Pattern Drafting Book Review Series – Part 1 – Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Armstrong

So here is my disclaimer: I am close to completing my own an introductory pattern drafting book but I felt it would be a good idea to explain why I decided to write my book in the first place. To do this, I feel the need to discuss the other great pattern books I hold near and dear in my collection. Before you stop reading with certain assumptions of a skewed review, know that I own all these books and still refer to them when I have a difficult project. I do not believe my book will be superior to any of these, but a different instructional take on the same material.

I do not believe that someone should only have one pattern making book and live by its word alone. It is important that when working in the fashion industry, you are aware of all the techniques out there, which is why I have so many.

I am starting this review series with Helen Armstrong’s book Patternmaking for Fashion Design.

I have actually owned four separate editions of this book, three while teaching pattern drafting at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Although, I purchased my first book right after I completed my schooling at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I bought it off of eBay back before Y2K. The last days of the 90s. Oh, how I miss your carefree days of being single and living in NYC.

My purchase was of the first edition from 1987. To quickly compare the four different editions that I owned, the first edition was, by far, the best in my opinion. For that reason, I parted ways with all the others.

In general, the book is really good for beginners, but as a teacher, it was very frustrating having to relearn the “new method” of drafting each edition change. Every book ended with virtually the same outcome. I taught for about 9 years and the editions changed every 2-3 years. Each edition had changes to their directions.

As a teacher, it was expected that we taught in the same manner that the book demonstrates. Every time a new edition came out, we had days of training on using the new steps and making notes on the changes we needed to make, in order to make the patterns fit our dress forms correctly.

Other than the direction changes between the editions, not much else changed except for maybe the illustrations. I felt the first edition was closest to perfection, but why mess with perfection? Profit is the answer.

Whichever edition you get your hands on, you will get a great addition to your library. As you can see, I have post-its throughout my book for easy referencing. I put these post-its in there about 15 years ago and I have never had a need to remove them.

What I love about this book: the draft by measure slopers came out pretty accurate for fit for the dress form. The pattern manipulation is also pretty inclusive and has a lot of great exercises to hone in on your skill development.

What I dislike about this book: the drafting instructions were very hard for me to follow. My biggest pet peeve with any pattern making book is they are very technical in nature and not written for a visual learner with a short attention span.

Directions by letter/number reference are difficult for me. I constantly look at the wrong letter and make the measurements in the wrong step. I have issues telling certain letters apart so I get confused easily. I am also not a fan of the “standard” measurements used for darts, but all my books do this, so its not exclusive to this book. There aren’t many measurements that are consistent across all sizes, so the “standard” measurement is misleading for those that are either large busted or over a size 8.

My other pet peeve is related to teaching from this book. Patternmaking for Fashion Design covers so many options and designs, that I discovered my students were too afraid to try something that wasn’t in the book. They got this idea in their head that because the book was so thorough, if it wasn’t covered, the design was not possible.

I have probably used this book more than most of my other books combined. This is a great reference book, but is better when you have an instructor walking you through it.

There is a paperback version available on Amazon. It states it was printed in China. I have honestly never seen it priced this cheap, so I would question the quality of the printing, but for $20, you can’t beat it. I just hope it was printed legally. The normal price is over $100. Note that this is an affiliate link. It helps me keep up my blog to offer affiliate links. Patternmaking for Fashion Design

  1. I also have the first edition and never saw the need to purchase the others. This is my go-to book for drafting then Designing Apparel Through the Flat Pattern. I find most of what I need between those two.

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