Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Best patterning book reviews

click on all pics to make them larger

Inspired by Stephanie, over at The Naked Seamstress , a lovely dressmaking blog which I have discovered recently, I thought I would show you some of my sewing books which I have been glued to over the past few years. First of all, the pattern making books:

Above is the first book on pattern making that I bought. It looks quite simple and appealing for that, but it's rubbish! I have never managed to really understand what the author is going on about, and on re-visiting the book, now that I know what I'm going on about, I still can't fathom it!

It was of course my adventures in corsetry which led to my fascination with pattern cutting in the first place. I needed to know HOW a corset works - the engineering aspect. I am one of those types of people who needs to fully understand the reasons behind something in order to 'do it', and so I found this book in my Christmas Stocking one year, a very generous present from Mr Marmalade. It explains in full detail the concept of the French Block - how to draw one, make one, fit one, and then how to design your corset or garment within it, for the French block (or sloper as it is also known), is the basis of all garment manufacture and design.

This book explained very well the importance of measurements and how they relate to the paper diagram. Most importantly, this is the ONLY book I have which explains the Bust Point well (or even at all!). Let me just tell you ... the bust point is where your nipples are - it's different for everyone. The distance between nipples is VITAL because when you have drawn your front block, you need to know where the dart apex should be - so you draw a line which measures half the distance between your nipples, parallel to the centre front line, and there is the line upon which your bust point should be.

Being a book about corsetry, it obviously only deals with the block for the upper section of the body, but this is the hardest part to grasp when pattern making because there are so very many possibilities and ofcourse as you know, I am obsessed with bust fittings - my own having been a constant conundrum over the pre-Bravissimo years. Therefore, my next project to try soon is the bra instructions in this book.

There is no substitute ofcourse for a real life teacher, and I am very happy to have had some personal training - as documeted elsewhere on this blog - which has added a turbo boost to my understanding of pattern making. Being able to ask questions, and see demonstrations is quite essential when learning how to do this and I would fully reccommend anyone interested in pattern making to try and find a teacher or course, however basic. If you have a passion, then all you need are a few pointers to light the way.

As corsetry ignited my interest in general dressmaking, I decided, along with finding a teacher, that I needed a more general book and this is the one I was recommended. It's one of the industry standards for fashion students and is very very good. There are some parts of it which are a little hard to decipher but on the whole, this book is a brilliant introduction with clear and concise diagrams, instructions and explanations.

There are chapters on all aspects of flat pattern cutting for all types of garment in a huge range of styles. The initial chapters focus on basic block building for bodice, arms, skirt and trousers, and then the rest has instructions on how to customise those blocks as required.

There are also chapters in this book explaining how to cut patterns for stretch and jersey fabrics which don't need darts, and at the end, a look at the more commercial aspects of fashion design.

This book is a new acquisition:

It is all about construction of garments from the initial pattern making, to special finishes for special fabrics ... It starts off with lots of different techniques which are not found in the previous two books - this book is much more "creative", with inspirational pictures from the catwalk and quotes from all the famous designers.

Rather than be put off by these glamorous catwalk pictures, I find them very interesting. At first glance these beautiful gowns look absolutely impossible! But this book breaks them down and shows you that although they are stunning works of art, they are constructed using the same techniques as described in any pattern cutting book. It is the mastery of these techniques by the designers, the cutters, and the people who sew them, that makes these clothes special.

There is a whole section in this book on "support" but this doesn't just include corsetry as one might imagine. It also includes tailoring techniques, information about interfacings and other support structures, along with descriptions and tips on how to generally sculpt, shape and manipulate your fabric.

These are the books I have, but there are more on my Amazon wishlist!

A book about draping - you drape muslin over your dress form, shape as required, and then make a pattern from it. Fascinating!


  1. I *need* that book on altering patterns for full busts - my alterations sort of work but they're a bit hit and miss ... off to Amazon, thanks for the info!

  2. the winifred aldrich is one we were required to buy at college (i did costume for theatre)... natalie bray is another pattern cutting author and i have 2 books of hers which i have used with good success. martin shoben and lily silberberg do a great draping book... i had the pleasure of meeting lily on a course about 18 years ago now (god that makes me feel old)... i love draping (as opposed to flat)... it is my preferred method of pattern making...
    i dug out all my books this year with a view to refreshing my memory and brushing up on my skills but as yet have not really done this... well a new calendar year looms so maybe i will achieve this in 2010?

    thank you for sharing your experience ... the fashion one looks good.
    lots of love
    ginny xxx

  3. Thanks for sharing your books with us. I have been meaning to ask you what books you used to learn corsetry. Now I know! I might give corstery and bra making a try some day myself. It seems to be particularly helpful to learn some corstery and garment foundation techniques when you are on the fuller busted side. Yes, and the Full Bust book is going on my wishlist too!

  4. You are so lucky to have a pattern cutting tutor, I'm dead jealous!!! Does she know
    anyone that teaches in the Hampshire area. I want to study pattern cutting but
    the courses at the local college either get cancelled, or aren't up to much.

    I agree with your comment regarding Helen Armstrong, she makes it easy to understand and very visual. I find Winnie quite old fashioned and not easy to understand.