Pattern Magic

Pattern: Self-drafted from Pattern Magic 3's 'Pare down the roundness at the back and open out'
Fabric: 4 yds synthetic rayon blend thing
Cost: $20 (50% off fabric sale FTW!)

You guys! I have a new obsession and its name is Pattern Magic. It's weird and artsy and amazing and I offer no apologies. Similar to the Drape Drape books by Hisako Soto, Pattern Magic pushes the boundaries between art and clothing, and insane and inspiring, all shot with an alluringly clean Japanese aesthetic. The dress on the cover has hexagons reminiscent of a soccer ball, while another has cubes emanating from the shoulder. It's nuts!

According to the book jacket, professor and pattern maker Tomoko Nakamichi developed these crazy shapes as a way to teach her students pattern drafting. The book has no patterns other than a bodice sloper, which Nakamichi uses to lead you through dart manipulation, slashing and spreading, and drawing the designs. For me, it was a challenging and creative exercise in garment making, and I loved every bit of it.

What initially drew me to this book was the section on paring down and opening out. A bit more subtle than the cubes and wild shapes, this chapter uses slits to add fullness to garments at the shoulder, bust, or back. The shapes change as you move, allowing for a fitted but giving shell.

While the instructions looked really daunting at first, I sat down one night and just started following the steps using a half-sized bodice sloper. Once I had drafted my mini design, I moved on to a full-sized version and made a muslin. The beauty of drafting it yourself is that you can tweak things to your body and tastes, and for mine you'll notice that I actually drafted the 'interlocking mountains' on the front rather than the back of the dress. Why hide all that party in the back? Here are roughly the steps I used to create the pattern:
  1. Test run of pattern manipulation on mini bodice block.
  2. So many muslins! I made three muslins of my pattern block alone (Butterick B5748) before using it to draft my pattern.
  3. Draft full size pattern - this took a lot of experimenting as I was making my manipulations on the bodice front rather than the bodice back and using my own block, not to mention learning the pattern manipulation itself.
  4. More muslins! Muslining the pattern manipulation not only helped me check fit, but also adjust the layout and develop my construction order. I also figured out that some of the pattern pieces needed to be cut on the wrong side, as they face toward you on the flaps. I chose to keep them cut using the darker wrong side of the fabric for emphasis, but needed to make sure to interface the opposite side of the fabric when sewing up my final version.
  5. For the fashion fabric, I applied a light interfacing. Looking at the final garment, however, I should have used something much sturdier. 
  6. Sew up the bodice. 
  7. Decide on a skirt, sew up the dress. 
Below is a photo of my muslin. It is sewn from home dec weight fabric, which holds the shape of the 'mountains' really well. For my final version, I thought I might want something a bit more fluid to allow the mountains to curl over more. However, I used only a very lightweight interfacing and I think it turned out too floppy. While I like how the mountains move and open up like a flower, you can see in the final garment photos that the mid section around my stomach doesn't hold the shape as well as it should. I really like the look of the muslin though, and could see experimenting with this again.

It wasn't perfect, but I had so much fun getting there that I wore my new dress with pride. One of the magical things about Pattern Magic is shifting the darts and shaping into the unique design features. Given how many changes I made, I'm not sure I accomplished this. I had to add some extra fullness at the bust, and even then I think I only pulled it off because I am flat-chested. However, I really love this idea, and it has definitely pushed me to develop some new skills. I would love to make this on a tank top with the upper portion in a sheer fabric, and a bright color for the back of the 'mountains' to highlight the waves a bit more. Plus lots more interfacing. Wouldn't that be cool?! Or crazy?! One thing's for sure, this is definitely more of a 'special occasions' project.

While the bodice drafting and construction took a good deal of time, the most time-consuming part for me was actually the skirt. Pattern Magic only includes instructions for the bodice, so I was on my own for the bottom half. I wanted something that would go well with the structured, visually interesting top, but the full skirt I had planned didn't seem quite elaborate enough. I spent an entire evening playing with ideas, starting with a rectangle to get an idea of the length and fullness and then a circle skirt for drape. I ended up cutting two circle skirts that wrapped 3/4 of the way around the bodice, with an opening in the side front where the skirts wrapped around. To mimic the angular bodice, I cut an angular front slit, which I eventually placed off-center over one knee. It was challenging to figure out a way to show enough knee without flashing too much up top, but after a few days of thinking and pin fitting I finally got what I wanted. I am not used to doing quite this much design work, but in the end it was something I actually really loved. I will have to find a way to recreate it some time in the future.

Love it or leave it, I found Pattern Magic to be an incredible lesson in playing with fabric. I pushed my understanding about fitting the human body, contorted my brain in new ways, and have several more patterns to try out for the price of just one book. I am definitely obsessed!


  1. that is so clever! now that you have your sloper worked out you should definitely try more shapes from that book. i found it so daunting and time consuming.

  2. Even with the interfacing letting you down, it's still super gorgeous! Great job!

  3. That's amazing! It's very interesting to read about all the decisions you had to make to get there. Brings home just how much work there is in design.

  4. so inspiring what you did! I wish that I had more time to play around with pattern drafting. your dress looks fantastic on you!

  5. It's fantastic! And the skirt design was definitely inspired. The off center slit is perfect.

  6. So cool! Congrats on persevering and having fun with it. I have one of the Pattern Magic books but haven't made anything yet. Great job!

  7. Thanks everyone! Really excited to make more from this book!

  8. What a great job you did! Even though the mountains didn't work as you imagined, they still look cool!


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