Digital Patterns for Sewing

This project creates paper sewing patterns. A 3D mesh of a body part is created. The mesh is unwrapped to a 2D flat picture and printed.

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This project was motivated by a CAD noob in my wife's sewing club. She asked me if I could show her how to design patterns for clothes in 3D CAD and then plot out 2D patterns for cutting the fabric. Apparently patterns that you purchase at sewing stores are designed for the average shape and very few people are the average shape. It seems to me that if you are going to go to all the trouble of making a custom article of clothing, it should be a perfect fit. I added an additional constraint to this project that the CAD tools should be open source or at least free to use.

For my first test part, I decided to make a fleece cap that would contour my head and fit under my bicycle helmet.

The first step was to obtain a 3D mesh data file of my head. My wife took pictures of my head about every 22 degrees around at three levels for a total of 48 photos. These were uploaded into AutoDesk 123D Catch. I deleted the things that I did not want and exported a .obj mesh file of the top of my head.

The .obj file was imported into Blender.Seams were added. The 3D mesh was unwrapped and plotted in a UV map window. Blender provides two tools that help you decide when you are finished adding seams so that 2D fabric covers a 3D surface without too much tension or compression on areas of the material. You can display a checkerboard on the 2D surface and see if the squares are distorted on the 3D mesh. You can also display false colors on the 2D map to highlight areas of higher stretch or compression. Bezier curves are a nice way to define curvy seams followed by the knife project function to put the seams on the mesh. A rectangular feature of known size was added to ensure that plots are scaled to the correct size when printed. The 2D map is exported as a picture and plotted to create paper patterns.The hat was a perfect fit the first try.

In the future, whenever I need to cover a 3D shape with 2D material, I will consider this method. Also, a vinyl cutter like the Silhouette Cameo can cut paper up to 12 inches wide for making patterns. Some fabrics can also be cut by this machine, up to 12 inches wide and 24 inches long, skipping the pattern step. Since Blender is a program for doing video animation, you can animate your clothing design and make a video to show it off before you construct it.


1. 3D Catch result showing camera path

2. Checker on 3D mesh in Blender

3. False color on 2D surface UV window

4. Paper pattern and cut out fleece

5. Finished cap helmet liner

This method will let you do the following:

123D Catch

  • Make a 3D rendering of your body or part.
  • Make a movie of the 3D rendering.
  • Export an .obj mesh file of your body or part.


  • Manipulate the mesh.
  • Change the mesh density.
  • Add Seams.
  • Unwrap the 3D mesh to a 2D flat space.
  • See the distortion of the 3D to 2D mapping.
  • Apply any color or texture to the 3D mesh to make a dressed model.
  • Look at the dressed model from any angle.
  • Print 2D garment patterns.
  • Animate your dressed model.
  • Make a movie of your dressed model complete with background scenes.
For Blender inspiration check out:

If someone plans to try this procedure for yourself, let us all know in the comment section, and I will fill in some additional details I have learned from my experience of one time thru.

Answers to questions:

Learning Blender: There are many written tutorials and YouTube videos. I started with the Tufts Open Courseware Tutorials Sessions 1 thru 5:

I then built Gus the gingerbread man here:

A good tutorial for using the 'knife project' tool is here: use a Bezier Curve for the knife. Select the new curve on the body and mark it as a seam.

Rectangular feature of known size for plotting: You have a number of options here. You could scan your body part with a ruler or stick of known length in the view. You could add bumps to the body part and measure the distance apart. I measured the width of my head with a caliper. I created a single mesh element, a rectangle, the width of my head and placed it next to the 3D mesh in Blender. After the unwrap, the rectangle ends up on the UV map. Place it on top of the pattern you want to print. Do a test print. Measure the length of the rectangle and scale the plot up on down to get the correct length. It would be a good idea to place a second rectangle 90 degrees to the first to confirm your scaling in the X and Y directions. Note that errors in measuring the rectangle length scale, so do not make the rectangle too small.

  • Sun Dress

    Alan Campbell02/05/2015 at 02:33 0 comments


    6. Dress Catch Result

    7. Blender

    8. Dress Paper Patterns

    For my second garment, I chose a sun dress. I chose to scan an existing dress and created a pattern.One could also scan a body in a cat suit and add the clothing in Blender. Had a little trouble getting a good Catch result. The best solution was a dress with a pattern in a cluttered room. After adding seams in Blender a .png file of the 2D pattern was exported containing two mirrored back pieces, two mirrored front pieces and a scaling rectangle the width of the torso.

    For the paper output a Silhouette Cameo was used.The .png file imported well. The project was scaled. The length turned out to be too long for the largest 12"x24" sticky matt so alignment ticks were add so each piece could be cut in two parts. The parts were aligned and taped together. The Cameo software was easy to use and everything worked well out of the box .I am looking forward to making some plastic solder paste stencils.

    I am closing this project.Thanks for following it.

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Enjoy this project?



romek71561 wrote 12/28/2021 at 06:22 point

Love these amazing pattern designs of sewing programs. I want to use these designs with my website .

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venkata oruganti wrote 04/18/2018 at 18:53 point

Hi, this is very interesting, I did something similar with 2D drawings using SVG and PHP, check it at :  I would like to add more designs and help the sewing community.

Right now,  I am planning to starting a sewing automation process, looking for some help to control the regular sewing machine and sliders from arduino / rasberry pi. Any help in this direction will be appreciated.


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Dan Schmidt wrote 01/26/2015 at 22:06 point

Very cool idea. Any chance there is a tutorial on adding seams with Blender? I'd love to give this a shot.

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G. LaMar wrote 01/23/2015 at 20:37 point

Great project, one questions:

"A rectangular feature of known size was added to ensure that plots are scaled to the correct size when printed."

How did you calculate this?

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Erik S wrote 01/23/2015 at 20:05 point

Sweet! I look forward to being able to try this out.

I think a sewing machine was the first power tool I learned how to use (that or an electric mixer) -- my dad's radial-arm saw was a little too dangerous.

I used to fix and alter my clothes as a teen, but I never moved up to complex patterns, in part because, if I was going to do all that work, I wanted to do something "custom."

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