If you make garments (and chances are you do, seeing as you are reading this blog) you may already be on familiar terms, however if you are not, allow me to introduce you to Winifred Aldrich. She is the author of a series of books on flat pattern cutting, and on this subject she is a major authority. My ‘relationship’ with Aldrich began ten years ago when I received a list of recommended texts for the start of my Fashion Design degree course that included her Metric Pattern Cutting. Initially I bought one of the other texts, but once my course began and I took a look at my classmates’ copies of Metric Pattern Cutting, it became obvious which was the weightier tome and I swiftly corrected my error by purchasing my own copy.
My copy is the third edition, published in 1994, but little of the book’s foundation has been altered since the initial 1976 version. And that is the key: it has a solid technical foundation which has been informing students for a third of a century. It provides instructions to create all the basic blocks someone who wants to design their own patterns would need, plus directions of how to adapt the blocks in a myriad of ways. This book is aimed at beginners, but with the sheer quantity of garment shapes, styles and detail variations achievable through its explanations, I find it hard to see why a pattern cutter would need to turn to any other volume unless they were trying to attempt very avant garde or sculptural work.
‘The basic rules of pattern cutting are based on sound principles, a student must learn those thoroughly so that when the rules are broken, it is a creative decision allied to sound reasoning’.
Aside from the basic block creation and adaption that form the core of the book, I have found sections on drafting blocks for individual figures, correcting fit issues, and grading rules for different sizes keep me coming back to glean new knowledge.
However, its sections on computer aided design and pattern development do now appear dated, if they hold any interest for you at all. Equally, some might also argue that many of the garment shapes or details it shows you how to achieve are also a little unappealing these days, but as this book perceptively acknowledges, a lot of fashion design is the result of a sensitivity to proportion. Therefore, if the reader looks beyond some of the particular shapes illustrated to the principals being imparted, each and every section contains knowledge to add to your arsenal of pattern designing skills. I will also concede that this book relies heavily on its pleasantly stylised illustrations and crisp diagrams to impart information rather than through reams of detailed text.
Many of the style options this book offers up are really interesting and things I would never have imagined, let alone have the first clue of how to achieve, for example gusseted cap sleeves and raised seam sleeve heads (What? Exactly!). It makes me realise how banal most manufactured garments and commercial dress patterns are these days.
If you are interested in starting to create or adapt your own garment patterns, or are looking to expand your existing skills and inspire you into new and interesting directions, then finding a copy of Metric Pattern Cutting would be a strong move.