April 26, 2010


I've enjoyed reading Melissa's recent posts (like this one) about her new sewing related reading material. It also made me realise I have never written a single blog post about my books. Sources for patternmaking, sewing techniques or inspiration have been horribly underexposed! How could I have neglected them...

About time to try and make amends. I'll concentrate on patternmaking books for now, because I think I refer to those the most. (and, because I don't really sew from pattern magazines anymore, I never get to do any of those nice 'issue review' posts...)

My main patternmaking textbook is called 'Grondvormen' (which roughly translates as 'basic shapes'). It comes in part 1 and part 2, 1 giving instructions on creating various slopers and their variations for men and women, 2 dealing with 'details' like alternative sleeve shapes and collars. The authors are Dutch, so I am rather convinced that this particular book is only publish in this language. It's not actually ment for the hobby seamstress, rather it's a textbook for teaching patternmaking in the Rundschau method to students at fashion colleges. Which is why it makes sense for part 1 to come with fold-out, pre-made slopers in the book's standard sizes (it's women's sizing has been way off for anyone, I've ever measured.
They seem to assume a very well defined body shape and small sizes). And it is also why it doesn't have a large section on fit alterations for the individual wearer's figure.
The instructions are step-by-step and very clear, however they are rather mathematical in nature. If Winifred Aldrich's metric pattern cutting (which I own as well, the pictures just didn't turn out right, but Melissa made a rather good review of it), gives you a headache, don't even open this book.
All my slopers were made using these books and I'm a big fan of their instructions for shawl- and notched collars (as I've made them on most of my
jackets and coats).

I mostly use 'metric pattern cutting for womenswear' when drafting separate collar shapes (a simple shirt collar for example) and I tend to prefer this book for sleeve shapes. Aldrich gives more variations for sleeveshapes on fitted bodices.

My third patternmaking book is 'Patroontekenen' (='patternmaking') by Detje Bosgra (also a Dutch author, so, as far as I know, a Dutch-only book). I bought this book quite enthousiastically two years ago (now I remember, it was my gift to myself for passing my driving test), and I've only ever used it once or twice.
Despite its 'fun' and 'girly' cover, this is not a fun or easy book. Like the other books, there are instructions for slopers, there's some information on tweaking the fit and there are variations. However the instructions are headache-inducing to me. This lady (a teacher in patternmaking) uses technical terms which I recognise, but are not common to me (and I own both other books in Dutch, and did a course in pattern making, so I'm familiar with the common lingo), and she is so economical in the use of words that a lot of the instruction becomes incomprehensible. Good thing you don't need the instructions to make the variations, which, if I remember correctly, were my reason to buy this book.

And one note to all would-be pattern makers among you: you can use your own sloper (even just Burdastyle's JJ sloper or one of those sloper dresses some pattern companies used to make) for any variation you find in another book. Just pay attention to what kind of base is used, this book has a lot of variations for to-the-waist bodices and some others use 'easy fit' blocks quite a lot.

Well, that just about covers my books on womenswear, but as some of you may know, I make shirts for my boyfriend. And sometimes for my brother as well. Of course, I could use a shirt pattern by Burda or Vogue (and for my brother, I do just that because his shirts, all three of them were spur-of-the-moment gifts), but why do that, if I could make my own pattern? Enter Winifred Aldrich's 'Metric pattern cutting for menswear'. Oh, by the way, I love the fact that these books are using metric measures, inches tend to confuse me.
This book offers no less than three different shirt blocks, easy fit, classic and tailored. I tried them all and found out that the tailored shirt block is best suited to E's athletic shape. I have made several shirts (about 8?) for him, and he's kind of hooked on that fit now, so even more will follow.
The book also offers basic shapes and variations on all other kinds of menswear and I've used some of those as well (although I'm not quite sure whether I've used the trouser block from this book or from Grondvormen).
There's one curious thing though. In womenswear, even when instructions for separate blocks are given, it generally accepted that all shapes for tops can be made from the basic, (fairly) fitted sloper. No such thing exists in menswear. Shirt, vest and jacket each come with their very separate sets of instructions, not to mention the much flatter shapes for casual wear. In a certain way, you get less freedom and less control as a designer and pattern maker.
I realise there will be some kind of historical explanation for this, something to do with the age-old separation between tailoring and dressmaking... I'll get back to you as soon as I have a real working theory.


  1. Very interesting! I'm glad you enjoyed my book reviews so much...

  2. Very interesting! I'm a self-taught seamstress and I use commercial patterns a lot, but mostly as a starting point, and I always add my own variations that come out of my own head. I've loved the mathematical challenge of "Pattern Magic" by Nakamichi Tomoko, but I always enjoyed maths at school...

  3. Interesting review. I was just looking for information about the book of Detje Bosgra "Basisboek patroontekenen". Your opinion I have been very helpful.