I love technical books. Anything that teaches you how to make something for yourself is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately there’s a lot of books out there that pretend to be more than they are. Buying books from places like Amazon may result in the occassional disappointment but for the convenience and range I’m yet to find it’s equal (and no they didn’t pay me to say that). Below is a list of fashion books I can actually comment on because I own them.
Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich. This book is one of my all time favorites. I guess I like it so much because it was one of my college text books. It’s been revised a few times and there’s versions for men and children. It does seem a little out dated but the principles are all still valid, making it good value for money. Highly recommended for the home sewist if you’ve never done any pattern making before. Some bra and swimwear content, but not much. Unfortunately it’s hard to find this book … these days it’s seperated into mens, womens and childrens issues. (Rating: 8/10 Highly Recommended)
Shirt Making by David Page coffin. Although I’ve only had this book a short time I have to put it forward as a very good basic book for creating shirts and addressing fitting problems. I was a little disappointed that it showed pattern making only by copying existing shirts or by draping, although there is much to be said for draping when you’re working with difficult figures. The book more than compensates with a host of tweaks and techniques well suited to the beginner. What I particularly enjoyed were the illustrations of where and why wrinkling occurs, showing that even though measurements might be identical from person to person, body shape and posture can be completely different … meaning that sometimes draping is a more direct technique. (Rating: 7/10 Recommended)
Pattern Cutting for Lingerie, Beachwear & Liesurewear by Ann Hagar. At first glance this book is very reminiscent of the Winifred Aldrich books. It has a very similar approach and presentation, but provided a little more useful and technical detail with respect to bra patterns. I’m not completely happy with the bra technique’s maturity, but there is little else out there that might even remotely qualify as a proper pattern making book for bras. While I recognise that literally hundred of bra making books and websites do exist, they are based on copying existing bras or using paper and sticky tape which while ok for the home sewist, are completely useless for the fashion student or industry. I’d like to see a more modern and revised technique version of this book! (Rating: 7/10 Recommended)
Design and Patternmaking for Stretch Fabrics by Keith Richardson. I’d really hoped this book was going to be a bit more about the science of stretch design and pattern making and have a lot less rehashing of non-stretch pattern making made to look like a book on stretch. This book comes up desperately short if you’re trying to work out how to make even tensioned swim and dancewear. It’s otherwise OK if you’re making loose fit garments out of stretch fabrics. As a stretch fit pattern maker I’m probably biased as I was hoping for something new. My main concern about the book is that it’s full of table and math errors … it’s best redeeming feature (the sizing tables and reductions) haven’t been proof read so you need to redo all the calculations yourself (heck I’ve made a few typos in my math on this site, but at least I can fix mine). (Rating: 5/10 OK)
Making Beautiful Bras by Lee-Ann Burgess. While I’m not a proponent of the technique of copying bra patterns from existing bras, the technique is effective and very clearly outlined by the author. As I highlighted above the book is really no use to the pattern making student, but is still very good from the construction point of view and therefore I recommend it for both the sewing student and the home sewist. It’s a very popular book with very few critics (important to note!). (Rating: 7.5/10 Recommended)
The Bra-makers Manual by Beverly Johnson. Possibly a more useful book for the bra pattern making student because it, although briefly, highlights that there are a number of different techniques for obtaining a pattern from copying existing bras, to moulding, to bodice blocks, to professional blocks. Although most colleges are using seperate cup and band blocks nowadays, it’s interesting to see a good variety of other ways. The book is very general in that it also covers history through to construction and is probably more aimed at supporting the author’s in house classes (which I’ve heard are very good). (Rating: 6/10 Recommended)
Dress Pattern Designing by Natalie Bray. Not the easiest book to navigate through, but who am I to complain about that . It’s another basic pattern making book which I would recommend only if your in the habit of collecting books on the subject. It is a good book but there are better ones around. It does show how to manipulate blocks to create the varying styles as good as any of the others … I just didn’t find it that exciting to read. I do have the second book in the series but haven’t read it yet. (Rating: 6/10 OK_
Knitting Lingerie Style by Joan McGowan-Michael. I simply adore this book. Ok so it’s not a really informative book on pattern making but when we’re talking about knitting with wool we really aren’t worrying about a perfect fit. What we’re looking for is the cute and cuddly feeling and this book inspires it better than any other. Whenever I’ve lost my way as a pattern maker I simply breeze through the pictures to remind myself what the point of clothing a femine body shape is all about. Beautifully photographed and nicely written. I’ve not used any of the knitting patterns in it as yet so I can’t say how good they are … I use it to reminiss, inspire and motivate. Makes a great coffee table book too! (Rating: 8/10 Recommended as inspiration!)
High Fashion Sewing Secrets by Claire B. Shaeffer. I bought this book looking for fitting tips that might further mature my pattern making techniques but was reassured that a basic block (aka sloper) is just that, basic. The book is full of great sewing tips and explains many of the techniques you see on commercial patterns yet are left wondering what they mean. Whether it’s how to insert a welt pocket or a perfect sleeve, this book covers the actual sewing part so well I think everyone should read it at some point! There isn’t however enough relating to patterns for my liking but that probably wasn’t the author’s intention. I might try another of this authors books in future. (8/10 Highly Recommended)
Pattern Making – A Comprehensive Reference for Fashion Design by Sylvia Rosen. This book is appropriately titled. It should be every fashion student’s bible. It provides excellent coverage of both flat and 3D pattern making. It’s not really aimed at the home sewist. Much of the text is designed such that you work through the book step by step filling in charts and tables as you go. I only wish I had had such a text back when I was studying. No swimwear, lingerie or bras however so it loses half a point. Essential for the fashion student, not recommended for the home sewist. (9.5/10 Very Highly Recommended)
The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Sewn Product Manufacturing by Kathleen Fasanella. OK I first must admit that I do not actually own this book but know it to be highly recommended by a number of collegues. If you’re about to start out in the fashion business and have even simple fashion business questions then you should probably take a look before you do anything else. I get many people who write to me saying they’ve drawn lots of designs but have never been to design school/fashion college and want advice on how to start a fashion business. My advice is to do a fashion course and to buy this book. Don’t go in to this business blind or you will fail!!