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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  1. Theresa Riess says:

    Glad to see you weigh in on this book, Kathleen. I have seen it on Amazon (?) and it got a positive mention on a sewing blog (which one, I cannot remember) so I was curious on whether it would be worth purchasing. A book hog like me always needs more books, right? I have Aldrich’s book on menswear cutting and this one looked like a nice addition to the shelf if only for ideas. I’m more likely to do a franken pattern than draft from scratch, except for details like pockets and collars, but it is so nice to see some offerings for the guys. Our school library had two of the old classics from the 70’s but they wore out and removed from circulation.

    Theresa in Tucson

  2. Sarah says:

    Hmmm, looks worthwhile, if only to encourage me to start sewing for DH as well as myself. He’s very trim (not skinny — broad shoulders, tiny waist) and has a hell of a time finding shirts that fit. They all seem to assume that he either has narrow shoulders to go with his narrow waist or that he has a pot belly. I keep meaning to make a shirt block for him but have put it off because I know naff all about drafting for men.

    And I really do hate doing any flat pattern work in imperial units. Why would I want to use imperial, when metric makes so much more sense?

  3. Judy says:

    Now you have me curious about the hood pattern. I love the hood design I use on my rain jackets, but it’s a huge waste of fabric when laying out a marker.

  4. Jennifer says:

    You know I take a little issue with your comments on metric vs. imperial. I agree everyone needs to use whatever system the given method is designed for and you may just as well get used to it rather than trying to sit on the fence and translate back to whatever you are more comfortable with. However there is a big difference between the two which has nothing to do with getting used to the size of a cm instead of an inch. Metric is base ten which is important whenever you are using broad size scales, e.g. engineering, physics, accounting. But when you are working in essentially fixed scale, the more important thing is multiplying and dividing by two. And imperial measures are better at this because the unit definitions tend to be multiples of two, e.g. 12 inches in a foot (divisible by 4) and partial measures are divided base two instead of base ten. So rulers are broken into divisions of two instead of ten. This means if you are actually measuring and working with your hands you can quickly split or double a measurement. And this a calculation that is much more important in human scale activities like woodworking, cooking or tailoring. Yes, it’s hard to remember all the quirky definitions in the imperial system but there is a long history there and they were actually created for convenience not just tradition. Similarly there was a reason metric was introduced–to better deal with modern science. But that doesn’t mean applying metric to sewing is more scientific. When drafting, if I’m taking pen to paper, I’d much prefer using imperial. But if I’m using a computer metric will do just fine.

    Thank you for the review. I have noticed the title and your analysis is very helpful, I really appreciate your time.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Hi Jennifer
    I’m thinking you misinterpreted my comments. I did not say metric is better and thus invite debate to the assertion; I said it is somewhat embarrassing that people complain about it in drafting books. Considering that the best drafting books on the market use metric and publishers aren’t likely to change that, one would be well served to adapt when and as needed. I continue to stand by that.

    But since you mention it, I’ve long said that-in my opinion-Imperial is a better standard to use for drafting.

    The imperial system of measure has a reputation for being unwieldy and complicated -usually deservedly- in all respects save one, that of drafting for the human body. While I can’t prove it, I think that it was precisely due to the particular suitability of inches in drafting for human bodies that are what made the imperial system so prevalent. While the system isn’t infallible, it can be a great rule of thumb for troubleshooting.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I didn’t express myself so well, I realize my comment is a bit out of context. I just meant to say that for some clinging to imperial isn’t necessarily that they are provincial but that it has a lot to offer. Clearly you appreciate that, thanks for pointing out your post, I completely agree. But I also agree it’s best to be able to use whatever is offered.

  7. Kathleen says:

    Jennifer: The thing I really love about CAD is being able to have the best of both worlds. I can change my settings to metric and input the measures provided by customers and then switch it to inches to do my part of it and then switch it back again before sending the CAD file. Or, I can start with inches and before adding seam allowances, switch to metric. Etc.

  8. LinB says:

    I agree that it makes one seem provincial (at best!) to complain about what system of measurement is used in a drafting book. Since I tend to measure empirically — first joint of my index finger is pretty close to 5/8″ so I use that to add seam allowance to pattern pieces, for example — I rarely worry about exact measurements anyway. But, then, I am sewing only for myself and/or family members, not on a production schedule or for retail work.

    It makes about as much sense to complain about which “number language” an author uses as to complain about the “word language” an author uses. As long as there are decent illustrations, one need not be able to read the instructions. You don’t HAVE to purchase or use the book, unless it is required by a teacher for a class you must pass in order to achieve graduation, or certification, or licensure. In that case, suck it up and do your best to cope. Once you’re on your own, you can discover your own “best practices.”

    Oh, dear, that sounded quite mean and preachy. Sigh.

  9. JustGail says:

    question from a home sewer – what’s different in pattern making for men vs. women, besides the basic shapes of the resulting patterns? I know men’s patterns have broader shoulders, no bustline, waist-to-hip ratio is different, pants are cut differently, etc. Is there a difference in grading increments for different sizes? Different ease allowances?

  10. Gareth Kershaw says:

    Thanks to all you enthusiastic pattern cutters who have left such great discussion about the merits of my book. Its good to see such topics debated and rightly so.
    I hope you enjoy using it.
    Big thanks to Kathleen Fasanella for your in depth review and constructive criticism. I am an avid follower of Fashion-Incubator, fantastic Blog!
    Kind regards
    Gareth Kershaw

  11. Kathleen says:

    Hey Gareth, thanks for stopping by! I’m so pleased to hear from you.

    Gail: I’d started to compose a response last week with the idea of creating a stand alone post but I delayed since I’m bound to create dissent.

    This topic -the difference btwn patternmaking for men and women- is somewhat controversial. When I’ve tried to answer it -even within strictly defined parameters, I hear all about it. Perhaps it is fitting to open with the observance: The smaller the stakes, the more vicious the politics.

    In my opinion, the basic concepts of drafting are the same for men, women and children. Saying so does not negate that each segment of the market has its variables with respect to fitting and proportion. The manner in which I would -for example- draft a hood for a man, a woman, or a child is exactly the same. The proportions and design of each will be different (children’s cannot have drawstrings) but the method by which I construct the draft is exactly the same.

    That said, I completely understand why images of women in a drafting book, for one who strictly wants to draft men’s clothes, is not ideal.

    It is also useful to remember who is using a given book. Mostly, it is not the most experienced practitioners, we rarely consult books. Books are used by those who are developing skills, so targeted and more specified drafting instruction will be helpful to them.

  12. theresa in tucson says:

    My copy of the book arrived this week and the illustrations are yummy. I have not delved into it deeply as I am unlikely to actually draft from it but it’s already giving me ideas. As a home sewer I tend to “franken pattern”.

  13. Jessamyn says:

    Re: “basic anorak (North American readers would describe this as a partial zip front hoodie with over sized front pocket)” – as a former ’80s Northern California teenager, I would call that a kangaroo pocket. I don’t know how widespread that usage is, though.

  14. Joe Smoe says:

    I’ll give you an opinion based on many years of experience the author failed miserably right from the start ,and so did every so called experts who critiqued the book.
    in menswear the layout of the pattern is totally the opposite meaning that if I am at the table the closest thing to me is the back the furthest from me is the front.
    So this was just an attempt to write a pattern book for menswear, it looks to me more like women’s wear.

  15. Anthony says:

    Anyone actually make any of these pants? By my calculations the lowest rise on any of then (the jean) is still over 11″ for a 32 waist plus a drop crotch on just about every pant. Also every pic of made up pants sewn up look like the crotch line needs some alteration . It’s a modern book with modern pictures but this seems very out of trend. Anyway I will try to make up a version.

    • kathleen says:

      It seems odd to me that one looks to a pattern drafting books for trends. Perhaps it’s a generational thing? Books are best considered an education tool, not a recipe. Once you’ve mastered the skills, you can make the modifications to suit yourself. You do that with recipes too.

  16. Akeru Joyden says:

    Thank you. I have been looking for detailed button fly pattern for a while. I prefer button fly. I just like them. And I’m female, BTW. And while my deconstruction efforts have gotten me close, I’m still struggling with some small aspect that makes it not lay flat like commercial pants button fly (actually combat/service style pants, vrs button fly jeans…).

  17. Lauren says:

    Hi, I’m working as a technical designer and I would love a solid reference for menswear. Would you be able to send me a page for the denim bottoms so I can make sure this aligns with how I’ve learned and am currently working? I can’t find an image of those pages online before I purchase the entire book!

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