Tools and Supplies

This post comes in response to comments from visitors asking for pictures of tools and supplies used by pattern makers. These two photos show the supplies and tools I couldn’t do without. I’ll also tell you upfront that my preferred supplier is SouthStar Supply. John Rebrovick is a fourth generation supplier who’s made long term commitments to serving the supply needs of designer-entrepreneurs long before I ever met him.

The Tools, left to right:
A – Snips (also called nippers or thread clips) are used to trim corners and cut threads. These are usually worn around the neck. I buy model STC-N from SouthStar Supply. These can be resharpened just like regular scissors.

BScrew punch (SP-1). This is my favorite tool. It makes small holes through the oaktag for marking dart ends and the like. Also called a drill punch or paper drill, it comes with three tubes for making different sized holes.

CNotchers. I use two kinds (one for leather). This marks seam allowances etc. I buy model 45N 1/16. This means the notch out is 1/4″ deep and 1/16″ wide.

DBent trimmers. The pair shown is a Wiss 20 or rather, what used to be a Wiss 20. The new Wiss 20’s are not the same -and I do not care one whit if the new owners of Wiss say I’m crazy- and I’m at a loss to replace them. I’ve been meaning to ship these off to SouthStar for a hands on comparison but have yet to do so. I bought these as a student over 20 years ago. Oh, I use these to cut out pattern pieces. Another entry reviewing features of scissors is here.

EApplique scissors. I got these from a home sewing store and I love them. The points are extremely sharp and I haven’t found anything better for trimming out the “Y” on welt pocket ends. You won’t find these in factories either.

FSewing Hammer. Oddly enough, these seem to be hard to find these days. I couldn’t do without this tool; it makes all the difference in collar points and firming up edges. The hammer is made by Stanley; the head reads “Stanley No. 594 USA 57-594”. The technical name is “Soft-face Hammer, 8oz”. Amended 6/25/10: Someone told me this product is now available on Amazon. This sewing hammer is exactly the one I use.

Paper. The tools are resting on two kinds of paper. Paper 1 is white, (AN-60) with little blue dots (actually the dots are letters and numbers) is marking or alphanumeric paper. I was taught in school to call this 1 by 5 paper and I don’t know why. Paper 2 is yellowish and called oak-tag (MP6-48) or pattern board and it is the same paper used to make manila folders, only heavier. Oak-tag is sold according to weight; I prefer 125lb for general work and use the 150lb for final patterns.

In this second photo (above), you’ll find:

1 Vary form curve rule # 102-CC.

2 Vary form curve rule # 12-112R (love, love this one)

3 C-thru plastic ruler B-95. This one is preferred over B-85. Dimensions of both are 2″X18″

4 knitting needle I use to turn collar points.

5 White plastic eraser by Staedler.

6 White chalk pencil, also called Tailoring pencils #D242. These are good for your cosmetics kit too because you can use them to give yourself a french manicure.

7 Drafting pencil is Turquoise 4H. I don’t like anything darker than that because you can’t completely erase away the lines and I hate line ghosting.

8 Wax pencil (also called a china marker, Dixon 00092) for tracing the patterns onto fabric. White is best, I don’t know what possessed me to buy the yellow ones much less photograph it. Please disregard and buy the white. It won’t destroy your pattern lines like other colors will.

9 Drafting tape (pricey) Scotch brand

10-11 and lastly, pattern weights. The round ones (#10) are solid stainless steel scrap that I got from a machine shop but the one above it (#11) is a little hand weight that are sold in various weight increments by suppliers. Usually they’re called “cloth weights”. This particular weight was made by Hearn Machine Co in LA (213-626-6765).

Not shown: Pattern punch and hooks.

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28 comments

  1. Carol says:

    These are also my favorite tools, except rather than the applique scissors I use the Gingher G-5s, like an embroidery scissor but much more hefty. They also have the fine, sharp points.

    Home Depot has a version of the zipper hammer (I guessed right on this, yay!) for about the same price. If you have anything else to buy from SouthStar, get your stuff there – they deserve it.

    Rather than a knitting needle, I use a chopstick that’s been run through a pencil sharpener and then had its end smoothed with an emery board (also useful for French manicures).

    My version of the non-white china marker is bright orange. Also languishing while the whites get grabbed.

    I use big washers (from a scrap yard) covered with fabric for my pattern weights.

    For preliminary patterns, I use physician’s exam table paper. It’s only about 22″ wide, but easy to handle and won’t give a paper cut. Considerably more durable than flimsy commercial pattern tissue, yet thin enough to fold into a 9×12 ziplock. Also cheap.

    My other indispensible “tool” is drapery weight, the kind you find in the home dec sections of the chain fabric stores, about a dollar/yd. It’s a series of tiny lead cylinders in a cotton casing. I have sections about 2′, 3′, and 5′, and use them constantly for checking pattern work, as they’re much easier to use to track a line than a tape measure.

    Also useful are style tape, 1/4″ wide and about the same less-tacky as drafting (which is also used, but the style tape is cheaper), and the quilter’s pins with the flat flower heads. I ignored them for years because I don’t quilt, but you can lay a C-Thru ruler over them and score a line without the unfortunate roller-coaster effect.

  2. Mike C says:

    The first positively industrial piece of equipment that we acquired was our trusty Bunny Punch, used to place circular holes in patterns so that they may be hung by a pattern hook.

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  7. teddybear says:

    It is not highly recommended that you “push” out points (such as on a collar) from the inside of the seam. It gives a much crisper point if you properly trim the seam allowance and very carefully “pick” out the point from the correct side of the garment with a pin. Sometimes when you push the point out, you can damage the fabric or poke a hole right through it.

  8. Danielle says:

    Paper questions:

    Do you do initial drafts on the 1 by 5 paper or directly onto the 100lb hard paper?

    What is your recommended technique for accurately transfering a pattern from 1 by 5 or hard paper to the 150lb final pattern?

    Thanks!

  9. Kathleen says:

    Do you do initial drafts on the 1 by 5 paper or directly onto the 100lb
    hard paper?…What is your recommended technique for accurately transfering a pattern
    from 1 by 5 or hard paper to the 150lb final pattern?

    Nearly always, I draft directly on hardboard altho I use 125lb paper. I didn’t know you could readily get 100 lb paper. Since I draft directly on the oak tag, transfering it onto 150lb paper is simply a matter of weighing the pieces and tracing them.

    This is somewhat unrelated but I don’t trace all of the lines. If it’s a straight line, I usually mark off the start and end point of it. After removing the piece I’m tracing, I use a ruler and redraw those straight lines. The reason is that lines can degrade over time, either through bowing via tracing usage or miscuts. Redrawing all straight lines with a rule maintains the integrity of the piece. As a matter of fact, when setting up the pattern to be digitized, I usually make some sort of notation indicating the digitizer can skip any midpoints, going directly from point to point. This has two advantages. One, it saves them time and two, it maintains the accuracy of the line.

  10. Nina says:

    Hi,

    Does anyone know if there are pattern-making starter kits available? You know, that bring with them some of the tools you mentioned? I heard from someone they exist but have found no such thing while searching the net. Thanks so much for the help!

  11. sfriedberg says:

    Nina, search for “Fairgate kit”. Fairgate sells pattern making supplies to students and their fashion design kits are widely available.

  12. Pingback: Bunny punch
  13. Dia says:

    Back in ancient history when I worked as a marker, I used the yellow china marker when the fabric was too light for white to be visible to the seamstresses, i.e., on white or off-white. Otherwise white was the rule because it generally vanished when the finished garmet was pressed. If I had to use the yellow, I was supposed to go easy on the garment so it wouldn’t show. So there is a reason for a yellow china marker.

    The selection went:
    white china marker: general purpose
    yellow china marker: white or off-white
    white taylor chalk: wool or rough surfaced (boucle) fabrics
    blue or grey taylor chalk: white or off-white wool or rough surfaced (boucle) fabrics

    On one very irregular day, I used a regular graphite pencil for 2 hours because all my chalks and markers were missing. They were fast to go to a stationary store to get me something else because graphite is greasy and doesn’t go away easily. (Work started at 7, the stationary store opened at 9. That ought to tell you how important my boss thought it was.)

  14. Helen McCracken says:

    Can you suggest an online source for durable, translucent pattern drafting paper?
    For years I have used Pattern-ease which I dislike because it stretches and it is coated with chemicals that I’m allergic to.

  15. Kathleen says:

    Sorry Helen, this isn’t something I know anything about. There is a world of difference btwn drafting paper in home sewing vs industry. We typically use oaktag (paper #2 above) but I know some will make test drafts in paper #1. I suppose durable is relative. No paper of such weight as to be translucent would last long on the job and I have never seen it used for patterns. Perhaps you could get kraft or white rolled paper from Uline?

  16. Kathleen says:

    [sorry for the duplicate posting]
    Yay! I found a source for green back pattern paper in Dallas that is reasonably priced. Here are the details:
    2X, 9″ diameter, 48″ wide, $139.
    Sunny Sewing, Dallas TX

  17. Jen Rocket says:

    Thanks for sharing! I wanted to share what I use for pattern weights. I have attached a link here where my sister showed what was in her tool box- using the weights that I make. https://twitter.com/SoftGoodsJess/status/238667430656872448/photo/1/large
    These weights are half pound each and are made of iron powder and rubber mixture. They are normally used as weights in athletic training gear but having worked in prototyping the designs I found the weights to be very helpful in laying up a pattern. I usually cover them in fun spandex prints and cut them to be different shapes. Enjoy!

  18. Tina says:

    I was looking at southstar today looking for some smaller rullers/curves and I couldn’t find Vary form curve rule # 102-CC anymore. I have a similar one that is longer, but a short one that size would have been nice.

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