Blocks (or Slopers): The Basics
This page gives some general information on blocks. See the menu to visit the pages with instructions for drafting your own blocks and downloading Third Scale Blocks for practice.
What is a Block?
A Block, also called a Sloper is the Master or Foundation Pattern that is used to make other patterns and other blocks.
A full set of Basic Blocks usually consists of: Bodice Front & Back, Sleeve and Skirt Front & Back. Using these blocks while applying the principles of patternmaking allows you to make sewing patterns.
From these basic blocks you can also make derivative blocks, such as Sleeveless, Torso, Extended Line Dress, and others.
You can also create other blocks from scratch, such as an Overgarment Block, Jacket Block, or Jeans Block.
Patternmakers in the Fashion Industry use these blocks to make patterns for their clothing line; their particular blocks will be made for their target audience; e.g. if that fashion line makes clothing for curvier figures, their blocks will be different to another fashion house that makes clothing for a less curvy shape. The measurements used to make blocks will therefore vary from fashion line to fashion line, but they get their measurements in some way or other from anthropometric data. Given the difficulty of making clothing to suit a wide range of figures and measurements, even within a specialized target audience, many people have fitting issues with ready-to-made clothing, even in clothing that is targeted to their body type.
If you make a personalized block to fit your individual figure, clothing made from that block will be a better fit than clothing made from a standard block, especially if you vary from the standard in a large way and/or in a number of ways.
What are Blocks Made Of? How do you store them?
Blocks are made of Patternmaking Cardboard, which is also called Patternmaking Paper.
Patternmaking cardboard comes in sheets or rolls. In Australia, the sheets come in a smaller size – e.g. 120cm x 74 cm or 114cm x 76cm, and larger sheets, – e.g. 240cm x 148cm. The rolls come in 100 meter lengths, either 1.2m or 1.5m wide. The weight of this cardboard is about 225gsm; it needs to be thick enough to trace around onto paper to make a pattern, and it needs to be thick enough hold it’s form so that it can be stored hanging up.
For the home patternmaker, the sheets are obviously the more useful option. In Australia, it may be hard to find patternmaking paper unless you live in a large city. If you have a TAFE near you that offers Patternmaking classes, they will have a store that sells it. Otherwise you can order it online from EM Greenfields in Sydney.
You usually punch a large hole (e.g. around 2cm | .75in diameter) into the block and use a Pattern Hook to hang it up and store it. You can store a lot of Blocks on one Pattern Hook.
I also store most of my patterns the same way.
Why use Blocks?
Using Blocks means you don’t have to create every pattern from scratch.
The Basic Blocks have no design features other than what is required for fitting. This means it has only minimum ease – called wearing ease, and the only features are darts required for shaping the garment to the body.
Extra ease (design ease) and features are added when creating patterns from the block.
The Basic Bodice Block
The Front of a basic Bodice Block usually has two darts. You can create a one-dart block, but usually only because it is easier to create the initial block that way; once made, you would then create a two-dart block from that, and use the two-dart block to create patterns. Having only one dart in a bodice block (unless you have a very small bust), creates distortion. The bigger the bust cup, the bigger the distortion.
In the blocks used on this website the two dart block has the darts in the waist and the side seam (other blocks can have them in the waist and shoulder). When making patterns from these blocks you can – by using the principles of patternmaking – move these darts to other locations (e.g. move a side seam dart into the shoulder or the armhole), change the dart/s to gathers or tucks, or remove them by making a Princess Line design.
You use the block, while applying the principles of patternmaking, to create a pattern.
Using Blocks to Make Patterns AND Other Blocks
Once you have created Close Fitting Bodice Block, you can use that block to create patterns for blouses, shirts, tops, and the bodice part of dresses, etc.
Once you have created a Straight Skirt Block with two darts, you can use that to create patterns for a six-gore skirt, and eight-gore skirt, a yoked skirt, or an A-Line skirt.
If you make a lot of A-line dresses, you could make yourself an A-Line Block from your Straight Skirt Block, to save that bit of extra work each time you make a pattern for an A-line dress.
You can use the Close Fitting Bodice Block to create a Sleeveless Block; As lowering necklines and armholes require certain adjustments when the making the pattern, it is easier to have all of these adjustments marked on a Sleeveless Block to save having to redo those steps each time you make a sleeveless pattern.
A block is a template that saves you from having to recreate the basics in that template each time you make a design.
I have completed the front and back blocks. It did take a couple of times. I made the toile and worked back from that to get my correct measurements. Learning how to measure is so important, but I’m extremely happy with the fit. I have the Joseph-Armstrong book but so much work and I never got through it. Your process was exactly what I was looking for. A pattern block that had comfortable fit ease built into it. I’m excited to keep going forward with everything else you have to offer. You are exactly what most of the home sewers are looking for. ?
I just wanted to ask about how to use a block (top back/front) that is made with darts to compare to a commercial pattern that may not have darts? Should I consider making a block that does not have darts? Not sure that would work.
This is hard question to answer simply. The issue is ‘Why doesn’t the pattern have darts?’ Is is because the dart has manipulated into a seam line, or left as added fullness, or is a stretch pattern which uses a different block, usually without darts. Is it an oversize garment? You can have Easy Fitting Blocks that don’t have darts, and the more oversized the garment the less it needs darts. However, if you have very large breasts you can usually only get away without darts with stretch blocks/fabric. (However, well fitting garments even in stretch will have some design element that acts as a dart for a large busts).
Without knowing the specifics of the pattern, I can’t really give you a more useful answer.
If you could give me more details; the style of the garment, etc., I might be able to help a little more.
I LIKE YOUR PATTERNMAKING IDEAS. tHANK YOU
Thank you for your positive feedback and for taking the time to comment.
Hello! I am so fortunate that I found you! So far, I have tried about 5 or 6 different ways to create my blocks…following reputable, experienced seamstresses: Armstrong, Sure Fit Designs, Patti…(I forget her last name), Suzie Fuher. Don’t get me wrong, All I have mentioned are wonderful…except I could never follow them to the end. I want to follow your technique…but I do have a question. Before creating the blocks, is there a place where you teach how to take your own measurements? I can’t find it on your website. Would you help me?…Paula Ieraci
I have a YouTube video on taking measurements. I suggest you watch the Bodice Block Essential videos.
The YouTube videos can be accessed from this page, or directly from YouTube (search for Dresspatternmaking).
Unfortunately the latest Bodice Block Instructions Video has a mistake in it. That video was posted 7 months ago and I haven’t yet had a chance to redo that video. I will be redoing it in the next 2 weeks.
Hi Maria- This bodice is size 12. How do I make a blocks for size. 8? Thanks
This page is titled “The Basics”. It is giving a basic explanation of what a Block is. I use the Size 12 Block for most of my explanations.
For drafting your own block, you need to refer to my instructions for Drafting Blocks.
There are written instructions, but they are using my old system:
Or there are instructions on my YouTube channel – see the Videos page on my website:
If you are drafting your own block, you should use your own unique measurements.
When you say “Size 8”, I don’t know if you talking about ready to wear clothing that you buy in shops, or Size 8 in patterns like Vogue and Butterick. (Sizes for Commercial Sewing Patterns is quite different to sizes in ready-to-wear clothing)
Regardless of what you mean (Size 8 in clothes you buy in shops or Size 8 in Commercial Sewing Pattern). if you are drafting your own block, you should use your own unique measurements.
Thanks Maria for your response. Where do I find the new system instructions for drafting bodice block. Also, where do I find big grid paper for drafting bodice blocks. Thanks much
Thanks Maria- by size 8 I meant both store bought and pattern. What type of grid paper is used for pattern making, what is it called? Where do I buy? Thanks
You will need to do your own research regarding where to buy patternmaking paper. I have not bought this paper for a long time which means I would have to do an internet search to find it. You can do that search just as readily as I can, and I can not spent that time doing that task for you.
Regarding all the other questions – please read my reply above carefully – you are asking questions I have already answered.
Your comment …”by size 8 I meant both store bought and pattern” makes no sense. Please re-read what I have written in my previous reply.
I am beginning to think you are trolling me.