Friday, January 22, 2016

Review: The Pattern Making Primer

My "word" for 2016 is Integrity. Some things that have come together recently for me under that theme:  Ezra 4, Daniel 10, this post by Sally Clarkson, and the discussions of vocation in Dorothy Sayers' novel Gaudy Night.

So, I have been working toward a coherent policy of how I will approach doing reviews here. It is a work in progress, but it is coming along. One important point is that I have no connection whatsoever with the publisher or authors of the book.

The Pattern Making Primer, by Jo Barnfield and Andrew Richards, published by Barron's:  I bought my copy for the cover price, $23.99, at JoAnn Fabrics. I had been wanting a good pattern drafting reference book for some time, so I was willing to pay the cover price and not wait for a coupon. My copy is kind of a hybrid between hardcover and softcover; the cover is flexible, but sturdier than most softcovers.

The book covers how to make slopers (master patterns) for dresses, how to use the slopers to make muslins to test and correct the fit, and then how to use the corrected slopers to draw up a variety of patterns, including shirts and skirts and even capes. Basic sewing and drawing knowledge are assumed, but the book does contain many sewing tips, as well as hints about how clothing is designed and manufactured commercially.  There is also a short chapter about starting to sell your clothing designs. The book reads like a textbook--the authors seem to be college teachers in some sort of fashion-technology area--and it tends to terseness rather than verbosity.

There are many illustrations, all well-done, although the graph paper background behind the line drawings is sometimes distracting. The illustration for how to place a sleeve in a garment before sewing them together is particularly good; it clarifies one of the most confusing situations in sewing. (The sleeve, right side out, gets put inside the garment body, which is inside out, and then they are sewn together...somehow it all works out in the end.)

The valuable parts of the book, for me, are where it gives the general shapes of pattern pieces, how to work from them to create different clothing styles (different shapes of sleeves, for example), and how to draw (and sew) pesky pattern details like seams, collars, cuffs, pockets, and facings. Also useful is the section about diagnosing fit problems from the patterns of wrinkles that show up when the garment is worn. There is a chapter about "rubbing off" patterns from existing clothing. The book takes a low-tech approach; minimal tool sets for pattern making are listed and illustrated. The book has almost convinced me that I need a tracing wheel.

Being only a primer, the book does not go into as much depth as I would like for my sewing in the long term. The sloper patterns are provided only in small, medium, and large, and in a scale that will be very awkward for most people to enlarge to life size. There is almost nothing about pants, only a brief example of using the skirt sloper to make a pattern for culottes. (Pants are much harder to design and fit.) There is nothing about maternity patterns, or other extremes of figure, although enough information is given to enable one to make some good guesses. There are some links to pattern software, but no other information is given about how to go beyond hand-drawn patterns. The business information is helpful, but is only the barest bones of a beginning for someone who actually wants to do it.

The book seems to be a Western Hemisphere issue of a British book. Measurements are given in both inches and centimeters, but there is no U.S.-specific information about the fashion industry--if I remember right, U.S. clothing sizing is not standardized, but U.S. pattern sizing is. Looking at my commercially-created patterns (none of which are recent), the sloper sizes provided in the book don't correspond exactly to U.S. standard dress pattern sizes, but would be about size 10 to size 16.

Overall, I like the book very much, and have consulted it several times already in thinking about future sewing projects. Making your own patterns is an interesting intellectual challenge, almost mathematical, and this book is a good starting point if you want to take that road.

No comments:

Post a Comment