It’s fitting that Neighbour Helen decided to buy me this book for my birthday, as she’s the one who got me interested in drafting recently, and she liked it so much she bought one for herself, too!
I’ve heard that this is one of the best pattern drafting books around (alongside the Armstrong book, but there’s a £60 price difference there, too!), and I can see why. It’s certainly not an easy book to get to grips with, but if you’re a visual learner like me, then you probably really only need the drawings to be getting on with anyway. The book is absolutely packed with different blocks and various sleeve, collar, skirt, dart, yoke, etc drafts, with precious little else included. It’s a book that doesn’t mess around and gets straight to the point, which is great as it doesn’t take up much space on the bookshelf, either (frankly, I’ve seen thicker magazines!!). There are no wasted pages here, and Winifred Aldrich certainly doesn’t mess around!
First up is the Basic Block, which isn’t really any different than ones in vintage drafting books I’ve got. But you can see the level of instruction here, and there’s probably the most hand-holding for these blocks than in the other parts of the book (so run away now if this makes your brain hurt!)
There’s a bunch of different blocks here (and a ton of size charts so you can draft and grade for the various sizes) like an easy fitting bodice, skirt, trousers, jacket block, knit blocks, etc [fixed, thanks!]. And then the bulk of the book is changing these blocks into interesting designs, so how to change and split darts, change these into princess seams or raglan sleeves, or how to add ease and fullness into different parts of a design.
For this, they show a bunch of illustrations on the left, then how to change your pattern to achieve these designs on the right:
There are SO many little details in this book I want to use – you could completely create a pick-n-mix outfit using these ideas. Like for instance, I totally love the yoked shoulder that’s integrated into the sleeve (#28):
Towards the end of the book, the designs start to get really complicated as they show you how you can use the various princess seams, raglan sleeves, skirts, leotards, bathing suits, leggings, etc that they taught you how to draft and combine them together:
But they honestly do work you up to this point slowly so the above image isn’t quite as big a shock as it may seem right now!
There’s also a whole chapter on fitting issues and how to alter your pattern pieces to get rid of weird wrinkles, but to me, this isn’t as good as a 1970s book I’ve got [“Making Your Clothes Fit” by Patricia Burkhart Smith], as that tells you the pattern fix AND the sewing fix (how to fix a garment that’s already sewn up) so I only glanced through it here.
This is the 5th edition of the book, but to me it looks like the only really updated part is a section at the back talking about CAD and fabric printing and various industry stuff that isn’t terribly interesting while the prices of those machines are still out of the range of the home sewer, IMHO. So if you see an older edition of this book at a cheaper price, go ahead and buy it, safe in the knowledge you’re getting all the good stuff anyway.
In any case, this book has got me REALLY excited to start doing some drafting. I just need to get myself a ruler longer than 30cm (ha!), a clear workspace, and stop being tempted by so many amazing patterns that are already drafted for me, just waiting for me to sew them, the little minxes (can you tell I just got a load of KnipModes in, on top of the latest Patrones??)!