The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Croquis – What, Why and How?

Croquis – no it isn’t this year’s latest flu virus (thank heavens).  So what is a croquis?  Technically, a croquis (crow-kee’) is a rough preliminary sketch (it’s French, hence the pronunciation).  Please note the below illustration is a warped view of the human body – the legs are abnormally long and the rest of the body is out of proportion as well.  This just illustrates our really warped view of what we think of as normal!  But this is a standard croquis that designers use – ick!!!

Here's a graphic group of typical designer croquis

That’s the what, but why?  For we who sew, it is a quick and sure way to check out styles and design ideas without having to make the whole out fit up.  This is a favorite tool for designers, and no reason why we sewsits can’t use it as well.

This is a fun little article on how fashion designers use and make their own croquis books which help them organize and hone-down their ideas into a collection or at the least, into a workable number of designs for a collection.

The part that is really noteworthy here is look at the first picture of a “would be” croquis book – it’s got all sorts of designer ideas.  When I talk about the runway as inspiration, this is exactly the same thing that designers do day in and day out – what’s old is new again, and although these shapes, styles and designs will be reworked and freshened up, there is a lot of inspiration to be taken from designers looks on the runway!

NOTE:  This is not copying.  Although we can and some do, do that, this is being inspired, motivated, encouraged, sparked or however you want to express it.  This is often enough to get the creative juices going and that’s the purpose of something that inspires us.

OK – on to a croquis and how to make one…

All efforts have been made to protect the innocent (or the guilty in this case!)

First take a picture of yourself, and make sure you erase it from the disk after you’ve used it so it won’t be on the internet later this week!  But this is my picture (and don’t get any ideas about circulating it as you can see, I’ve blacked out the important identifying parts!!! or at least that’s what I’m telling myself!!!)

After you take a picture, then print it out and trace it.  If you have a nice draw (vector) program you can import your photo into the draw program (CorelDraw or Open Office are two vector draw programs) and trace the photo off and have an electronic copy, or you can trace the photo by putting it on a light box, or on a bright day on the window and trace a copy for yourself.



I did an electronic version for me.

This worked out well, as now I can print out as many as I need and even paste one on the front of the fridge (to loose that extra 10 lbs I got during last holiday’s feeding frenzy!)

But this can tell me a lot, especially when I’m doing a new jacket (my new Palm Beach Peach Ultrasuede jacket)…is it the right style for my size and shape.  (I know it’s going to be great for my style as I’ve been dreaming of one ever since early January – isn’t this how we beat the winter doldrums is by dreaming of lively colored things for spring & summer?)



Well, here’s how well it worked for me.

I love this jacket from October Burdastyle, 2010 and I’m doing a combo of two variations on this jacket:







I’m doing the body of the left with the collar of the right, and since it’s in Ultrasuede and I don’t have to worry about a seam allowance, I’m not raising the neckline any more than what is already there (with the 5/8th seam still attached) – IOW, the collar will be 5/8 higher than normal.  But how would this look on me? (Confession – I pretty much already know cause this is just my sort of thing – that great princess-y type seam with that side dart thingie, and the high collar are all magic things that I love so much so it was going to have to be something horrible for me not to like this jacket), but for the sake of this, I did do a croquis – otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to show you – and that would be very boring!

OK what I like about this is that instantly I can tell, I’m on the right track.  I can also see why I love pants (they make me look tall and elongate me so my hips don’t look so wide).  I knew this looking in the mirror, but this really makes the point in my croquis.


The jacket looks fine and I knew it would, but drawing it straight on my croquis makes it show how it’s going to look on me – no extra alterations (stronger shoulders, more nipped in waist) are needed.




Hopefully you can see the value of this, so when you’re looking at the latest styles on the Paris runway, here you can translate them to your own shape and make any alterations or changes you need to make it great for your size and shape.  And believe me, you will know when you see it on your croquis.


  1. Claire –

    Forgive me for being obtuse, but how do you know how to draw the garment on your croquis? How do you know where the jacket hem will hit? The shoulder point?

    How do you know you are drawing the jacket as designed and not your interpretation of it? You said it had strong shoulders, and on your croquis it does. But does the pattern have it that way? What if the shoulders on the pattern are actually extended?

    What clues on the technical drawing should I be paying attention when I draw a garment on my croquis so I see the garment as it is designed?

  2. PS – I forgot to thank you for the great info. Thanks for showing us how you went from photo to drawing.

  3. I guess I need to do this. I’ve seen several blog posts about making a croquis, but just haven’t done it. It will probably help me a lot!

  4. Lady T asks good questions!!

  5. Thanks for your post on this blog. From my personal experience, there are occassions when softening upwards a photograph might provide the digital photographer with a little bit of an artistic flare. Sometimes however, the soft cloud isn’t precisely what you had at heart and can sometimes spoil a normally good photo, especially if you intend on enlarging them.

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