Review: Patternmaking in Fashion

patternmaking_in_fashionGina Maree found this book Patternmaking in Fashion when she was shelving books at her part time job in a book store and wrote me saying it had sleeves I’d described. I think someone else had told me too (sorry I don’t recall who) but I didn’t actively pursue it until Gina wrote because the price of the book was so low. It’s $10-$14 depending on where you look. My summary conclusion is this book is a great buy, I cannot fathom why people are selling used copies of it on Amazon.

Beyond instruction for drafting a fitting shell, I would disagree this is a basic or beginner’s book. You should not expect to be able to cut whichever style strikes your fancy after using this book, it will not do that. Some of the styles within are quite complex and would be challenging for beginners but fun for intermediate pattern makers or those with a knack for it willing to exercise a bit of perseverance.

sleeve_draftThe value for beginners is drafting a fitting shell. For kindred with more experience, it has the only instruction I’ve seen in modern (English language) books on how to draft a sleeve appropriate to the range of motion. Most pattern books show the front and back of the sleeve as being close to mirror images. The drafts (right) in this book are not like that. The back side of the sleeve cap is longer and more gently sloped. The front is curvier, cupping at the armscye. Take it for what it’s worth; I think the sleeve drafting portion alone justifies the cost of the book.

Intermediate users (or brave beginners) will enjoy trying some of these styles. The skirts below are examples of challenges. I’m not wild on the petal skirt (left). A closer view would show it looks to have been made of upholstery fabric. I know I’m not supposed to comment on things like that but fabrication can only make one look hippier. Try it in another fabrication. Above all, use what you can and leave the rest.

The skirt on the right is interesting, again not wild on the fabric but the folds are pretty cool; it’s also not difficult to make as one would think. I find the lines appealing enough that I wonder how it’d look in something softer, say a double georgette.  Obviously it would work as is, softer goods need a lot more ease otherwise the figure looks to have gained ten to twenty pounds but you get my drift.


The book is a paperback of 104 pages, similar in size and orientation to the Japanese drafting books published by Bunka. The edition of Patternmaking in Fashion I’m linking to is in English, French and German. A separate edition is translated into Spanish and Italian. The binding is stitched rather than perfect bound. This means you can weight it open and the binding won’t break. I love the paper quality, it feels heavy and rich. Pages are thick and dense enough that you don’t get ghosted impressions from opposing pages. It also has a dust cover. This was not a cheap print job.

There are plenty of clear illustrations of drafts (caveats below) including forms for use in recording measures. There are quite a few color photographs to illustrate completed project styles. The measuring section is also photographed on a live model. Speaking of, it is untoward to remark about model attractiveness but this girl is the most remarkably beautiful girl I can remember seeing in a very long time.

Format/Minuses: Some of the translations are puzzling. For example, I don’t understand how “collar” is used as a given point of measure within the text. I haven’t actually done any of the drafts to know (at which point it would become apparent) but the definition of collar isn’t something one should be puzzled about. I’m thinking of buying the Spanish edition to tease that out better. I’m guessing the author (Lucia Mors de Castro) is a Spanish speaker although I am utterly baffled because the drafting process can only be described as German. So the author speaks Spanish but drafts German? I’d love to hear the back story on that. Before I digressed, “collar” in Spanish is “cuello” but cuello also means neckline. Summary: be forgiving with awkward translations.

A change in text design would improve readability, say, indenting the beginning of paragraphs. In places the text seems dense (the proverbial wall of text) but that may not bother you. Another issue is font size within the drafts themselves. If you’re an old fart like me, you’ll need reading glasses. One last thing is having to flip between pages, instructions for the basic bodice are several pages apart from the illustrated draft so you’ll have to flip back and forth. I am a whiner cry-baby about things like this so I would copy the pages with the instructions to use with the illustrated draft (or vice versa) so I wouldn’t have to flip back and forth. Seriously, this is a minor issue considering the value of the text.

Note: I don’t know anything about this author (and I looked) so I can’t speak to where this comes from but the drafting style is clearly German (see image below). That my friends is a very good thing. I don’t know if the author was trained in Germany or learned from a German instructor or even whether the illustration style and organization originated with the German publisher but like I said, it’s a good thing. Of all the pattern texts, the German books are the most expensive by far. With the exchange rate and shipping, a German drafting book can set you back $300. Even I don’t have one (beyond WW2 and earlier) and that’s saying something.


Germans have zero style reputation (I do not concur) but their pattern engineering skills are arguably the best in the world (the jury is still out on Czechs and Russians but I suspect they could be just as good). Yes, better than French and Italian. It would be a pity if this German publisher were compelled to cease investing in books for the English speaking market because this book didn’t sell. My fear is that this book hasn’t sold well and will go out of print. Perhaps worse, the publisher won’t consider it cost effective to print other titles similar to it which could be a loss to us all. I would very much like to see this author and publisher to put out more books like this. You can do your part by buying Patternmaking in Fashion! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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  1. Delphine says:

    The author was indeed trained in Germany. I found that on the Barnes and Nobles website :


    Lucia Mors took her first steps at Vivienne Westwood’s Studio. Since then, she has earned a degree in fashion design at the Meisterschule für Mode, Munich, and added to her resume with two shoe collections for the Selve brand, while gathering experience as head of the pattern-design department of the Misericordia fair-trade company in Peru. Currently, she is continuing her studies at the Academy of Arts in Berlin, determined to give fashion a true element of social conscience.”

    I love the petal skirt, I reminds me of an McQ design that was maid in plaid fabric and the print made it very interesting !

  2. Lauren says:

    I’m just a home sewer who lurks on this blog because I’m fascinated by what you say, but tada! Just bought a copy. Thanks for the heads up.

  3. Renee says:

    Kathleen, loved the review. My copy (ordered on the weekend) just arrived yesterday and I devoured it front to back. My brain was foggy from being over-tired so I didn’t try any of the drafting yet – that is on tonight’s schedule. Will keep you posted!

  4. Elizabeth K. says:

    Thank you, Kathleen. I just ordered a copy, too. Since it won’t arrive for a week or two, any chance you can drop a spoiler on me and say if the collar draft looks like yours too? : )

  5. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Ditto Lauren’s remark, I too just bought a copy. This is so timely, the pattern drafting class I’m taking at the community college starts drafting the men’s jacket tonight, with sleeves the week after next. I’m also working on a jacket muslin for myself and as usual, am struggling with the *@#&! sleeves. Thak you for the tip.

  6. Jody says:

    I saw this in my local Half Price Books store and put it back on the shelf…it was a bit too intimidating to me at the time. But, I might have to go back after it for the information on sleeves it contains. I really liked the petal skirt, too.

  7. Annik Van Steen says:

    I found this book (in Dutch) a couple of months ago at a bookfair.

    I am Belgian (Flemish), and with minor details, this is exactly what we learned in school. We didn’t do the gap in the side seam, which causes more overlaps. The book made me very happy, because it was the first that had our system in it.

  8. hjung says:

    hi Kathleen,
    we have a very good new (german) book, which is payable. It even handles lining.
    The first version had some errors so they put a correction. pdf in the net which shows you a bit better how the book is done
    than the first chapter what they show too.
    It is 48 Euro here. You can get it through Amazon.

  9. LizPf says:

    I’ve put this on my Amazon wish list (to order when I have enough for free shipping).

    I ant to support her so she can put out a pants drafting book.

  10. Paul says:

    The picture of the sleeve reminds me of a draft for a two-piece sleeve that I have seen in European texts. Is the following book also considered a good guide? Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong. I have found a few things, for close fitting garment blocks, to be especially useful.

  11. Rose Marie says:

    Kathleen, I let my fingers take me to Amazon this morning and made the purchase. I especially am interested in sleeves. Thanks for alerting us to this screaming bargain on Amazon.

  12. Kathleen says:

    Thank you so much for the info Heidi. I found it on the German Amazon, shipping to the US is 14 euros. The link to the English translated page if anyone wants it.

    Paul, re: Armstrong. Her book seems to be popular with students -which is not the same as saying it’s the best available in the US market. I reviewed her book previously. For my part, I think it would be a matter of intellectual integrity nice if Armstrong would cite her source material. People have been talking about it for years… maybe she thinks no one will notice?

  13. Paul says:

    I looked back at your other link on sleeves. I remember that when I took Pattern Drafting at HCC in 1993 the instructor gave us the big spiel about sleeve cap ease, how to figure out what was needed, and also her method in drafting the sleeve cap. Like the pattern shown above, the center was shifted to the front, but that is where the similarity ended. As an engineer and biologist, I couldn’t figure out why the cap had to be larger than the sleeve opening when the arm ball joint is not centered in the shoulder. I made the pattern as required but when I stitched up the sleeve to the bodice I used a pattern similar to a Chanel jacket which looks very much like the one above. The drafting was not a problem for me and the result was no easing necessary; just match the seams and sew it together. When I handed it in, the instructor commented to the entire class that “this is what the sleeve cap is supposed to look like”. I told her the following semester that the pattern I used was not hers but a European design and that there was no ease in the sleeve cap- seams were exactly the same length and the same shape when put together.

  14. dosfashionistas says:

    Kathleen, Thanks for writing about this book. I have it on order now too. This sleeve would take care of one of the most commen problems in drafting sleeves for plus sizes, which is the girth of the upper arm.

  15. Lisa Brazus says:

    I purchased this book at Half priced books last month for $8.00 or $9.00 dollars. They had several copies. I have not had time to read it cover to cover.

  16. Natalie Hennekam says:

    Oh, I really don’t need too much arm-twisting to buy books! Off I go to join the cue for a little more online shopping :-)

  17. Lisa Brazus says:

    Thanks for the review and the link to the english version of the
    German book. I have placed it on my birthday wish list for next month so I hope they do not sell out before then. Have a great weekend.

  18. rito says:

    hello all
    ive been trying out the bunka pattern cutting series. ive always used a dressform for trying out toiles.recently i tried out the bunka sloper with waist darts from the first book. it says in the book that the beginning of the armhole curve (or the armhole depth)must always be 2 cms below the arm, and must be on the bust line which is always perpendicular to the CF. on my dressform the bp ( and hence bustline) are not on the same level as armhole depth. the pin for the armhole depth is 3/4th inch below it.if i draw a line from it to bp on the dressform, it is slanted? has anyone else had this problem? also where can i discuss the bunka sloper and fitting issues in detail?

  19. Matthew Pius says:

    Really helpful review! Just one question – does this only cover drafting women’s basic patterns or does it include men’s drafts as well? As a home sewer, I am constantly amazed at how few pattern-drafting books deal with drafting for men’s bodies. Granted, the fitting issues are less complex. But you’d think there would be more out there.

  20. Lisa Blank says:

    The skirt on the right is very similar to one Burda magazine published in the last year or two. I can’t put my fingers on the exact issue at the moment, though.

    I’ll definitely add this book to my collection. You just can’t have too many books. heh.

  21. Leslie says:

    Well, I was catching up on my backlog of email and couldn’t resist popping over to Amazon to order this.
    Thanks, Kathleen, for the review. I can’t wait to get this book.

  22. Bought the book, got it delivered today. It seems pretty good. It is based on the Müller & Sohns system, so German ideed, and a pretty good system AFAIK.
    Some strange translations in French too (Modelage instead of Moulage), but it’s still understandable.

    Some good basic blocks (skirt, dress, sleeve), uses the dress block to derive a jacket. Women only, and no trousers.

    A very good book, for the price, as the blocks are really usefull. To create different styles, though, I’m afraid it will not be basic at all. Even to make a 2-piece sleeve from the 1 piece block might not be easy when you don’t know how to do it (not that hard, but still, I usually draft my sleeve right in 2 pieces).

    Maybe this book should be bought for the blocks, and then another book can be used to create styles, as the theory is pretty always the same (rotating darts…).

  23. Christina says:

    I am surprised that you didn’t mention the leather jacket that is at the end of the book. When I bought this book last summer, I thought of you when I saw that. (Should have recommended it to you back then, but I thought that surely you would have found the book the minute it came off the presses.) I like the sleeve-head detail on the leather jacket, and the princess seams.

    The only thing that I totally don’t get is the dress with oval outline on page 74. Why would anyone want to wear a sack like that, and isn’t it a rather non-challenging pattern to make?

  24. Kathleen says:

    Hmm, the leather jacket didn’t appeal to me. I just went back to look at it to see if I could put my thumb on what it was -and I think it’s two things. First is the exposed zipper. I know that’s popular and have even gotten used to it but I still think that look is too casual for leather. The thing that really bugged me about the jacket tho is that she glued the seam allowances flat. I hate that look. It looks tacky (to me, and cheap) and always makes me wonder how people don’t seem to notice that. The horizontal seam joining the waistband to the body wasn’t managed well (puckers right at the zipper). Also, I strongly suspect she didn’t use any fusible on it (zipper puckers a bit). It could have masked the glue application… Leather isn’t the author’s strength (leather does not “tear easily” but it’s great she used it as a sample.

  25. Lucia says:

    Hey everyone, I am the author of this book and just discovered this great website and blog! Thanks a lot, Kathleen, for this review and the critique!! And thanks to everyone who bought it (I am not earning any money from the sold books but your positive response give me so much of energy and motivation!). I hope you like working and learning with it and develop a lot of great styles out of the samples…! And yes, I and the pattern technique are german, shame on me that I haven`t manage to get a homepage yet but it is under construction and soon you may email me in case there are any questions arising from working with this book…

    I am so thrilled to get to know this web page, I will be around very often!
    from Berlin

  26. Kathleen (& Lucia), I happened across Lucia’s basic pattern drafting book in the Hong Kong airport of all places (they had a lot of good design books, actually), and thought the same as you — the slight differences from American drafts easily justified the price, though it wasn’t expensive. It’s very well-written, and clear, and is a wonderful resource. Thank you, Lucia, too!

  27. Jessenia says:

    Hi Kathleen,

    I decided to buy this book after reading your great review on it. I was wondering if you had tried drafting the bodice? I am having some issues and was hoping you could help. I would greatly appreciate it.

  28. Kathleen says:

    Hi Jessenia. No I haven’t tried to draft the bodice. In industry, nobody works with fitting shells (aka “slopers”). This entry –How we make patterns in real life– will explain more.

    If you’re a forum member, you could post there and we could help you iron out whatever ails you.

  29. Donna Hicks says:

    Jessinta, I had a query about this book some time ago. I googled the author and sent her an email. She graciously replied and helped me out! I love the way the internet facilitates exchanges like that.

  30. Jessenia says:

    Thanks for the advice Donna!!

    I am currently working on my first block and was hoping to use Luicia’s book as guidance. Could you give me some direction on how I should go about drafting a block? What book or books would you recommend I should be using? Sorry if I sound like such a newbie haha. Lastly just wanted to let you know that I have literally spent a good couple hours browsing your blog and is nothing but amazing!! I literally cannot get enough of it. :)

  31. Jessenia says:

    Technically it’s not the first block I have done. I have used other drafting methods but have not obtained the results I want . I’m a little bit of a perfectionist.

  32. Kathleen says:

    Could you give me some direction on how I should go about drafting a block?

    Did you see the comment I left above Donna’s?

  33. Sabrina says:

    Am I doing something wrong with my draft? When I use the instructions in this book, my sleeves always end up with a lot of ease (at lease 4cm). The sleeve I drafted using Metric Pattern Cutting (after a little adjustment so that it looks right, and fiddling with the ease) has just over 1cm and is so easy to sew in. It looks great.

    I want to know if I’m doing something wrong with the well-thought-of Muller & Sohn pattern cutting method. It’s said to be the best, and if it is, I want to learn more about it. :)

    • liyakath says:

      do not go for muller and shon pattern system books it has lot of errors ad translation mistakes ….worst book i ever purchased

  34. Maria zanette says:

    Io sono italiana e capisco anche se poco il francese e inglese. Effettivamente chi ha tradotto non ne sapeva nulla di cucito. Peccato perché anch’io lo trovo un libro interessante. Apprezzo sopratutto la costruzione della manica.

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