February 03, 2014

Pattern drafting in LibreCAD

At the start of the new year I commented about trying to figure out what to do next. I described my feelings as reaching the end of one road and trying to decide which road to take next. You might assume there were only a few options, but in reality there are many. One option was to look at languishing projects to pick back up. I have two rather large projects. One will take me many years, the other is about half done.

The really large project is sodaCAD. I started a software project back in 2010, but let it drop because I lacked the skills to work on it. SodaCAD is my attempt at an open source pattern making software. Most commercial or enterprise level pattern making software packages are very expensive and have onerous maintenance fees and licensing. I've always wanted to provide an alternative.

After much research and a few different attempts, I stumbled upon LibreCAD. LibreCAD is a free alternative to AutoCAD. Commercial pattern making packages have AutoCAD at its core. LibreCAD contains many essential CAD drawing functions already, so it is a perfect foundation to build on. I actually learned how to draft patterns using AutoCAD in college. What I lack is programming skills, but that is slowly coming.

Before I can work on optimizing LibreCAD, I had to test it out and actually try drafting a pattern to test its capabilities. It took a bit of time, but I managed to draft a bodice front.*

LibreCAD is by no means the ideal solution (not yet!) for this kind of work. It is, in many ways better than Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape. Illustrator and Inkscape lack precision and efficiency. Inkscape in particular, tends to be fuzzy when it comes to numbers. Say you draw a square that is 25 x 25, but you move one side out 1 inch. Now you have a rectangle that is 25 x 25.95. LibreCAD has no issues with precision. It does lack efficiency for pattern making, so I made many mental notes for improvement.

LibreCAD is available for use now on Windows, Mac, and Linux. If you do decide to try it out, I would recommend watching some video tutorials on YouTube. The interface and drawing functions take some learning. I have no idea how long it will take to get SodaCAD ready for use.

*This pattern piece is available in sodaCAD source files for demonstration and testing purposes.


  1. Wow, an open source pattern making CAD, what a wonderful initiative!
    I have no experience drafting digitally, but I would very much like to learn, to help in my pattern drafting. On the other hand, I am a trained programmer, been doing that since 10 yo. I would like to contribute to the project, how can I do that?

    1. More info can be found at http://www.sodacad.org/