Basic Pattern-making course at Fashion Institute of the Philippines: How was it?

After taking up the Basic Fashion Design course, I was still hungry for more. I was supposed to take the Advance Fashion Design course next but decided to take up Basic Pattern-making instead. Why? Because it is frustrating not to know how to create a garment that I just drew. Yes I can illustrate and design clothes on a piece of paper but I don’t even know how they can turn into reality. You might think that sewing is the answer. Well, not quite. In order to sew something, you have to know what patterns should be put together. I do not want to rely on those patterns that can be bought online. They’re not customized to fit a certain person. Another thing: Patterns are the heart and soul of a garment. So it’s good to know how to create them.

Moving on..

I had a new set of classmates (my classmates from basic fashion design last term already took this course) this time, and the girls were really pretty and tall. They were intimidating, but in reality they were really friendly :) I was already thinking “I’m going to enjoy this class”. Our instructor for this course was Monina Tan-Santiago. She let us call her “Ms. Mo” for short.

Before the class started, we had to photocopy a book (not really a book. It’s more of a consolidated pattern-making notes by Ms. Mo). Ms. Mo doesn’t want us to copy notes during classes so we can discuss more topics in a day. Besides, it’s less tiring that way :D


What I learned

I’m just going to make a summary of the things I have learned from this course:

1) Pattern-making tools and their functions

There are a lot of tools available out there. Others are optional. Here are the essential tools that you need:

a) Pattern Paper/Kraft Paper – this is where you draw lines to create the pattern. Please do not buy the cheap ones that look like Japanese paper.

kraft paper

Where to buy Pattern Paper:

I always buy mine at National Bookstore (but most of the time it is out of stock). A roll of 36″ is around Php180+. This size is okay when you are creating long skirts. You can buy the 24″ if you like. But when creating skirt patterns, you have to tape together more paper to make it longer. So buy the 36″ instead to save you the trouble. You can also buy this one at Office Warehouse. It’s cheaper but the quality is the same :)

b) Tape Measure – Very important! This is needed to take a person’s measurements. Replace this from time to time as they have a tendency to stretch out. When they already look like bacon, do not use them anymore. You won’t be able to get the right measurements this way.

Where to buy the Tape Measure:

You can buy this at any shop that sells sewing notions.

c) L-Square ruler – used to draft angles or perpendicular lines

fairgate l-square(Photo Source: Manila Fashion Supplies)

Where to buy L-square ruler:

Carolina’s – it is around Php950. Expensive! :( And they only carry the Kearing brand.
Manila Fashion Supplies – They carry the Fairgate brand. Cost is Php1,300. More expensive than the Kearing brand but they are definitely lighter. This supplier has what they call a “Fairgate Fashion Designer Kit” which includes a 24”x14” L Square, French Curve, 18”x2” Grading Ruler, Hip Curve and a patternmaking manual. Cost is Php3,000 only. Definitely cheaper rather than buying each of them separately. I wish I had seen this before I bought everything at Carolina’s -_- Their branch is in Cubao. They also deliver for a fee.
Pacific Textile – located in Tabora, Manila. I  have no idea how much they are selling their rulers. If you’d rather have them delivered, choose Manila Fashion Supplies instead.

d) Grading Ruler – a clear, flexible ruler (18″ by 2″ dimension with markings of 1/8″)

grading ruler
(Photo Source: Manila Fashion Supplies)

Where to buy Grading ruler:

Carolina’s – Php350 for the Kearing Brand
Manila Fashion Supplies – Php350 for the Fairgate brand. Choose this one! :D Again, just get their “Fairgate Fashion Designer Kit” for Php3,000 only.

e) Hip Curve / French Curve / 3-in-1 ruler – these are three different things. You can buy the Hip Curve (for drafting hips) and the French Curve (for drafting armholes, necklines and blending) separately if you like. But I prefer the 3-in-1 ruler. By using this, you can already use it as a Hip Curve, a french curve and a grading ruler.

fairgate fashion designer kit

Fashion Designer Kit (Photo Source: Manila Fashion Supplies) 

3-in-1 fashion ruler
3-in-1 Fashion ruler (Photo Source: Manila Fashion Supplies)

Where to buy:

Carolina’s – They don’t have a Hip Curve. They only have 2 kinds of french curves (24″ and 12″) and one of them isn’t even useful. Both priced at Php 650, Kearing brand.
Manila Fashion Supplies – All are Fairgate brand. Hip Curve is Php950, French curve is Php 750, 3-in-1 is Php1,400. I wouldn’t recommend getting the Fairgate 3-in-1 ruler since it’s somehow fragile (their Fashion Designer Kit doesn’t include this).
Pacific Textile – the 3-in-1 ruler, Kearing brand is Php800. It’s made of flexible plastic just like the grading ruler.

f) Scissors – used for cutting paper ONLY. Don’t use this for anything else. I prefer the long ones.

2) System of measure

In the Philippines, we use the Imperial/English system. Unit of measure is in inches, not centimeters. Ms. Mo also taught us how to read a tape measure. Every line counts :) 

3) How to measure the body

When I was younger, I have seen seamstresses measure me and add an inch or two to my exact body measurements before listing it down. Since then, I thought this was the correct way of getting body measurements. WRONG! Only include allowances when you are already drafting the pattern. When measuring the body, just get the exact measurements.

4) Create the basic skirt pattern (1-darted and 2-darted)

The very first pattern I have learned! Yey! At first it was really confusing, especially when I follow Ms. Mo’s notes. I tried writing a more systematic procedure, and practiced drafting the basic skirt pattern on my own. It got easier with several tries. There are also a lot of fraction computations, which is a bit time consuming even if you have your calculator. So what I did was create a table in excel where I can just enter the measurements and it does the computations for me.

Sorry, I was a Systems Developer previously. It was my job to make a more systematic way of doing things. It’s not my job now but I kind of got used to it. So I apply it in pattern-making (Now I only have to refer to my own notes, haha).

5) Different kinds of skirts from the basic skirt pattern

Wrap skirt, Semi a-line, Medium a-line, Full a-line, Panel skirt, Gore skirt (mermaid/serpentina), Godet skirt, Yoke skirt (this style was not really explained in detail)

6) Skirt block

Emir Yamamoto, a former student of FIP who won the Young Mega Designer Competition last 2013, substituted for Ms. Mo for half a day. He discussed about making a skirt block, putting sewing allowances, and zipper and slits.

7) Quarter Circle Skirt, Half circle skirt and full circle skirt

Ms. Mo’s method was different from the circle skirt patterns I have read. I guess I just have to check which one works for me.

8) Different kinds of skirts from the circle skirt pattern

Bubble skirt, Swirl skirt

9) Create the Basic Bodice (1-darted and 2-darted)

It was overwhelming! The basic skirt is nothing compared to the bodice pattern. Again, I made my own version of procedures and I also made an excel file to compute certain values depending on the sizes I enter. That worked for me haha.

10) Different styles of bodice from the basic bodice pattern

Shoulder bust dart, Underarm bust dart, Pieces, Princess. The last bodice style is not in the notes that Ms. Mo provided. She just demonstrated it to us so I had no choice but to make my own notes.

11) Basic Sleeves and Collar

I wasn’t able to go to school when these topics were discussed because I was really, really sick :( Only 8 sessions for this course and I missed a day. Sigh. Oh well. Thank goodness these topics were easy.


That was a lot to take for only eight days. Oh wait, it was actually just seven days. The last day was only the submission of the project. However, there were people who didn’t know that there was a project so they had to do it that day — in such a hurry. No lessons on our last day, and Ms. Mo said the meeting will only be until 1PM (because she had some personal stuff to do. I guess it’s more important than our session). I was kind of disappointed. I paid for 8 sessions, but the last one was.. oh, I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong. I do think she’s a good teacher because I certainly learned a lot! I was just hoping she would discuss more, especially on our last day. Or maybe she could have given tips about dart manipulation, how to turn design sketches into patterns, etc. (I have a curious brain, you know).


So how was it?

Ms. Mo is a great teacher. She has a different approach in teaching though. She would discuss first how to do the whole pattern (on the board or on the pattern paper) while we sit there and watch. Then the students will try doing the pattern after her demonstration. Most students couldn’t follow because not all of them made a pattern before. Students get confused, look at their notes often and ask a lot of questions for clarifications. In my opinion, it should have been done step by step. And the students should do it with her, not after her. The instructor should also be checking every student’s work every time, not only when students ask if what they did is right or wrong. This course is the basics, the foundation of pattern-making. So it must be carefully taught.

I still enjoyed the classes. I guess the Php11,500 I paid was worth it. But the course wasn’t enough for me to be able to make my sketches into a garment. It made me want to continue learning about patterns, so I enrolled myself in the Advanced Pattern-making course. And I still need that certificate. So I really need to take up the advanced course.

And here’s a picture of us :)

(Photos grabbed from my classmates)

Basic Pattern-making Class

patternmaking class at FIP



For those of you who are already taking the course, here are some tips for you:

1) Make a cheat sheet. 

Just for reference when you’re doing the pattern in school. I made one which contains the values of the fractions in decimals, standard measurements, and formulas. You can also print or write down the chart for size 8, this is the size that they always use in school.

2) Make use of excel

If you know how to use excel, utilize it. Create a file that will enable you to just input the necessary measurements and the rest will be computed.

3) Practice

Try doing the patterns without looking at the procedures.


Enjoy! :)


  1. Just found your blog while searching on how to really learn (really learn (^_^) ) pattern making and I’m hooked. I felt like you’ve been just where I am now. I am also in a pretty analytical career now, and everyday saddened when I stare at my very quiet, untouched, but dearly loved sewing machine. Dreaming as usual of the “someday” island, your blog woke me up (I do hope for good). Pleasant lady, you inspire me to make the forward steps. Thank you.

    1. Julianne Author

      Hello there! :) I’m glad I was able to inspire you in some way. I do hope you will have the courage to step forward and I wish you the best of luck! :)


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