Drafting to measure pattern book recommendations

A question from my mail, I apologize my response is very lengthy:

I really like The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers because it has comprehensive theory explanations. So many texts don’t give you those tidbits that you learn when you learn directly from an instructor but this one does a good job of providing more information than most. Unfortunately, it does not provide measurements that enable someone to draft a standard size using the book’s instructions. It has a very detailed measurement guide which would allow someone to draft a pattern if they had a fit model of some sort but I am getting emails from students and indie designers who want to sell clothes on Etsy and they do not fall into this category. They don’t know how to grade patterns and can not afford professional grading for clothes they will sell just on Etsy so they can only use themselves or their dressform for measurements which means they can only make clothing in one size.

I was wondering if you would be able to recommend a patternmaking book that teaches how to draft slopers in the standard sizes?

The quick and dirty answer is I don’t know of any that are likely to meet the needs of people you describe. The gamut of historical protests to the contrary, accurate drafting to measure eliminating the possibility of iteration remains the elusive holy grail.

My question is this, they can draft but they cannot grade? Pattern making is a higher level skill than grading. Learning to grade is easier than learning to make patterns. The more important point is that it is less work to grade a pattern than it is to create an entirely new draft for another size. They’re looking for a book to draft in all the various sizes when their time is better spent in learning how to grade. Put more to the point, drafting takes much longer, grading is 1/10th the time (estimated).

Put it this way. Assuming this miracle book were available, they’d have to start by drafting a block pattern. Then they’d have to make another pattern to produce the variety of styling features. Then they’d have to sew it up to test it and hope the thing came out the way they imagined. Testing the fit would be a problem if they didn’t have a body available so they’d be flying in the dark. They’d have to do this for every single size. I can’t even begin to link to every article I’ve written about sizing but this category might be helpful as will this one.

Do they know they can’t afford grading? Grading is very inexpensive, I’m guessing they’re looking in the wrong place. There are enterprising individuals who target DIY producers and charge a premium because the customer doesn’t know where to look. Perhaps those grading services are their point of comparison.

I am trying to find a textbook which will provide not only instructions but also the measurements needed to draft their beginning sloper so that they can develop their blocks and patterns in multiple sizes.

There is another problem here. There remains a huge misunderstanding about the function of pattern drafting and grading books.

  • Pattern and grading books teach concepts. They largely do not provide sizing.
  • Sizing specifications do not teach concepts of drafting or grading; they only provide data.

A grading or drafting book is not a book about sizing specifications. They’re about how to draft or grade patterns -a concept. The concepts of grading and drafting do not change and will be useful at any point in history. On the other hand, sizing specifications will need to change frequently. If you were to select a pattern book for anything other than concepts, you’d select one based on garment styling (or fabrication), features that are currently popular. I am frequently annoyed to read reviews about patterns (store-bought) or books that the reviewer claims are not any good because the patterns or drafts do not fit them personally. Look around you. Everyone is shaped differently. The day we are all sized and shaped identically is the day it is reasonable to have this expectation.

The reason you should not select a book based on sizing charts is because sizes are not static, sizes evolve just like people do. However, the process of grading (moving up or down in set increments) does not change. This is static. Grading books should not give “standard” grading charts. If you want sizing standards aka size specifications (what you expect from a book), you have to buy those separately, usually from ASTM although many people reverse engineer grades by comparing other products. A specifications book (were there such a thing, there are only charts) won’t teach you how to grade so why would one expect a grading book to give you specs?

Another reason why books cannot give sizing specifications is that there is no such thing as a standard size. The measures that constitute a given size depend on demography. Contrary to popular belief, high end apparel is sized smaller than mass market clothes. The reason is, richer people are thinner. If their clothes were sized larger, there wouldn’t be anything for them to buy. You cannot compare a Ralph Lauren purple label product to a lowest price point Ralph Lauren label sold in outlet stores because it’s intended for entirely different customers. Lifestyles matter. The average western wear size is larger than say, ballerina leotards. Even sizing within the eco apparel market is different depending on the customer’s age and profile.

In other words, for a drafting book to meet the expectations of the indie and DIY producers you describe, there would need to be …oh, I don’t know, at least ten different kinds of pattern drafting books and they’d have to be updated to reflect sizing changes. There would have to be one written for fit petite misses, tall juniors, tall (or short) middle-aged women, older women (and men), young tall athletic types, women who are bottom heavy, those who are bustier …in other words, specialized books to match the given fitting profile -and it’s just not going to happen. It’s a good thing there’s no such thing as a standard size because people don’t come in a standard size. The only way you can do this is to develop one base size that mirrors the sizing characteristics of the ideal customer and to make it comparatively smaller or larger. Anything else is custom -and another story entirely (see at close).

A side jaunt, a just suppose situation about drafting to measure. The pre-1960’s sizing numbers were not arbitrarily drawn out of thin air. These numbers were a drafting reference for the pattern maker and actually meant something. A size 18 meant that the 18 on the reverse side of both the long and short arms of a tailor’s L-square, could be used as the standard derivative that was anthropometrically appropriate as a draft to fit that person. The number 18 did not represent size as much as it represented what was called “scale“. Scale was a historical standard developed by tailors and cutters over many years. Much of this information is empirical but still, one cannot deny the rough pattern that emerges considering how certain number patterns correlate expressed in terms of one given human being versus any other. These table of aliquot parts are still used in many parts of the world and form the basis of what are largely known to the rest of us as grade rules.

The numbering system evolved. It used to be based on data and was a static reminder, silk screened on every tailor’s L-square in a table of aliquot parts. Consumer and/or buyer activism changed the numbering system into something more manageable for them because “18” meant nothing to them. It’s not as though they could multiply this by two and arrive at their full bust measure. The change in sizing designation posed a number of conflicts among manufacturers. For one thing, sizing numbers had represented scale which was printed on every tailor’s square. Now, the sizing numbers were ambiguous, representing a profile of a consumer for which there was no data (hence the growth of dress form companies!). It’s pretty dramatic if you think about it. Before, using scale, one could draft for any person given the most basic of information such as height, weight and chest measure -if that’s all the information available- and still get within a respectable spitting distance of fitting that person. Now all of the sudden, sizing numbers are not based on scale at all, the method is no longer taught and the system is in wide disarray.

It is possible that one could learn to draft to scale for custom purposes by poring over dense verbiage in archaic pattern books but this is not certain, fast or easy. My caveat remains; it would still mean drafting each style anew which is much more laborious than grading to a set profile. This would only be appropriate for producing custom garments.

If anyone is interested, here are only a few texts online that mention drafting to scale.
Ladies’ Garment Cutting and Making
T.W.Byrnes New and Improved System
Clute’s Actual Measurement System

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25 Comments on "Drafting to measure pattern book recommendations"

5 years 7 months ago

Kathleen thanks for the detailed reply!

5 years 7 months ago

They tell the pattern grader they are making clothing for women after children, age 35-50. They have not conducted a measurement survey either because it’s out of their budget/resources or because they are unaware it is something they should do.

The information needed depends on the customer; much of which is demography and the market (in my book, there’s a full page form on page 40 that helps determine this). If somebody says they’re hoping to hit X brand’s customer, that says a lot. Disposable income matters too.

Essentially they would be coming to Stuart without enough information but according to Kathleen in that article a newbie can say just a one or two inch grade and from Stuart’s post it also sounds like he would prefer much more.

The difference btwn Stuart’s advice and mine is context. Every customer is different. Some need a lot of hand holding, some don’t. If the customer is experienced, a grader needs a lot less information (in other entries I go into a great deal of detail as Stuart has). Personally? If the customer is new and not proven, I want a lot more information, not less. This is better described as butt covering. If the designer doesn’t know that much and a grader does the work properly, the customer may not know enough to know the work was done well. So, if you get more info, a grader always has that to fall back on so they are not blamed for the client’s possibly questionable decisions.

As far as grading itself, grade rules don’t vary that much between market segments, grading is not morphing! The fit characteristics are built into the stock size pattern. Grading only makes that fitting profile larger or smaller. This difference in these concepts is often misunderstood. Sizing characteristics, iow, the measures that constitute a given fitting profile are not the same thing as grade rules.

I’m wondering what would be ideal (given the new designer’s limited experience / abilities).

Again, there is no easy answer to this (and why I’ve written over 30 different articles about sizing and grading). It’s a difficult dance. Some designers don’t know much and they know it; some don’t know but think they do and others think they don’t but do. The situation is as variable as clothing itself. It’s all the not-knowing where ever it lay, that causes high costs.

I had one customer who thought he was an expert. Oh my, what an expert he led everyone to believe he was (a former forum member) -to the extent that he sent me detailed sizing specs of which the grade rules broke down into 39/64ths or 63/64ths and even, 67/128ths. Did I mention these specs were for karate uniforms? Seriously. Three piece patterns of wrap over tops and two piece elastic waist pull on pants. Because I’m stupid, I spent a week going back and forth with him, that it was not workable and that matters such as 63/64th amounted to calculation errors but he insisted. So in the end, I just sent it back. I wasn’t going to be responsible for this mess. All the time I spent was a waste of my time and money.

5 years 7 months ago

Alison, thanks for the quick reply and links :) To be honest I thought I had read all of Kathleen’s grading articles but I don’t recognize those ones!

What I wonder is if brand new designer comes to the pattern grader and thinks they have everything… They’ve got their finalized pattern in their size 8 and want it graded up and down. They tell the pattern grader they are making clothing for women after children, age 35-50. They have not conducted a measurement survey either because it’s out of their budget/resources or because they are unaware it is something they should do (they are a new grad for instance and were always under the impression they just give the pattern to someone and get new sizes). Essentially they would be coming to Stuart without enough information but according to Kathleen in that article a newbie can say just a one or two inch grade and from Stuart’s post it also sounds like he would prefer much more. I’m wondering what would be ideal (given the new designer’s limited experience / abilities).

I’m gonna go ask a question on that article…thanks for the link, I don’t know how I missed that one.

5 years 7 months ago

AJ, Kathleen has written on this a few times. See http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/giving_instructions_to_a_pattern_grader/ and follow the internal links. There’s also a Part 2 of this article. Does this help?

5 years 7 months ago

Stuart, what would your suggestion be for a new company that does not have the capabilities of conducting their own measurement survey within their target market? I see only two options that would be thought of by a new company: either use a purchased or given measurement table (hand-me-downs) or bring the finalized pattern in one size and a description of the target market and assume the grader can figure it out.

What could that new company do to help the grader produce a better result?