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Friday, January 11, 2013

Pattern drafting: Menswear

Mail's in! The menswear pattern drafting books I ordered have arrived. 

I bought two: Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear by Winifred Aldrich, and The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers: Menswear by Lori A. Knowles. 

Both have fabulous reviews online. But I couldn't figure which one to purchase without holding them in my hands and flipping through them, so I ordered both. Overkill maybe, but I like options. I'm about to invest hundreds of hours learning a new skill <gulp!>, so I wanted to pick my teacher(s) carefully. The reviews did not lie; both books are excellent. 

Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear (henceforth called Metric Pattern Cutting) is from the UK, and as the title suggests, the measurements are taken in metric. As I'm Canadian, I'm used to working in metric, so this doesn't faze me. The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers: Menswear (abbreviated to Patternmaking: Menswear) hails from the USA and its measurements are imperial. I'm old enough to have been taught feet and inches in school before the big metric measurement conversion in Canada, so I'm happy working in either system.

Both books have handy standard sizing charts. In Metric Pattern Cutting, there are charts for sizes UK 87-112 (US 34-44), with separate charts for young athletic figures and for mature figures. There's also a collar size chart, another that combines pants and overgarments (coats) (which I thought was an odd combo), and yet another for standard small, medium, large and extra large sizing. Finally, there is an adjustment chart for short (163-170cm/5'4" - 5'7") or tall (183-190cm/6'-6'3") figures giving the amount you need to decrease or increase in key locations. Lots and lots of charts that are basically presenting the same measurement but using different defining criteria.

Patternmaking: Menswear also has excellent charts. They have separate standardized charts for men's Regular (5'10") in sizes 34R-54R, Short (5'6") in sizes 32S-52S, and Tall (6'2") in sizes 36T-56T. The last one made me do that happy dance because that's my Big Guy's chart, which I've never found before. As well, Patternmaking: Menswear has tables for crotch extensions, hem widths, knee widths, crotch curves and arm measurements for sizes 32-54/56. There is also a short section on how to proportion the design sketches to fit taller/shorter men. Personally, I found these charts more useful for my purposes because they include my son's measurements.

A big difference between the two books is the number of basic blocks that are drafted from measurements. Metric Pattern Cutting has lots, based on garment types. For the upper torso, these are the basic garment blocks: the "flat" shirt block, the "flat"" overgarment block, the tee shirt/knitwear block, jersey overgarment block, classic shirt block, tailored shirt block, casual shirt block, basic jacket block, easy fitting casual jacket block, easy fitting overgarment block. Each block is drafted from scratch using measurements. For some blocks, you should have separately drafted sub-blocks for fitted, semi-fitted, and loose fitting garments. No doubt once done these drafts would make it super easy to whip up new designs in their categories. I've read that professional pattern makers usually start with garment blocks (like those listed above) when designing. But that's a lot of blocks....

Patternmaking Menswear drafts only 3 basic blocks from measurements: the upper body block, the fitted sleeve block, and the trouser block. Chapter 3 focuses on drafting and perfecting these three simple drafts. The rest of the book is devoted to how to use these basic blocks to design fashion garments including shirts (Chpt 4), vests (Chpt 5), pants (Chpt 6), jackets and coats (Chpt 7), and linings (Chpt 8). The basic blocks are altered to make the new patterns - sections are lowered, raised, widened, narrowed, etc and the finished pattern looks significantly different from the original basic block.

Both systems include basic wearing ease. Metric Pattern Cutting includes 1cm (3/8") seam allowances in its drafts, Patternmaking: Menswear does not include seam allowances. Both books are well written and easy to understand. Both include lots of garment drafts. An extra perk with Patternmaking: Menswear is the book's binding; inside the hard cover is a spiral coil, allowing the book to lie flat. 

I've been debating with myself about which book to use. I thought the best choice would be obvious, but it's not. 

I love the size charts in Patternmaking: Menswear and the speed of drafting just three basic patterns, then using them as the base for all other patterns. But is it too easy? Will it give good results?

Metric Pattern Cutting is more complex - numerous garment drafts, all done from measurements. I can see the value of doing it this way for a manufacturing company, but is it more work than is necessary when making patterns for one specific person? Part of me suspects the garment block system may end up with a superior product. I love high quality.

Sigh. Which one, which one?

My son comes in tomorrow to be measured. I'll take both sets of measurements, metric and imperial, as specified in each book. Then I'll make my final decision. Right now, I'm leaning towards the KISS (Keep It Simple, Sister) philosophy. 

Any thoughts? 

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I just bought Metric Pattern Cutting (Women's)a few days ago and I can't stop flipping through it and thinking why didn't I get this years ago? Have you decided which book you'll use? I'm planning on making something for myself for my first MPC project so I can adjust and tweak things. Look forward to seeing what you make.