Traditional Pattern Making Tools & Equipment

by | Dec 6, 2023 | All Documentation, Basic Pattern Making | 0 comments

Before we talk about pattern making equipment, let’s first talk about the skilled people that use these pattern making tools- pattern makers. Pattern makers are the skilled individuals behind the creation of basic blocks and finished patterns, which are the building blocks of every garment. Before the digital era, pattern makers relied on the art of traditional pattern making by drawing lines and curves on paper. Traditional pattern making is still cherished and used by many pattern makers in all sectors of the fashion industry and forms the foundation of digital pattern making. In this article, we’ll outline the most common tools used in traditional pattern making and what they are used for.

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What is a Pattern Maker?


Pattern making tools and pattern making equipment such as a pattern master, compass, rulers, a measuring tape, and a tracing wheel displayed on a pattern maker work surface.
What is a basic block, dress basic block, torso basic block, skirt basic block, trouser basic block. Basic blocks for pattern making. Traditional pattern making tools

Basic Blocks

basic block is a fundamental pattern or body template used in pattern making. Basic blocks are precisely drafted to achieve an accurate fit on the body. Once the fit is perfected, basic blocks serve as simple body templates for drafting a wide range of more intricate finished patterns, which are the blueprint for a finished garment. Pattern makers use basic blocks as a reliable starting point to ensure that the design, finished pattern, or garment fits impeccably, minimizing the need for extensive fit sessions. This makes basic blocks an incredibly important tool in any pattern maker’s toolkit.

Browse Our Library of Basic Blocks

Rulers and Tape Measures

Precision is paramount in pattern making, and rulers and tape measures are indispensable pattern making tools for taking accurate measurements and drawing straight lines.

Blue tape measure pattern making tools & pattern making equipment. Basic Pattern Making

Soft Tape Measure

A tape measure is possibly one of the most important pieces of pattern making equipment. It is a flexible measuring tool used in pattern making for taking body measurements, fabric measurements, and ensuring accurate measurements and dimensions. It’s typically made of fabric or plastic and comes in various lengths, with 150cm being the most common. Pattern makers rely on soft tape measures because of their flexibility, making it easy to wrap around curves and contours when measuring body parts, pattern pieces, or fabric lengths. This tool is essential for achieving precise and customized fits for basic blocks and finished patterns.

Buy a Tape Measure


french curves basic pattern making pattern making equipment

French Curve

A French curve is a flexible, curved ruler tool used in pattern making and fashion design. It features various curved edges of different shapes and sizes, such as gentle arcs and more pronounced curves. Pattern makers use French curves to draw and trace smooth, curved lines and shapes on patterns, helping them create accurate and symmetrical designs for garments. It’s a valuable tool for achieving precision and consistency when drafting patterns and adding curves like armholes, necklines, and sleeves.

Buy a French Curve

L square ruler. Basic pattern making tools used for pattern making

L-Square Ruler

An L-Square ruler is a straightedge tool used in pattern making and drafting. It typically has two arms that meet at a 90-degree angle, forming an “L” shape. Pattern makers and designers use L-Squares to draw straight lines and right angles on patterns and design sketches, ensuring accurate and perpendicular lines in their work. It’s a fundamental tool for creating precise and well-proportioned patterns and designs in fashion and garment construction.

Buy an L-Square Ruler

Metal curve ruler used as basic pattern making equipment.

Curve Ruler

A curve ruler is a flexible, curved measuring tool used in pattern making, sewing, and fashion design. It comes in various shapes and sizes, featuring smoothly curved edges designed to assist in drawing and tracing precise curved lines on patterns and design sketches. Curve rulers are essential for creating accurate and symmetrical curves in garment patterns, such as necklines, armholes, and sleeve shapes. They help ensure that the resulting garments fit well and have a polished appearance. They feature measurements on the curved edge of the ruler, distinguishing them from French curves.

Buy a Curve Ruler

Patternmaster pattern making equipment for basic pattern making

Pattern Master

PatternLab’s Choice!
Another highly important piece of pattern making equipment is the Patternmaster tool. It is a versatile measuring and drafting tool used in pattern making and fashion design. It typically features a combination of straight edges, curves, and various measurements, making it a multipurpose tool for creating and altering garment patterns. Pattern makers use it to draw and modify pattern lines, curves, and angles accurately. The pattern master tool streamlines the pattern drafting process, helping designers and pattern makers achieve precise and professional results in their work. The pattern master tool essentially combines a variety of measuring tools into one, making it a very useful and cost-effective tool for pattern making. It also features a seam allowance guide on all of its edges. We highly recommend this tool for paper pattern making.

Buy a Pattern Master

Pattern Marking Tools

While it is important to take accurate measurements, it is also crucial to make precise markings. The following list displays some of the tools used in pattern making to achieve this.

pens for pattern making

Pencils, Pens, and Markers

Pencils, pens, and markers are fundamental tools in pattern making. Pattern makers use pencils for marking critical points on pattern paper. Pens and markers come into play when clearer, more defined lines and details are needed. These tools help outline pattern pieces, indicate notches, and annotate essential information. Additionally, different colors may be used to distinguish specific markings, making it easier to follow the pattern during cutting and assembly.

pattern paper. Basic pattern making equipment for pattern makers

Pattern Paper

Yet another important piece of pattern making equipment! Pattern paper is a specialized type of paper used in pattern making and fashion design. It possesses qualities that make it ideal for creating and drafting basic blocks and finished patterns. It is a very important piece of pattern making equipment. Pattern paper is typically strong, durable, and translucent, allowing designers to trace, sketch, and modify patterns with precision. Its grid or dot markings aid in accurate measurements and alignment. Pattern paper is an essential canvas for pattern makers, serving as the foundation upon which they draft, adjust, and perfect the finished patterns that bring the designers’ vision to life.

Buy Pattern Paper

manilla pattern card used for basic pattern making. Pattern making tools

Pattern Manila Card

Pattern manila card, also known as pattern cardboard or oak tag paper, is heavyweight, sturdy cardboard important in pattern making. It is used for tracing, transferring, and preserving finished patterns and pattern pieces. A manila card finished pattern lasts longer than a paper pattern, allowing it to be used many times with little damage to create the same garment.

Buy Pattern Mailla Card

pattern notcher pattern making tool

Pattern Notcher

A pattern notcher is a specialized tool used in pattern making to create small notches or cuts in the pattern paper. These notches serve as markers to indicate specific points on the pattern, such as seam allowances, dart locations, or matching points. Pattern notchers help pattern makers and seamstresses align and assemble pattern pieces accurately during the garment construction process. They play a crucial role in ensuring that the various panels of a pattern fit together precisely, resulting in well-crafted garments with the correct fit and design.

Buy a Pattern Notcher

A tracing wheel, basic pattern making tools & equipment

Tracing Wheel

A tracing wheel is a small, hand-held tool with a serrated wheel used in pattern making and sewing. It’s designed to transfer markings and patterns from one surface to another. When rolled over a pattern on tracing paper or fabric, the serrated wheel creates perforations or impressions, replicating the original design or markings with precision. Tracing wheels are instrumental in copying pattern details, marking seam lines, and transferring important guidelines onto fabric, ensuring accuracy when constructing a garment or sample of the finished pattern.

Buy a Tracing Wheel

An Awl pattern making equipment


An awl is a slender, pointed tool used in pattern making and sewing. It typically has a wooden, metal, or plastic handle and a sharp, tapered metal shaft. Awls are used for various tasks, such as creating small holes or perforations in fabric, leather, or the paper pattern. In pattern making, awls are used to mark key points or reference locations on pattern pieces, making it easier to align and match panels and pieces when constructing the garment.

Buy an Awl


pattern weights basic pattern making tools

Pattern Weights

A pattern weight, also known as a fabric weight, is a small, heavy object used in pattern making and sewing. It is typically made of metal, plastic, or other dense materials. Fabric weights hold down pattern paper, fabric, or pattern pieces during the cutting and tracing processes. By preventing these materials from shifting or moving, fabric weights ensure that patterns are accurately and consistently cut or traced, maintaining precision in the pattern-making process.

Buy a Pattern Weight

Cutting Tools

Once a finished pattern has been drafted, it needs to be cut out from fabric and assembled into a garment to test the fit and style elements of the design. We’ve listed a selection of cutting tools used in this process.

fabric scissors pattern making

Fabric Shears

Fabric shears, also known as fabric scissors, are specialized cutting tools used in pattern making and sewing. These scissors are designed with long, sharp blades and comfortable handles for cutting various types of fabric. In pattern making, fabric shears are used to precisely cut out pattern pieces from fabric. They are crucial for achieving clean, accurate cut edges, which is essential for ensuring that the final garment fits and drapes beautifully. Important: Fabric shears should never be used to cut anything else but fabric. Even paper can blunt the scissor blades.

Important: Fabric shears should never be used to cut anything else but fabric. Even paper can blunt the scissor blades.

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paper scissors for pattern making

Paper Scissors

Paper scissors are essential tools in pattern making, specifically designed for cutting paper and cardstock. They differ from fabric shears in that they are generally more affordable and need to be sharpened less often. Using paper scissors is a cost-effective way to prevent your more expensive fabric shears from becoming blunt or damaged, ensuring they remain in top condition for cutting fabric precisely.

Buy Paper Scissors

a rotary cutter. Basic pattern making equipment

Rotary Cutter

A rotary cutter is a versatile cutting tool used in pattern making and sewing. It consists of a circular blade that spins when pressed against fabric, paper, or other materials. Rotary cutters are especially good at cutting straight lines, curves, or intricate patterns. They offer precision and speed, making them invaluable for cutting multiple layers of fabric or pattern paper at the same time. Rotary cutters are often used with a cutting mat and a ruler to ensure accurate and clean cuts. Like fabric shears and paper scissors, different rotary blades should be used to maintain their sharpness and ability to make clean cuts.

Buy a Rotary Cutter

Pattern Draping & Materials

Pattern draping is another important part of pattern making. Fabric is draped over a dress form and then pinned to create the design directly on the dress form. The fabric is then removed and traced onto paper to create the finished pattern. It’s a more dynamic way of creating finished patterns. We’ve listed some of the various tools used in this process:

a rotary cutter. Basic pattern making equipment

Calico or Muslin Fabric

Calico or muslin fabric is a plain-woven cotton fabric that usually comes unbleached in an off-white color. Pattern makers create mock-up garments, often referred to as “muslins” or “toiles,” using calico fabric before cutting the final fabric. These mock-ups allow pattern makers to test the finished pattern’s fit and design, make necessary adjustments, and identify any issues or improvements. Calico or muslin fabric is cheaper than most fabric, making it a great choice for creating prototypes and ensuring that the final garment will fit and drape well.

Buy Calico Fabric

dress form or mannequin used for pattern making

Dress Form

A dress form, also known as a dressmaker’s dummy or mannequin, is a reliable, static representation of the human body. Pattern makers use these forms to drape fabric or paper directly onto them, allowing them to visualize and fine-tune their finished patterns or designs. Dress forms are invaluable tools for assessing how finished patterns will fit and drape on a real body, helping pattern makers perfect their designs before cutting into fabric. Dress forms come in various standard sizes (UK 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, etc.) and are designed for different demographics of people (petite, plus-size, etc.). The choice of a dress form depends on the client or demographic for which the pattern maker is creating finished patterns.

Buy a Dress Form (UK10)

Pattern Storage Solutions

Most pattern makers create hundreds or even thousands of patterns in their lifetime. It’s super important to have somewhere to store them because they might need to be referred back to at some point in the future. We’ve listed a few tools used for this process:

pattern hook basic pattern making equipment

Pattern Hooks

A pattern hook is a simple yet practical tool used in pattern making and sewing. It resembles a metal or plastic hook, often with a curved or angled design. Pattern hooks are designed to hold and organize pattern pieces, keeping them accessible and in order during the pattern-making process. They are especially useful for hanging patterns on racks or hooks, preventing them from getting creased, lost, or damaged. Pattern hooks contribute to a well-organized and efficient workspace, ensuring that pattern makers can access the necessary pieces easily as they work on their projects.

Buy Pattern Hooks

pattern hook basic pattern making equipment

Clothes Rail

In pattern making, clothes rails play an important role in organizing and accessing patterns. Pattern makers use clothes rails to hang pattern pieces using pattern hooks. This setup keeps patterns neatly organized and easy to get to while drafting and adapting their finished patterns. By using clothes rails and pattern hooks, pattern makers can efficiently store, locate, and work with various pattern pieces, ensuring a well-organized workspace that increases their productivity.

Buy a Clothes Rail


Pattern making is an intricate craft that requires precision, artistry, and a toolkit filled with specialized tools. From rulers that draw perfect curves to notching scissors that mark the way, each tool serves a distinct purpose in the creation of clothing patterns.

In the hands of skilled pattern makers, these instruments become extensions of their creativity and expertise, allowing them to translate design concepts into tangible templates that fit like a second skin. Whether working with traditional paper patterns or embracing the digital realm, these tools are the backbone of an industry where every stitch, every curve, and every notch matters.

As we’ve uncovered the world of pattern making tools, we gain a deeper appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into each garment we wear. It’s a reminder that beneath the layers of fabric lies a meticulously designed blueprint, a testament to the artistry and skill of pattern makers who transform fashion dreams into reality.


Draft and adapt basic blocks in adobe illustrator. Digital pattern making
Draft and adapt basic blocks in adobe illustrator. Digital pattern making

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