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]


  1. sounds really good, will have to have a look on the bookstands at this one :)

  2. This book looks great. I did the womenswear course at LCF years ago and I'm dying to go back and do a more advanced one. This could be a good refresher for me.
    Plus I'm generally obsessed with pattern cutting books! Especially ones with quirky patterns.

  3. Looks like a beautiful reference. Shame about the minimal slash and spread and pivot detail as this is a pretty key part of the processes I've been learning. May still have to check it out though! Thanks for sharing. I love the thought of a "bodice drafting page turner" as opposed to a"bodice ripping page turner" a la Mills & Boon,lol!

  4. Tilly,
    Thanks for the review. I have several pattern drafting books, but this one looks like a good addition.

  5. "reflector types"? Do you have flashing lights and shiny wheels?

    It sounds like a book worth looking at.


  6. I have that book too!
    Dennic does indeed lecture/ tutor at LCF (I took a short pattern cutting course with him in February this year), and he's a really great tutor in person. I'm currently halfway through a 2nd short course that he's teaching - and I'm throughly enjoying every second of it. Re: the minimal coverage of pivot / slash + spread - it might be covered in more depth if he does a second book, it's something we've been covering a lot in the current course I'm taking :)

    I'm going to get him to autograph my copy of this book BTW!

  7. That looks good. I might have to see if I can get it from my library before committing myself. As much as I read a good review, I still like to see a copy beforehand. I've requested loads of pattern drafting books at the moment, I've got about four on the go! Another one to add to the throng!

  8. The book seems nice. Added in my wish list :)

  9. sounds like a really good book! I love pattern cutting but I only own one book, I think this could be my next though.

  10. Thanks fOr such a great review. It's Arguably more helpful than reading on amazon in my view!

  11. Thanks for the review, Tilly! I came across this book on amazon a little while ago, but it didn't have any reviews yet, so I didn't buy. It sounds interesting, I always love to get the why-does-it-work-that-way, too - much easier to remember than just instructions!

  12. Tilly, I really enjoy your book reviews. I have a passion for sewing books, of all types, so I appreciate being introduced to new and interesting ones. When I saw your post about Fabric for Fashion I hauled off and bought one for my burgeoning sewing library and I use it constantly. Thanks!

  13. Thanks for the review. I hadn't heard of this book but I love finding fresh viewpoints to accompany my drafting classes.

  14. I just reviewed this book last Friday. I wish I'd known of your review, I would have linked to it for another perspective. I'm fortunate enough to have an extra copy that I'm giving away to one of my visitors.

    I think this book fills a gap in the market. While intended for students, I think it is good to explain concepts to designers who don't plan to make their own patterns (most of the working designers in real life).

  15. hey, im new to pattern cutting and this books sounds like just what im looking for. Looking at the pictures its seems really good. Great review.
    Gonna look at the rest of your blog now :)

  16. Hi Tilly, I have a question about the book: when talking about drafting the bodice block, does it mention the neckline/armhole darts at all? I saw on a picture on amazon that the block doesn't have them drafted on (only the waist/shoulder darts), but it would be nice to know how to add them to it if necessary. Thanks! :)

    1. Hi Lilly,
      For drafting the bodice, the book shows you how to add waist and shoulder darts to the front bodice only, however these do the same job as bust darts in shaping the fabric over the curves. You can move the darts to the bust if you prefer, and the book shows you how.
      I hope this helps!


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