Metric Pattern Cutting for Children’s Wear and Babywear

I bought the latest edition of Metric Pattern Cutting for Children’s Wear and Babywear last month and meant to post my review sooner. Sorry ’bout that.

If you have the third edition and have been happy with it, I don’t see much need to get this fourth edition. The value of the much ballyhooed color coding designed to facilitate instruction was negligible. I assumed the color coding would be in the drafts (where it’d be useful) but it was used as the background for flats in the sidebars. Color wise, you get shades of green or grey, hope you’re not colorblind and have trouble discerning green values. What I did find useful was the re-organization and prioritization of the material itself. This difference between editions is strikingly clear on the table of contents page and a vast improvement over what is now, a comparatively cluttered TOC of the third edition.

New material
New material in this text is a section on drafting for girls with developing figures, what we’d call tweens (girls ages 11-14). It is not a large section (13 pages) but covers the block development of fitting shells for bodices, dresses, skirts and trousers. For styling changes, one confers with other sections or other books entirely. Once you have the basic sizing and shape done, it really doesn’t matter which book you use to apply design attributes.

The text has an increased focus on the needs of obese children, characterized by the thoughtful discussion we’ve come to expect from Aldrich -in addition to sizing charts. Don’t skip the ten or so pages of dense text in the front matter and you’ll see what I mean. Invariably, someone is going to ask me if this is going to solve their sizing problems fully but it likely will not. It can only help. There is no book on the market that addresses this issue.

Form vs Flat
Aldrich makes the distinction between form vs flat pattern cutting in a context I’m not familiar with but it makes sense. To me, flat pattern making refers to two dimensional pattern making using paper. Its opposite being draping, a three dimensional process. Aldrich says form cutting -while done on “the flat” (as I define it) is shaped closer to the body, encompassing its curves and nuances. She defines flat patterning to making garments that are more easily folded and are more generic in shaping. I don’t do much of the latter so it wouldn’t have occurred to me to classify the two types. These differences may be stressed more in Britain (the author is English) but I cannot say. In any event, these two types of pattern cutting are in separate sections which can be useful if one is specifically targeting a given price point, form cutting being the higher of the two.

Is this book for you?
I can’t say. If you don’t have a children’s drafting book yet, this would be a good one to get with the caveat that no book is ever going to provide a complete solution. This is not a failure of the Aldrich book but of books generally. I like her books and the Blackwell Science (now Wiley) books but the format and presentation is a bit different. I am not aware of any current children’s drafting books on the market so this may be all you can get if you want up to date sizing information and current styling typical of today’s market. I also prefer how she illustrates grading points as compared to Cooklin.

If you need a great deal of hand holding, you may be frustrated. For example, a hood draft on page p.120 (photo below) lists the dimension of the hood height as being X centimeters between points 1-4 which cannot be true on the face of it (only 2 to 4 cm). The text reads “cervical to head crown” and lists the prescribed centimeters for each size but it should explain the prescribed centimeters are in addition to cervical height less total height -which equals the length of the head. FYI: cervical height is the distance from the floor up to C7. Someone accustomed to making patterns might grin a little that the total hood height is listed as 2-4 cm but they would know what to do, while someone who is less confident may be frustrated. If you are comfortable making obvious intuitive leaps with a bit of self checking, then you’ll be okay with any grey areas you find. It may not seem so obvious reading this on the page but if you’re working through the draft step by step it is.


The book is 9.5 x 7.5, with 211 pages in a lay flat hard cover binding. The list price is 52.99 but Amazon sells it for $42 and change.

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  1. Esther says:

    I have discussed form vs. flat a few times on my blog. I have interpreted Aldrich’s definition of flat as symmetry between the front and back in the armhole and body widths. This method is quite common in children’s clothing. You will find clothing in the big box stores done this way. Form or classic pattern making is found more commonly in special occasion clothing, but it is usually a blended approach between form and flat.

    Thank you for reviewing this book. I have the third edition and have not been motivated to buy the fourth. Though I was tempted simply because the cover design is so much better.

  2. “Aldrich says form cutting -while done on “the flat” (as I define it) is shaped closer to the body, encompassing its curves and nuances. She defines flat patterning to making garments that are more easily folded and are more generic in shaping.”

    While I’ve never heard the difference expressed this way (I agree with you that flat is 2D and draped is 3D), I used to get many sample notes that required the garment to “sit flat on the shelf”. Much of the basis for shelf garment design is how they crease when folded and have the weight of other garments stacked upon them … it means less effort for the retailer and infact can be shown to have increased shelf appeal to the consumer. While it never fits anywhere near as well, the consumer is more likely to pick it up and try it on if it folds flat and looks symmetrical … buyer behaviour studies show badly fitted but attractive shelf appear sells up to 5 times higher than better fitting but not so tidy on the shelf garment …. this is an example of consumer behaviour affecting design in one of the most stupid ways.

    Personally I don’t much like it for anything except childrens wear and tshirts where there’s usually so much ease it really doesn’t matter either way, but when companies request shelf garments to be close fit I generally shivver and ask myself if I really need the money.

    Of course this doesn’t really apply to hung presentation garments so I’m not really sure why anyone would worry about mentioning it in a basic patternmaking book ???

    In swimwear, for example, where the front half of a bust measurement is usually 4/7ths of the total if you were to ask me for a flat garment I’d say “sure … but you don’t mind the side seams sitting really forward do you? ” … then they look at me funny and say “just move the side seam to the exact side as per the illustration so it sits flat”. Designers just aren’t that technical generally … they can draw pretty pictures but they just aren’t mathematically minded!

    Hope that explains the “why” behind the two different “flat” definitions.

  3. I do own the third edition and I am happy to hear I don’t need a new one. Since I’ve not used it so far…
    My intention to buy it as non professional sewer was that I from time to time sew baby clothes as gifts. Only patterns for small babies are rare in Germany and when I was taking bigger sizes it happened several times that the baby grew faster or slower then the expected average growth (not really surprised…) and the warm winter jacket would either fit already in still warm september or in april and such things. So smaller size is what I’m aiming for. So I do not only need the “how to construct” I also need size charts and for me this book was the cheapest way to get them. (You can buy size charts in Germany, but they alone cost several hundreds of Euros…)
    Well, as I’ve said, not used so far, because there was no baby since I own it.

    But I used the book for womens wear for myself from the same author and found the instructions clear, I could follow them without much trouble. And the fit was so far okay. (Construction after my personal measurements)

    As far as the “flat cutting” is concerned I would agree with Steward Anderson, it’s okay for kids wear and simple sweaters. But what I learned over the last years is, that storing of clothes is different in different countries. In some countries hangers are not a common thing and everything is stored on shelves in normal households. So probably there also “flat” clothes are the better choice to buy for the customer?

  4. Bo Breda says:

    The real sad thing is that there is no American publisher who has bothered to put out a decent book on childrenswear for years. I have begged the editors to do so. Aldrich’s books in the various categories are often superior in approach to most of the patternmaking books which instructors are forced to use here because of the inches vs metric situation. What I do is require her books for upper level classes where students are already familiar with patternmaking in inches and use the book to address the problems of production overseas, sizing, etc. Thanks for bringing this up.

  5. Sandra B says:

    Winifred Aldrich has written another book called “Fabric, Form and Flat Patterncutting”. I haven’t seen it around much, but I love it. She has developed techniques for analysing and quantifying fabric characteristics such as thickness, stretch, shear, drape and weight. Part of the book is concerned with adapting patterns to work with these characteristics, including combining stretch with wovens. The second half is concerned with what she calls “flat cutting”, and the back of the book includes graphs of the basic shapes she uses. (Mostly baggy or stretch.) She has quite a few complex designs as examples, and the best bit is that she has the garments sewn up and photographed on a live model, with notes about the fabric characteristics and how they affect the pattern.

  6. Kathleen says:

    Stuart, I know you are right but it distresses me. And I’m not so blind as to fail to understand why retailers have those requirements. Iow, two additional factors contributing to the entropy of fit.

    Sandra, I have this book and pt.2. I also think they are great books. Maybe not for beginners but good for people who have the time and interest to explore and experiment.

  7. Dorothy Klein says:

    Dear Kathleen, I sew purely for my own enjoyment and my only sewing training was the beginning Singer sewing class I took at age 10. (It didn’t curb my enthusiasm that it was taught by Wendy Dascomb, the previous year’s Miss America!). However, long before this formal training, I learned to count by 10’s and don’t understand my fellow USA residents’ aversion to Metric. From the diagram shown, I had no trouble understanding that a child who measures 2-3 feet from floor to base of neck would need a hood height of a few centimeters more than head height (total height-cervical height). It also seems that the taller the head, the more ease is required in hood height. What a concept! My point is not to be flippant, but to urge your readers not to fear the numbers. An orientation to function is all one needs to understand the relationship of the measurements, and these relationships are so much easier to understand when you’re “counting by 10’s”. This (metric vs. english) is truly an area where it pays to “think globally” even when “sewing locally”.

  8. Kathleen says:

    Hi Dorothy! I know what you’re saying. Crazy as it seems, I had debilitating math anxiety for years -except when it came to drafting, go figure.

    It also seems that the taller the head, the more ease is required in hood height. What a concept!

    If you look on page 172 of my book and examine Fig. 5.66, you’ll see this concept illustrated and the text explains why this works. I constantly struggle explaining this. It is surprising how few people know it, even those who complete design programs.

    OT note: there is some controversy as to whether C7 vs T1 is the more appropriate anatomical landmark. I prefer T1 because it moves less. I think it is the most important fitting bone in the body (page 164 of my book). For garments that don’t cover the head, I think T1 is the better point. For hooded garments, I think we’re splitting hairs since C7 and T1 are right next to each other (I fit blocks to rest btwn the two). Whichever one you use, you pick up where you left off for the hood.

  9. sarah says:


    I have this book and i have been studying it and trying it out.

    I find it slow going, but mostly ok (though i would have a few questions..)

    My main problem seems to be that all the basic blocks just seem to be way too wide! I don’t feel confident that other children will fit into these clothes, as my average sized 2 year old does not… what have i done wrong???

    Any suggestions welcome!!

  10. Kathleen says:

    Since I can see your IP and know you’re from Ireland, the easy fix -that you might have been using inches instead of centimeters- is not an appropriate response ~sigh~. There is too much going on that we can’t know. For example, people often use “average” to describe themselves or another and it may not be true. With kids tho, it’s easier with hgt/wgt charts to know if one’s child lies at the 50th percentile. This is something you’re going to have to sort out yourself but maybe this entry will help. Here’s an excerpt:

    Sizing to the mean … is an interesting question in infant’s apparel. In many respects, the expression is the exact opposite of adults. Specifically, as wealthy people tend to be thinner than average, expensive designer fashion runs truer to “size” (smaller). However, it’s the opposite with infant’s apparel. In infant sizes, it’s babies born to wealthier parents who are larger. In other words, while the median size for lower income adults is larger (than that of wealthy people), the corresponding sizes for lower income infants are smaller as baby size is an expression of general health.

    …sizing infant’s wear is a challenge. Newborns weigh from between 5.5 to 10 pounds at birth (CDC 2000). That’s a huge range of body sizes to cover, nearly double body weight. In adults, that’d be like having one size designed to fit anyone from 100 to 200lbs. At three months, babies range in weight from 10 to17 pounds… For manufacturers to serve the infant market well -remember larger infants are well off and who’s parents buy oodles of baby clothes– manufacturer’s had better hit the upper end (17lbs) of the size range. In fact, were it possible to do a comprehensive analysis of the sizing of children’s wear as compared to price, one would expect costlier infant clothes to be sized larger than budget brands because these kids are larger than lower income kids.

  11. Belinda says:

    I have only done a very small amount of pattern making lesson and I have forgotten nearly everything it was that long ago. I am trying to create a simple pattern using Aldrichs books for children and babies. On page 58 I am making the 2a Very gathered skirt. It states A-B is ‘three times half hip measurement’. Then on page 17 for standard body measurements it says (example for a 3year old) waist is 52cm. Do I times this by 3 and a half? This would mean I have a front piece and a back piece that is 156cm wide each?

  12. Kathleen says:

    This is how I read it (from the 4th edition for anyone who wants to follow along):
    The hip of 3yr old is 56 cm. Half that is 28 cm. So, 3 times 1/2 hip is 3×28=84cm.

    I agree it is ambiguous, the text says “a separate pattern is required for front and back” but it does not say that you should cut two of the above (each 84 cm wide) or whether you should cut the 84cm wide piece into two separate pieces.

    I’m going to guess that you are to make the one piece and cut two of them; one for the front and one for the back.

  13. Belinda says:

    I agree Kathleen…I think it must be 3 time 1/2 hip. This makes more sense. I think it may be 2 x 84cm pieces. The example is saying D is the Centre Back. I am assuming that A and B are the side seams…..mmm….confusing….

    Might check measurements for other gathered skirts online and see how they compare…

  14. Alyson says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    Do you know of a good pattern book that explains grading at a basic level for Men’s/Women’s and Children’s wear?

  15. Kathleen says:

    The elusive holy grail, wars have been started under flimsier pretexts. The one I like best is out of print. Word has it that another is being written as we speak. As its author is a regular here, I will announce it when it becomes available. In the meantime, I have three suggestions:

    1.Check the grading category on this site; we’ve published a great deal on children’s wear grading.
    2. Join the forum, there is a lot there that is not here as well as referrals.
    3. Hire someone to do it for you (also on this site, forum and in my book), it is much less expensive to do it with CAD than one doing it individually by hand.

  16. Alyson says:

    Thanks Kathleen for the above info.

    FYI, regarding the flat pattern discussion, – I have the 5th edition of metric pattern cutting for menswear by Winifred Aldrich, and came across this today…
    She describes flat patterns in this book as:
    “The ‘flat’ blocks are used for garments that are often flat packed, are easy fitting or are manufactured in jersey fabrics. Therefore cutting to a specific male shape is of less importance in these types of clothing.”

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