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Threads eLetter

An Online Extra to Threads magazine

Take It from Us

General observations, specific comments, and other tidbits from our tests of eight pattern-drafting computer programs in the summer of 2002

by Judith Neukam and Jennifer Sauer

(opens in new window)

Five women from the Threads staff tested basic patterns from all of the software programs, then each tester chose two software programs to design an original pant and top.
In the summer of 2002, we put eight pattern-drafting programs through their paces to see if they really do help home sewers get a better fit, and in the April/May 2003 issue of Threads we share our conclusions. Here are some additional thoughts that can help you choose and use your pattern-drafting software, plus a Slideshow of the original garments we created during our tests.

General observations

"For all software packages, if you enter your correct measurements, you're already one step ahead of the paper pattern game."
-- Polly Smith, a costume designer who helped us test the software programs

"For me, the most useful software offers lots of mix-and-match options with the option to easily personalize them. I look to the computer to make pattern-drafting easier. If the process is too complicated, I might as well break out the pattern paper and curved ruler."

-- Jennifer Sauer, an associate editor at Threads

"After it's all said and done, there's not much to criticize. Each software program is fun to use, and worthwhile to own. You just need to get past the learning curve."
-- Judith Neukam, an assistant editor at Threads

"Mix-and-match options can be a great design tool. Simply browse the options to find inspiration and build a garment from there."
-- J.S.

"I made oak tag slopers for myself using three software programs that have different dart configurations (Personal Patterns, PatternMaker Home Studio, and PatternMaster Boutique). I lay the slopers over purchased patterns to check the fit."
-- J.N.

"All programs generate slopers easily, but the editing features are generally tough to use. I'd advise people to edit with great care."
-- P.S.

"Most of the software companies offer a free trial download. This is a great way to test-drive the program's features and capabilities. But the clock starts ticking as soon as you download, so be sure that you have a block of time to spend with the program."
-- J.N.

Checking once, checking twice
 
Check the fit once, check the fit twice. We photographed five testers in nine muslins each (one muslin per software, plus an extra for Garment Designer, Refined Fit). We then spread all the photos out on a large table to compare and contrast the fit on different body types.
Comments on specific drafting programs

CADTERNS Lite
www.cadterns.com

"Originally I thought CADTERNS was just for educational institutions and wouldn't really compare to other software packages that were more complex. But I really changed my tune. CADTERNS is a great little program that's so simple to use -- just enter a few measurements and you're done."

-- J.S.

"I was very impressed with the fit CADTERNS produced. It was 'right on' for every body type we tested."
-- J.N.

"All you can do with CADTERNS is generate basic slopers. To do any electronic editing, you then have to open Auto Sketch or Auto CAD's separate Computer Aided Design programs not sold by CADTERNS. Auto Sketch is way beyond what I could learn on my own in a few hours...or probably even a few weeks."
-- P.S.

Click&Sew
www.wildginger.com

"Click&Sew is basic and pretty self-explanatory. A child could operate the program."

-- J.N.

"Here's the thing with Click&Sew: It's a point-and-print program, and the patterns fit amazingly well. It's really just a pared-down version of PatternMaster Boutique."
-- J.N.

"Click&Sew patterns are a great gift for a sewer. The patterns are packaged attractively, they're utterly affordable, and offer instant results."
-- J.S.

"In Click&Sew's blouse pattern set (Custom Casuals: Blouses), the long-sleeve scoop T-shirt featured on the pattern envelope doesn't exist 'as is' in the program. To produce the T-shirt, you need to use the zippered top pattern, eliminate the darts, then place the center front on the fold when you cut your fabric."
-- J.N.

"I like the fact that Click&Sew (and PatternMaster Boutique) offers the choice of an L-shaped crotch or a J-shaped crotch for pants. An explanation of why you'd want a J-shape over an L-shape, or vice versa, would be helpful to beginner sewers."
-- P.S.

Dress Shop 4
www.patrns4u.com

"Dress Shop is a sewer's video game. It's colorful, and the option of adding colors and fabrics to your designs makes it like an interactive version of paper dolls."

-- J.S.

"Dress Shop has virtually no editing features, but it offers so many options that your need to draft original designs is greatly reduced."
-- J.N.

"Originally I was wowed by Dress Shop's long list of measurements. I thought just by the sheer volume of measurements, the fit had to be superb. But, the reality is that the fit was so-so. More doesn't always mean better."
-- J.S.

"Dress Shop is virtually idiot-proof. There's a question mark on every screen that you can click on if you have any questions."
-- P.S.

PatternMaster Boutique
www.wildginger.com

"I like a software package that offers a balance of mix-and-match and original design drafting functions. I use mix-and-match options to come close to my imagined design, and then use the drafting or editing functions to refine the design. PatternMaster Boutique is my choice for these features."
-- J.N.

"PatternMaster Boutique had cute little movies, which were helpful and fun. I'll bring popcorn next time."
-- P.S.

"PatternMaster Boutique takes practice, and initially I found the printing process confusing. But overall, the program is very straightforward."
-- J.N.

"I tried to draft my own pattern on PatternMaster Boutique. I was able to easily mix-and-match, but spent 25 frustrating minutes just trying to get started editing. I had a definite style in mind (kimono-type wrap blouse) that was hard to reproduce on the software. A consultation with the Wild Ginger folks at a sewing show helped solve my problems."
-- Carol Fresia, an associate editor at Threads

"The organization of PatternMaster Boutique was a little hard to get used to. I always had to go back to the welcome screen to make my next selection. When I finished my design, I went back to the welcome screen to find the yardage calculator, only to realize I didn't save my design -- I lost everything."
-- P.S.

Fittingly Sew
www.knitcraft.com

"It took me awhile to find my way around Fittingly Sew, but it was actually fun to manipulate the lines."

-- J.S.

"I found the best way to design pattern pieces in Fittingly Sew was to copy the sloper pattern and make a second version to layer over the sloper. This way, you could see what changes you've made."
-- J.S.

"With Fittingly Sew, the space you are given to work with on-screen is determined by your fabric width. I learned to enter something like 90 or 100 inches for the fabric width so I had room to maneuver, then I changed it back to my correct fabric width at the last minute."
-- P.S.

"Fittingly Sew allows you to design at will, which is all well and good, but if you move a dart, for instance, the program doesn't 'cut-and-spread' for you and adjust the rest of the pattern accordingly. You're on your own."
-- J.S.

"Be careful of the 'backspace' key in Fittingly Sew. When a pattern piece is highlighted, pressing 'backspace' deletes the entire piece. It's too bad I couldn't find an easy tool that deletes just the last step made, similar to the word and data processing programs I use all the time."
-- J.S.

Garment Designer
www.cochenille.com

"Garment Designer is the program I'd buy, especially since there's a great Mac version. It's so easy to use, and has loads of mix-and-match options, but it also allows you to design unique styles. And the manual is all you ever need and then some -- it even teaches you the basics of pattern drafting."
-- J.S.

"I just like the look of Garment Designer. It makes you look like you know what you're doing, even if you don't."
-- P.S.

"I love the Symmetry function in Garment Designer. Why the rest of the programs don't feature this function, I don't know. And I got used to being able to always see my sloper superimposed over the pattern I was designing. This helped with judging ease and visualizing the final fit."
-- J.S.

"The only downfall with Garment Designer is the fact that it won't yet draft princess seams. Directions for hand-drafting princess seams are included in the manual, but I wanted the computer to do that work for me."
-- J.S.

"I love the keyboard shortcuts for Garment Designer. They make for quick and easy drafting."
-- P.S.

PatternMaker Home Studio
www.patternmakerusa.com

"With PatternMaker, your options are contained within certain collections (they call them Macros), which define your garment type (a.k.a. raglan, outerwear, or maternity/breastfeeding)."

-- J.N.

"It took me a lot of time to figure out PatternMaker. It was difficult getting started (the program opens to a blank screen) and navigation isn't intuitive. But once I found the PatternMaker Quick Guide window, it took me every step of the way."
-- P.S.

"I love the way PatternMaker pants fit my body, but there were some quirky lines in my actual draft. For instance, there was an extra 'fin' at the center back waist, which I just cut off."
-- J.N.

"I liked PatternMaker's yardage calculator. It calculated as I worked on the pattern, and I didn't have to change screens."
-- P.S.

Personal Patterns

"The more you know about pattern drafting, the more you get out of Personal Patterns. It's virtually a mini CAD program."

-- J.S.

"Personal Patterns reminds me of designing on an Etch-A-Sketch. With this, and any of the other programs that enable original garment designs, if I didn't choose a mix-and-match option, I felt I was arm-wrestling the design lines."
-- J.N.

"The Interactive Measurement function in Personal Patterns is cool. You can see how different measurements affect a pattern piece."
-- P.S.

"With Personal Patterns, you really should know what each measurement does and how they work together. I found it's best to start with a standard size that's close to your size, and make minor adjustments as necessary."
-- J.S.

Photos: Joseph Kugielsky

An Online Extra to Threads #106
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