Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: Patternless Fashion Designs by May Loh and Diehl Lewis

After reading some good reviews on this book, I was hunting this book down online for about six month. The first book I ordered never arrived and the seller refunded my money. Months later I found another copy for a good price and, lo and behold, the book finally reached me. When I was all excited and showed my new purchase to my boyfriend, he said: "Oh a pattern book. True, you don't have any of these yet." Notice the sarcasm?!

Ok, I admit, I have more pattern books than anybody would ever need to learn pattern making. But it's research. It's a passion. Ok, maybe it's a bit of an obsession. But you understand, right?!

The reason it took so long to find this book is because I wanted a copy of the first edition published in the sixties, rather than the more widely available edition from the eighties, so that the book would cover sixties rather than eighties styles.

"The Oriental Method"

The book appealed to me because it shows you what is known as "the oriental method" of pattern drafting, which means drafting a pattern directly onto fabric rather than on paper first. This style of pattern drafting is apparently more common in Asian countries and similar to what the Japanese publication Mrs. Stylebook uses. Mrs. Stylebook, if you have ever seen a copy of it, is a kind of Japanese Burda but doesn't include patterns but only descriptions, instructions and drawings that show you how to adapt your own blocks.

Cover of Mrs. Stylebook Spring 2012
This method seems very sensible to me. It eliminates the eternal problem of fit and pattern alterations that are inevitably necessary when you buy patterns, but still doesn't leave you to be your own designer entirely.

The book, however, includes only a mere two pages with explanations on how to draft directly onto fabric. None of which are particularly useful or unexpected.

The "Oriental Method"

Without these two pages and a couple of somewhat useful pages on calculating fabric requirements before purchasing your fabric and drafting your pattern, the book is simply a pattern drafting book. There's nothing that seems particularly new or different to ordinary drafting techniques shown in other drafting books.

The Basic Drafting Method & Variations

The book shows you how to draft blocks for tops, skirts, dresses, trousers, coats and children's clothes and shirts for men. So you get a lot in only a mere 232 pages - slim for pattern drafting book standards. I have not tried the pattern drafting method but it seems to work a lot with direct measurements rather than proportional calculations, which can easily lead to errors when you don't measure correctly. Otherwise it's pretty straightforward. Darts are, by the way, never shifted to any other position than originating in the side seam, because how else would you be able to draw directly onto fabric? You simply can't shift or move the pattern, because there is none.

The book also includes various styles for each type of block but is by no means exhaustive.

Blouse styles that are included

Many variations and styles are not included and those that are, are naturally styles that were fashionable in the sixties. Therefore the book is a good addition to other pattern books, if you like sixties-style clothing, but not useful to anyone else who wants to learn how to pattern draft.

Blouse with Rolled Collar


The book is best suited for pattern nerds and vintage-style aficionados, others are better off with a modern, more comprehensive book. Vintage lovers will like this book, I think, because it was clearly designed for the modern housewife of the sixties, who dutifully makes her own clothes, including maternity styles, her children's and even her husband's clothes, as the book proudly pronounces in the blurb: "illustrations in this new book are for the entire family". And the modern housewife, of course, also thinks economically and is therefore eager to eliminate "the expense of buying standard patterns". I also love how the publishers decided that the most notable fact of the author's life is "wife of  a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel stationed on Taiwan", as if this somehow made her more qualified. And here they are, the two auhtors, on the back cover:

Do you have this book at home? What is your opinion?


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