Make Unique Fashion Design Patterns With Pepakura Paper Craft (Laser Cut Fabric and Leather)




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3D to 2D to 3D Transfer: Make Unique Fashion Design Patterns with Pepakura Paper Craft (Lasercut)

Inspired by Japanese Papercraft, Artist Michael Koehle and I teamed up and combined our skills to make garment patterns that are not just a great fit, but also a platform for imagination and creation through algorithmic software (check out his other instructables, he's awesome :)

We made a corset pattern together and then I took that and made it into a gown. Use this technique to make patterns for any kind of garment: pants, suit, gown, corset, hat, skirt... if you can think of it, you can apply this technique.

We had a lot of fun and learned quite a bit from each other. The following steps will walk you through exactly how we did it.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

You will need:

  • Pepakura Pattern Making Program:
  • Base geometry of a body shape for pattern to be made from.
    • If available, use the 3D scan data of the person who will be wearing the garment
    • OR download free cad geometry online from a site like Thingiverse or Mudbox Community
  • Main Material that pattern will be cut from, preferrably something that safe to laser cut and is self-binding when the edges are laser cut (ie leather, wool)
  • Lining fabric or underlying premade garment to attach your pieces to if your garment calls for it
  • Measuring tape and basic sewing supplies
  • Fabric Fusing if your design calls for it
  • Laser Cutter (or an e-xacto knife and a lot of patience)
  • Garment form / dress form helps but not necessary

Step 2: Create Your Design in Pepakura

Pepakura is software designed for generating paper craft models - paper cuts out that you can fold and construct into 3D models. It will take a 3d form and flatten it or unfold it into 2d by making cuts and flattening adjacent faces. Usually it is used with simple models. But when it is fed more complex higher poly models, it can generate some very interesting and surprising patterns - like this!

For this project, we fed it a few different cad models, including a corset and full length dress that I designed from a 3D body scan of myself in a corset. We liked the idea of starting with a form based on scan data, flattening this into 2D, and then remixing it back to 3D for many reasons but most importantly for a great fit. You can use 3d body scan data if you have it, or use cad models of body or dress forms that you find and download online. If you are versed in cad modeling, you may resize or sculpt over the models but do not have to (you can always scale before laser cutting the pattern).

The software will behave differently based on the model geometry, the size and type of polygon (quad or triangle), and a few user settings, such as show tabs, or a threshold for joining adjacent edges. Play with these settings with different models to find something that inspires you!

Step 3: Choose Your Favorite Design

Patterns are generated for your inspiration!
When choosing your pattern, consider:

  • pick out the design that you are most attracted to!
  • you do not have to use all parts and pieces
  • the parts do not have to fit or fold back together if you do not want them to
  • you can use parts meant for one part of the body on another part or different orientation

be creative and have fun!

If you are not using a laser cutter and going to be printing this pattern and cutting this pattern by hand, consider the simplicity / difficulty of the pattern's design.

Once you choose the pattern you like, measure the pattern to be sure that it will fit the intended garment size.

Step 4: Prep File for Laser Cutting

  • Export your files in vector format as EMF files for use with Adobe Illustrator.
  • After importing into AI, change you Art Board settings to match the print bed of your laser cutter and change your stroke with to what is compatible with vector cutting (.001" for Epilog laser cutters).
  • Fit pattern within the size of the laser bed cut area
  • If the pattern spans across multiple pieces, plan your design so it is not abruptly broken up on the body. (My gown took 3 24x36 inch pieces).
  • Measure again before cutting to be sure that your pattern fits the intended measurements

Step 5: Prepare Material

If laser cutting, cut material to size of laser bed.
Consider if you would like to back it.

I used grey leather backed with red silk dupioni and used fuseable web to adhere them before cutting.

Step 6: Cut Your Material

Laser Cut Your Material

You may want to test your design on paper or a test material / fabric first.
Laser cut your material or test material

When starting in on your final material, be sure to test a small area first. This will depend on your material, the power of your cutter, and its age. For our leather (about 1/16" thick) backed with silk, the vector cutter settings we used were speed 40/power 85/ frequency 500.

If you don't have a laser cutter:

Print out pattern to size. (Can print out several 8x10s and piece together), use as you would a traditional pattern.

Step 7: Test Your Pattern for Fit and Aesthetics

Now that you have your pieces cut out, arrange them in whatever orientation is inspiring!
Layout the pieces on the dress form and see how they fit. Rearrange them as you like!

What do you like? What did you learn?

Any revisions to be made?

Does the shape of the material hanging in the cut out form inspire you to do something in a different way?

Once I put my piece on the form, I realized that lacing up the front would look amaze! So I went for it and tested what that would look like.

I learned that I liked the tabs that stuck out of my design, and that I wanted it to be full-length.

Step 8: Make Revisions/Additions

I wanted to make my corset form into a full-length gown. I tried modeling the geometry into a gown and putting that into the Pepakura software, but it did not give similar results. We tried a number of things. So I designed the skirt bottom pieces by hand by replicating design elements from the corset pattern top. This was super labor intensive but I felt was worth it for the design.

I expanded on the idea of the tabs sticking out and designed the hip area tabs to come to points. While I was working with the grey leather, I was also inspired to back the leather with red silk dupioni, so I did that by fusing the silk to the leather... then went back to the laser cutter for a 2nd (and 3rd) round!

** You do not have to hang your pieces flat on your garment, maybe they hang or fold over each other in an interesting way, how could you attach them to give a different, more sculptural effect?

Do you need to cut more?

Step 9: Prepare for Final Assembly

Lay out all pieces as you'd like for final assembly.

I liked laying all of my pieces out flat and organized so I saw what I had to work with.

Your cut pattern pieces may be large enough or strong enough that you do not need another lining or a layer to attach them to.

For this garment, I created a sheer dress as a structure to hold the pattern pieces in place on the form. You can create your own garment pattern to match the styling or the pepakura pattern or use a pre-made garment and attach the pepakura pieces to that.

Step 10: Put Your Garment Together

I sewed a sheer dress as a base for my Pepakura corset and skirt pattern pieces. Since it is sheer and I wanted a nice finished look, I sewed french seams that were about the same size as my pepakura pieces so that the pieces would blend into the look of the seams.

Then I adhered the leather and silk pieces with fuseable web and fabri-tac, and stitched down key places by hand. I decided to only attach the bottom pieces at waist and hip and leave the lower sections free from the sheer lining dress so that they would flow with movement.

I added grommets down the front for lacing and on some other areas of the garment where I may add chain or interchangeable decorative pieces in the future.

Step 11: Finish Garment and Enjoy!

Thought I'd be finished at this point but now I have so many more ideas that I want to work on the gown more! I love the look of it inside-out with the pieces hanging on the inside and plan to use some of the grommet holes as "ports" to hang pieces inside. I also plan to add brass pull chain for decoration and weight.

I look forward to see what you make with this pattern technique.

Please share pics and post comments!
Happy Making!
xo Amy



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    10 Discussions


    3 years ago



    3 years ago

    I loved the view of the sewing bench.
    Magnificent !
    if you don't mind me asking, Where is it exactly?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you! It is at Autodesk Pier 9 Workshop.
    The view is of the San Francisco Bay / Bay Bridge, part of downtown where Market meets Embarcadero.


    3 years ago

    l love it!!!:-)


    3 years ago

    You must have confused me with someone else. I've never been in San Francisco.


    3 years ago

    wow! Interesting collaboration. I really enjoyed the inviting tone of your instructables writing style.

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Very cool and cool looking!


    3 years ago

    This looks absolutely amazing! I love the red silk dupioni. :)


    3 years ago

    That is utterly sugoi, as they say in Japanese. Your modern spiky gown gets my vote.