On drafting and European Cut

I am sooooo behind writing book reviews for the site. Maybe I’ll blog about books all weekend. I just thought to mention that because I got another one in the mail today from one of my wonderful visitors who pulled it off my Amazon wish list (thanks Teijo!). And last week, I got a book in from Australia (Melita) and then another one from Connie Crawford before that. And that doesn’t begin to include the books I had piling up before that (Christy sent me a gift certificate and DH bought about 15 off the list for x-mas). Then, there was the English book that Jinjer got for me. I am very behind.

I did have one book I wanted to tell you about but I’ve hesitated because I haven’t actually tried a draft from it. It’s called European Cut ($28). I got it from Elizabeth Allemong (the author), we swapped books. I have a feeling about the book that I don’t know how to describe. I don’t keep up much with home sewing so I don’t usually review these but I thought the premise -that if the instruction were really European- could really be a prize if it were true. Well, I don’t know that it really is yet because I haven’t gone through it but I cannot help but to continue to be impressed with the quality of the book. I mean, it’s obviously self-published but the quality of the drafts, the precision of the writing, the depth and level of depiction is just so remarkable. The writing is so clear. It’s friendly, precise, patient and I haven’t found one typo or misspelling. The syntax and grammar are model (English is Elizabeth’s second language). She writes so well. I suspect Elizabeth is quite brilliant. I could not be more impressed with the integrity of this book. It just oozes integrity. Don’t nail me up over this but I can only think that some level of this integrity would be typical of the content. I suspect that Elizabeth’s book could be an answer to a prayer for people wanting to draft fitting blocks. I continue to be amazed with the completeness and detail every time I pick it up.

In my own defense, I wanted to mention the reason why I haven’t tried drafting from it. The book only covers making a basic fitting shell, what a lot of home sewers call a sloper. The real meaning of sloper is a pattern without seam allowance, regardless of what it’s for. Drafting a basic fitting shell (“sloper” to home sewers) is just a whole lot of work. In real life, there’s faster ways to get there. Beginners feel as though they have to earn their stripes by doing it the hard way, that they have to put a lot of work into drafting a basic fitting shell as tho it were a rite of passage or something. It’s amazing the work they put into it and what for? They still end up with a jizillion iteration cycles. Bummer.

Now, the way we do it is to buy or use something that is similar to what we want to do and we fit that. Then we use a basic body -a block or an existing pattern, the fit of which we already like- and transfer to that, whatever the distinctive features of the new style. Plus, we make our fit changes. This way our first prototype will come out looking pretty good. For example, let’s say we’re making a coat. We are not going to start with a basic fitting shell. We will start with a coat pattern that we already have, that looks closest to the style we want to develop. That’s much different than how they teach you in school where everybody starts with a basic fitting shell. Fitting shells are pretty close to useless when it comes to style development; doing that, one will end up making a lot more iterations than we do. In real life, you’d be hard pressed to find a basic fitting shell pattern in the plant of any manufacturer. Beginners go from a “sloper” to coat incrementally. That’s a lot of work. Start with a coat. Make the changes, including fit. Then, bingo, you’re there. If you want to make a blouse, start with a blouse. Develop a basic range of styles that fit you and use them over and over again.

Anyway, as I was saying, when we make patterns, we take out a lot of the guesswork. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time, we base it on something. Style development takes a lot less time. And before I digressed on that, I was saying that I haven’t checked out the content of Elizabeth’s book because I’d have to draft a fitting shell and it’s a whole lot of work. I don’t think I’ve done it in 20 years. That said, I do plan on doing the pants draft pretty soon. The other thing is, I have a competing theory on bodice drafting and I don’t think it’s fair for me to critique that if I haven’t made my own thoughts available for dissection. Still, of all the bodice drafts I’ve seen among American drafting books over the past 20 years, I like her bodice drafts the best. If you’ve had a tough time fitting necklines and armholes because you’re big busted, Elizabeth will certainly be able to help you. Also, Susan Gowin has tested some of the drafts and says the sleeves come out nicely. I’d suspect that to be true. Elizabeth’s sleeve drafts look more like what sleeves are supposed to look like.

If you’ve tried Elizabeth’s book, share your comments. Thanks.

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