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Those of you who have read my previous blog posts will be familiar with my method of making a pattern for a hat block using a cardbord former.

Its a very mathematical way to generate a pattern and to be honest some of the creative flow in sculpting can be lost.  You have to make your brain think in the kind of way you think when drafting a paper bodice pattern (or trouser pattern) from scratch using measurements. Its fun when you get in the swing of it, but very precise, with lots of straight lines, right angles and measuring.

It works brilliantly for simple geometric shapes – e.g. A straight sides and flat top crown.  And it also works well for more complex symmetrical geometric shapes, e.g. A cone, pyramid, all those kinds of shapes that would be time consuming to make perfectly symmetrical if you were sculpting them out of polystyrene.

However, I recently wanted to make a horn shaped block and realised that using this technique was going to be mentally taxing and time consuming. So, instead I decided to make a metal wire armature, bulk that out with paper and use it to generate a pattern.

I covered the paper sculpture in plaster so it was hard and set in position. The smoother the form is, the easier it is to get an accurate pattern off it – but it doesnt have to be mega smooth (that’s a waste of time). If I was doing this again I would use plaster bandage rather than casting plaster, as it would be easier to wrap around the paper.

Next I tightly wrapped the shape in clingfilm, and put a layer of tape on top of the cling film. You can use any non stretch tape – sellotape, gaffa tape, masking tape. This ‘skin’ is your pattern.

The next aim is to get the skin in pieces that will lay flat. They have to lay flat because otherwise they are still a 3D shape and you need flat pattern pieces to lay on flat material.

Think about the shapes of orange segments, where the different colours join together on a beachball, or the lines that a banana skin peels apart on. Divide up the skin on your form in a similar way. See below for a picture of the skin cut off my former – I divided the skin up into 4 segments, with the seamlines running lengthways.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You must put balance points on the skin before you cut it up. Balance points are little lines that run across the seam, and you use them to match up the pattern pieces in the correct places.  You must also number the seamlines / edges of your pattern pieces so that you know which pieces join together (do this before you cut the pieces apart!).

I’ve tried to keep my explanation as simple as possible, but I wouldnt be suprised if I’ve lost some people! My best advice is to just have a go on something simple. Start off by taking a pattern off a piece of fruit, a banana is a great place to start. Cut the pattern out of cereal box cardboard and tape it together to see the shape. Or, you could make it up in 5mm / 10mm plastazote and practise using contact adhesive.

The more you learn about patterning the more fun it becomes. So stick with it, it gets easier – I promise!

ONE MORE REALLY IMPORTANT NOTE: The two horns I made are not symmetrical. So don’t try to make up two symmetrical shapes until I worked out how to solve that problem!