The best pattern grading book of all

The best pattern grading book published in the United States is Professional Pattern Grading for Women’s, Men’s, and Children’s Apparel by Jack Handford. Unfortunately, because it’s not as well known as the textbooks used in schools, it is out of print -for now. It is difficult to locate used copies. If you can find one, they cost over $400. The reason it’s difficult to get used copies is this is the title most often used in industry. You don’t sell a book you use daily; it’s a reference. It’s the text book grading books that are easily purchased used and new.

It is possible that were there sufficient demand, that the title will be reprinted; that’s what this entry is about. This was originally published by Plycon Press in 1980; Fairchild now owns it. If we can show sufficient interest, it is possible they will reprint it. I will tell you about it and if you think you’d be interested, I hope you’ll leave a comment signaling your interest.

First I should mention I knew the author personally as well as one can by correspondence and telephone. We had planned to meet In Albuquerque in May 1997 but he died before he could make the trip. This was before email, I don’t know that Jack ever had a computer. He was a dear person, if he ever married he never said. He never had children. He was uniquely qualified to write this book (pasted from my Amazon review):

Unlike many book authors, Handford was a pattern maker for years. He’d work in the industry for a spate of years, get disgusted, go back to school, get disgusted with school so he’d go back to pattern making, then into teaching, then back to school, then back to manufacturing over and over. He did this over the lifetime of his career finally ending up with a Ph.D and 50 years of industrial experience! I mention his background because it means his book is keenly attentuated to the needs of everyone, students, pattern makers and educators. He did it all so he’d know what was most efficacious for all parties concerned. His book blends the needs of everyone simply and succinctly. You could buy another book rather than this one but I don’t know why you would.

He retired as the Associate Chair of the fashion department at Otis in 1989. The reason his book is most useful is due to the way the grading charts and mapping are set up. This most closely mirrors the way you do it in real life, especially if you are doing it manually using a ruler or with a grading machine. The charts in competing books (Price/Zamkoff) are so complex that I don’t understand them. If there is a defect to the book, it needs a bit more introduction to the mapping of the pattern pieces, an oversight I corrected in my book on pages 173-175. The best thing about it is you can actually teach yourself to grade with it which is not so easily done with the Price/Zamkoff book. I’ve noticed there’s another grading book on the market for CAD grading but I don’t have it so I don’t know. I should get it.

There’s one negativish review (3 stars) of Handford’s book on Amazon written by someone who has no clue what a grading book is supposed to be and I’ll reprint a portion here in addition to my rebuttal in comments there in case your expectations are similar to his/hers. If you have similar expectations, you should not buy this book.

You [N. Owczarek] wrote:

“it does NOT give standard grading charts of standard sizes. it gives only the BASIC BASIC grades between them, such as 2″ for the waist.”

In my (professional) opinion, it should not give “standard” grading charts. Sizes are evolutionary. Contrarily, the process -and increments- of grading are static. I think the problem here is the gap between your expectations vs what a grading book is for professionals. If you want sizing standards (what you expected from the book), you have to buy those separately, usually from ASTM. Otherwise, you could reverse engineer grades by comparing competing lines.

“I was expecting something a lot more thorough and updated than this, especially since the apparel industry has changed so much. I wanted standard specs with grading, not common sense instructions on shifting a pattern up and out, etc.”

If you want a specs book, buy a specs book. No one claimed this was a specs book. This is a grading book (how to). A specs book won’t tell you how to grade so why would you expect a grading book to give you specs? The practice of grading -what this book teaches- doesn’t change regardless of how much the garment industry has. This book will still be useful 100 years from now. A specs book on the other hand, will need to change frequently. No one ever said this was a specs book.

The summary is, leave a comment if you’re in the market to buy this book and maybe we can garner sufficient interest that Fairchild will decide to reprint it. Thanks.

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  1. dosfashionistas says:

    I want one. I know I’m supposed to be retired, but I want one anyway. And I really really want the Conklin (?) book on plus size grading.


  2. Ali Loverink says:

    I am a student and stumbled across it in the library and have been trying to find it anywhere. It is a great book for beginners.

  3. Marilynn says:

    I’ve heard so much about it, I’d love to own one if they can get the price down to, say, under $100. I think all the schools teaching patternmaking & grading classes would, at minimum, buy one for their libraries plus one for every professor. This book has become legendary because of its scarcity. It’s definitely worth reprinting. Word-of-mouth will sell it.

  4. LisaB says:

    Yikes! As an enthusiast, I have no idea why I wanted this book. I remember putting it on my Christmas/birthday gift list several years ago and receiving it, but what made me think I needed it? When I saw this topic in the forum yesterday, I remembered I had the book. I should either find a reason to use it or offer it up to someone else. It seems too precious to just set on a shelf.

  5. cdbehrle says:

    Yes, I have to double check but I think I learned on and have always used one of his books for women’s wear. Needed nothing else- a book covering the full range would be great.

  6. OMG, I so want this book! I haven’t found anything on the market (next to the ring bound grading book by EE Davis) which comes close to defining grade rule. I have to create graded specs for a living, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled them out of my you-know-what!

  7. Aimee says:

    count me in. i am forever interested in the best ways to grade and anything that helps would be a blessing. i am assuming you would post a link to purchase the book if it is reprinted…? i know a lot of people who would be interested as well..

  8. Lisa Shoemaker says:

    I would love to buy a copy. I am used to spending around $100 for a textbook. My school doesn’t even teach grading.

  9. ioanna says:

    I’m really glad I got a copy when I did. This is the book that made me understand how grading works. The Cooklin one was good too, also sadly hard to find.
    I also wanted to mention that Handford’s Professional Patternmaking for Designers is also a really good book and you can still get that.

  10. Lucy says:

    would love to get my hands on a copy, and might potentially use it in the classroom as well (20 students/yr, approx, if it’s adopted in a studio course)

  11. Lisa B. in Portland says:

    I’d buy a copy. I’d actually like to have the patternmaking book, too. I only have the Helen Joseph-Armstrong one, which, by the way, does NOT tell you how to make a princess-seam bodice that’s off the shoulder. It tells you how to make a darted bodice off the shoulder and it tells you how to make regular shoulder- and armscye-princess seam bodices but not combined. I had to figure it out in advanced patternmaking and I think that was the only thing I learned in that class.

  12. Camille says:

    I’d get it too, I tend to collect them – in fact I still have mine from college. I like to compare and contrast methods. Sometimes one method helps to explain another method.

  13. Sara says:

    i would definitely want one! i’m in the market for a good grading book and this seems to be exactly what i’m looking for.

  14. alboulay says:

    i already have “Grading Techniques for Fashion Design” by Jeanne Price and Bernard Zamkoff, but would love a well read industry reference.

    i’m game to buy.

  15. Debbie says:

    I would love a book that teaches me the correct way to grade from set in to raglan. Please let me know if it comes available and where we can purchase one. Thank you.

  16. Denise S says:

    Fingers-crossed, I bought a used copy online that wasn’t exorbitant. I purchased a “good” copy for just over $40, which seems reasonable compared to what so many others are selling used copies…$80…$200….$400. So, occasionally a reasonably priced used copy does turn up online. But hopefully Fashiondex or Fairchild will just reprint it and that will be that.

  17. AJ says:

    I might be too late on this but if you are still keeping a tally I would be interested. I have a couple scans from his Professional Patternmaking for Designers of Womenswear. I wish I had the whole thing!

  18. Mary Alice Carter says:

    I would love to get a copy. In fact I had called Fairchild Books and tried to order it for my
    Christmas present. They had it listed in their books, but didn’t say it was out of print until I tried to order it.

  19. celeste says:

    There has been a copy on ebay now, for about two weeks, it is a buy it now, I put the link in the little box (i guess that makes my name the link?), its 265.10 plus the 3 something for shipping.
    It’s out of my price range, but perhaps its in someones budget…..

  20. Gwen Frisch says:

    I’m so desperate for a book like this, I’m trawling all over for one. Even if it is a bit pricey, it’s totally worth it. Please let me know when and if they become available!

  21. Renee says:

    I’m definitely in the market for a copy too! Is it still an option that Fairchild may re-print (since this is an older thread)?

  22. Al says:

    So I got super excited because I thought I found this book at my local used book shop. Instead I came home with Jack Hanford’s Professional Patternmaking book….for $8. I guess I still can’t complain! Next to it was “Designing Apparel Through the Flat Pattern” by Rolfo/Zolin etc for $15, so I got that too! Wondering if you had any thoughts on that book?

    I do wish it were easier to obtain Jack’s grading book. I’m returning to fashion school next year and want to learn pattern grading rather than enter “pattern grading hell” without any supplementary education.

  23. Next to it was “Designing Apparel Through the Flat Pattern” by Rolfo/Zolin etc for $15, so I got that too! Wondering if you had any thoughts on that book?

    I wrote a post about how I assess content in reviewing pattern books, it would probably be helpful to you. The cut to the chase is that Kopp et al is comparable to Armstrong in that these are text books written for a gamut of students with a variety of goals. For most students who don’t intend to be pattern makers, any of the majors (which includes Kopp) are fine. Most books get the basics right so any book will do.

  24. Annette Mc Dowell says:

    I also would love a copy of this book if it is reprinted. I have been searching after buying and reading your book. After working in and out of the industry in various roles I find myself pattern-making and grading again. The industry in Australia is growing again, as it is in the US. We need all the GOOD information we can get. Too many of the masters have been lost to the industry, along with their knowledge. Thank you Kathleen for your generosity to us all.

  25. kata says:

    I see this is an old thread, I’d love a copy of this book. Been searching far and wide and (unsuprisingly) there are none to be had.

  26. Margaret M says:

    I have used this book for years, and I like it a lot. I am looking for a similar book for plus size grading. Does anyone have a recommendation?

  27. Lindsay says:

    I contacted Fairchild’s and asked them to reprint the Handford book.
    In response, they recommended
    “Concepts of Pattern Grading”.
    Do you have any comparison? Or alternative recommendations?

  28. Victoria says:

    I’m the 100th commenter. Do you think this is enough interest? Please Fairchild… Mr Handford took the time to carefully write it, he would want us to learn from it. (Not to mention I’m sure we’d all love to preorder a copy, if you’re taking orders!)

  29. Ayesha says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    I want this book too. But it is so very expensive. Here in Pakistan, patternmaking is not done properly, though there are many fashion schools now, however, cutters who do patterns, work on entirely different rules. Most of the garments are loose. The fitted ones only have front and back waist darts. There is no concept of dart shifting at all. I have been working on patterns, because I love patternmaking. For alterations, I use a book Fitting and Pattern Alteration by Liechty (Fairchild). I would love to own pattern grading book. Do let me know if it is reprinted so I can order. Otherwise I will not be able to afford it.

  30. Brandy says:

    I would buy it instantly if they did another run. Even take it as an ebook for my tablet if they didn’t want to invest in the paper.

  31. Mary Alice Lo Cicero says:

    I stumbled across this discussion on the Internet today, and I thought: Wow! I am not the only one lusting after any edition of this book up for purchase (that I can afford).

    I did manage, through my local library, to obtain from WorldCat a library edition just to see what’s in the book and how its formatted. However it has to be sent back soon so that someone else can borrow it, and I would really like to have any edition of this book for my workroom bookshelf.

    Is there any way to contact Fairchild Publishing and beg them to republish the book? I can’t believe that there would not be quite a market for it if it were republished. Particularly if desk copies were sent to professors at some of the leading fashion design schools and colleges.

  32. Gabe says:

    I recently purchased a used copy of ‘Professional Patternmaking for Designers, Women’s wear, Mens casual wear, by Jack Handford unfortunately it is missing pages 13-18 from Chapter 2, Drafting the Bodice. I suspect the end of the book is missing as well, as Chapter 19 Mens Casual Wear, seems to end abruptly on page 468. I am trying to complete my book, anyone willing/able to help?

    • Gabe says:

      Got the missing pages, thank you Tim! More directly related, I found my copy of Jack Handfords Pattern Grading on ebay in excellent condition, for 295!

  33. Clare LaFond says:

    Yes! I have a copy of Handford’s pattern drafting book, which is straightforward and clearly written. I would definitely buy his grading book. The grading book I currently use for reference is from the UK: “Grading for the Fashion Industry, Theory and Practice” by Martin Shoben and Patrick Taylor. Measurements are metric, which may be a little inconvenient. It’s not for beginners, but the illustrations provide helpful reference.

  34. Shannon says:

    I emailed Bloomsbury, they got back to me and said these books will be reprinted, but they couldn’t say when. So fingers crossed that it’s soon! (Maybe more emails would help move it along…)

  35. Gwen says:

    Yes, yes please! This sounds like just the kind of book I’m looking for. I often must grade up several sizes on patterns. This would help tremendously. I don’t care about charts. Like you, I get that sizes evolve. And besides, I never fit on any one chart. I’m usually on 2 or 3. So I ignore any charts and seek the key info like, 2″ at the waist is typical. I can’t thank you enough for sharing. What more can we do to encourage Fairchild to publish?

  36. Faune says:

    Apparently the book is available in the UK for 26.10 british pounds.

    I just called Fairchild Books to ask them about the petitioning process to have it distributed in the US, waiting for a reply.

    My copy from the library seems to be missing all the NOTES – “see note at end of this chapter” > then the Notes pages are blank. Anybody having that problem too?

  37. Manny says:

    Just bought a copy of the book. 18 were left(more on the way it said) when I placed the order on Amazon. The book is available right now for $61.29, one heck of a deal. I don’t know if it’s a reprint or old stock but they are New, I’ll find out when I receive it.

  38. Afia Cayee says:

    Hello Everyone,

    Kathleen, thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge. I purchased your book a few years ago but I wasn’t quite ready but now I am! I am so excited to finally be reading it and it is so informative.

    I also wanted to share with everyone that was looking for the book above mentioned in the review I just purchased a copy for less than $75 on Barnes & Nobel and they are $100 on Amazon.

    Just sharing. I just purchased my copy! Have a great evening!

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