Tools Of The Trade: A Guide To Essential Pattern Drafting Tools For Bag Designers

Designing and creating your own bag patterns can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. 

Pattern drafting is the process of creating a paper pattern that can be used to cut and assemble the pieces of your bag. When starting out with bag pattern design, it’s essential to have the right tools at your disposal to ensure that your patterns are precise and accurate.

In this blog post, I will share essential pattern drafting tools I use daily when designing my patterns.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced bag designer, these tools will help you create professional-looking patterns that will form the foundation of your bag-making projects.

Essential pattern drafting tools

Mechanical pencil

Unlike traditional wooden pencils, mechanical pencils have a lead that can be advanced or retracted using a button or twist mechanism, allowing you to maintain a consistent line thickness throughout your pattern. This is especially important when creating precise and accurate bag patterns.

The lead in a mechanical pencil can also be easily replaced, making it a cost-effective option in the long run.

When using a mechanical pencil for pattern drafting, choosing a lead thickness appropriate for your project is important. A 0.5mm lead is a good all-purpose option, but you may want to use a thicker lead for bolder lines or a thinner lead for more delicate details.

Find the mechanical pencil set here.

Pattern drafting paper

Pattern drafting paper is a critical tool for bag designers because it provides a foundation for creating precise and accurate bag patterns. Pattern drafting paper comes in various styles and sizes, from large sheets to rolls, and each has unique features that make it suitable for specific projects. 

I like to use dot and cross paper. The dots allow you to mark the starting and ending points of lines, while the crosses make it easy to create angles and curves. Additionally, because the dots and crosses are evenly spaced, it can help ensure that your patterns are symmetrical and proportionate.

Find the pattern paper here.

Tracing paper

Tracing paper is a translucent paper that allows you to easily trace and transfer your designs from one paper to another. This is particularly useful when creating patterns that require multiple pieces or when you need to adjust your design, such as adding seam allowances or changing the size of a pattern piece. 

When using tracing paper, it’s important to work on a smooth, flat surface and use a sharp pencil to make clear and precise lines.

Tracing paper comes in various weights and sizes and can be found in most art supply stores or online. 

Find the tracing paper here.

Tape measure

A tape measure allows you to accurately measure the bag’s dimensions and components, such as straps, handles, pockets, and zippers which are crucial for creating a functional bag.

Make sure to get a flexible measuring tape that’s easy to read, with clear markings and easily visible numbers.

Find the tape measure here.

Pattern master

The pattern master is an essential tool for anyone who wants to create accurate and professional-looking patterns for bags. It is a ruler explicitly designed for pattern drafting and a must-have for any serious bag designer. 

The pattern master is made from durable and flexible plastic, making it easy to use and handle. It comes in various curves, angles, and straight edges that can be combined to create complex shapes. The curves are ideal for creating rounded edges on bags. In contrast, the straight edges provide clean lines, sharp angles and consistent seam allowances. This versatility allows you to experiment with different designs and create a wide range of bag styles, from tote bags to backpacks to clutches.

Another advantage of the pattern master is that it is transparent, making it easy to see through and align with your fabric. This allows you to place your pattern pieces accurately on your fabric and cut them out confidently, knowing they will fit together perfectly.

If you’re serious about designing your own bag patterns, a pattern master is a tool that you won’t want to be without.

Find the pattern master here.

Straight (quilting) ruler

A straight ruler is one of the most basic but essential tools for pattern drafting. Rulers come in various sizes and shapes, ranging from a small six-inch ruler to a longer 24-inch one.

They are used to create straight lines and are especially useful for creating designs with geometric shapes, such as tote bags. You can use a ruler to measure straight lines, angles, curves, and other shapes.

Some rulers come with additional features such as grids, dots, and angled lines to help you create more intricate patterns.

Find the quilting ruler here:


A notcher is a small tool that is used to create small, V-shaped notches on the edges of your paper pattern pieces. These notches help to eliminate guesswork and ensure that your pieces are aligned correctly, even when working with complex shapes and curves.

Notchers come in various shapes and sizes, but they all function similarly.

When selecting a notcher, look for a tool with a sharp blade and a comfortable handle that feels good in your hand. 

Find the notcher here.



A compass lets you quickly draw precise circles, arcs, and curves.

You can use it to create circular elements such as bag handles or rounded corners and curved edges for the body of the bag. 

The precision offered by a compass ensures that all of these elements are perfectly symmetrical and proportionate, giving your bag a professional look and feel.

Various compasses are available on the market, ranging from simple plastic models to more advanced metal versions with adjustable arms. When choosing a compass, it’s important to consider the size and scale of your bag design and the level of precision you require.

Find the compass here.

Tracing wheel

A tracing wheel is a small, hand-held tool with a serrated wheel that is used to transfer pattern markings onto your fabric or paper pattern. The serrated edge of the wheel leaves a tiny indentation or perforation in the paper or fabric, which can be easily followed when cutting or trancing your pattern pieces.

Tracing wheels are handy for transferring pattern markings that are difficult to see or otherwise tricky to mark directly onto the fabric. They’re also a time-saving tool as they allow you to transfer markings quickly and accurately without drawing them out by hand.

Tracing wheels come in different sizes and serration patterns to suit different types of fabrics and paper. For example, a serration pattern with more prominent teeth is better for thicker materials. A smaller tooth pattern is more suited to thinner fabrics or paper patterns.

Find the tracing wheel here.

In conclusion, the right tools are essential for pattern drafting when designing bags. 

While investing in quality tools may seem like an added expense, they’ll save you time and frustration in the long run by helping you create precise and accurate patterns. Remember, the more accurate your designs are, the more professional the final product will look. With the right tools and practice, you’ll be well on your way to designing your unique and beautiful bag patterns!

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