Making a Duct Tape Sloper

A sloper is a skin-tight pattern fitting your body exactly. It’s essential for making and adapting patterns to your size/shape.

I’m currently working on a set of instructions for drawing one using only maths and a ruler – the traditional method – but on the way home, had a genius brainwave.

I’m delighted to discover I’m not the first person to come up with this idea. Partly because someone else has tested it, partly because my pain issues in my hands are still too bad for me to do a bunch of typing.

Check it out at the Curvy Sewing Collective.

Here’s an alternative tutorial, using saran wrap/clingfilm – which is cheaper. Fashion Incubator is an industry professional, and I generally trust her insight. However, I’d probably choose duct tape over clingfilm personally – clingfilm doesn’t seem as solid to me. She discusses other methods she’s tried, which didn’t work for her, and has a good description of how to mark the finished thing:

Check it out at Fashion Incubator – part 1, part 2

Here’s a video tutorial [30 mins] showing someone being duct-taped in order to make a pattern. However, note that she isn’t making a basic sloper – she’s making a top, so she doesn’t cut out the shapes we need to! But you’ll see the process.

Thank you to renlightenment

And here’s a third method, this time using paper packing tape. I’ve not tried this, but it’s another option:

Paper Tape Dummy by Connie Amadan Crawford


Here’s some words for the trans sewer:

This is a great technique for us. All slopers you can buy, or draft yourself, are intended for cis people – and thus you’re wrestling with all the assumptions made about normative bodies.

Additionally, it’s a great way to capture a transitioning body. I initially intended to write sloper-making instructions anyone could use, but I’m increasingly unsure whether I can account for the huge variance in our community.

I guess this is why the Curvy Sewing Collective wrote about it: they’re a community blog for plus-sized sewers who got into sewing because, just like us, they’re ill-served by mainstream stores. They’re coming from a very similar place to us – and are an inspiration for me in what I’m trying to create at this blog.

Tutorial Tips

  • BE CAREFUL IF YOU’RE BINDING. You’ll be putting on constrictive wraps of plastic over a garment which is already constrictive. Have a buddy there to help, and consider doing the sloper in sections for safety.
  • When I made a duct tape dummy, I did wear clothes I could bear losing – but successfully got the cast off my body without damage.
  • Find rounded tip scissors at anywhere first aid equipment is sold – they’re generally used for cutting off clothes/bandages safely. Alternatively, check out your local sex shop – they’re beloved of rope players, for safely getting bondage off in an emergency (if you like to tie or be tied, and don’t have a pair – now’s a great opportunity)
  • Wear your regular underwear – a fave bra or binder – so the cast captures your everyday shape. (If you use other shape-changing garments, wear them too)
  • Do exactly what the blogger does: create a skirt sloper, and a bodice sloper – even if you don’t tend to wear skirts. You’ll still be able to use it for making trousers.
  • When you do the neckline and shoulders:
    • have the duct tape come up to the base of your neck as if you were to add a tight collar to it. You want the neckline to be as small as possible, while still comfortable – the minimum you’d actually want to wear.
    • Have the duct tape stop at the shoulder-bone. You can feel it, it’s knobbly. Good fit means sleeves should start directly on the shoulder bone (unless you’re making something with a dropped or raglan sleeve, where missing it is deliberate). See tip #2 here. Your duct-tape shoulder should end on this point.

Making a sloper

The blogger instructs you to draw in the correct lines for making a sloper – but doesn’t tell you what that is. It’s easy to do when you’re familiar with the shapes.

Here’s a basic bodice:

A diagram of a pattern for a basic skin-tight bodice

Here’s a basic skirt:


A diagram of a pattern for a tight-fitting basic skirt

You want to make a bodice and a skirt regardless of your gender, I’m afraid. You can call it something else if you prefer. There isn’t an equivalent menswear tradition for making skintight slopers, because (alas) menswear is not typically skin-tight.

The v-shaped indentations are darts – they are how we turn a flat pattern into a curved surface, and vice versa. For example, in the skirt we need darts between the hip line and waistline, so the finished garment will curve around your butt.

Darts are very versatile: you can put them in different places, and use different numbers of them for different effects. These images show the most basic dart placement possible.

  • For each of the darts on the image, cut a single line on your duct tape body in more-or-less the same place, until that part of the pattern lies flat.
    • DON’T cut a v-shape out – just a single cut line. Once the whole pattern is flat, you’ll see the V shaped gaps
  • Generally, when there are several darts along the same line, you space them out equally. For example, on the skirt sloper you will have four darts, one on each of the four pieces – so place them in the center of the piece.
  • Don’t worry about getting it “wrong” – it’s very easy to move darts on patterns later.

However, if you want to do it “correctly”:

  • Look at this photo tutorial. It shows you how to drape a bodice, fully step by step over 142 pages. Duct taping is similar enough to draping that it’ll teach you where to find the lines and in what order.
  • cut off your duct tape body. Cut up the center front, the center back, and each of the sides; and then cut along the waistline to divide the bodice pieces from the skirt pieces.
  • Get a large piece of paper. Look at instructions for flat-drafting:
  • All drafts start by drawing out a large rectangle, and marking correctly-spaced lines for key measurements. Follow these instructions to get started. However, when you need to draw a line in based on your measurements – trace it off the duct sloper instead. Use the two processes in combination, and a bit of creative thinking:
    • Trace from the duct tape:
      • Your neckline
      • Your neck-to-shoulder angle line
      • How long darts need to be for the piece to lie flat
      • The location of your bust-line, waist-line, etc.
      • Whenever the instructions say something like “draw a line the length of your bust +5cm” – use a measurement off your duct tape instead. This “+5cm” is ease, but you’ll already have the correct ease for your body as part of the duct tape sloper.
    • Use the instructions for:
      • Constructing the armscye (“arm hole”)
        • Drafting correct armscyes is evil, so using the instructions will give you a huge head start. The armscye is drawn as a curve touching the edges of a box, so look at the how they calculate the location of those lines.
      • Where to put the darts, proportionally across the body
        • i.e. I think the shoulder dart is placed 50% down the neck-to-shoulder line. So once you’ve traced your neckline and shoulder in, you can measure half of it and that’s where you cut the shoulder dart

Why would you do this? Basically, it’s a way to turn your wobbly duct tape/cling film pieces into nice, confident lines on the page.

Last Words

Time to test your baby. Get an old bedsheet or tablecloth from a charity shop and cut out your pattern (make sure you leave around 1inch of seam allowance around the pieces). Sew them together and try them on, wrong side out. Pinch them closer to the body where it’s too loose, let out fabric where it’s too tight. Keep trying until it’s perfect. Now transfer that pattern back to paper. You’re done.

Once you have your sloper, you’ll be using it every single time you make a pattern or adapt an item of clothing. So it’s a good idea to trace a copy onto card or cardboard. Make sure you write on the sloper:

  • Whether it’s a front piece or a back piece
  • What it is (i.e. “Basic bodice sloper 1/2”)
  • Draw in lines such as bust-line or hip-line
  • The date
  • Your name (if you anticipate making similar things for other people)
  • The project’s name

(I name all my projects – my most recent sloper was called Thalassophobia. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to remember what that is and why you made it, when your box is packed with similar-looking patterns. “Bodice 1” or even “Sloper” isn’t going to cut it.)

Image credit: wnk1029


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