Sewing Blog

Book Review: Grading Techniques for Modern Design

Book review: Grading Techniques for Modern Design, Jeanne Price & Bernard Zamkoff

Grading Techniques for Modern Design -  Jeanne Price & Bernard Zamkoff

Compared to Concepts of Fashion Grading this book feels more like a quick reference guide. Which Is a good thing! This book doesn't over complicate the proces, but still has enough substance to get you going.

Grading Techniques for Modern Design, Zamkoff & Price

The book covers woven women's garments for junior and misses sizes. There is a 1" and 1 1/2" for the junior sizes and for the misses sizes they also offer a 2" grading chart. All the examples are graded in 1 1/2" and you use the grading chart to adapt the distribution charts.

There is a basic explaination of what grading is, what to consider when defining a sizechart, but mostly it's a collection of distribution diagrams and a step by step instruction for manual grading cover a lot of different styles as well as the basics.

Grading Techniques for Modern Design, Zamkoff & Price

The basics they cover are the bodice, skirt, pants, set-in sleeve and a collar. Amongst the more complex garments are a princess bodice, shawl collar, kimono raglan sleeve, a gusset sleeve, a set-in raglan sleeve. These distribution charts are all acompanied by instructions for manual grading.

Grading Techniques for Modern Design, Zamkoff & Price

In conclusion they added a spread with 12 additional grade distribution charts for a bodice with multiple darts, a cape, a two-piece sleeve and more. 

Grading Techniques for Modern Design, Zamkoff & Price
If you are looking to grade menswear, childrenswear or stretch garments you would have to look elsewhere since there are no examples in this book.

Where to buy it: Amazon

Sewing Tools The Good The Bad & The Ugly

Through the years, I've aqcuired quite the collection of sewing tools and they range from, can't do without, to useless, to some not actual sewing tools. Some are cheap, some a expensive...I guess it's all very personal, but here's a list of some of my favourite (an not so favourite) sewing tools. 

Steam Iron 
must have sewing tools
I can remember the first time I used a steam iron and it was such an eye-opener! Press all seams open or to the side before you sew the next step and it will give you better end results. Using steam will make it even easier. Trust me on this one...sewing and pressing go hand in hand. Sewing is pressing. I own a simple iron a model similar to this one by tefal

Fabric scissors / Paper Scissors / Thread Nipper
must have sewing tools
Fabric scissors, paper scissors and thread nippers...you want them all. I don't have a fancy pair of scissors. I buy cheap fabrics scissors and I have a little tool to sharpen them, to prolong their fabric cutting life. Thread nippers or fabric snips (like the one in the image) are great for snipping threads and notching fabric and they reduce the risk of snipping where you don't want to snip becuase of the short blades.

Rotary Cutter
my favourite sewing tools: rotary cutter
Rotary cutters I´ve used them mostly for cutting a lot of bias binding, fabric strips and (button band) interfacing, they are perfect for that. Sometimes I use it to cut pattern pieces from fabric, but takes practise and a big cutting mat. The big advantage is that it's faster and more precise than a pair of scissors, because you don't lift up the fabric to cut. Works best on thin fabrics like, knits, silk, modal, etc.

Tape Measure
Must-have sewing tools list - tape measure
When I started sewing I loved the look of the tape measure around my neck, but it's also very handy to have the tape with you without noticing it ;) 

Metal Ruleres, Set Triangle & Other Rulers
Must-have sewing tools list - metal ruler
You'll collect a few along the way, but here are the ones I use a lot. Plain metal ruler for cutting PDF patterns and drawing straight lines. A tiny ruler to draw seam allowances on patterns. My favorite for when I trace patterns is the set triangle. I use it to guide my pen on straight and curved edges, and I also use it as a guide when pressing seams.

Tailors Chalk & Snap Off Knife
must-have sewing tools list: tailor's chalk
I use tailor chalk that I sharpen with a snap off knife (I like this one by OLFA). It helps to get crisp and precise lines and I love crisp and precise lines. I've tried chalk pens, but I don't like it. The chalk core break easily when you drop the pen so I've ended up with lots of small pieces.

Seam Ripper
must have sewing tools list: Seam ripper
Use it to rip seams or to open up a button hole. When you use it for a button hole, make sure it's sharp and use a pin at the end to prevent ripping past the button hole. You'll know when to replace once you see thread pulls in the fabric next to the button hole.

Magnetic Pin Cushion
Favorite sewing tools list: magnetic pin cushion
If you have ever dropped a case of pins you know how handy these magnetic pincushions are :) Or picking up stray pins after sweeping the floor. But the real joy is just throwing your pins at the magnet instead of pinning them into a cushion while you try to keep sewing.

Pins / Glass Head Pins / Stuffed Toy Polar Bear
basic sewing tools: pin cushion
Pins...You want them plenty, thin and sharp. Sorry Polar bear! I know they are endangered, but it does such a great job at organizing my pins and hand sewing needles.

Hand Sewing Needles
must have sewing tools: hand sewing needles
There will always be a bit of hand sewing involved in most projects, whether you want to baste something before stitching or add sew on snap buttons. You want different sizes / lengths. I've always used cheap needles that come in sets with different sizes.

Strap Turner
Oh my! Turning straps or loops can be such a pain. This thing is a sanity saver if you have to do more than 50 bag straps, which I have done in the past. Note to self: If you only have to do a few there is a SUPER COOL trick and I did a video tutorial! 

Ironing Board / Sleeve Ironing Board / Old Towel
my favorite sewing tools: Ironing board
When I started fashion school I didn't have the budget or the space for a big ironing board, so I started with this mini / budget board from Ikea. Sleeve ironing boards are great for sleeves and pant legs. And one day I will make my own pressing hams, but for now I use an old towel that i roll up.

Extra Bobbins & Bobbin Holder
This ring a.k.a bobbin saver makes sure the bobbins don't unravel and roll away. One of my first purchases after buying my sewing machine were extra bobbins.

Pattern weights
Mine are (ugly) paper weights from a Chinese gift shop, but I've used books, cans and just about anything that will do the trick. No need to buy special weights. You can use them to hold your pattern in place instead of pins, but I hardly only use the weights. I like to pins the corners for more precise results.

The Narrow Hem Foot
This is a tool I can do without. I have tried to use it on many occassions and I can't get it to work for me even after watching and reading countless tutorials and demonstrations. I would return it if I could.


Book Review: Concepts of Pattern Grading

Book review concepts of pattern grading third edition

A book review: Concepts of Pattern Grading: Techniques for Manual and Computer Grading 3rd Edition by Kathy K. Mullet

For those unfamiliar with grading, it's when you take a flat pattern in a master size and use that to create bigger or smaller sizes. This is what you do after your pattern is finished, to create a set of patterns to reflect a size range. you can do it manually or on a computer, both methods are explained in the book. It's an interesting technique if you have a pattern and want to grade up or down to match your own size, but it's typically used by the industry and not by those sewing their own wardrobe.

When I first received Concepts of Pattern Grading I couldn't put it away and even read it in bed. It's a recurring theme with pattern drafting related books, reading in bed. I want all the knowledge, now ;)

The book starts with some history and explains the concept of grading. It talks about size charts and how to develop your own size chart. The book includes an astm size chart: D5586-10 women aged 55 and older that is used throughout the book.

What I found useful, was that the main part of the book focuses on woven women's garments, and it covers a 1", 1 1/2" and a 2" grade. There are grade distribution charts for the basic bodice, dress, long sleeve, pants and skirt besides that there are charts for raglan sleeves, kimono sleeves, collars, but it's not an exhaustive list. The book gives you enough tools and examples to get you started on your own designs. If you have complex or asymmetric designs, it will be quite a puzzle.

concepts of pattern grading review

But wait! There's more...a chapter about complex grading, a mens shirt is graded in an alphanumeric size range (xs-s-m-etc.), stretch garments and basic children's blocks are also covered albeit rather lightly. For in depth information on those subjects you should looks elsewhere.

Although I recommend the book, it´s not for everyone, nor is it the solution to all your size chart and grading problems. Definitely not the easiest book for the beginner. I'd say you need to have a basic understanding of grading, and creating size charts otherwise it might be overwhelming.


Where to buy it: Amazon or Bloomsbury

Book Review: Draping, Art and Craftsmanship

Draping / moulage instruction book for beginners

Book review: Draping - Art And Craftsmanship In Fashion Design by Annette Duburg & Rixt van der Tol

This book is the best book I've seen on the art of draping or as the french say, moulage.

Eventhough I hardly drape full garments, knowledge of draping helped me get a better grasp on fitting and altering basic pattern blocks into designs. In addition it gave me more confidence in flat pattern cutting, taking on a more playful approach instead of always drafting by the rules. 

The book starts with basics of draping, the tools and how to use them, and ends with the recreation of historic garments giving you insight in the draping of more complex garments. The only negative I can think of is that I wish there were more examples ;)

The best book on draping pattens or moulage

Throughout the book there are clear images of all the necessary steps to create basic draped designs, how to mark them and how to true and clean up your moulage. In addition they cover different sleeves, jackets, coats, skirts, bodices dresses, pants and collars.

Best draping and moulage book

I purchased the book at the end of a workshop from one of the makers, Rixt van der Tol. Such an inspiring experience! We all had to make the same jacket from the book to learn some basic techniques before we could make our own project. During the workshop I draped a corset and a dramatic jacket. Vlisco sponsored the workshop so we got to use stunning Dutch wax fabrics. It’s hard to explain how much I loved that experience.

This book will be a lovely addition to your sewing and pattern cutting library, if you want to know more about draping and learn a new skill.

Where to find it: Amzon or Center for Pattern Design

Book Review: Pattern Cutting by Chunman Lo

Book review Pattern Cutting by Dennic Chunman Lo

Pattern Cutting by Dennic Chunman Lo a book review

What I love about this book: He explains the why behind the steps and measurements, giving you the confidence to bend and play with the rules.

He covers all the basic blocks for women (bodice, skirt, dress, sleeves,pants), in addition he explains how to combine a skirt and top block to make a dress. There are some examples of how to approach innovative pattern making and how to manipulate your blocks into other designs. I particularly liked the chapter on sleeves, explaining the effect of different sleeve crown heights, how to calculate them and how you can play with those measurements. 

The book offers two methods for making collars, draped on a mannequin and drafted from measurements. Draping might sound daunting to a beginner, but he makes it look easy and fun. 

Another interesting paragraph was where Dennic explains how much seam allowance to use for different fabrics or seams and why. Or the part where he talks about buttons and button sizes, the placement of darts. Or where he explains the key measurements for every block and what their function and effect is. Sooo much juicy info that I would have loved to have had at my fingertips when I started pattern cutting journey. 

Beginner skirt block making book, pattern making

I tried his method to make a bodice block and skirt block. The fit was close to perfect, the apex point was the only point that needed a slight adjustment. I found the instructions clear and easy to follow, it helps that the book has a contemporary look.

Eventhough I own many pattern cutting books and have different methods at my disposal, he gave me new insights on pattern drafting. It was interesting to see Chunman Lo's angle on pattern making and it felt like a refresher course and an eye-opener.

I highly recommend the book by Dennic Chunman Lo for a beginner looking to make their own set of pattern blocks. But it's equally interesting for a more seasoned pattern cutter, you will probably gain new insights since it's packed with juicy information.

Where to find it: Amazon

pattern drafting book for beginners