Everyone knows how to use a paper and pencil and I’m certainly not going to try to teach you how to draw. But what tools should you use for making paper patterns?
First is the paper. Some will tell you they like their paper as light weight as possible because it handles better when cutting stretchy fabrics. Others like to use cardboard because it last longer and is much less likely to tear. Consider how you are likely to use your patterns and you’ll have a better idea of what weight you need. The other consideration, of course, is what is available to you. Most stationary shops sell varying weights but not varying size sheets. Some sewing supply shops also have pattern paper with a pre-printed square grid.
When it comes to pencils I use the clicky pencils with a 0.5mm lead. They’re always sharp and less likely to smudge or transfer to your fabrics. A hint for when you are finished drafting your patterns is to spray over the pencil lines lightly with workable fixative spray or even hair spray. This prevents any smudging or transferance.
As far as rulers are concerned, the more the merrier. A really big set square is essential, followed closely by a steel meter rule (or yard stick). There are many different french curves available that make quick work of things like armholes, but as far as curves go there is nothing that beats a flexible ruler (often called a flexicurve). A flexible ruler is a plastic or rubbery ruler with a strip of bendy steel going through the middle that allows you to bend it smoothly into any curve, and then back again. They come in all lengths, but the longer the better.
When it comes to cutting out patterns a good selection of big and small paper shears are really useful. There is also a neat little device called a notcher which is a cross between a pair of scissors and a hole punch. While they come in varying shapes, they all essentially cut a uniform notch through the pattern paper (and fabric if you wish to use it for both). Notches are cuts in the seam allowance that allow you to accurately line up pattern pieces.
Lastly, a collection of sticky tapes, glues, tape measures, erasers, coloured pencils, washable ink pens, tracing pin wheels, pattern weights and almost any item from a stationary shop are all nice extras you will use from time to time. Pattern making equipment will grow as fast as your fabric stash!
If you really want to take pattern making seriously, however, you should consider using CAD.