Pattern drafting tutorial - Colour block dress

Do you ever see a RTW garment that you instantly fall in love with and want to recreate? I know I do! That is the case with this dress from the brand Boden. They make stunning dresses and other things and they always incorporate a lot of colour in their collections. I love it! This dress is almost sold out. If you are lucky you can find a few left, limited sizes. If, like me you would like to make a similar dress by yourself - that's exactly what we are going to do today! This will be a blog series with at least 2 parts I think. I plan on taking you through the pattern making today and how I think when making a garment inspired by RTW-brand. Next post will be about me actually sewing the dress. So let's get started and make a gorgeous colour block dress! 

Pattern drafting tutorial

Pattern drafting tutorial - Colour block dress

What you'll need:

♥ A basic bodice block or a bodice patten. Buy the Ploen Patterns Basic Bodice Block here. This will be the base of your construction. 

♥ Drafting paper. Any big paper will do for drafting. Regular pattern paper works well. Sometimes I use brown wrapping paper. 

♥ Pattern paper. Any see through paper will do. This is for the tracing at the end when the draft is complete. 

♥ Pencil. You can use coloured pens to easily distinguish differnet pieces if you like. 

♥ Eraser.

♥ Paper scissors.

♥ Ruler and measuring tape. 

♥ Pattern curve/french curve. 

Let's get started. The first thing I like to do is to find as many product photos I can find of the garment. I managed to find these photos of the dress:

dress photocolor block dress

I also found these ones. It's great to find a view of the side and the back. It helps a lot when figuring out the pattern design. 

color block dress side view colour block dress back view

Now I want to take a look at the design details and decide if I want to make any changes to my version. I really like the colour block detail on the front (white, green and pink). I think I want to have the same look on the back side too. I don't want the back to be all pink. So I made a sketch of what I want my final dress to look like. 

boden dress

I have ordered ponte fabric in cream, pink and green for this project. (Double knit, thick jersey). You could use a woven fabric but I would make sure it has some elastane in it to make it comfortable. I will make the pattern based on fabric with a little bit of stretch. Ponte di roma fabric has a lot of sturdiness and not a lot of stretch so it's perfect to give some comfort but also has the flattering capabilities of sturdier fabrics. 

Boden also has this colour combination which is so elegant. You can do any variations you like with all your favoruite colours. Get creative! 

colour block dress blue

I chose to make the cream/pink/green version as I like it a lot. I managed to find quite a close match to the original colours and I hope I like the fabrics when they arrive :)

Let's get to work on the pattern now. Since the fabric has a bit of stretch we will not need a lot of ease in this pattern. The basic bodice block has 2 cm (0.8") of ease built in to it - that is not a lot so that's what we'll use. I have made hard paperback copies of my basic bodice block. When you have perfected the fit of your block you can do the same and use it over and over for your designs. 

Create a CF Line on your paper. Place your bodice block on the line. Trace your bodice front to a big piece of pattern drafting paper. You need the length to be a little longer than you intend the final dress to be. I made my paper piece around 120 cm (47") long. I always place a few tape pieces on my skin before taping the paper to the table. This makes the tape easy to remove from the paper later without ripping it. Perfect when you want to place a piece of paper on top of another one too. Just a little tip for you. 


Make sure your sheet of paper lays flat and smooth on your surface. 

tape the paper to your table 

Mark the center front line and then at a 90 degree angle draw the waist line. 

These lines are the base of the pattern construction. 

 mark lines

Prepare your basic bodice block. Add skirt lines to your bodice pattern. The bottom of the Ploen Patterns bodice block is the seat line. Add the length you want your dress to have. I added enough so the dress will come to a little bit above my knees. Continue the center front line and add length to the side line too. Hem line should be at a 90 degree angle to the center front line. 

add skirt lines

Place the pattern pieces on the sheet of paper. Line up the center front and waist lines. Weigh the pattern down. I use some random objects since I don't have pattern weights. 

weigh the pattern down

Trace the outline of the pattern. Mark notches for waist, hip and seat-lines, dart points and dart pivot points. I have made holes in my block to be able to easily mark pivot points. 

trace patterntrace patterntrace pattern

Remove the pattern and fill in the lines on your construction like this:

add dart lines

Mark the dart lines. 

add dart lines

Repeat these steps with the back piece of the pattern. 


Now that the basics are done we can start with the construction. Let's begin with the front piece. Mark the point of the princess seam at the armhole. Create a line from top to bottom of the armhole. Then split that line in the middle. 

mark armhole

Mark the point on the armhole. 


Create a curve from the point on the armhole to the bust pivot point. 

draw curve

Continue to draw the curve to the pivot point of the waist dart. 

continue curve

Now add the lines of the waist dart if you haven't done so already. 

add waist dart

Make the lower lines of the waist dart slightly curved. This will be the shape of the skirt pieces. Continue the dart line all the way down to the hem of the skirt. 

continue line

At the hem of the skirt - add 1cm (3/8") to each side of the line. Connect these lines to the end of the waist dart. Like this:

add lines

Now let's make the neckline. I am measuring on myself to know how much I want to lower the neckline. The bodice block goes around the neck and I measure from that point to how low I want it. 


I decided on 6 cm (2.4"). So I measure from the center front and measure down that amount. I also want to make the neckline a little wider than the block pattern. Mark the point for the neck drop on the center front line. Make sure the neckline starts at a 90 degree angle from the center front line. Create a curve to the shoulder. I chose to make it to the dart leg. A little wider neckline than the block pattern has. 

draw necklineneckline

I'm also making the shoulder a little smaller at the outer shoulder. Since this design doesn't have a sleeve it doesn't need to go all the way out on the shoulder. I'm removing 1.5 cm. 

make shoulder smaller

Redraw the armhole shape from this new point. 

reshape armhole 

Now let's start on the back piece. Repeat the steps to create the princess seam point at the back armhole. Measure the position of the front waist dart and add the back waist dart at the same distance from the side seam. 

armhole point

Create the curve of the princess seam. Continue the dart line all the way down to the hem. 

princess seam

Draw the shape of the shoulder dart. This will be removed later. Remove the same amount from the outer shoulder as you did on the front. Reshape the armhole.

back piece 

Shape the center back seam. Take in 0.5 cm and make a slight curve. To remove some bulk from the center back and preventing the neckline from gaping. 

make a curve center back

Create a cutting line on the back piece from the shoulder dart point to the armhole. Create a new neckline from the shoulder dart leg to the center back. I lowered mine 4 cm (1.6"). I should've waited to this point before shaping the center back actually but it doesn't matter. It still has some shape to it.  

create cutting line

The construction so far is finished!

Now place another piece of paper on top of your construction. Tape it in place and make sure it's smooth. 


Now it's time to trace out the pattern pieces from the construction. I'm starting with the center front skirt piece. Since this piece is going to be pink I used a pink pen to trace it. This is great to keep the pieces apart. Start at the waistline. Make sure you trace the correct side seam of the skirt. They are overlapping on the construction. 

trace skirthip curve

This is the center front skirt piece:

front skirt piece

Move the paper away a little bit to be able to trace the next piece. Trace the front side piece (green). 

front side piece

Mark notches to indicate the hip lines on both pieces. This will make it easier when sewing the seams together later. 

front side piece notches

mark notches

Continue the piece with the princess seam. Make sure to mark the bust point on the front side piece. 

front side piece

Cut out these two pieces before continuing with the others. 

cut pieces 

Now let's start on the center front bodice piece. (Will be white, but I traced with a grey pen). Trace the piece like the photo below shows. From the waist dart pivot point to the bust point. Trace one of the dart legs. 

dart pivot

With the dart as the constant point - pivot the piece, aligning the left dart leg with the right one. Turn the piece until the dart legs are overlapping. 

pivot piece

Then continue to to trace the piece. Shoulder, armhole and princess seam. 

bodice front piece

Mark your pieces with the necessary notes. I always like to write the date on mine. You also want to write which pattern it is (I'm calling this the colour block dress). And how many to cut and whether to cut them on fold. 

mark patterns

Continue to trace out the back side piece (green). 

back side piece

Don't forget to mark the grain line on all pieces. The grain lines are at a 90 degree angle from the horizontal lines (waist, seat etc). And they are parallell to the center front and center back lines. Now let's create the upper back piece. (White, but I used a grey pen to trace the piece). Trace from the right dart leg all around to the cutting line. Mark the start of the line or draw the whole line if you think that's easier. 

trace back pece

With the shoulder dart point as the pivot point - turn the pattern piece until the dart legs are overlapping exactly on top of each other. This creates an opening at the cutting line. 

turn piece

Since we don't want this opening at the armhole - remove the same amount at the top of the outer shoulder and reshape the shoulder seam. 

reshape shoulderreshape shoulder

Then reshape the armhole like this (pink line), and cut off excess:

reshape armhole

Now you can cut out all the pieces and mark them accordingly. 

all pieces cut out

Make sure you have all the necessary notches on your pattern pieces. Bust point on the front pieces to be able to align them and match them up when sewing. 

Now tape the front and front side pieces together like this: 

align front pieces

At this point my hands looked like this from all the drawing with coloured pens... I wanted my lines to show on the camera haha. I switched to pencil for the facings. 

dirty fingers

Place a piece of paper on top of the taped together front pieces to trace the front facing. I'm making it 5 cm (2") at the side seam.

5 cm at side seam

I made the facing 4 cm (1.6") at the center front. I then connected the lines like this:

facing front

Trace around the neckline, shoulder and armhole too and the piece is done. You can cut it out :)

Repeat this on the back bodice pieces. 

back facing

When the paper is all curled up like this you can flatten it out with a hot but dry iron (no steam). 

Finally true the pattern. Walk the pieces and make sure all seams that will be sewn together line up and fit together. Adjust length or shape where needed. 

shoulder seam

Now all the pattern pieces are ready! I will make another blog post when my fabrics have arrived to show you how to sew this dress. Because of corona I don't know when the fabric will arrive, all shipping seems to take so long these days. I hope the fabrics will arrive soon though :) so excited to sew this dress!

Update: Go to PART 2

Let me know how your drafting goes! If you have any questions at all - let me know! Drop an email to or leave a comment below with any questions or concerns. 

Until next time.

Happy drafting!

♥   ♥   ♥


Ploen Patterns




Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published