Review: Theory of Garment Pattern Making

Forgive me for forgetting and not looking it up, but last week someone suggested I should create a top ten list of pattern books. And the indirect result -sorry no top ten list yet- is this review. All because I went looking for this book to see if by chance, there might be a reserve of them available and sure enough! Some enterprising individual has republished it. Lucky you.

The author of The Theory of Garment-Pattern Making, W.H.Hulme, has been very influential in my development. I have two of his four books with another on the way. I was lucky enough to buy the third with diligent searching. I doubt it would have been available for me to buy if the seller had spelled the title correctly.  Which is by way of explanation that Hulme was (presumably deceased, I don’t know) one of those seminal thinkers few authorities will tell you about, or know to tell you about (so how authoritative are they?). Hulme has affected the thinking of -surely- Aldrich, Bray, maybe Cooklin but no one that I know of on this side of the pond. At the same time, I’m not certain how much of what Hulme wrote really is new but undoubtedly, one truly great contribution was curating. He separated wheat from chaff to organize an archaic and arcane body of knowledge into an accessible format for study and analysis. And study you will if you get this slim volume.

Before I forget, I’m reviewing the 3rd edition, copyright 1949. The re-publisher doesn’t mention which edition they’ve reprinted but the page count of the reprint is 138 pages; my edition is 136 pages so it is probably newer than mine.

I found these chapters to be the most interesting:

Chapter 2: Physical proportions
A summary of human maturation based on age and sex. Obligatory study of this section will be needed if you want to explore the concepts in chapter 8.

Chapter 4: Movement
Most people don’t think about range of motion when devising wearing ease. Pattern design is more than plotting direct measures to paper. This section directly (or indirectly, I don’t remember now) explains why a smaller body section -say the back as compared to a front- may need to be larger based on range of motion.

Chapter 8:  Applying the measurements to the pattern
This will keep you busy, maybe for years. There is discussion of a variety of systems such as derived measure, scale, direct measure, sectional systems, use of scale in disproportion, graduation in scale, use of constants, scale finding for women’s garments etc.

The text is dense, the terminology is dated, politically incorrect and takes some unpacking. It’s not as though you could read through it and be good to go. It is more likely that you’ll learn the definition of “active reading”. It is not a book you buy with aspirations of cutting perfectly fitted one-offs. Rather, it is exactly as titled -a theory of garment pattern making. If you’ve ever wanted to know why fitting shell drafts say to draw a line x length here or x length there, this book explains the root of it.

If you have to ask me whether you should buy this, the answer is probably “no” because it’s not for everyone. It’s for those people -you know who you are- who have to have everything. No perseverator’s pattern library is complete without it. I hate to admit it but anytime someone comes to visit, I always check to make sure I can find my two Hulme books before they leave. Until now, they weren’t replaceable. You are so lucky to live in the day you do. By way of example, this book costs $22-$26 now. I paid $30 for my copy in 1993 and even that was discounted from the listed price because I was friendly with the proprietress and a very good customer.

The Theory of Garment-Pattern Making, W.H.Hulme
$26, copyright 1949+?
138 pages 5.75 x 8.75

PS. In the original text (which I have, I don’t have this reprint) there is an over-sized leaf of tissue paper between pages 112-113; it is labeled “fig 14”. I do not know how the republishers managed the inclusion of this page. If you buy this book and it is not included, let me know. I can scan it and make it available for download if needed.

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  1. Kevin Bishop says:

    These reviews are great sources of information. I never would have known that something like this existed.

    I have been “taught” patternmaking based on the Armstrong book, and I have been left asking “Why?” all the time. With all the errors and omissions, I was left searching for something better. One of the tricks that I have used is to take patterns from Armstrong and compare those against similar patterns from Crawford, Aldrich, and Bray. When there are differences, I try my hardest to understand why the “same” pattern is different, depending on the author. That takes a long time, and I can still make mistakes.

    The book has been ordered, and I hope to learn why patterns are drafted in certain ways.

  2. nat.laurel says:

    You know, Kathleen, this is very important what you are saying here. When I first got your book (about six months ago) and read a paragraph about “…losing the primal knowledge every day…” followed by the advice to “…. rediscover the old masters like Solinger, Aldrich, Dickerson, Cooklin, Pizzuto and others….” (page. 13, I assume you only had one edition) the first thing I did, I put the book aside and rushed to the internet eager to rediscover. What did I find? Nothing. Nada. I have been collecting the information about movement and proportions in tiny bits from the memoirs of the old time Hollywood designers; but it’s a lot of unrelated (though fascinating) reading per tiny injections of what I am looking for. I have been always craving for more. If you have a chance, would you write a bit on the so called Old Masters? Could you give some leads, like a list of literature. Thank you.

  3. Lisa Brazus says:

    Kathleen, I just purchased the book. I will send an e-mail concerning the page you mentioned when it arrives. Great post. I look online all the time for authors you have mentioned in your book and other posts but I do not have much luck.

  4. Quincunx says:

    Now this one, unlike the new publication last reviewed, can be ordered online without the guilt of not buying local–which makes it ideal to wrap up into cylindrical clue-bat form and send to people who complain that I’m impossible to shop for. December is a -fantastic- time to review books. Please do continue to postpone reviews until this time of year. :D

  5. Hi Kathleen,

    I’ve just received my new re-printed copy today.

    Re: your footnote to your post…

    In the original text (which I have, I don’t have this reprint) there is an over-sized leaf of tissue paper between pages 112-113; it is labeled “fig 14″. I do not know how the republishers managed the inclusion of this page. If you buy this book and it is not included, let me know. I can scan it and make it available for download if needed.

    I’ve just checked page 112 – and the new book has this shown as a shrunken/reduced down version which fits onto a single page.

    Best wishes,
    Claire :)

  6. Lisa Brazus says:

    Since you said that this page was an oversized page that fit in between the two pages, I am wondering if it would be better understood if I expanded the size on the copy machine. I haven’t had time to read the book yet since it arrived today. I can’t wait to sit back and read!!

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