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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  1. Kerryn says:

    You’re after my heart with darts in raglan shoulders!

    I just bought Pattern Magic 1 in English in addition to owning 1 and 2 in Japanese and it’s excellent!

    I’ve always been a fan of Natalie Bray and own Dress Pattern Designing, More Dress Pattern Designing and Dress Fitting which are all excellent. I also bought Patternmaking in Fashion after you reviewed it last week and was so pleased with it (and it’s price!) I’ve bought one for my baby sister so I can teach her to make her own blocks across continents. The book is so friendly and unintimidating I think it will be ideal for her to start learning from to make her own patterns.

  2. I’ve been trying to find a good book on shoe manufacturing and design but haven’t had any luck. I know many of the basics but if anyone has any suggestions on something that digs a bit deeper, I’d love some recommendations.

    I did finally find a good book on designing a knitwear collection that I can recommend. It’s Designing a Knitwear Collection: From Inspiration to Finished Garment by Lisa Donofrio and Marilyn Hefferen. I had been looking for something like that for a while so was glad when something was finally published.

  3. Naomi R. says:

    What a useful post! I am quickly falling in love with pattern making here in design school and I would love all the extra help I can get. I adore the Pattern Magic book. It’s amazing how once you know something is possible, your creativity expands tenfold…

  4. Trish says:

    The Center for Pattern Design is reprinting many of the great out-of-print books. You may already know this but I just wanted to make sure. MODERN PATTERN DESIGN By Harriet Pepin is available again and if you do not have one of the “vintage” copies, this is a great chance to get it. Here is a link to the website. Just click BOOKS on the left hand side of the page.

  5. Trish says:

    PS – my students love Pattern Magic and I read in Threads that it is now available in English. I am so happy. I could make out what I needed to know from the Japanese but my students found it more difficult. A few months ago, my student Jiyoung Lee draped that great little bodice with the “woven” fabric pieces. It looks really cute. Did everyone notice that Andy on Project Runway had a top inspired by that piece in Pattern Magic.

    I am glad I help off buying Pattern Magic 2… now I can just buy the English version. Kathleen, thanks for the tip about pre-ordering it for $16. What a great deal. Now if we could just go back to that Japanese bookstore that you took us to while we were in LA… what a fabulous place!!!

  6. Carla says:

    Hi, everyone. I, too, just read in Threads today that Pattern Magic (vol.1) is now avail in English. I have owned the original Japanese volumes for approx 1 year, but could not make heads or tails of anything. It’s been extremely frustrating. I’m thrilled about finally being able to bring these innovative designs to life for myself. I did notice Andy South’s version of one of the Pattern Magic designs. Gorgeous!

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