If you do a lot of sewing, you may find yourself scratching your head over the confusing directions in most ready-made patterns. Even worse, you may have completed a sewing project, only to realize that the finished garment doesn’t fit your measurements! One of the best ways to avoid this confusion is to track down the best pattern-making books and learn how to draft your patterns!
The best pattern-making books provide step-by-step instructions for drafting custom sewing patterns. Pattern-making guides often include several sample projects and custom measurement guides for practice. The most comprehensive guides also cover stylistic concepts and fashion design skills to help designers create unique clothes.
In this article, you’ll discover nine of the best books on pattern-making. You’ll also learn some tips for good beginner sewing projects and designs. Finally, you’ll find a comparison of digital and hand-drawn pattern drafting.
What is Pattern Drafting?
Pattern drafting is the method used to design two-dimensional guides for creating a garment. Fashion designers and seamstresses create these patterns based on custom measurements.
Designers use two different methods to create the shape of a garment. Draping works in three dimensions and involves draping muslin over a 3D model to form the desired shape. Pattern drafting works in 2D, extrapolating the individual pieces of a garment and laying them flat.
Flat patterns are easy to replicate and cut out before sewing into a garment. You can think of this process as creating the individual puzzle pieces that you later sew together to create the complete puzzle!
For either method, you start by taking the correct measurements. Techniques for measuring vary depending on if you are designing an item for a man, a woman, a child, an animal, or a piece of furniture! No matter what you plan to sew, you will want to research tips for taking accurate measurements before attempting to draft a pattern.
Next, you have to transcribe the measurements into hand-drawn or digital pattern pieces. This is the tricky part! The books provided in the following list will give you clear guidance on how to perform this step.
Drawing patterns involves understanding sewing concepts like darts, pleats, and folds. It also means learning grading. Grading means changing the dimensions of a design to fit different sizes and measurements.
This process requires a certain amount of artistic flair, but it’s mostly a mathematical process. Once you learn the steps involved, anyone can draft patterns, even if you think you lack drawing skills!
Best Pattern Making Books
Good pattern-making books explain how patterns work and teach you how to apply custom measurements to your designs. They describe how to use special tools to draw two-dimensional designs to scale. They also usually provide sample projects so you can learn step-by-step how to design patterns.
The books listed here describe pattern drafting. You can also find many helpful titles that describe the draping method. Both methods create customized garments for you!
One of the great advantages of using a book is that you can refer back to it regularly. The titles listed here offer handy guides like measurement tips and conversion charts. They might prove helpful even after you master the basics of the craft.
You will notice that the list begins with three titles for beginning drafters. If you have more experience in this area, you may want to scroll down to the following section on garment construction books.
As a final note, many of these books come with a hefty price tag. If the Amazon price seems overwhelming, consider checking out your local public library to see if you can borrow the book you want for free.
Best Pattern Making Book for Beginners
The Pattern Making Primer, by Jo BarnfieldAs you might guess from the title, this brief guide provides all the basics for a beginning pattern maker! Even better, the author specifically markets this book towards home sewers as well as fashion designers.
In this book, you’ll learn the fundamentals of garment design, including how to create bodices and sleeves. You’ll also discover how to measure, block out, and draft custom patterns. You’ll find out what tools you need for this process and how to use each one.
Clear, accessible diagrams illustrate each point or concept.
The book suggests tips for altering premade patterns besides describing how to draft custom patterns. Key concepts like adding darts and tucks to alter the shape of a garment will help you fix previous sewing projects gone wrong!
Finally, The Pattern Making Primer also addresses the pros and cons of using digital pattern design tools.
Pattern Making Made Easy 3rd Ed, by Connie CrawfordThe latest edition of this classic text on fashion design contains lovely, detailed illustrations. The diagrams will help you understand the basics of garment design.
This book is intended primarily for fashion design students. Because of that, it focuses more on the fashion industry than some pattern-making books. But it also provides you with really clear information on drafting techniques.
Helpful outlines and fabulous illustrations walk you through the process of making a pattern. Beginners will find this book a great introduction to the world of fashion design. It can also serve as a great reference for experienced drafters!
The author works as a designer for McCalls, one of the biggest names in the premade sewing pattern world. She certainly knows her stuff! More importantly, each concept is explained logically that someone without a background in sewing will understand.
The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, by Sarah VeblenThis wildly popular book uses beautiful close-up photos to illustrate pattern design. It takes a slightly different approach to the concept of pattern making.
You will find the usual guidance on how to use drafting tools and how to draw patterns in this text. But the book mostly focuses on how to fit garments to specific body types.
Many of you probably want to learn pattern making specifically so you can fit your garments to custom measurements. You will find many useful altering and adjustment tips in this guide, plus instructions on recording those changes in your drawings.
The only downside to this guide is that all illustrations and examples focus on fitting clothes for women, not men. Also, you will need a sewing model or the help of a friend to try out many of the techniques. You will probably find it tricky to make alterations to something you’re wearing!
Pattern Making and Garment Construction Books
Pattern Making for Fashion Design 5th ed, by Helen ArmstrongThis classic work contains updated illustrations and diagrams in the 5th edition. This guide provides strategies for designing garments and drafting patterns.
This work bases its methods on the idea that most garment manipulation involves only three concepts. These concepts are darts, adding fullness, and contouring.
Specific design challenges covered include swimwear, jackets, and children’s garments.
You do need to have a solid foundation of sewing knowledge before diving into this text. This book focuses on professionals in the design and sewing world and may prove too advanced for a beginner drafter. It also does not explore the world of digital pattern drafting in detail.
Despite that, Helen Armstrong’s classic remains one of the preferred texts on hand-drawn patterns. It offers excellent explanations and great diagrams!
Designing Apparel Through the Flat Pattern, by Ernestine KoppThis older book may not have the shiniest illustrations or most up-to-date style concepts. It does have excellent information on drafting patterns, though!
This guide is all about the calculations you need to change sizes and alter shapes. It also focuses on how to draw unique shapes like sleeves and waists.
You will not be surprised to learn that this book is frequently assigned as required reading in college-level design programs. It will serve as a handy reference tool for anyone with a basic understanding of sewing patterns. It provides answers to special sewing challenges like how to fit pants.
You will also find this book helpful in altering patterns you already own. It provides clear guidance on how to apply custom measurements to ready-made patterns. These techniques will help even experienced sewers make modifications.
AndThe Practical Guide To Patternmaking For Fashion Designers
by Lori A. KnowlesThese guides offer the expected general introduction to how patterns work. They focus on how to take measurements and how to use those measurements to create a sloper. A sloper lets you create custom-fitted garments based on specific measurements.
You can easily create your own tailored clothing once you master the calculations described in this book. You will no longer have to alter pre-made patterns to fit your unique shape!
You do have to buy separate books to get information on fitting for men and women. That said, these guides give you tips for everything from pants to dresses. They also touch on different kinds of textiles like knitwear that will help the modern sewer.
Best Sewing Books With Patterns
A Modern Guide to Stitch-and-Wear Vintage Patterns You Can Make in an Afternoon
By Gretchen HirschThis fun sewing guide focuses on the allure of vintage garments! The colorful illustrations, close-up photos, and simple text make this a good choice for beginners.
The author focuses on fun, vintage outfits from the fifties and sixties. Each project requires few pieces, uses only basic sewing techniques, and provides lots of fun!
You will find the basic pieces for the projects in a flap at the back of the book. The author also provides guidance for custom-fitting. She does a great job explaining sewing machine basics, measurement challenges, and even ironing tips as well!
Besides its fun vibe and vintage appeal, the best part of this book is its super-clear instructions. You can cut out and sew the dresses in this guide even with no previous experience!
Breaking the Pattern: A Modern Way to Sew, by Saarha HuhtaThis is a lovely and modern addition to the vast library of sewing books available. Breaking the Pattern includes ten Scandinavian-styled garments. Each project comes with a full-sized pattern and step-by-step instructions.
You will learn many useful sewing concepts by working through each project. That said, you won’t necessarily learn how to draft patterns from this guide. Instead, you will get experience taking measurements and creating an elegant design.
The helpful glossary/instruction guide at the beginning of the book makes these projects suitable for beginners. The design elements in the projects can edge toward complex, so more advanced sewers will enjoy them, too! The ten projects include diverse sewing challenges like a shopping bag, a jumpsuit, and a cocktail dress.
How Do I Make a Book Pattern?
Sewing books that contain patterns usually work just like the ready-made patterns you buy in a paper envelope at a sewing store. They come with detailed instructions intended for beginning sewers to understand. These books often have clearer step-by-step directions than the average ready-made pattern!
Sometimes books that include sewing patterns offer the patterns in miniature. In this case, they also provide a grading scale to help you re-size the pieces to fit you.
This process takes a good bit of time. You may want to find out whether or not the included patterns are to scale before purchasing a book.
As with most sewing projects, you will need a variety of tools. Most of these projects require a sewing machine. You may also need scissors, a cutting mat, and spools of matching thread.
Can You Make Your Own Pattern?
Yes, you can learn how to design and draft your own patterns. You can choose from any number of ways to learn this skill.
You can look for a fashion-design class near you if you like in-person learning. If you want a free option, try searching for Youtube videos that cover the basics.
Or you can read one of the books listed in this article! They will provide a solid foundation of all the skills and techniques you need to master.
Pattern design is often seen as an advanced sewing technique. You do indeed need to master some measuring and calculating skills to draw accurate designs. That said, you do not need advanced sewing skills to do this!
Making your own patterns almost always provides a better result. You will end up with a garment that fits you when you based it on your measurements!
First, you should pick a learning resource. One of the beginner books listed in this article would be a good place to start!
Second, you will need to decide if you prefer working on paper or working on the computer. You can find free digital design tools these days if you’re more comfortable with a mouse than a pencil.
What Are the Easiest Sewing Patterns to Follow?
The easiest sewing patterns to follow offer crystal-clear directions and use basic skills. These designs do not include challenges like inserting zippers or sewing buttonholes. They don’t feature jacket linings or topstitching complex facings!
If you’re new to sewing, look for a project like a bag, a pillowcase, an apron, or a simple skirt. In general, anything that has sleeves will involve more challenging sewing. Good beginning skills are things like straight stitching and hemming.
Some big-name pattern design companies do a great job providing easy-to-follow instructions. Others, not so much. You might find yourself reading and rereading the instructions in popular pre-made patterns.
You may even wonder if the writer forgot to include some key steps!
The fact is, many designers expect sewers to have a pretty deep knowledge of how sewing works. They often assume you understand how to get from point A to point C when actually, you need point B explained for you!
That said, Kwik Sew and New Look often get great reviews for their beginner-friendly and very thorough directions.
Many smaller designers have also made a name for themselves in recent years. Some of these designers include Tilly and the Buttons, Collette, and Grainline. They mostly sell digital patterns that you can buy, download, and print before use.
Digital pattern sellers often host blogs and post videos about how to do the project. This could help you if you are a visual learner!
Of course, all of that aside, any pre-made pattern won’t offer the customized perfection of a pattern you design for yourself!
Which is the Best Software for Pattern Making?
The best software for pattern design gives you digital tools for creating patterns based on custom measurements. Professional designers often work with expensive software like Gerber and Lectra. Fashion design students and home sewers might prefer to start with a free option.
Seamly2D and Valentina both work well as free design software. These programs give you tools to create pattern pieces on your computer screen!
If you’re comfortable with graphic design concepts, drafting your patterns digitally may work better for you. Honestly, if you grew up typing instead of handwriting, you should at least check out digital design. You may find digital design more intuitive for you.
You might enjoy using a popular graphic design program like Adobe Illustrator that you may already know how to use. If you want software specifically designed for fashion design and sewers, though, you should check out Seamly2D.
You do have to learn the software. After that, you’ll find yourself inputting custom measurements in no time!
Working digitally does have some advantages. First, you can super-easily make alterations to a design. If you hand-draw a neckline, you may have to scrap your drawing and start over to make any changes!
Second, you can easily reproduce or share a digital design. You would have to re-draw or photocopy a hand-drawn pattern to share it.
Finally, design software can do some of the work for you. Why not let the computer handle the calculations and conversions?
Of course, unless you have a robotic assistant at home, you will still have to measure yourself first!
Pattern-making books provide a solid education in making your own customized sewing patterns. They teach you how to take measurements and draft individual pattern pieces. Most of these books also show you how to alter designs to fit unique body shapes.
The nine books listed in this article cover books that will help a beginner get started. The list also provides reference books for advanced drafters. Finally, the last two books listed include full-scale patterns and instructions.
Have you ever tried to design a pattern? Did you find the process challenging? Leave a comment below to let us know what method or technique worked best for you!