’m doing along the road!❤️

  13. Hi Maria,

    Thank you for this wonderful resource. I am 53 and just started this year at TasTAFE in Fashion Technology. Of course now with the COVID situation I have been home for two months with some random online learning with TAFE. We are expected to learn so much at home! So last night in my mental struggles (trying to make sense of an online teacher video on dart manipulation) I came across your website – via Pinterest. The information is so helpful and things are starting to make sense.
    Thanks.

  14. Hello Lora

    Hello fellow Australian (most of my visitors are from the US, the UK and other places), and fellow TAFE Fashion Technology student. (Though I never finished the qualification; I never planned to, I just did the subjects I was interested in!).

    Glad you found my website. So you have seen the 40+ examples of manipulating darts in the Principles Menu? I hope with the main page explaining dart manipulation, and with those 40+ examples, you will have no further problems with the concept…..

    Are you doing the course purely for interest as a hobby, or for working in the industry?

    Back in the day when I did the Fashion Technology course at TAFE, it cost about $200 a year, regardless of how many subjects you took. Those were the days!! I don’t know how I would have coped doing it via distance learning though, as I said, it did not come naturally to me, and back in those days there was nothing online. Which was when/why I first had the idea for this website.. back in 2005. Actually, what happened was that I wrote up all my notes with all these detailed graphics after my first year, and took that notebook (looked like a textbook) into my second year class. My teacher was impressed when she saw it, and suggested it would make a good textbook…. That was when the germ of the idea was planted. I do have to say that I had a really good teacher, I don’t remember her name, but she was brilliant. I just loved going to patternmaking classes. (And as I was only doing it as a hobby and didn’t care about the qualification, I didn’t have to do the boring subjects like OH&S!).

    I hope you persevere, I can’t tell you what a sense of achievement I have being able to draft my own patterns and make clothes that fit me well.

  15. Hi Maria,

    I will definitely work through the dart material you have. Your website is amazing. So grateful to have found it. Learning online is really not ideal with TAFE. Its a course I have been wanting to do for many years but put family and other studies first. I loved textiles in highschool and did really well but was not encouraged to pursue it.
    I would like to get the qualification. It is a lot more expensive now! Not sure my direction with it. Wouldn’t mind teaching it to Year11/12 and having a small business.

    Thanks again

    Lora

  16. Hi Maria,

    I’ve just posted a comment to say how amazed I am by the site. It’s just the thing I was looking for. I have a large bust and altering commercial patterns seems so hit and miss but I’ve tried blocks in the past to no avail. So I’m really excited to give this a go. The goal I have in mind is to recreate the dress from breathless. I’ve attached a pic of it I’ve been trying to use Simplicity 1459 as a base but it’s been an absolute mess.
    Do you think If I can get a good fit with your block method it would be possible to recreate? I’ve sewed for 9 years now but with all the fit issues of late I’ve just been really put off the last year. Thank you again 🙂 [img]https://dixiediy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/jeanseberg.jpg[/img]

  17. Hello again Rehanon

    This pattern is a fairly simple to draft, BUT…. two things….

    (1)
    If you are wanting the EXACT effect with the stripes.., you’re not going to get it. The reason being you have an F Cup. It looks to me like she has a B cup maximum, maybe even an A cup. Why does that make a difference?

    The stripes seem completely horizontal on the bodice. If you look at the image I’ve attached (I’ve drawn lines on a piece of calico), you’ll notice that when the bust dart is closed, the lines are not completely horizontal. The bigger the bust cup, the more the effect will be different.

    If you are not after the EXACT effect, but rather just the general effect, then we come to the second problem:

    (2)
    If you have an F cup, you will probably end up with a very large side seam dart. Now I will attach the same graphic that I attached to your first comment, but I will do it as another comment because I can’t seem to upload 2 attachments to one comment…. So look at that graphic and note that the C Cup Dart size on the Standard Figure is much smaller than the dart on my block, even though it’s also a C cup. Notice how big my F Cup Dart is. Your F Cup dart may not be as big as mine, it may be bigger…

    If it’s as big a mine, a pattern that uses one side seam dart in a close fitting garment is just not ideal. Really large darts are problematic and for that reason for really large bust cups, you are better using styles such as Princess Lines where the dart incorporated into the Styleline. If you changed this pattern to a Princess Line, then you won’t be able to get the stripes to line up and it won’t look anything like it does in the picture. You could however make it your own and try creating a ‘similar but different’ style where you have the lines going in different directions. I’ll attach a third image of tartan dress I made that might give you an indication of what I mean (although it’s checks rather than stripes).

  18. This dress uses an armhole princess line instead of a dart. I’ve put the Bodice Front Side pattern pieces on an angle because I coudn’t match the stripes horizontally. (It actually adds more interest if the stripes go in different directions).

    (I also did a bad job with the side skirt as I could have matched the stripes there… )

    Your challenge will be getting your stripes to work..

  19. Hi Maria,

    Thank you so much for your kindness. You’ve really given me so much great advice. I’m fine with the lines being out on the bodice as I thought with how much bust this that nothing would sit flush. Actually doing more research into the pattern I’ve found someone else who drafted her own pattern and made the dress up. I saw what you meant on her bodic e but I don’t think it takes anything away from the dress so I’m super excited to have a go. This is the dress I found. It’s a sewing blogger called Dixie. I’ll have a go at measuring myself and drafting this week and see how I get on. Thank you again for being so helpful 🙂 [url=”https://dixiediy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/15557884959_510acdd554_z.jpg”]Your text to link[/url]

  20. No worries, you are welcome. Upload a photo if you can when you’ve done it. Or send me a photo or a link. Would love to see it.

  21. I just discovered your website, and it is my best internet discovery in quite a while ! I am a short woman who would like to build a retro wardrobe (40’s and 50’s) that fits. That’s why I’m finally starting to take interest in patternmaking.
    I’ve read the basics on your site, and the instructions are so clear, so well illustrated that I was able to understand so much new things.
    Thank you for your TREMENDOUS work !!! I cannot start to express how grateful I am for everything I can learn thanks to you !

  22. This is an amazing resource. You have made an incredibly useful site.
    All this information would make a great book. You have step by step instructions with pictures. Just the sort of book I need.
    I am struggling to find a way to support the work you have done. You offer standard size blocks for sale but you have freely given me enough information to make blocks that will fit me properly.
    How about one of those “buy me a cup of coffee” paypal buttons? Where I can give you some money to show my appreciation for your offerings. I think you definitely deserve it.

  23. Hello Pip

    Thanks for your vote of confidence.

    I am in the process of creating some little booklets for sale. I used to have some free downloadable PDF files with Bodice Instructions; the same information that is on the website, but formatted into a more print friendly format. A few months ago I took those down as I decided I would rework them into little EPUB books to sell. I decided in these EPUB Books I could break things down even further i.e. I often have 2-3 steps with one image on the website, in EPUB books (not meant for print) I could have one step per page.

    Any future instructions for patterns will be little EPUB books that I will charge a few dollars for.

    I do actually have to start making some money to cover the website costs, as the website has been a drain financially. I haven’t come nearly near covering costs since it’s been up (since 2018). It would be wonderful if I could actually start making some money that would allow me to spend all my time working on my website. I would still create some content for free, but I do need to charge for something to keep going and to be able to spend more time on it.

    Regarding the Paypal button… I did consider it, but I found out that Paypal will only allow a ‘Donate’ button if you are a charity.

    Anyway, regarding the little EPUB books that I have been meaning to create… I just haven’t had a chance to do as of this minute. However I will be starting next week.

    I plan, hopefully by Christmas, to have my first three little booklets:
    (1) Drafting the Pants Block
    (2) Drafting a Basic Pair of Pants with that Pants Block (waisted, zip in side seam or back, with and without pockets)
    (3) Drafting a Pair of Jeans

    Following that Drafting Undies (aka Panties/Knickers)
    Following that all the other Blocks (Bodice, Sleeve, Skirt)…T
    Then more patterns..

    Eventually I hope/plan to start drafting Bras and get some booklets up for that too.

    Anyway, I have so many plans, ideas, hopes and wishes. Sometimes life gets in the way though; I haven’t had any chance to do any work on my website or my booklets for 2 months now.

    Hopefully you’ll be back and buy a couple of booklets when I put them up….

    (I think a book would be too big; my ‘thing’ is the step-by-step with images so I think little project-based booklets are a better fit).

    Cheers
    Maria

  24. This website is great. Thanks so much. I’m planning to take up more pattern drafting skills ( very much a beginner) in the New Year and this resource is just what I needed. Thanks again for such a lot of work

  25. Hi Judith, welcome and thanks for taking the time to comment. Good luck with your patternmaking. I think it’s well worth learning!

  26. Amazing website Maria, top notch!! Not surprising though, considering your graphic design, teaching and pattern making background, I studied At East Sydney Tech in the 80’s so it was delightful knowing you studied in Sydney. You are changing the world for many people who want to do it for themselves! GO GIRL xxx

    In appreciation

    Meredith xx

  27. Hi Olutunde

    I’m really sorry about the delay in my book, and the delay in responding to your comment. I have run into a problem because with all the images (150+ images) the file size is extremely big. I had finished the Pants books (Imperial & Metric) and tried uploading them to Google but with all the images the file size was too big. I am having to re-optimize all the images before uploading the book again. I’m in the process of doing that now.

    I will have the Pants Books (Imperial and Metric) up within a couple of days, and the Bodice Books (Imperial & Metric) up in the next week.

    I will send you a link when they are up on Google Play & Amazon.

    Cheers
    Maria

  28. Hi do you have a book on adjustments to a pattern? I’ve been having trouble with the rise, its to high. Thank you
    Shawn

  29. Hi Shawn
    No, I’m sorry I haven’t published any books on pattern adjustments. I have only just published my first booklet, which contains the same step-by-step instructions for drafting (women’s) custom pants. The information in the book is the same as in my Drafting Pants YouTube Videos. You name suggests you may be male, in which case this won’t be any help to you.

  30. Maria, tvůj příběh je pro mne velkou inspirací. Jsem ráda že existuje překladač,
    protože moje angličtina není kvalitní. Velmi mne potěšilo a děkuji že jsem
    našla tvoje stránky. Jsem z Evropy (Česká republika) a zítra mi bude 77 let.
    Stále si nepřipouštím svůj věk a snažím se žít mladě tak jak to jde. I když už
    nechodím do práce (jsem důchodce) šití mne baví a někdy se snažím ušít
    si něco pro sebe, nebo pro svoje vnučky, pravnučky. Moc mne baví to, že jsi
    ukázala jak správně provést konstrukci vlastního střihu a taky děkuji
    za návod jak správně přenést míry z těla na papír a pak na textil.
    Přeji ti už jenom to nejlepší zdraví, hodně hezkých chvil v životě. Ještě
    moc krásných tvůrčích nápadů a stále štěstí.
    S láskou pozdrav z dalekého světa. Elen

  31. Hello Elen

    It’s lovely to hear from you in faraway Czech Republic, and I’m very glad you find my website useful. It’s fantastic how good online translators have become, I had no trouble reading your comment after pasting into Google Translate.

    I wish you well in learning patternmaking. I haven’t posted any new YouTube videos recently as I’ve been unwell, but I do hope to start posting some new pattern videos in the near future.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and thank you also for your good wishes.

    Maria

  32. Do you have a video for skirt bodice drafting that takes into consideration adjustments for a larger tummy in the drafting as opposed to fixing it after, similarly as you’ve done the bodice pattern with bust adjustments in the drafting?

  33. Hello Betty

    I haven’t actually made a skirt video and while it’s on my list I probably won’t be able to get to that for a while.

    One of the reasons is that I tend not to wear skirts myself** and all the dresses I draft have skirts that fall from above the waist – i.e. Empire Line dresses. Skirts and dresses with a waist seam do not suit me. Given that I don’t draft skirt patterns, it’s just something that gets pushed down to the bottom of the list (i.e. I don’t want to time and money on making patterns for things I won’t wear and spend money on fabric making skirts I won’t wear….)

    Also, I have limited time to spend on these videos and the list of topics that I plan on doing currently will take me at least until the end of 2022.

  34. Thanks Maria. I think we have similar body issues although I am a bigger than you. I also have a problem with things that cut me in half at the waist. I don’t think they flatter me at all.

  35. Hi Betty

    For this reason I think that those with a pear shaped figure are better off Empire Line Dresses. I will be starting some videos on that soon.

  36. Hi Maria,
    I have just tried buying your trouser block drafting (metric) pdf book.
    Some error occurred that said i have no access to it. I didn’t understand what the problem is and I have no contact details to email you. So apologies for this public comment.
    Can you let me know if there is a problem sending PDFs out from your end or if there is someway I can lay my hands on your amazing ebook.
    Thanks,
    Jane

  37. Hi Jane, sorry about the problems you are having. I need your email address so I can send you a link. Can you contact me through my Contact Me page and include your email? (Scroll down to the footer to find a link to the Contact page). it is the middle of the night at the moment here in Australia, so I’ll send you an email first thing in the morning… (assuming I have received your email address)… Cheers, Maria

  38. Maria,
    My name is Paula Ieraci. I tried to make an account. Your site would not accept me because I do not have a URL. Will this Prevent me from taking your class? I wrote to you twice before…and now I am not sure you received those messages……

  39. Hello Paula

    The only reason to create an account is to make comments more easily; i.e. you don’t have to keep filling in the RECAPTCHA (I’m not a robot’) field.

    I don’t provide formal classes – just write articles and step-by-step instructions. Written instructions (or other articles) on this website, and videos on YouTube.

    You do not need an account to access the information.

    I also cannot provide one-on-one help; my help is limited to providing the free information as described above.

    Cheers
    Maria

  40. I took courses in flat pattern design while in college. I have been sewing/tailoring for over 60 years. I wanted to thank you for making such a wonderful, informative site available for many people. I am back to flat pattern design for myself and family, and your site is great for me as a refresher. Please keep up the great work!
    Cathy

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