Sketching 101: flat sketching

Posted on | March 4, 2010 | 12 Comments

Sketching for design submissions seems to be a hot topic lately on Ravelry and twitter, so I thought it might make some nice blog content while I’m working on my super secret (and therefore super boring) projects. I am going to start out with flat sketching since it’s a little easier to do and makes a perfectly acceptable sketch for a submission. During school, we learned how to sketch on the fashion figure first and flats were just an afterthought. However, once I got out into the real world, I rarely use my fashion figures anymore. All of my sweaters are drawn as flats.

Flat sketching

Flats can either be technical and to scale like a schematic or they can be a little more stylized and fashion like. They are called flats because that is what the garment looks like when it is laid down on a flat surface. I will start off simple with a more straightforward technical sketch then move into showing you how to add a little more personality to your sketches in a later blog post.


Croquis are a guide you can use for sketching. There are fashion figure croquis, but we are going to be starting off with a flat sketch version. I created my croqui in illustrator full size with typical measurements I use for a junior small, then scaled it down to a usable size. The measurements don’t have to be the exact size of your sweater for your flats, it’s more important to sketch the correct proportions so it’s easy to “read” your design. My flat croqui has major waist positions and lengths marked as a guide. To use your croqui, just lay a sheet of paper over the top and trace over, or when you’re first practicing, laying a sheet of tracing paper over the croqui makes it easier to see. If you happen to have a light box laying around, that also helps if using a more opaque sheet of paper.

Click on image for full size croqui you can print out and use for practicing

For our first sketch, I’m going to work off of a garment that has already been made. I’ll be sketching this lovely striped cardigan.

So let’s take a look:

It has long sleeves. It’s probably about 22″-23″ long. The body length hits at about the same point as the sleeves. It has a set in sleeve. The front neck drop begins below the armholes. The bottom rib pulls in at the hem. It doesn’t have waist shaping.

The sketch:

Using the croqui under a new sheet of paper, begin drawing out the sweater paying attention to the shape and proportions of the sweater. Try to make your lines as smooth as you can, instead of “sketchy”. It will get easier with practice! Promise!

Start out with a simple outline of the garment. Try to make it as symmetrical as possible. Notice that the button placket goes past the center line of the sketch.

Next fill in details such as neck finish, sleeve and hem trims, buttons, and stripes. My stripes aren’t too straight, but that’s ok, it can be fixed later.

Finally, I take a thick sharpie marker and trace around the outside of the sketch. Then I fill in details with a Extra Fine rolling ball pen. When the ink is dry erase all of your pencil lines. (Don’t be impatient, the ink will smudge!)

My sketch isn’t exactly perfect, but it conveys the idea of the sweater well. You can see where each area is supposed to hit on the body and that it is a striped sweater.

I know this explanation is pretty simple, but the key to learning how to draw well is careful observation and practice, practice, practice! The easiest way to practice is to start off with something already in your closet just like we did above. Study the proportion of the sweater and how the hem, sleeves, neck drop, and details all relate to each other.

In my next post, I’ll give a few examples of sketches I’ve done for submissions and pair them up with photos of the finished garment. Also, I’ll cover how to add in stitch interest like lace and cables and how to give your flats a little more personality. After that, I will move into the fashion figure croqui.

If you happen to have any specific questions about fashion sketching, please drop me a line! I would be happy to answer any questions in the next few blog posts.

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  • thea

    Oh how I wish I had read this early this morning! Just put my first submission in the mail today and I must have redrawn my sketches about 5 times before I got the proportions that looked correct…

    But I’m saving this for next time :-)

  • Monique

    Very interesting! I love learning things that will make me a better designer! Thank you for sharing!

  • Chantal B

    I love that kind of post! Thank you to generously give your time to explain to the “profane” (not sure is the good word in english…) But still: Thank you!!

  • birana

    Very interesting post! It remember me fashion school too and also my previous job.It’s always good to have “rules” to start creating. Thanks!

  • Maryse

    My studies were so far from that ;-) Very interesting! Are there any software to do that?

  • Karen Frisa

    Thanks for taking the time to explain all this. I was wondering… on your croquis, why do the sleeves look like they’re sort of folded behind the garment, rather than the sleeve seam meeting the body at the underarm?

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  • Paula – NefariousKnitWit

    Thank you for explaining all the things that go into designing. Every time I read your blog it makes me want to go to FIT. I wish I would’ve thought of that 8 years ago.

  • Marguerite Dulik

    Thank you so much for this explaination. I seem to struggle with the sketches more than anything else. I cant wait to go and practice.

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  • Shea

    Love this and can’t wait to read the other posts.

  • isha

    this is so gud thank for such a useful information i wish i could have teacher like you in my college time.