Most of the books on my sewing room shelves are old editions. It occurred to me that the market in second hand books is thriving, and many are reprinted with or without updates. So, I’m jumping in with some reviews anyway.
Can I get this out of the way first? Pattern drafting isn’t rocket science. Nor is it something you can pick up in an afternoon, knocking off that Donna Karan by tea time. I mention this because of the number of times I’ve been approached with a request that goes, roughly, ” How do I make a pattern for this dress?” whilst a photo is wafted under my nose of a little something Karl’s team whiled away a week or two working up in the atelier at Chanel.
Some styles are just easier to work up with direct draping on a stand. Everything can be draped on a stand, but flat drafting is quicker for most garments. Draping is usually quicker for, no surprises, draped styles. There are plenty of books on drafting, not so much on draping.
Learning drafting basics probably takes almost as long as learning enough of a foreign language to sustain a limping conversation with an unsympathetic public official without giving him too many excuses to shrug his shoulders and walk away. You can’t expect to find a book which will take all of the effort out of learning drafting if its a brand new skill.
With that preamble out of the way lets look at Aldrich.
This faded triptych I’ve had for nearly 30 years are reckoned as some of the sacred texts of drafting, and reprinted many times. They’re not to everyone’s taste – here are some of the criticisms I hear.
1. They’re metric. If you still work in old money, that could be a deal breaker.
2. The drawings are out of out of date fashions. So are virtually all drafting textbooks. It doesn’t matter. Fashion is far less innovative than it pretends to be. When people pay $140 for a fifties pattern of a ‘wiggle dress’ on ebay or etsy, they’re buying the illusion in the illustration on the envelope. Any half decent drafting course or book will give you all the information you need to make something similar. No, not similar, identical.
3. The instructions are terse. Yes, they are. Its easy to lose your place when you get “Mark point 16, 4-16 is one third of the measurement 4-3” and so on for an entire page. There’s not much explanation that answers the question ‘why’. But, maybe you like the lack of waffle?
4. Linked to 3 above, my personal bete noire with these books is that the points are numbered, and that means that you have to stop and search the diagram for where the number you are measuring from is. Some other drafting books use letters which are abbreviations, and actual words. Its quicker to look for say SP (shoulder point) than scan a page of numbers for point 8, especially if you just got called away to answer the phone or find someone’s wallet and keys. You have a rough idea where the shoulder point is in your diagram, point 8 could be halfway to the moon.
5. There are fewer adaptations in this book than in some others. True. There’s a lot packed in to a small format, but its not Tardis.
6. There are no making up instructions. True. Its drafting, and you have to know how a given style will go together.
Here are some plus points.
You won’t end up with a pattern with ludicrous amounts of ease if you work from this book. There will be enough ease, but not a Vogue-ish swamp to sink in.
You can find something similar to most of the designs you want or need to make in this small format book. If the lapel shape is out of date, you can still use the instructions and just draw a different angle or curve. Its comprehensive, but not overblown.
There’s no waffle.
There are different block drafts for different situations, Close Fitting Block, Easy Fitting Block, Tailored Jacket Block, Overgarment Block, One Piece and Two piece Sleeve Blocks, Dress Blocks, Lingerie Blocks. This is a better idea than you might think when ploughing through yet another set of instructions, testing the block, and transferring it to card. It beats finding that you have dashed into cutting a coat but forgotten the extra ease, squared shoulder or lowered armscye. If you adapt from the right block, no worries.
There’s a table of standard measurements from size 8 to size 30, and short and tall adjustment table.
There’s some basic information on grading and basic information on fitting. It is basic. Like I said, its not Tardis.
The information is presented in a logical, progressive format. Its a text book, not a book of crafty little projects for a rainy day.
If I were forced to abandon all my other drafting booksin a housefire I’d fight through the smoke with these. (Well, maybe not the menswear, but that’s because of lack of enthusiasm for making boring garments in large sizes.)*
More delving into the shelving next week.
*I wrote this before idly googling my way to Amazon to see what editions were still around. I fell on a page offering a menswear edition from different sellers from £243.53 to £329. For that, I’d throw in postage and tie it with a pink ribbon.