Radial grading

Edited 6/5/2011: The vintage Kogos book I mention in the paragraph below is titled The American Fashion Pattern Grader. I’m less than enamored with it lately (long story) although the grading process remains interesting. More on this grading process can be found via a more recent entry called Grading minutiae. There you can find a free e-book download link to the Henry Simons book.——-

As some of you know, I collect old pattern drafting, grading and sewing books because I find it interesting how prescribed methods change over time. Last week I found an old Kogos* book that was particularly intriguing because it seemed to illustrate radial grading. Before we go any further, I don’t know anything about radial grading, I’ve never seen any instruction on it nor practical examples but it is common in bra manufacturing, although not as much anymore. These days, we grade on a grid, the so-called x-y axis or “axial” grading. Some of the sketches in the book I found were striking in that it appears the locus of the radiation point is the base of the front armhole. I say appears because I haven’t actually tried it out. It could be a nesting point but that is still interesting because it brings to bear much of my frustration with the modern sizing of apparel, specifically, the poor rendering of armhole shaping. Below is a scan of a sleeve grade from the book.

As a point of comparison, below are two scans of how we set up the grade today on an x-y axis. The first is the set up, followed by a graded sample rendering.

At the same time I found this Kogos book, one of you (Michael Mills) offered some scans of a book he has, written by Harry Simons, circa the early 40’s. Hard copy is on the way but in the meantime, he sent me this photo of a front of a man’s suit coat. As you can see, this one also has the grade point radiating from the base of the front armhole (below).

In other words, this front seems to be graded in a similar fashion to the Kogos sleeve sample. Now, in what seems to be a contradiction (to me), the other grade illustrations I have from the Kogos book, don’t illustrate the body of a jacket being graded in strictly the same way but a modified version. Here’s a sample (below).

This seems to be a hybrid of how it’s done today (not shown, but similar to the modern sleeve above). Accordingly, I’m wondering if the Kogos book I have is a text that bridges two epochs in grading science. In other words, spanning the original radial method, gravitating to a more easily rendered axial grade. The reason I say that is that the horizontal base lines across the patterns are not squared. I’m thinking that as the x-y axis system became more refined, pattern pieces were aligned squarely which would have simplified the process, making it more easily rendered by computers. But who’s to say the new (or old) system was better?

You could say that luddite and traditionalist that I am, I’m predisposed to favor the older method but the sum of the appeal in the older method is the treatment of the armhole as I’ve about here, here and in my book. Anatomically speaking, the base of the front armhole is the more static position upon which to base a grade. Perhaps that’s heresy these days but think of it. The fixed points we use most commonly today (center front, center front waist) aren’t fixed at all, these can vary a great deal depending on the corpulence of an individual. However, the position of the armhole baseline is more static, changing to a much slighter degree relative to the rest of the pieces.

Just wondering what you think, I’m meandering today.

*Kogos was an apparel industry publisher, not a specific author. These books were noted for their practical material as opposed to modern textbooks.

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  1. Esther says:

    I agree with your last few points. I have always been confused about the placement of fixed grading points at the center front/waistline. I almost always place my starting points at the center front neck and grade counter clockwise around the piece. A waistline moves up and down depending on the size whereas a neck doesn’t. The beauty of computer grading is you can place your start point anywhere on the piece. The difficulty is understanding your grade rules well enough to move your start point around.

    I learned grading in school but I had to teach myself the industry way of doing things. I am sure I could spout some grading heresy myself.

  2. Cherry Robinson says:

    I’m an occasional reader, community theater costumer, and home sewer, and appreciate a good half of what you write. (I have just sent you a small contribution)
    Maybe I can actually contribute something here -check out the Lutterloh patternmaking system – http://www.lutterloh.com It’s a 60+ year old German system, which has you use a tape measure from a given point in a minature pattern to grade up to and plot your own size. (Instructions are on the web site) This is effectively radial grading, isn’t it?
    No affiliation, but I bought it recently, and am amazed how well it works.

  3. Connie says:

    Did simpified axial grading make the sleeve symmetrical at the expense of good fit? The asymmetrical sleeve in diagram 38 probably fits better.I think you made a comment about this (sleeve cap asymmetry and fit)somewhere in the blog, Kathleen.

  4. jinjer markley says:

    I would love more posts on grading.
    specifically, how does a DE make up tgeir own grade rules and convey them to a contracted grader??

  5. Karen Montgomery says:

    Try grading draped gowns, for a challange. Love to hear more about books availabe on these subjects. It is a lost art. I’ll post later on the jacket you have posted, have to get back to work.

  6. emily says:

    Hi Kathleen, was just doing some research on your site and discovered that the link in the first paragraph to a book listing no longer works. But I’m curious what the book was called so I could look for it at the LOC (I live nearby and can go do some research there when I need to. :)


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