Sewing Course Lesson 2 – How To Make a Basic Bodice Block


Why a basic bodice block?

A basic bodice block that fits you like a glove is a precious pattern to have. This will be the starting point of many designs, from relaxed tank tops to dress up shirts and summer dresses.

You can create a basic bodice from a close-fitting commercial blouse or dress pattern, or you can draw your own, pencil and ruler in hand, based on your very own shapes and curves.

In this lesson I will be showing you what kind of measurements you need to take in order to make your basic bodice and in the third lesson I will compare a store-bought bodice pattern to the one that I draft for myself. This will show us the differences between a commercial pattern and a self drafted one.

But enough talking, off we go making sewing patterns.

1. Before we start

I will make a list of measurements you need to make for a basic bodice, in the order they are needed for drafting, I suggest you keep these numbers for future reference before adding or subtracting the ease inches.

All the info related to drafting the basic bodice block takes from Helen Joseph Armstrong’s Pattern Making for Fashion Design, a very complete pattern making book I recommend you get if you are serious about learning how to make your own sewing patterns. In my lesson I will keep the name of the measurements, but I will use my own illustrations, drafted using the explanations given in the book.

I am one of those people who need to draw or make to understand and I suggest you do the same.

Start with two pieces of basic printer paper, some coloured pencils, a ruler and an eraser. Get a cup of green tea and breathe deeply 🙂

2. Understanding your body and the measurements you will need to take

1. Center length or center front – from your collar-bone to the belly button

This is a nice video explaining how it’s done, if you have a bit of trouble with this measurement

2. Full length – from the side of your neck to your waistline

For measuring your waistline, check out this video

3. Shoulder slope – from the end of your shoulder to your bellybutton.

This video shows the back shoulder slope, but you get it 🙂

4. Bust depth or bust point – base of the neck to your nipple

5. Across the shoulder  – from your collar-bone to the end of your shoulder

6. Bust arc or under bust – measure over the fullness of your bust, 2 inches below your arms

7. Shoulder length – from the side of your neck to the end of your shoulder

8. Across the chest – measure over your nipple, exactly below the arm, from your your armpit to the center point of your chest.

9. Dart placement – from your bellybutton to your side waist divided by 2 (or the waist arc divided by 2)

10. New strap – from the beginning of your shoulder (close to the neck) across your bust to the side of your waist

11. Side length – from under the armpit to the side of your waist

12. Waist arc – from your bellybutton to the side of your waist

3. Drafting the front bodice

If you got this far, you should know you’re halfway there to drafting your one of a kind bodice pattern. It’s not easy work and you might need that second cup of tea, but it’s worth it, so keep reading 🙂

This section follows the instructions from Helen Joseph Armstrong’s Pattern Making for  Fashion Design only to break down the design even more, making it easier to draft and remember.


First draw a line AB corresponding to your full length + 1/8 inches (0.3 cm)


Then, draw a line AC, corresponding to your across the shoulder measurement and subtract 1/8 inches (0.3 cm) from it, then draw a 3 inches (7.6 cm) perpendicular line on C, downwards.

Mark the D point, where BD is your center front length.


Now draw a line BE, perpendicular on AB of a length equal to your bust arc + 1/4 inches (0.63 cm).


Draw a line perpendicular to E measuring 11 inches (28 cm).

Draw another line, BG intersecting with this perpendicular line your just drew measuring your shoulder slope  +1/8 inches (0.3 cm)


Draw a point H on your GB line. The distance between G and H is your bust point measurement.


Draw a line perpendicular to GB, touching CA in the point I (mark it). Make sure GI is the same size as your shoulder length.


From I draw a line on AB to meet D.


Mark point J in the middle of DB. From J draw a perpendicular line on AB and mark a point K on GB.


Mark a point L in the middle of DJ. Draw a perpendicular line on DJ from L, touching GB. This line should measure the same as across the chest point + 1/4 inches (0.6 cm). Mark the end point of this line M.


Mark a point F, dart placement, BF measuring as much as the distance from your bellybutton to the side of your waist divided by 2.

Draw a line IN measuring as much as your new strap + 1/8 inches (30 mm). N should touch EB outside the drawing and touch E a few inches above.


Draw NO, your side length. Draw a perpendicular on NI and mark a point P at 1/4 inches (65 mm) distance from N. Where the same perpendicular touches EB mark R.


Draw a line PQ, perpendicular on RK, measuring (waist arc + 1/4 inches (65mm)) minus BF.


Draw a point S 1/6 inches (1.5cm) downwards from K. Draw darts from S to F and S to Q.


Draw armhole touching points G, M and O. Draw neckline touching points I and D. Start erasing the lines your don’t need (the dotted one in the illustration) and what do you know, you have a front bodice. The challenge now is to make it look prettier than mine, which with real measurement is a sure bet 🙂


What about you? Have you ever made a basic bodice block? How do you draft it? Any tips?

8 thoughts on “Sewing Course Lesson 2 – How To Make a Basic Bodice Block”

  1. Liz J in Central Illinois

    That looks very interesting! I am not sure I would have the patience to make my own stamps….and as clumsy as I am, I had better make sure to have LOTS of bandages handy for all the cuts to my fingers! 🙂

    I am looking forward to seeing your second version of the blouse!

    1. Hehe, you could try stamping with things that are around the house. Apple halves, cabbage halves, even small fish : >

      Thanks for being so supportive.

  2. Cristina Kittn

    omg I was just tripping about home made stamps, even posted on Facebook some links about a starter kit I found (soon, my precious). Birdies look awesome!

  3. Your stamp look so lovely..I love the way it look on fabric! 🙂
    I’ve always imagined making stamps as something really hard.. but you make it sound do-able! 🙂

  4. hi
    i have problem with this. you said that L point is in the middle of DJ. but LM line is not middle of dj !! why? please help

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