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.