Understanding your blocks & how to fix inaccurate measurements

Creating basic blocks that accurately fit is a fine balancing act; combining measurements in a two-dimensional plane to create a three-dimensional object that fits the body – It is a skill that requires experience and patience. PatternLab aims to provide you with a comprehensive tool that speeds up the process of drafting blocks, allowing you to focus your attention on developing your skills when it comes to taking measurements, interpreting the drafted block and adjusting it to produce a well-fitting basic block first time.

This guide gives you an insight into the various different ways you can spot issue, with your draft or block, to get the very best fit. We thoroughly recommend familiarising yourself with all the notes and supporting documentation before and after drafting your block.

As much as it is our responsibility to provide well-built tools, it is also your responsibility to provide accurate measurements and make adjustments to them, where necessary, to perfect your blocks. 

#1 Have you taken your measurements correctly?

Taking accurate body measurements is the key to drafting well-fitting blocks. Learning how to interpret the body and take accurate measurements comes with experience. If you are new to taking measurements, then please be aware you might not get it right the first time, which means you might not be drafting accurate patterns first time around. The more you practice taking measurements on a variety of different body shapes and sizes, the more efficient you will become at both taking accurate measurements and spotting potentially incorrect measurements.

Our measurements and how they are taken are unique to our drafting process. PLease watch our video tutorial in full, even if you are a seasoned pro and have your own methods. It will save you time in the long run.  

We provide individual tutorials on the profile page related to each measurement, however, since all body measurements are related to one another it is better to watch the entire video from start to finish two or three times, to familiarise yourself with the process. The video should be followed in full, and measurements taken in order. Use all the tools and techniques mentioned in the tutorial. If you can, mark the body to ensure your key points such as; Side Neck Point, Front Neck Point, Nape, Bust Apex, Shoulder Point, Waist, and Hip do not move between measurements.

Important points to remember

  • Never measure your own body. This creates very unreliable measurements since bending and stretching distorts the form of the body dramatically. Always ask a friend or colleague to take your measurements for you.
  • Ask the model being measured to wear comfortable fitting underwear that does not control or restrict the body.
  • When measurements are taken, ensure the model is standing with their back straight in a comfortable posture. Make sure both feet are together and arms are placed at the side – symmetry of the body is key to taking good measurements. Finally, make sure the model is not holding their breath or sucking in their stomach.
  • Our bodies tend to fluctuate from time to time.  If you are drafting blocks regularly, then you will need to keep your profiles and measurements up to date, to prevent your blocks becoming ill-fitting. We have a handy block preview tool, that allows you to edit or tweak your measurements for each individual order or drafted basic block. The tool is available once you have purchased your block.

Once you have refined your measurements you will find drafting all of your basic blocks a very simple process, with excellent results each time.

#2 Understanding how we draft specific blocks

We have produced a series of block-specific guides that show you how to spot and address your measurement errors that might cause ill-fitting basic blocks. Each guide explains which measurements go into drafting each basic block and how each individual measurement affects the drafting process. Learn about the importance of “delicate” measurements and how to adjust them to create well-fitting blocks. Usually, there are two scenarios where these guides come in handy:

A. Spotting and fixing broken blocks due to poor measurements

Although it is rare, broken blocks do happen! Mostly, it is due to missing a decimal place or entering a measurement in the wrong box on the profile page. To help you spot a broken block, and the incorrect measurements that draft them, we have created a handy block preview tool that allows you to view your finished block and edit your measurements before downloading and printing. The tool allows you to edit or tweak your measurements as many times as you wish (Except the Bust, Waist and Hip). Once you have corrected and saved your measurements, the system will then redraft or update the block and create a new preview. Use the guides to spot broken blocks, which measurements are causing your block to break and then adjust them using the block preview tool. You can find the tool by navigating to ‘My Account> My Orders> View order> Preview’.

B. Refining a well-fitting block

You can also use the guides to make slight fit alterations to an already well-fitting block. Possibly your draft was accurate, you’ve toiled it in fabric, fit it on the model, but there are one or two slight alterations you would like to make? Great! you can use these guides to help you make those alterations. Simply revisit your draft on the My Orders page, click the preview button and edit your measurements from the block preview tool.

#2a Understanding the Basic Bodice and Torso blocks

#2b Understanding the Basic Skirt block

We thoroughly recommend familiarising yourself with these guides before and after the drafting process.

#3 Have you used the correct ease

Ease plays an important role when building a pattern, it provides the minimum amount of extra room needed to allow for comfortable, non-restricted movement, allowing you to sit, move, raise your arms and breathe easily. Ease is the difference between your actual body measurements and your finished garment measurements. The amount of ease added to a pattern changes how comfortably your basic block fits.

Unless you are a seasoned pro, you might not understand how much ease should be added to get the best fit results. To help you, we have provided an “Automatic Ease” setting for all our basic blocks. The Automatic ease setting analyses your custom measurements, calculates the optimum ease (using percentages) and applies it to your block during the drafting process.

Bust ease: 9% of Bust measurement
Waist ease: 6% of Waist measurement 
Hip ease: 5.5% of Waist measurement 

Using automatic ease should produce a comfortably fitting block each and every time, however, there are always exceptions. We provide a Custom ease selection allowing you to override the automatic ease and change it manually to suit your needs.

Blocks that are too tight or too loose

If your basic block is a proportionate and accurate fit yet feels a bit too tight or loose, it is most likely due to the amount of ease used during the drafting process. To resolve this issue, redraft your block this time selecting the “custom ease” option on the Fit tab. Selecting Custom ease bypasses our recommended ease and allows you to enter your own preferred ease.

Relaxed Fit: Add a value that is slightly larger than the previous draft. You can work out the existing ease from our Bust, Waist and Hip percentages mentioned above.

Fitted or contoured fit: Add a custom ease that is slightly smaller than the existing draft. Be careful not to remove too much or your block might not fit at all.

Resolving an odd fit: For example, if your block is a comfortable fit but feels slightly tight around the waist, increase only the waist ease until a balance is reached.

Tip:  To calculate ease, place a tape measure around your waist and expand it until you are happy with the distance from the body in terms of your desired fit. To assess how much ease you need, subtract the actual waist measurement from this measurement. This concept also applies to both bust and hips. 

#4 Do your measurements fall outside our reliable size range

We use standard size ranges to gauge which size your custom set of measurements falls into. This size range dictates how possible or reliable it is to draft a block for those measurements. We currently support a total size range of UK4 – 24, which you can see demonstrated by our standard size charts, however, we can only guarantee blocks that are drafted using accurate measurements in the size range UK4 – 16. We call this size range our “reliable size range.”

Non-reliable size range

We refer to any size above a UK16 as a “Non-reliable size”. We use it to keep the wording and content on our site consistent, preventing our customers from any confusion when discussing our products and sizes.

In the Non-reliable size range, body mass increases and accumulates in unpredictable ways. This makes it incredibly challenging to develop an automated drafting process that caters for this variety of shapes and sizes.  This is the reason why we limit our reliable range to UK4 – 16.

Drafting non-reliable size range Blocks

During the testing phase, we experimented with a variety of waist shaping formulas and ratios to predict the fluctuation in body mass that occurs in the non-reliable size range. Eventually, we realized that the best option would be to remove the waist shaping completely and add waist shaping manually during the model fitting process. We now have a new option in the Lab that allows you to do this, and select from a variety of different dart manipulations based on this new range of blocks.

To draft blocks in the non-reliable size range, we recommend removing the automatic waist shaping completely. Waist shaping can then be added (by pinning and marking) when fitting the toile on your model.

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