Review: Patternmaking by Dennic Chunman Lo

patternmaking_dennic_coverToday’s review is another recently published book called Patternmaking by Dennic Chunman Lo ($26). Be sure to read through to the end because I’m giving away a free copy of this book to one lucky visitor! Also, the publisher is promoting a significant holiday discount on all titles in their catalog for UK buyers. US buyers already get the discount courtesy of Amazon.

This introductory text is an excellent tool for designers, and oddly enough, particularly for those who don’t intend to make their own patterns. I think there is a big hole in the market for a book that fills that gap. The reason being, many designers want a better understanding of the relationship of shapes and how these are incorporated into the body of a garment. See this example that shows the outline of pattern pieces on the body so one can understand construction relationships.

patternmaking_quarterscale_drape_vs_real_lifeFor designers who do want to learn a few skills, this is a nice introduction with solid exercises so you can feel like you’re accomplishing something. While it does closely reflect a school environment, there are some delightful surprises. For example, I love page 24. Reason being, there are a lot of people who are convinced that draping on a quarter scale form is the ticket because Vionnet did it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, it’s a dandy way to save on fabric but you need to be aware of performance variances in smaller scale.

patternmaking_dennic_form_vs_bodyAbove right is a photograph comparing a neckline flounce created in quarter scale and one created full scale. The full scale version, being heavier, drapes prettier than the smaller one. Of course if you liked the smaller version you’d have to do something to create the effect full scale (underline with organza maybe?). What is more likely is that you’d see the small version, think it looked like a V-neck clown ruffle and abandon the style without sampling it in full size.

The other pitfall common to school learning versus real life are the differences of modeling on a form as compared to a human body. In this photo (right), Chunman Lo shows the same garment on a form and on a body. The form is compliant and accommodating. The human, not so much. The shoulders slide down on a human. The lesson being that while you may create a style via draping on a form and give it to a pattern maker to make up for you, it is best to presume a sample on a human will not match the expectations you developed based on the dress form sample.

There are a lot of neat things about this book, things it never would have occurred to me to mention. Here’s one tiny detail; the matter of needing to twist seam allowances (below).


On the other hand, the text doesn’t mention one should clip the allowance at the point it changes direction but in the author’s defense, you can’t do that with all fabric types. Materials that don’t fray easily are a given.

There were a few things I found useful. On pages 81-89 were a series of draft conversions. Say, combining separate bodice and skirt blocks to create a basic dress block. I wouldn’t say this is not in any other book (I don’t know) only that I’ve always done it by hook or crook so this is something to look over the next time I have a related project. In the same section was instruction on how to create a dress block if you only had the bodice portion, cobbling on with measures from a body or form. Like I said, useful.

Minuses could be summarized as a mis-match between expectations and needs. This is not a production pattern making book and it does not claim to be such either. Meaning, there will be differences between the text and work practices. For example, production patterns shouldn’t be marked as illustrated in this book but more like the section on production pattern making in my book (pp. 176-180).

Call it a philosophical difference, but I don’t agree that patterns should be made as quickly as possible by sacrificing standard procedures to include seam walking etc (pg 104, third paragraph). I have seen too many instances in which rough patterns are elevated to production status simply because someone managed to sew one up somewhat successfully with however many workarounds. As with the leather book I recently reviewed, there were quite a few variations in how I work versus the book’s instruction. Be that as it may, I still think this is a great option for designers who want a friendly introduction to patternmaking if only to make their product development processes go more smoothly. With a careful reading, you shouldn’t flounder as much or be as intimidated by it as you may have been. I don’t need to worry about promoting this to dyed in the wool pattern makers because they’ll buy it anyway. Even if they only get one thing out of it, it’s easily worth the $26.

Errata: Keeping in mind that it is very difficult to monitor every detail in a project like this, there are bound to be errors. For example, on page 110 begins a section on of obligatory notches but the illustrated sample sleeve pattern does not have a shoulder notch on the sleeve’s cap. I know it is a genuine oversight because shoulder notches are evident in many other places. My point being, as useful and friendly as you find the text, resist the temptation of using it as the rule or final word in production pattern making.

Another thing you should be aware of is that this book was written by a professor in the UK so there are regional differences. For example, the standards for color coding are different. Additionally, the one review written on Amazon mentions that the drafts were created in metric and converted to imperial measures. The reviewer says that not all the measures were converted accurately so to stave off  frustration or discouragement, you might consider drafting in metric. In case you wonder, I haven’t drafted any styles from the book, that’s not how I review them.

Patternmaking by Dennic Chunman Lo
240pp, 8.5 x 11 $26 Amazon US, $40 list
Full color photographs and many illustrations.

Hark! A discount! The publisher is offering a 35% discount on all titles sold from their UK site from now until December 31st. The discount code is LKPXMAS11. I realize this is a disappointment to US buyers but look at it this way; the Amazon US price is discounted exactly 35% so this way, UK buyers can enjoy the same benefit you do.

And of course, a contest giveaway! The publisher’s US representative was kind enough to send me a copy of the book for review. What neither of us knew was that one of you (Jessica Owen, thank you!) had sent me one too. So, I have an extra copy to give away. [The real hold up on writing this review was trying to figure out how to do it.] I have decided to do what Poppy Gall recently did and treat every comment posted to the site for one week as one entry for the contest. That means, if you post seven comments in a week, that amounts to seven entries for you. Etc. I thought it was a great way to do it. But I would. I won her contest, yay me! I have never won anything before.

Based on comments, I’m amending this entry. Again, the contest is not based on the number of comments to this post. Every comment on ANY post on this site is a separate entry. Meaning, to optimize your chances, find other posts to comment on. The archives post will be going up soon, you could probably find something interesting that’s worth reading and commenting on.

Speaking of Poppy, yesterday she posted how to make your own color palettes like she does it. Being ill versed with Photoshop, I had no idea it could be so simple.

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