July 18, 2008

Making a flat pattern out of a plasticine 3D shape

You might have been checking the website only to find out the same old posts. That is because both my mother and my mother-in-law have had health problems and of course family comes first.

While looking after my mothers I’ve also been busy working on fall-winter hats, and one of the projects was to make fabric hats out of my own patterns. A warning is due, I have no training or experience in making patterns, and I hope you will keep that in mind when reading this post.

Here follow the results of my attempt (click on the pictures to see them enlarged):

Plasticine hand modelled shape Shaped covered in plastic and then paper tape Pattern pieces cut out

First I bought myself 2kg of play-doh and used that, over an basic wood block, to make the shape I wanted (in this case a 40’s inspired head huggig shape), wrapped it up with plastic and then taped the hell out of it with masking tape (a paper tape used when painting walls and windows and that can be found on any hardware store). The theory is to then cut that open and voila! you have a pattern, but of course things are never that easy. In order to get a flat pattern I had to give a lot of thought as to where to cut, and even after that I had to do some darts (tiny but needed) to get the pattern pieces to lie flat (the picture above is before cutting the small darts).

Pattern pieces traced onto interfacing Sides of hat sewn Sewing the hat

Next I traced the cut out pattern pieces onto some magazine paper, cut it out and then traced it onto some heavy interfacing. I then cut out the interfacing and ironed it onto old curtain fabric (I was not going to use some nice fabric for this!). Finally I cut the fabric adding the allowance, and as a result the seam allowance has no interfacing which has made the seams lighter and easier to sew.

Here is the finished hat:

Finished hatMy thoughts on the whole process are (and I welcome any comment or suggestion!):

1. The question was… is it possible? And the reply is, YES, it is… although it’s hard to get an idea of how the hat will end up looking on the head of the wearer. It might be better to use a working head such as this one.

2. I’ve ended up with a lot of seams… where the small darts really necessary? Would it help to cut the segments on the bias and stretch the lower part when ironing the interfacing so it has a slightly curved shape? Is that even possible?

3. I’m happy I did a prolongation of the pattern on the bottom edge (by flipping the pattern) so that the lower edge could fold under still conforming to the shape. It looks really neat and the lining can then be sewn to that bit.

I believe I will open the center back dart and put an elastic there, so the hat will be easier to put on and adapt to different head sizes.


  1. WOW!
    Good work, I’m impressed. One question. Didn’t they have play-dough all of the same color?
    Keep up the good work Kuk.

    Comment by Joaco — July 18, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

  2. Hi you!
    You may probably avoid the darts by cutting the fabric on the bias, but then remember to cut the interfacing, if it is woven, in the same way. But the first thing you should do on the pattern is to cut away some paper on the sides, the same amount as the dart takes.
    And, Joaco, it is nice to work with play-doh of different colors, when you cut it away it shows the different layers. And also not all colours work usually the same, probably because of the colour dye, it shouldn’t be too soft, so you may iron gently on it!

    Comment by nina pawlowsky — July 19, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

  3. Nina,
    I ask myself… if I cut the fabric on the bias, do I need to stretch the external fabric on the bottom(where I’ve eliminated the dart) while leaving the interfacing flat, or that doesn’t make any sense?
    Because I’ve noticed that after ironing the interfacing the bias stretch is pretty much gone, I guess because of the glue on the interfacing.
    I guess I will have to experiment!

    Joaco, the play-doh I could find comes in a pot with four different colors in. No big pot of one color, but as Nina says, it’s more fun like this! 🙂

    Comment by cristinadeprada — July 20, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

  4. Cris, you should check Abacus for megabig play-doh pots…. The hat reminds me of the one Greta Garbo fells in love in “Ninotcka”

    Comment by Prima — July 21, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

  5. Jeepers girl…you really think different. I am learning so much from you. I just wish someone from a fashion college would comment and answer your questions.
    I DID miss you, and hope you family is regaining health.

    Comment by Jill — July 25, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

  6. You’re so clever. And that hat looks amazing. So chic.

    Comment by Min — July 31, 2008 @ 11:45 pm

  7. Your hat is very similar to one of the hats that Greta Garbo wears in “Ninotchka”, a movie she made in the 1930’s…..lovely!

    Comment by Marie C. — August 8, 2008 @ 5:08 am

  8. […] A short while ago I tried to make a flat pattern from a 3D design that I had previously sculpted out of plasticine. It turned out pretty good although the resulting pattern had many darts (in order for it to stay flat). If you didn’t read about that process you can do it now by following this link. […]

    Pingback by The rantings of a MAD HATTER wannabe… » Hat from self made pattern (from 3D shape) - persian lamb — August 29, 2008 @ 10:05 pm

  9. […] that is until this week. A small pattern hat I’ve been sewing (another variation of the one I created from a Plasticine shape) was in real need of some cheering up and I decided to try my hand at making a flower from the same […]

    Pingback by The rantings of a MAD HATTER wannabe… » Making a simple flower with flower making irons — November 6, 2008 @ 11:25 pm

  10. Hi – I love this shape.

    It may sound crazy, but try simply blocking it in felt.
    Draw a visually pleasing spiral seam line at a 45 degree angle around the blocked felt and remove from block.
    Cut top of blocked felt and cut along spiral seam line, but mark with notches first so you can line up the seams. Open up cut felt spiral and use to draft paper pattern adding seam allowance.
    Cut out shape in fabric and machine the single spiral seam together and then sew on circle for top of hat.

    This might remove the need for any darts and multiple seams and look good too. This is simply an idea that may or may not work – but if anyone can, you’re the modiste to do it!

    Comment by Maximilien — September 28, 2010 @ 1:15 am

  11. Hi Maximilien,
    Unfortunately that plasticine block was “destroyed” a while ago (it was on top of a round wood block that I needed). But it’s a good idea to use felt and then pressing flat the sections that have slight curve to avoid darts, although I think that’s not what you had in mind!
    Thank you for following my blog!

    Comment by cristinadeprada — September 28, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

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