More Pattern Drafting Books

This time Natalie Bray ‘Dress Pattern Designing’ and ‘More Dress Pattern Designing’ came off the shelves.


My copies of these books are the 1964 publication, and the first pattern drafting books I bought. For years, they were the only drafting books I owned and used.

They were, and still are, excellent primers on pattern drafting. They use inches, feet, yards, not centimetres, metres, but later editions are available in metric. Its typical of the book’s style that a chapter about conversion to metric and the decisions that have to be made is included in the later editions.

Unlike Aldrich, which socks you with unequivocal directions, Bray goes into explanations about why you are doing things the suggested way, and what alternatives there might be, if appropriate.

The diagrams are large and clear, the directions are fullsome. So, the two larger volumes cover pretty much the same range of basic blocks and adaptations as one of the Aldrich books, although there is some childrenswear in the second book.

Take dart manipulation for example. This is the first technique one learns for changing the basic block to different styles. Natalie Bray has a whole page on the general method. There are about 300 words in the paragraph on the different fit of different dart positions.

If you’re learning drafting from scratch and don’t have a lot of experience sewing up and fitting other people’s patterns, this can only be helpful. The next page is about the six basic dart positions, with four style illustrations for each, and there are pages of how to work some of those – an illustration page facing a full page of text.


If you’ve already absorbed knowledge of patterns, fitting and making up, you might prefer to have the directions for an adaptation in the Aldrich shorthand.

Other differences between this author’s approach and Aldrich are:-

1. The sleeve block is drafted from arm measurements, then there’s a page of text on the correct hang of the sleeve and its correct position in the armhole and how to balance it with the bodice.


2. Dart position on basic block, Bray uses mid shoulder, Aldrich places it by the neck. There really isn’t any practical difference. You save a bit of block drafting time putting it by the neck, but the chances are that you will move it from either of these positions for a design.

(I have some blocks ready cut with some of the more common alternatives. That’s a time saver.  You often have to move the bust dart temporarily in order to work one area of an adaptation. Having several versions of the block to choose from can cut out this stage. I wouldn’t choose one book over the other based on dart position.)

3. Construction of basic bodice block, balance of measurements between the front and back and amount of ease (in a nutshell, I find personal blocks for fuller figures work slightly better using Bray’s method, but the fit is sometimes too generous for ‘trade’ work, that is mass produced rtw. ) My own workaround for different kinds of figures is to have different blocks for different cup sizes in each size range. That can be a shortcut.

4. Natalie Bray uses words and abbreviations in her draft instructions. I find this more user friendly than Aldrich’s use of numbered points. There’s a series of diagrams for the draft of the basic block, interspersed with a lot of written instructions. Let’s give an example

“The Bust Line, Waist Line and Hip Line having already been taken across to the Front, it now only remains to add the Chest Line, the front Shoulder Line and the line for the base of the neck….” and so on for a third of a page.

Aldrich’s instructions come at you like this:-

“4-20 one fifth neck size minus 0.7cm   4-21 one fifth neck size Minus 0.2cm; draw in front neck curve 20-21” The whole block ‘recipe’ takes less than one, smaller than Bray, page .

Conclusion – these are excellent books to teach you drafting, needing little prior knowledge or experience.  Making up instructions aren’t included.

For FabricKate,and anyone else who might be interested,  here’s a messy tech drawing of the dress in the last post.sketch


About jay

I design and draft patterns
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10 Responses to More Pattern Drafting Books

  1. FabricKate says:

    Another great review. and thank you so much for the diagram. its a lovely concept – rather 1940s I would say. Incidentally the Hillhouse and Mansfield is available for free download if other blog readers want to print off a copy, or refer to it.


  2. I find both of these books very useful – but having started with Aldrich at college that still tends to be my ‘go to’ book. I also feel that the Hilary Campbell trouser block is the best I have found (but check the waist if you aren’t tiny!)


  3. Offspring says:

    I learned with Bray for my degree and she is still my favourite. I particularly like her childrenswear blocks; despite only providing four drafts (for ages 3, 6, 9 and 12) it’s easy enough to grade for the in-between sizes and the first two sizes give a much better shape for the typical bow-fronted profile of small children than do the Aldrich equivalents. 🙂


  4. helen says:

    I enjoyed reading this post. I was taught from the Winifred Aldrich books but have read lots of good reviews of the Bray books. I have the Helen Joseph Armstrong ‘pattern making for fashion design’ but I always have to check ‘what Winnie would do’.


  5. Pella says:

    Winnie is without doubt the most succint out of those three.


  6. mrsmole says:

    It is a testament to both these fine ladies that their books are all still available on Amazon!


  7. Hi, just one request, I use Bray as well, but the one I’ve got is a later edition in metric and I need the standard measures chart in imperial, very badly. It’ll be a great help if you can take a snap of it and pass it on, I’ll drop you a mail, if it’s ok. Thanks.


  8. Ternpoint says:

    I learnt from the bray book back in the 70’s and found it impenetrable and irrelevant. Used a contract pattern cutter to successfully develop my label along with some instinctive draping but never really had an understanding until i came across aldrich. Have found that method to have its shortcomings as well. Have since also started referring to helen joseph armstrong, quite a different approach to the basic drafting and again some shortcomings especially in the rather bizarre standard measurement charts, and not in metric. Wish someone would write one that was really useful and not requiring a whole lot of interpretation to make an industry standard garment.


  9. jay says:

    An ‘industry standard garment’ is a moveable feast though isn’t it? There is no one set of standard measurements and sizing across manufacturers and retailers.


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