Saran wrap pattern making method #2

Continuing from the previous entry.
Before we start, the processes illustrated by photograph will be different from some of the instructions because I used a male model. I hope you appreciate this -as does he- it took some barter (a haircut), bribery and thinly veiled threats for him to allow me to do this to him. “Oh mom, is this going on your blog? Be sure to cut my head off, I don’t want my head showing…” Aren’t children lovely? I definitely had to work quickly; his tolerance for being a wrapee wasn’t enthusiastic. Also, I experimented with that new kind of plastic wrap by Glad; the stuff (kind of bluish) sticks to itself. I wanted to see if that would be an alternative product. You might want to try it. I liked some things about it -it’s easy to take up folds, see the photo below- but the material stuck to my son’s tee shirt. I ended up using layers of saran wrap on top of it for stability because it felt like it needed it.

1. This method may take almost an hour and you will be hot because plastic won’t let your skin breathe. Maybe a fan would help but don’t point it directly at the wrapee or the strips of polyvinyl film your partner is trying to wrap will go sailing.

2. Wear bra and panties assuming you are female; if not, do what you will. There was no way my son was going to put on a bra and panties -children can be so non compliant. Put a strip of strapping tape vertically over the front and back centers of the bra. This will prevent you from cutting through the bra later. (I didn’t do this)
Tie elastic or string around waist (I think 1/4″ elastic is best). Once it settles to your true waistline, tape it in place at the center back and front and sides if you think you need to. Again, I didn’t tape it into place. When I made mine, my elastic was snug enough to settle. To settle it at your waist line, bend at your side waist to one side and then the other (as tho you were stretching or exercising). If you are wrapping a male, you may not need either of these steps.

3. Put tape between bust apexes to make a bridge, so wrapping won’t collapse in the hollow between. Mark your bust points on the tape with permanent marking pen. If you are large busted, you may wish to skip this step like I did when I made mine (Robbie did the tape thing). I wanted to capture as much of the in-between the bust shaping as I could. Do as you will.

4. Locate top of back neck, center front neck, shoulder point, and bust points. Put strips or dots of masking or artist’s tape at these locations and mark on tape with permanent pen. It is sometimes difficult to find these points after wrapping. Draw a line on the tape along the preferred shoulder line. This time around I didn’t do this either. I marked my wrapee by finding the first thoracic vertebrae by feel (this is the uppermost bone that doesn’t move with the neck). I did the same with the shoulder tips.

5. Set up the ironing board at rib height away from a wall and rest your palms lightly on it. You can also set the box of polyvinyl film on it. This puts your arms in the ideal range of forward motion for drafting the armhole. Let the wrapper move around the wrapee, as opposed to having the wrapee twirl. Again, I didn’t do this but I’d strongly suggest that you do it. Call it a case of do as I say, not as I do if you like but I’m comfortable with working out the specifics of this on paper. Besides, I also know that I’m making a loose fitting bomber or letterman’s type jacket with my result.

6. Pull out a small amount of the film-about 4″-and cut off. You want long, narrow rectangles that are manageable. Wrap from below the waist up to the armpits, overlapping strips. Try not to wrap tightly over the bust. Above the armpits, lay strips diagonally over the shoulders. Use shorter strips around the neck and armhole. Be generous in overlapping strips so the form won’t fall apart when you cut it off.

I didn’t do this either. I used long lengths of wrap, wrapping it around my victim by walking around him. I think it’s interesting how Robbie and I used the same concept but with two different application methods to obtain the same result. I say you should go with what you’re most comfortable with. Time was of the essence with my model too; I had to work as fast as possible because he wasn’t going to tolerate it for long. Below you can see the early stages of the back and front wraps. I used long strips of the wrap over each shoulder line. I also taped them into place.

7. Put vertical strips of strapping tape up the center front and back. Put horizontal strips of strapping tape along the shoulder line. Use the permanent marking pen to mark these key points:
a. Center-back and center-front lines from neck to waist
b. Shoulder-blade tip on the back
c. Shoulder point
d. Neckline all around (cross-mark at intersection with top of shoulder)
e. Shoulder line (draw it with ruler)
f. Bust points
g. Waistline
h. Armpit all around
i. Side seams to the waist

8. Mark in the chest area near the center the following words: Right Front, Left Front, Right Back, Left Back.

As you can see, I didn’t do this either. I did all of my marking after the fact (see below, ready to mark).

Robbie did hers so scientific-like (as I said, the original exercise is to see what your body parts are shaped like; it wasn’t to actually make patterns from it). I had my son point to his nipples which I marked. I marked his belly button -and then he got sassy with me so that’s when I drew in the big smiley face…

…and then I drew in his waist. Then I eyeballed the center front and center back, the armholes and called it good.

9. Cut up the center front and center back. The strapping tape on top should have reinforced the film. Carefully lay your body wrap on pattern-drafting paper. Now, before I did any cutting, I used a lot of tape (clear packing tape). I placed two layers on center front, center back (actually, some across the shoulders front and back), around the neckline, around the very bottom and across each shoulder line before I did any cutting. Below you’ll see that I had my hand between the wrap and his shirt.

10. Now make a flat pattern from the result. Trim the excess from the neck and armhole. Cut along the shoulder and side seams. Cut from the side seam to the bust apex to let the dart open. Cut from the shoulder line to the back shoulder tip to open the back dart. Trace around a front and back half, adjusting for asymmetry and wobbly lines and lowering the underarm about ½”-3/4″. Draft a sleeve, using whatever method you’ve learned.

Again, I kept my pieces largely intact. I split the side seam only so far as I had to, to get it to flatten. Actually, that’s what all my cuts were. I imagine I’ll be updating this posting regarding the pattern I make from this so I’ll save my other photos for that demonstration. However, you can work ahead if you like.

A word of caution: The shapes from this wrap may look weird or wrong to you. Do not correct them! Every time I have corrected what I felt were mistakes, the block did not work. Conversely, once I finally trusted myself and did not correct the “error,” the block fit wonderfully.

11. The next step is where we depart from the tailor’s method.
If you’ve ever taken a flat-pattern class, you’ve probably drafted a basic bodice to measure. What you don’t figure out until later is that you really can’t do much with this block that you spent so much time on. The block is way too tight to be comfortable. Every time you draft from it, you have to fiddle to get enough wearing ease, let alone design ease. Here’s the secret: Grade it up. One size will do nicely.

I don’t know why I didn’t figure this out a long time ago. I graded mine up 2″ and the dummy blouse fit better than anything I’ve ever made. It was the most comfortable piece of clothing I can ever remember wearing. Later, I graded up my blouse another 2″ because I wanted a looser, more casual fit. If you’re making vests or coats rather than blouses, dresses, or tops, also grade up the block another time. In other words, you’d grade it up 4″ rather than 2″. Also, it may be a good investment to buy the grading book I mentioned in the first post because the book will cover a tremendous variety of sizes and styling for men, women and children. I don’t sell it but you can find a link to Handford’s grading book in the left sidebar.

Making a block with this method is not an exact science, but you’ll end up with a great fitting block. Best of all, you’ll get an anatomically correct view of your body. I will be grading up the pattern I make to a jacket so I’ll be using a 4″ grade. But, I haven’t gotten to that stage yet. That is still to come. And as ever, donations are gratefully appreciated.

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  1. Liana says:

    This is so nice, and extra helpful with the photos of your model. I’m looking forward to following the progress of his jacket. I’m spreading the word that this post is here!

  2. Rose says:

    Thanks so much for posting this information in such detail! I look forward to attempting to use it, and I’ll let other people know it’s here, too.

  3. Karmen Flach says:


    I’ve been using this method to create custom patterns for clients ever since I first read your article in the Creative Machine Newsletter and am delighted that you are revisiting the subject.I thought it was a brilliant concept then and having experimented with it for years, am even more impressed today.

    Thank “the Boy” for his slightly unwilling modeling job…. I don’t think any amount of bribery would have got my 18 year old to do this!

    I know it’s been asked before, but any thoughts on using this technique on fitting pants?


  4. Patti says:

    This is wonderful, thank you! I hope to get wrapped over the holidays and start trying to use the blocks then.

    Boy, using this for pants would be interesting too wouldn’t it?

    Hmmm, I have heard of someone using a variation on this to create a curved waistband pattern for a pants pattern. It would be fun to experiment with!

  5. PhyllisC says:

    Kathleen – Do you recommend using only Saran Wrap? Costco sell a wrap called Stretch-Tite (comes in a yellow and blue box.) This wrap sticks to itself, it’s strong, stretches, and it comes in 500 foot rolls too. it’s very similiar to the heavy duty plastic wrap used in the food industry. Just wondering if I could use that.

  6. Liana says:

    Phyllis, In the first part of this series (link at the top of this page) Kathleen says she used pallet wrap, or the clingwrap for sandwiches sold at Costco. I think saran wrap is sort of the “generic” term. HTH.

  7. monique says:

    I’ve used a similar method with duct tape. It worked well to keep the bossom up where I wanted it for a period corset. I will try this, though, for everyday wear. I suspect pants could be done, but I think it’d be tricky.

  8. says:

    Nice :)
    This is the patternmaking method used for making footware on lasts…
    You may find the techniques shown in footwear manuals helpful if you are working with leather garments etc.

    A great footwear pattern making method I use often on this type of pattern and others is springing.

    Springing = re-aligning cut seams and pushing the gaps created to the outer edges of your pattern.

    Good example of pattern springing is the rejoining a shoe pattern at the center front ankle curve on a pair of knee high boots.

    Has had some interesting uses for other fitted leather garments for me.


  9. Babette says:

    I realise that this post is very old by now but since there is interest in using the technique for pants I can tell you from the experience of wrapping a subject in paper tape for a pants block that it’s very challenging.

    We weren’t going fast enough and it was hot. Having to stand so still was challenging. End result, subject fainted and tape was torn and crushed rendering a nil result.

    • Penny says:

      Tell the person you’re working with not to lock their knees. Locking the knees can cause fainting when standing for extended periods.

  10. la' says:

    i know nothing…. ;) i was wondering if you could tell me (or link me to something that could) how to grade it up or how many inches added would make it 1 size larger

  11. Liz P says:

    Some places sell a narrower roll of wrapping tape that comes on a ‘handle’; it’s intended for bundling objects for packing, and usually is available in a Domestic size and in an Industrial size; dearer than Saran Wrap butt much easier to use; it’s what Supermarkets get boxes of food wrapped upon those big pallets.

  12. kat says:

    Please, could you explain about cutting the front and back darts for a beginner? I’m not sure what the shoulder tips are nor where on the side seam to cut from to create the darts. I assume the bust apex is the nipple.
    Thanks, Kat

  13. Alison Cummins says:

    There are serveral pattern-making books on the market. If you are interested in beginning pattern-making, you should probably go to your library and see what they have there.

  14. Dr Rekha Sharma says:

    I tried the method of creating a ‘replica’ of my torso with the cling film (= Glad) and make some observations

    1. This method appears in Connie-Crawford’s Patternmaking made easy

    2. Cling film stretches unreliably over the body and you end up with a smaller replica. It also means you can’t generate an algorithm to relate stretch to actual measurements.

    Think heating food in the microwave covered with cling film . When removed from the oven it shrinks far smaller than its original size. The replica I made turned out to be smaller. For the same reason as #2 you can’t extrapolate measurements.

  15. Kathleen says:

    I hope you’re not implying that I copied the concept from Connie. If you think she originated it, it’d mean you’d fallen sway to pre-emptive bias, meaning, you assume the originator to be the person you heard it from first. But thanks. I’ll look it up in Connie’s book and mention to her she should have credited me with the idea because I certainly don’t need allegations of intellectual dishonesty from people who hear of it there first.

    Secondly, as I say over and over and over and over and over and over (and over and over); this *isn’t* a pattern making method per se. It’s a way for people to see the shapes of their bodies. Besides, you don’t have to pull it on with tension, but pat it on (you know, balling up the saran wrap rather than heating it). Lastly I say repeatedly to grade it up a size or two. I’m guessing you didn’t read entry #1 although I also mention it in this entry.

    Btw, the “Robbie” mentioned in this article is Robbie Fanning, I wrote a version of this article for her newsletter (the Creative Machine) back in the mid 90’s, well before Connie was writing pattern making books.

  16. Um, couldn’t this be a case of convergent evolution?

    The idea of wrapping the body in something to make a model of it has been around for a while. Duct Tape Doubles are the current thing, whereas before it was Brown Paper Office Tape Dummies. Perhaps more closely related to the Saran Wrap exercise is draping — sewing muslin to a form or person and then cutting it apart to make a pattern from it. Substitute Saran Wrap for muslin and voila.

    Kathleen, I have no idea whether you or Connie came up with the idea first or who published it first. If an idea is a good one, it seems to me that smart people might hit upon it independently. While Connie may certainly have taken her inspiration from you — you’re a *very* smart person — that’s between you and Connie. I don’t think you have to worry about the rest of us imagining you to be intellectually dishonest. Because we know you aren’t.

  17. Liron says:

    Hi Kathleen
    I am so delighted about finding your site ,and this entry is great. As I am now learning pattern making (and we will not be grading in this course-its a separate one) I would like to ask about grading up- Does grading up relace the ease of the block or or should you ease some anyway?

  18. Leslie Hanes says:

    Personally, I’m pretty sure you stole the idea from the Egyptians. But, I wonder when they thought they would get around to actually drafting the pattern? Talk about leaving your model in the wrapping too long!

  19. Kristal says:

    I imagine I’ll be updating this posting regarding the pattern I make from this so I’ll save my other photos for that demonstration. However, you can work ahead if you like.

    Have you posted / updated this post? I am considering trying out this method to get an idea of how big my 2D/flat-self really is so that I can make my own clothes. I understand up to the “cutting it only so far as to render it flat” part but where should I be cutting and how far… or is this one of those go with the gut type things? I’m kind of just being to get into the entire world of “make your own clothing” (I’m overweight & commercial patterns are NEVER a quick and simple thing for me… I got Don McCunn’s Pattern drafting book “How To Make Sewing Patterns” it’s a vrery good book. Once I figured out what to do and how to do it I was fine- I just keep forgeting to add seams and hems! But it doesn’t cover some things like grading, and I feel like some things were explained/partially explained but I just didn’t get it!?)

    I was going to take a closer look at the books you recommended in the 1st part of this post and save up money for them – If I had the $$MONEY$$ I’d definitely donate to this site… you seem to me like one of those folks who knows their business (forward, backward, sideways and up-side-down). You explain yourself/methods/how-to so well that while I do re-read it to myself to get the basics of telling me figured out right in my head, you keep it simple and to the point, it’s easy to understand. (I’m finding it to be a very rare thing to find on the internet!)

    So anyway i was just wondering if you had already posted an addition to this post (I have not been able to find it yet?!) or even if you had. I understand that you do have a life outside of this site and you probably get all kinds of requests for more tutorials, but was there anyway you would be able to “clairify” the where to cut and how far dilemma I’m having?

    Again, (completely understandable) if you don’t have the time, then you don’t have it!

    Thank you for ‘public’ access to what I am able to view and post comments to. You really do have a spectacular site here,
    Thank you for your time,

  20. Sabine says:

    I really honestly had to laugh out loud at this:
    “There was no way my son was going to put on a bra and panties -children can be so non compliant. ”
    Originally I wanted to use my daughter as the underwear model, but I just could not convince her, despite me cutting out the models whole body, so i know exactly what you mean, hehe

    Thank you for sharing this, will try this, but also plan on making a body form.

  21. Julie says:

    I just tried this yesterday. I have yet to sew up the muslin sloper I got off the saran wrap, but I had a very different experience from anything I’ve read about with this technique, and I thought I should share it just in case.
    My boyfriend was doing the wrapping, and as he’s not exactly crafty or familiar with sewing, it took longer than expected. About an hour in, we were just finishing up and getting ready to mark the waistline, side seams, etc. when I started to feel slightly ill. I told him to hurry up, but my discomfort quickly (within about 1-2 minutes) progressed to me almost fainting, and having to be cut out of the wrap along the center back (approximately :/ ) and laid out on the couch. After laying there for a few minutes, I got up and told him to keep marking; within about 30 seconds, I had completely konked out.
    We did eventually mark the waistline, etc. — he must have thought I was crazy — although now, no doubt from all of the abuse, the two sides are fairly different and I’ll have an interesting time getting a sloper out of it. I just thought I should put it out there that the process should maybe not take too long, esp. if you have a tendency to faint (which I really don’t, btw).

  22. Lionel says:

    Kathleen – one thing isn’t clear to me – in order to get the paper flat I it seems that I will need to cut inlets (which will of course have the effect of adding length to relevant seams (unless they’re shrunk or darted) – is that correct?

    Many thanks!

  23. Melanie says:

    This sounds great! I’m hoping my teenage daughter would be willing to wrap me up and let me play with the pattern.

    I’d LOVE to try this and experiment with creating a woven blouse from it. I could absolutely see doing this with pants too!

    I’m going to have to put those books on my Christmas list for sure.

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