Patternmaking for Fashion Design

Another Friday flip through one of the drafting books on my shelves. This time its the 1987 edition of Helen Joseph Armstrong’s tome.


 The first chapter is about things I suppose you might not know if you’re just starting out, like what tools you need, what terms you might come across, how patterns are marked, how darts are drawn and sewn. There’s some logic to starting a textbook from the very basics, and this does it. 

 The next chapter is devoted to figure differences. It should probably come with a Government Health Warning. “Could cause severe body image issues if seen by your angst ridden teenage daughter or her mischevious younger brother”.  Park your self delusion  and find your double.


Measurement taking is comprehensive, with more direct measurements than is the case with many drafting systems. Most systems work off a few direct measurements and some ‘givens’, relying on fitting to sort out individual quirks like a different shoulder slant, or lower bust line. I haven’t tested the HJA block draft, tumbling rapidly into  grumpy old woman mode when I found no comprehensive size chart. Confusingly, there was one for the sleeve draft but the measurements were listed under ‘sizes’. OK, so I might get to grips with finding out what the author means by size 6/7 etc one day, and what the European equivalent is, but so far, not done.  I like to have a standard size chart, with bust, waist, hip and back nape to waist as a minimum . Of course, standard size charts aren’t standard, but its nice to know what the author is working with. 

That’s about the only omission, the book covers drafting for most types of garments including outerwear, swimwear and actionwear, has information on altering commercial patterns for fit, fitting problems, and adapting patterns for stretch fabrics.

Most useful for me is its comprehensive, well indexed, well illustrated adaptations with clear diagrams. If you wonder why I have so many drafting books its because you can never have too many adaptations to browse through. The styles will become out of date, but the basic ideas keep on going.

This is a typical page layout, fashion drawing, instructions and pattern diagrams.


And many pages include suggestions for alternatives, like the yoke designs on the left page below. The right shows the draft for a flange, not often included in pattern cutting books.

HJA4I’ve read some complaints of errors in HJA from other sewing people. I haven’t found any yet, but then I tend to eyeball adaptations and work them directly without referring to the ‘recipe’ of measurements. Some errors in drafting books are probably to be expected, in the nature of the text, so if I find one or two I won’t hold it against the author. Its a good book, well ordered and logical.


About jay

I design and draft patterns
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6 Responses to Patternmaking for Fashion Design

  1. FabricKate says:

    Well I never! What’s a flange?


  2. Pella says:

    Its a sort of fold at the shoulder of sleeveless garments, usually dresses, often used in couture garments as it gives a softer finish at the armhole.


  3. Gjeometry says:

    I have the most recent version of this book as it was the required textbook for my Pattern-making course. I found a lot of it to be very helpful, but there were some areas, where steps just were missing or convoluted (at least in the chapters we used, we only did skirts and bodices). And, yes, there were many errors, even in the 2011 version. Grammatical errors, errors in the answers to questions in the back and errors in the diagrams not matching the pattern.


  4. Pella says:

    That’s disappointing Gjeometry. Its quite an expensive book.


  5. helen says:

    I have the recent copy of this book that I bought a couple of years ago. I haven’t drafted her blocks as I use WA but I find the large range of styles / adaptation really useful and inspiring.


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