29 October 2011

Pattern Cutting: Book Review

I've been heartily enjoying reading Pattern Cutting by Dennic Chunman Lo, a new book released this month which I'd been sent to review. This really was perfect timing, as I needed a refresher before I start my advanced pattern cutting course at London College of Fashion in a couple of weeks. As it happens, the author teaches at LCF, and the text reads like a finely tuned version of what I was taught on the introductory course.

The book is about flat pattern cutting (as opposed to draping on the stand) and clearly outlines how to draft the basic blocks (for bodice, sleeve, dress and trousers) and how to convert those blocks into different pattern designs. It also demonstrates how to draft patterns for a few modern (almost avant garde) designs - not my style, but inspirational nonetheless. Before you get to this stage, there is a lot on preparation and tools, including handy diagrams demonstrating how to use a pattern master and other instruments. Since it is aimed at students planning a career as a pattern cutter, the book also includes information on how the industry works, how to annotate your patterns with codes to communicate information to the manufacturer, and how to use CAD (Computer Aided Design) software - not essential knowledge for the home stitcher but sections I was curious to read anyway.

While other pattern drafting books that I've dipped in to adopt either a didactic or chatty tone, this book comes somewhere in between. The information is presented clearly and concisely, and while the language is fairly dry it includes lots of interesting points and food for thought. It's perfect for reflector types like me who don't appreciate being told what to do without being able to probe the underlying reasons - not simply an instruction manual, the author explains why certain things are standard practice, and encourages readers to take an experimental approach to design, style and fit.

Visually the book is very appealing and easy to read. While packed full of useful information, it avoids overcrowding each page. There is lots of white space around the words, and the text is illustrated with simple line diagrams as well as colour photos helpfully showing what something should look like in real life, making it easy on the eye and much less daunting to read than some other pattern cutting tomes. While I can see myself pulling this book out a lot as a reference manual, it also makes for an enjoyable read while lying on the sofa with a mug of coffee. I'd go as far as saying that it's quite the page turner! I found it hard to put down and got through the whole thing in two or three sittings.

The book doesn't assume much prior knowledge, so would make a good introduction to the subject or refresher for people who have done some pattern drafting before. It is practical, inspiring, and offers clear explanations of various concepts or practices, such as how to decide what grain lines to cut different pieces on, or what kind of suppressions (eg. darts) you might choose and why.

My one criticism is that, while it explains most things in just the right amount of detail, it glosses over the processes of pivoting and slash 'n' spread required to convert blocks into different designs. If you've never done it before and were teaching yourself from home, I think you could be left a little confused or at least not certain that you were doing it right. So if you're a beginner, you might want to find a demonstration of this part of the process elsewhere.

Overall, however, I would highly recommend Pattern Cutting for beginners, intermediates, or possibly even more advanced home pattern drafters who are interested in a fresh take on the subject. I was surprised at how quickly I raced through reading it and will definitely keep it within easy reach when I'm creating patterns in future.

[Soundtrack: 'Hello Goodbye' by The Beatles]