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Tools & Supplies

Book Review: The Ultimate Patterndrafting Series

Threads #226, Summer 2024

Those who sew their own clothes do so for any number of reasons, but for most, it’s to express personal style. It’s also a means of exercising a creative urge that is artistic and technical. However, it’s often easier to envision the look you want than to achieve it. If you have reached the stage of yearning to create your own designs, The Ultimate Patterndrafting Series by MJ Shannon (A Notch Above Media & Publishing, 2019–2021) is certainly a worthwhile investment.

Shannon has produced a four-volume series that offers a comprehensive education in flat-pattern design. The books are specific to garment categories, and include skirts; blouses and shirts; pants and shorts; and dresses. A volume on jackets and coats is forthcoming by summer 2024, and one on evening and formalwear will follow (UltimateDraftingSeries.com). Ranging in length from 333 pages (Skirts) to 650 pages (Dresses), the books are a full education in pattern drafting. You’ll learn about the tools required for creating accurate patterns; pattern symbols and abbreviations; and key drafting skills, such as blending, trueing, pivoting, and spreading to modify and refine patterns. That is just the beginning, however. 

Styles Galore

The majority of each volume is devoted to step-by-step, copiously illustrated instructions for drafting an extensive selection of garment designs, based on a provided quarter-scale sloper. For example, paging through the “Dress” volume, with the subtitle “Advanced Drafting for the Torso,” I was intrigued by the variations on cowl necklines—most of which I’ve never seen in a pattern or ready-to-wear garment. If the detail you are looking for isn’t in one of these books, there is likely something that is a close approximation, and you’ll have the skills to develop your design as you wish. You can apply these modifications to your custom-fitted sloper, block, or master pattern. Designing an original garment, or a personalized collection, is within reach with Shannon’s guidance. 

Easy Reference

The author has organized each volume clearly and provides a detailed table of contents, so you can easily find the information you’re looking for. Chapters cover topics such as standard silhouettes; adding fullness; neckline and waistline finishes; sleeves; collars; closures; linings; pockets; and other design details. 

Each book also has a “Style Portfolio” with assorted designs and their drafts.

There is also a glossary of drafting and garment construction terms.

Best Practices in Drafting

The series is geared toward those in the fashion industry and, according to Shannon, has “a product development perspective to create quality garments while streamlining processes.” She has extensive professional experience in the industry and asserts that “the patternmaking phase is arguably the most critical phase in the development cycle.” A properly drafted pattern can cut the number of samples that must be tested, economize on fabric usage, and simplify construction processes, among other benefits. While much professional drafting is done by computer these days, the author points out that expertise in manual drafting is “a prerequisite to the proper use of apparel industry specific software.”   

If you are considering a career in fashion design and production, these books will be a valued, evergreen reference. The author provides sample spec sheets for use in manufacturing, as well as an introduction to costing. Even one-person businesses—including custom clothiers and independent pattern designers—can work with these to keep accurate, consistent information about their projects. 

Curious, motivated home sewists may not require every piece of content contained within these volumes, but they will certainly gain confidence and inspiration in designing and drafting. 


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