I believe it takes a lot of bravery and strength to start something completely new and even more to share it with the public. I hope you enjoy my new adventure. A few months ago I took a break from dressmaking.

Not running directly into the next sewing project opened possibilities to dream. My break allowed me to see the world a little differently. I was growing, sure, but in a new direction.

During this time I was handed down a design, pattern drafting, dressmaking and fit book collection. Browsing these books I discovered some of them described how to make flat pattern blocks. Over the years I’ve sewn many vintage sewing patterns, made dress replications, and learned draping – now it was time to try the big scary thing!

Flat pattern blocks are patterns that you make to your specific measurements. These blocks are the basics to design any garment pattern and make them fit your perfect body without alterations. Making the blocks are simply one part. You need to already have comprehensive knowledge of garment construction, know how to alter your basic blocks into different designs and know your fabrics. Different fabrics give you different fits.

I started watching flat pattern drafting tutorials on YouTube. That’s where I found The Closet Historian. Bianca gave me the confidence to get started. This is the commercial pattern sloper I used to get started.

“This will be easy, I’ve done patterns for years…” famous last words. I set out to make my first sloper with the best of intentions, then my second, then my third and even my fourth wasn’t right! This wasn’t the same as making something and then taking it in a little. This was grueling, time consuming and painful. A triple dose of humility!

Every single aspect of my pattern had to be changed by making a sloper (aka – muslin, dry run or mock up), measuring what was wrong and then making those adjustments to my pattern and trying again. I read that it takes most of us 4 to 8 muslins before you have your basic block. I settled at four muslins and moved on to my first design – a 1940s dress with an a-line skirt, gathered neckline and an all in one bodice top. Simple, right?

It also took four practices! I’ll spare you all the details and just say that I’m a short little hobbit with a 30” chest and plenty of hips.

My body is unique because we all are. Nothing fits anyone off the rack or out of the envelope. We are all special, as in there is no other shape like yours.
As you can guess, I was completely over the moon when I got the perfect fit.

For my next design I would wise up and make a muslin before cutting my hard earned goods.

I was already advancing and my 1950s shirt dress draft only needed an inch added to the front! Finally it felt like my hard work was getting me somewhere.

The next practice would be much more like, “why oh why did I get so ambitious?” I wanted a boat neckline and a huge flounce hemline to recreate a 1950s mermaid tail wiggle dress. this meant I had to take my top and bottom blocks and put them together and that I had to change the skirt darts into one single dart. My first muslin doing this had the fit, although all of the lengths and details needed drastic changes. Whoops!

The second draft only needed four changes – additional length, making the dart legs longer, an inch tighter down the center back and widening the flounce.

I am just over month into practicing this new skill.

My last big design for 2023 will be a flapper dress. Follow my Instagram to see more updates.

Behind the scenes ~
I signed my 8th lease to keep my studio at Rosewood Art Center! I’m incredibly happy to be there and to be surrounded by so much talent and energy.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!


Tracy McElfresh
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