My favorite pattern drafting books

In keeping with last week’s pattern book review, Eve writes:

Do you have any suggestions for any other pattern drafting or fashion books?  I remember you suggested a Vionnet book in the past, Rohr’s book, and of course The Entrepreneurs Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing but are there any others that you prize highly or refer to constantly?  I always enjoy being introduced to people’s favorites and I think it would be great to know yours.

I can answer this but don’t suggest it would help anybody. I mean, if you’re going to spend disposable income, you want compensatory gain of skill development.

First, if you know How we make patterns in real life, you can understand why few pattern makers use pattern books very often. Once you learn slashing, spreading and pivoting, you rarely need them beyond the occasional stray product you rarely make. I think the last time I used a book was one of the Japanese Pattern Magic books and it was experimental. Before that, I used one in the early 90’s to draft a raglan and that was only because the production manager didn’t like the one I’d already made because it had a dart in the shoulder so I used the book to show her I wasn’t crazy. If the style is tailored and fitted in a woven bottom weight or leather, you need a shoulder dart for a smooth silhouette. Knits you don’t. Somehow she expected to get a knit raglan fit in a 4oz cowhide without a dart. Ha. But I digress. Being a collector I have most of the books but only spot check them for accuracy and pet peeves because most books get the basic concepts right meaning nearly any book will do.

I buy books for inspiration than for any other purpose. You already know most of my favorites because they’re classics. The easy top three picks are Hillhouse & Mansfield (Dress Design), Erwin (Practical Dress Design) and Pepin (Modern Pattern Design). I find Poulin and Simon (Tailoring Suits the Professional Way and Designing Men’s and Young Men’s Overcoats respectively) to be charming. I use those two quite often to illustrate proper armhole design along with Morris (Ladies Garment Cutting and Making). Hulme is a relative unknown. I have two of his four titles, The Practice of Garment Pattern Making and The Theory of Garment Pattern Making. Neither are light reading. I’m also partial to any of the German books, Jaumann (Einfuhrung in die Schnittlehre) is a beginner’s book I reach for again and again to show students how two dimensional concepts readily translate into three.

The next category of books I like may not make sense to you unless you realize that I rarely use books for drafting, I just like looking at the pictures. I love books that illustrate vintage commercial patterns. I have Blueprints of Fashion (40’s & 50’s) and quite a few of the Dover reprints of commercial catalogs (Sears etc). I’m partial to reprints of Erte’s work. As famous as he was in his day, he was never lauded to the extent he deserved -in my opinion. He was mostly known as an illustrator but some of his designs are as complex if not more so than anything put out by vintage and modern day couturiers, the Asian ones included.

I also have quite a few vintage drafting book reprints from Dover, Shep and Lacis. Too many to itemize although I’ve bought mostly tailoring drafting books. Those three vendors are a good choice if you’re interested in costuming and reenactment.

Of the more modern inspirational books which are also pattern books, I like Bray (More Dress Pattern Designing, I don’t have her first one or rather, haven’t found it yet or lent it out) and Aldrich (Fabric, Form and Flat Pattern Cutting). And then there’s the Pattern Magic books of course. Speaking of, Volume one has been translated into English -and it’s very inexpensive! $18 with free shipping from Amazon US. The English translation of Pattern Magic 2 will be available January 19, 2011 but you can get it for $16 if you pre-order it. By the way, the title of the translated Pattern Magic 2 is More Pattern Magic so don’t be confused.

Feel free to contribute your favorites to this book list.

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