Flat Pattern Books

When designing clothing you could go to your local fabric store and buy patterns to alter, but why not make your own?  A few friends have asked me how they can learn patternmaking without spending four years in design school.  Well, I cannot guarantee that you will learn everything that you could learn in college from these two books, but these are my favorite ones that I still use today. 


Principles of Flat Pattern Design by Nora M. MacDonald

Recommend 3rd Edition

This book has easy to follow step-by-step illustrated instructions on how to draft basic tops, bottoms, collars, sleeves, pants, basic knits, and how to make your own torso block.  It also lists all of the tools and terms that you will need to start the learning process.  It is recommended for beginners that want to learn quickly and painlessly on your own.  I still often refer to this book first when encountering a tricky pattern, before resorting to the more complicated and confusing books with gaps of information.  I highly recommend it as a straight forward guide from start to finish.  Most flat pattern classes start off with this book and it is the best book I have encountered yet. 


Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong

Recommend 3rd Edition

For more advanced patternmaking, everyone in the industry refers to these as the “Armstrong Books.”  There are gaps in formation, and the illustrated steps are somewhat confusing.  However, this is still your best advanced book.  It shows you flat pattern instructions for making a bustier, totally radical 1980’s style garments, super scary resortwear, swimsuits and leotards, as well as a small chapter on pattern grading.  I often refer to this book for inspiration as well as flat pattern tips.


Why flat pattern instead of drape?

Well, draping is great for certain types of garments.  Garments that would be referred to as drapey.  However, all your are going to do is drape your sloper (standard fit block) off of the form, and then go and flat pattern from that.  Sure, fittings are going to be required on the form/person no matter what.  Flat pattern is faster and more accurate from my experience.


What do they use to make patterns on Project Runway?  They always look like they are draping.

Actually, many of the designers will make their sloper off of the Wolf dress form given then they will use that sloper to flat pattern the garment.  Then, drape the parts of the garment that need draping.  Sometimes they are in such a rush that they will drape the garment entirely, but it often will have many mistakes and inaccuracies.  That is why Project Runway stresses me out so much.  Their garments are only judged on the runway and not on the hanger or inner of the garment so this is not a problem.  But, hopefully you will not be that rushed at home and can pattern a gown that is finished and without flaws.


What kind of pattern paper do you use?

I go down to the back of the local newspaper printing house and pick up the discarded rolls of paper.  One roll has lasted me over three years.  Newsprint rolls paper is the easiest to pin through as well and is free.  You can also purchase paper specifically for pattern purpose from a sewing shop.  I have also been known to use brown paper bags or rolls of brown paper, which is harder to pin through but more durable.


Hopefully, you will enjoy patternmaking as much as I do and feel good about understanding how a garment is made from start to finish.  Many people think that designing is the concept being sewn and do not realize that there is a patternmaking process involved.  Concept and Illustration is my favorite, patternmaking and draping is my second, and sewing is my least favorite part of design.  Please let me know if there are any other guides you would be interested in.


~ by Ragdoll on 03/30/2009.

2 Responses to “Flat Pattern Books”

  1. Thanks Coty…I know I asked you for book recommendation on pattern making. I’ll definitely check out the Flat Pattern Design book.

    • I hope the post helped you find wha you were looking for. There have been a few other people asking me to post about it as well. I will also be posting about my favorite Illustrator books.

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