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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  1. Ray says:

    I bought this for my wife. She stopped sewing about twenty years ago because nothing fit. She swears she’ll use this “when time allows”….and I’m pushing hard. I’ll even help measure! Am I a nice guy or what? (Wish there was something to report other than it’s sitting on a shelf.)

  2. Karen says:

    I guess being basically lazy isn’t all bad–I haven’t made a fitting shell yet.
    OTOH, I’m planning to do the Duck tape fanny mold this weekend with my daughter–who’s thin and tall for her girth and we have the worst time finding pants that will stay up. (Those shrinking-after-washing waistbands you talked about are never a problem for her. Just don’t ask about the width at the above-knee zone!)
    If my older daughter gives a hint of interest, I’ll give her your book–she’s majoring in advertising at Texas, and after reading your critique of the wannabe-designer game show, I’m beginning to wonder if the School of Natural Sciences did her a favor by making it impossible for her to go for Textile Science. (They suddenly discovered a crying need for a textile sciences major to take the pre-med biology course. Yeah, right.) I’m waiting to see if she wants it because it can be so overpowering when your mommy gives you 10K things about something that you’re not sure you want to mess with any more.
    But, anyway, thank you so much for putting up your site. I may be just pond scum (home sewer) but I try to learn whatever I can, wherever I can. Thank you especially for talking about jigs/templates–if standard components is good for French cooking (bouquet garni and mirepoix, anyone?) it certainly ought to be good for clothes making.

  3. Tracy says:

    I have purchased European Cut ($28). I got it from Elizabeth Allemong’s Vestis books which is her own book publishing company. I read about the book on the Designer 2 yahoo group which is made up of people who own the D2 Husqvarna machine. The book does not mention mens wear at all to answer Jess’s question. It is a very simple look at drafting the bodice and sleeve without a nod to collars, pockets or much line manipulation. The best part is the measuring section which really goes into a lot of detail. Don’t look to this book as a drafting or sewing guide like Armstrong or other text books.
    I look forward to Elizabeth coming out with more in-depth studies in the future, but for now I recommend a pass unless you could use a little more depth in your measurement section books or like me, just like to look at slopers!
    I agree with Kathleen that doing Moulage is tedious, and starting from another pattern is easier, if I like the author could make a custom sloper in 10 minutes as she says in the book, I think I would do it for custom garments!

  4. MaryBeth says:

    Kathleen, thanks for your take on this book. I wish I had a nickle for each time over the past 2 years the thought occurred to me: making this moulange would save me time in the long run!

    I also look forward to your review of Connie Crawford’s book. Which one do you have? I own all her books. I admire her work and her approach to sewing either for the home sewist or the fashion student. The proof of her technique is in the fit, the way the garments transform the wearer. Lovely!

  5. Mokie says:

    Hi, I was wondering if this book by Elizabeth Allemong has some tips on drafting men’s wear pattern. The book sounds very good n it will be a major plus point if it includes men’s pattern as well. Thanks.

  6. J C Sprowls says:


    The Allemong book does not address menswear patterns, specifically. Though, a majority of the measurement and drafting system are similar to what tailors use and will translate to the male form.

    Ms Allemong has done a great job laying out this subject. I look forward to others in the series.

  7. christina says:

    I went through this book, following the steps to the letter. I was excited about her promise of better fitting armholes — mine and my husband’s had always kind of gaped, as she described.

    So anyway, I took my husband’s measurements, and assumed that the steps would work for him as well as for a flat-chested woman. Well, sadly, this wasn’t the case. After measuring and re-measuring my husband (he’s a very patient man) it was impossible to draft the front bodice. Specifically, the line that extended from the side waist to the bottom armhole extended past the actual bottom armhole measurement. I think this happened because my husband has sloping shoulders. It’s still very possible that I simply took the wrong measurements, but then again, I took the measurements twice, using Allemong’s own methods. So now I’m thinking maybe the instructions simply don’t work for men, or else I am totally inept at measuring.

  8. J C Sprowls says:


    Your observation is correct. His shoulders are sloped – at least, according to this system. This should mete itself out during the fitting, though. You can make corrections to the pattern based on the results you achieve from fitting.

    Try Aldrich’s book on menswear, too. It’s may be available at your library or inter-library loan.

  9. christina says:

    Thanks J C Sprowls! I hadn’t bothered to actually make a muslin because the sloper looked so bizarre. So maybe I’ll do as you suggest and try a fitting.
    I’ll check out Aldrich’s book.

  10. Reader says:

    The first couple of patterns I’ve made have required a lot of adjustments. I’d like to make a sloper to superimpose over purchased patterns as a guide to adapting them. I also want to develop styles from the slopers. There are always adjustments.

    Based on this recommendation, I’ve borrowed the book.

  11. Andrea says:

    Wait, I thought the purpose of a fitting shell for home sewing was using it to correct fit on commericial patterns. Isn’t that much like what Katherine describes in starting with a garment similar to the goal, in my case a flat pattern, and refining the fit before drafting your own styles? In my case I make fit corrections to my flat pattern then make up the garment with the design that I like, that I bought the darn pattern for in the first place. I don’t have plans to draft my own clothes from start to finish. Why would I want to do all that work when I can correct an existing pattern for fit and go from there?

  12. Kathleen says:

    Why would I want to do all that work when I can correct an existing pattern for fit and go from there?

    I don’t know, I’m with you. Maybe people think they have to do it this way because that’s what all the books say.

  13. Brina says:


    You’ll probably find that it depends on how far your measurements/shape are from the pattern as to whether or not it’s easier to start from scratch or correct an existing pattern for fit. And often if you adjust for fit you have to adjust the style lines as well.

  14. Tyesha W says:

    If i was to always design from my blocks, would I be able to do so in a interview? I can’t bring my blocks to the interview to show my drafting abilities..I’d figure they’d expect you to draft from scratch with their measurements to see how well you are.

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