The best pattern grading book of all

The best pattern grading book published in the United States is Professional Pattern Grading for Women’s, Men’s, and Children’s Apparel by Jack Handford. Unfortunately, because it’s not as well known as the textbooks used in schools, it is out of print -for now. It is difficult to locate used copies. If you can find one, they cost over $400. The reason it’s difficult to get used copies is this is the title most often used in industry. You don’t sell a book you use daily; it’s a reference. It’s the text book grading books that are easily purchased used and new.

It is possible that were there sufficient demand, that the title will be reprinted; that’s what this entry is about. This was originally published by Plycon Press in 1980; Fairchild now owns it. If we can show sufficient interest, it is possible they will reprint it. I will tell you about it and if you think you’d be interested, I hope you’ll leave a comment signaling your interest.

First I should mention I knew the author personally as well as one can by correspondence and telephone. We had planned to meet In Albuquerque in May 1997 but he died before he could make the trip. This was before email, I don’t know that Jack ever had a computer. He was a dear person, if he ever married he never said. He never had children. He was uniquely qualified to write this book (pasted from my Amazon review):

Unlike many book authors, Handford was a pattern maker for years. He’d work in the industry for a spate of years, get disgusted, go back to school, get disgusted with school so he’d go back to pattern making, then into teaching, then back to school, then back to manufacturing over and over. He did this over the lifetime of his career finally ending up with a Ph.D and 50 years of industrial experience! I mention his background because it means his book is keenly attentuated to the needs of everyone, students, pattern makers and educators. He did it all so he’d know what was most efficacious for all parties concerned. His book blends the needs of everyone simply and succinctly. You could buy another book rather than this one but I don’t know why you would.

He retired as the Associate Chair of the fashion department at Otis in 1989. The reason his book is most useful is due to the way the grading charts and mapping are set up. This most closely mirrors the way you do it in real life, especially if you are doing it manually using a ruler or with a grading machine. The charts in competing books (Price/Zamkoff) are so complex that I don’t understand them. If there is a defect to the book, it needs a bit more introduction to the mapping of the pattern pieces, an oversight I corrected in my book on pages 173-175. The best thing about it is you can actually teach yourself to grade with it which is not so easily done with the Price/Zamkoff book. I’ve noticed there’s another grading book on the market for CAD grading but I don’t have it so I don’t know. I should get it.

There’s one negativish review (3 stars) of Handford’s book on Amazon written by someone who has no clue what a grading book is supposed to be and I’ll reprint a portion here in addition to my rebuttal in comments there in case your expectations are similar to his/hers. If you have similar expectations, you should not buy this book.

You [N. Owczarek] wrote:

“it does NOT give standard grading charts of standard sizes. it gives only the BASIC BASIC grades between them, such as 2″ for the waist.”

In my (professional) opinion, it should not give “standard” grading charts. Sizes are evolutionary. Contrarily, the process -and increments- of grading are static. I think the problem here is the gap between your expectations vs what a grading book is for professionals. If you want sizing standards (what you expected from the book), you have to buy those separately, usually from ASTM. Otherwise, you could reverse engineer grades by comparing competing lines.

“I was expecting something a lot more thorough and updated than this, especially since the apparel industry has changed so much. I wanted standard specs with grading, not common sense instructions on shifting a pattern up and out, etc.”

If you want a specs book, buy a specs book. No one claimed this was a specs book. This is a grading book (how to). A specs book won’t tell you how to grade so why would you expect a grading book to give you specs? The practice of grading -what this book teaches- doesn’t change regardless of how much the garment industry has. This book will still be useful 100 years from now. A specs book on the other hand, will need to change frequently. No one ever said this was a specs book.

The summary is, leave a comment if you’re in the market to buy this book and maybe we can garner sufficient interest that Fairchild will decide to reprint it. Thanks.

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