Review: Patternmaking for Menswear

cover_patternmaking for menswearA frequently heard lament is the dearth of pattern making books specific to the male form. Toward addressing the oversight comes a recently released title called Patternmaking for Menswear by Gareth Kershaw, from Laurence Publishing.

Before I start though, I confess a bit of wariness. Whenever I review a book, the most frequent response is whether the book will resolve whatever ill one has or whether it is the Holy Grail/Rosetta Stone of drafting texts. Few books are that. Drafting books are no different than cook books and although few of us are professional cooks, most of us have a variety of cookbooks. As such, if this is your profession or your professional interest, you’re well served to have a variety of texts that speak to your interests. If your budget requires closer scrutiny to acquire books, consider the library as an option. Keep in mind that I don’t review books that I feel are without merit. This one is relatively inexpensive ($40 list) and represents good value. Oh, before I forget, how I review patternmaking books may be helpful too.

Preamble dispensed with, this book is a useful introduction to making sportswear patterns that will appeal to younger men. Featured are 20 different styles. Chapter 3 opens with seven shirts. Included are drafts for a long sleeve knit tee through more constructed woven shirts with traditional stand collars. There’s also a hoodie in there; the hood draft looks interesting.

Chapter 4 has drafts for six pairs of pants, again ranging from the very casual (sweat pants) to traditionally cut jeans. A good amount of detail is provided with respect to pockets in all designs. An additional feature some may find useful is a button fly front in one style. One feature that readers will appreciate is redundancy. Each draft is complete in that one need not refer to a preceding style for pocketing and such. As a writer, this would drive me batty. As a reader, I’m grateful.

Chapter 5 provides drafts for 7 types of outerwear jackets starting with a basic anorak (North American readers would describe this as a partial zip front hoodie with over sized front pocket) on through a double breasted sport coat, a casual raglan and even a trench. The novice would be well advised to note these are not production patterns per se; the fabric required to cut the hood on page page 312 is enough to drive the best of pattern cutters to drink. Unless your price points exceed $500, do everyone a favor and split the hood. That is all.

Before I wrote the review, I considered criticisms by other reviewers. One mentioned that illustrations are very small. At first glance, I didn’t agree but as I went along, I realized that the drafts are illustrated proportionally. In other words, the shirt front is sufficiently large but the collar was too small because its illustration was proportional in size to the shirt front. I can only imagine that this oversight in book design will probably be rectified. Young people should have few problems with this; older folks will need reading glasses to discern the measures in each draft. Contrarians can correctly state that the measures appear in the text itself but if you’re one of those people who prefer to draft from drafts (like me) rather than reading text , it may annoy you to have to switch back and forth from text to draft illustration.

Overall, I think the book’s strengths lie in shirts and pants. I’m less enamored of the jacket drafts. Or maybe I’m just too put off by the queerest front facing I’ve ever seen. I had no idea anyone ever did it like that and can’t imagine how it could be sewn nicely as compared to existing methods. Then again, this is sportswear; the author makes no lofty claims of vast tailoring expertise. I should mention that the majority of my expertise is in men’s suits and coats so I am probably too particular considering the book’s theme of casual sportswear.

Caveats: Being that the book was written by an Englishman, the verbiage is a departure from traditional tailoring and North American readers expectations. I admit to having been perplexed by a new to me term, that of “master plan” which is another type of pattern, and distinguishing these from the four other types listed; that of slopers, “design development patterns”, “designer patterns” versus production patterns but in the end, it is no matter. Purist tailors will likely be appalled by use of the term “sloper” (historically a derogatory term and increasingly limited to women’s attire) but then again, they’re not likely to buy this book either. If you’re equally confused by these differing pattern types, I would skip the first two chapters and proceed with drafting using a basic block. The text shows a “master plan” which by turn sounds insidious and world domineering but all in good context, eh? Use a block you have handy or draft one from the instruction in chapter two. Me, I’d be more likely to paper drape than to fiddle with drafting from measures.

One last note, addressing a repeated complaint from those perplexed with metric measures, this edition uses Imperial inches so no worries about that. Would you hate me if I mentioned that complaints about metric is somewhat embarrassing to the rest of us? It’s just different is all. You’d have to look hard to find a measuring tape without metric; try to become accustomed to it. The best pattern books on the market don’t use imperial measures at all.

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