There are so many amazing resources out there for the beginner, the advanced or the professional seamstress or pattern designer! I am a knowledge addict, always seeking out new and exciting resources. But thankfully it's not a bad addiction. I think it makes me better at what I do because I'm always researching new and better techniques and honing my craft. That said, though I feel I have found some of the best resources out there for my own personal orientations and learning style, one size does not fit all and I encourage you to test drive any of my recommendations before committing, to determine whether my resources would also suit you. See if you can borrow books from your library before you purchase them or browse their content online or in the bookstore.
When I first started sewing and then drafting patterns I found most of my education in books and online classes (as a mother of three who wasn't able to see how going back to school could fit in). I was on the lookout, as I still am today, for resources and information across the internet and instead found inspiration in the many sewing blogs and websites from around the world. Actually it's become one of my primary inspirational resources to browse the blogs and sites I've come to trust and love.
Below I've listed some of my favorite books at the time of this post, but I will also make a permanent reference page on my website so that I can update the list as new resources come into my life and practice. Also on my website are recommendations for knitting, fabric design and photography books and resources as well.
Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers 2nd Edition by Julie Cole & Sharon Czachor is a relatively recent investment for me. I wanted a sewing reference specifically geared to designers so I could check my construction technique and write instructions for sewing my patterns that were based in commonly used, professional methods as well as tried, true and tested techniques. I like the way this book is organized and laid out. It's easy to find instructions on whatever you need. I have yet to look something up that isn't in this book. The book communicates the sewing instructions via diagrams and not photographs but I find this, since the diagrams are clear and precise, to be effective and preferrable. Recommended for the serious sewist, designer and professional alike.
Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide is a phenomenal resource. To me, Claire seems to be one of those ageless people who's been around forever. She has the knowledge of an ancient sewist and I have so valued her guides and interpretation. She always references her own research so I feel like I can trust her information. Not only is this book a full resource for fabric identification and handling, it's got comprehensive Appendix charts on stabilizers, interlinings, needle and thread usage. Recommended for the beginner, intermediate or the advanced sewist.
Guide to Fashion Sewing by Connie Amaden-Crawford has had a number of incarnations, the most recent of which is not the addition pictured above. I don't however imagine that there is a dramatic difference between the various editions, save perhaps for the first and last since they are about 30 years apart. I've found it a useful resource for both sewing and drafting.
Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong has been around for a long time. This 3rd Edition was my first resource back when I first became interested in drafting when my first daughter was just about 3. I believe that now there is a 5th edition however I am sure the foundations are the same and any edition would be a valuable resource. Recommended for the serious sewist who wants to design for friends or family or the aspiring or professional pattern designer.
Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear and Babywear by Winifred Aldrich is one of very few pattern making guides geared towards children's clothing. However it's well respected and although it's one of very few, it's stood the test of time. I resisted buying it for a long time before I was taking classes and actually studying pattern design because I couldn't make peace with how old it was. However I've noticed that in the pattern design world there are a handful of very well respected and old books (many of them out of print in fact so selling used for exorbitant prices) that everyone wants to get their hands on (I've been lucky enough to find some through my interlibrary loan program - and even copied a few sections since I can't afford to pay $500 for a book - who can). Recommended for the serious sewist who wants to create for family or friends or the aspiring or professional children's pattern designer.
The ASTM Standards for Body Measurements by ASTM International is a book of statistical body measurement data collected from various research organizations in the US. It is commonly used among large scale professional clothing designers and small home based pattern designers alike. Though this narrow and flimsy little book is almost $100 it could potentially last a lifetime since changes in growth patterns and statistical body measurement data varies only slightly between publications. Some designers doing PDF drafting and selling online like I do are still using the publication before this one from the 80's and not finding any fit issues or significant differences worthy of the cost of buying a new book. And although there are places where you can find various body measurements for pattern drafting - the back of books, websites, blogs, classes and so on - I never found a comprehensive enough list that included some of the more esoteric measurements I needed to draft accurately across both genders and all ages. This book covers all the areas of measurement a designer will need. Recommended for the personal, aspiring or professional pattern designer.
The Architecture of Women's Clothing by Suzy Furrer is my favorite drafting book for women. I came across Suzy's drafting education on Craftsy and found her technique impeccable. She answered all my questions before I had them. I was never left wanting for more information to complete, use and adapt her drafting techniques myself (and that's saying something for me as a chronic collector of knowledge). Her methods are precise and accurate and highly recommended! My only regret is that she hasn't made a book or a class on drafting clothing for children. I'm sure it would be sought after. For those of us who live in San Francisco, Suzy has a school, Apparel Arts, that teaches drafting patterns and sewing. In the future, when I can get away from my children for more than a couple hours at a time, I'm hoping to up my technique because I respect the quality of her work so much, and enroll in her sewing and design courses. Currently her book appears only to be available through her school website. Good for serious sewists who want to make their own patterns, pattern design students, and aspiring professionals.
Pattern Making for Kid's Clothes by Carla Hegeman Crim was originally printed under a slightly different name in the UK. I came across the UK version just before this US version was to be released. Although honestly, I'm not wild about her designs, nor the almost goofy amount of ease she includes in her pattern blocks, I was in fact, desperately searching for ready made pattern blocks that I could use and adapt for myself. I had tried several times to draft a set of block patterns from my other pattern drafting for kids clothing book and found it always looked odd, and I wanted to start creating my own designs on blocks that had been tested already so I could be certain I was starting from an accurate template and jump right in. So, it has some potentially very useful block patterns (though if I were you I'd take half the ease out - compare the chest circumference in one block to the chest circumference of a size chart you trust and the difference is basically your ease. 2 inches is normal, 4 - in my opinion - is too much for a regular block). The other value in this book is in inspiration. It offered me some new ideas for clothing as she seems to have tried to cover a good variety of drafting options. Also, the layout and the clarity deserve some points. I found it easy to read and well organized. However, I found a lack in instruction for drafting some of the designs (steps seemed to be missing). Lastly, and again there are so precious few children's drafting books that it almost (unfortunately) doesn't matter if the quality is lame as long as there's something valuable to be recieved. Good for those looking for Children's Blocks sizes 3-4 through 12.
Pattern Cutting Made Easy by Gillian Holman is a comprehensive beginner's drafting resource for the new pattern maker. I think it's suitable for a woman who wants to draft for herself either perpetually or preliminarily before drafting for sale. I just love how simple and straightforward this book is. As someone who's deep into drafting, I love browsing this book for design ideas to mix and match and since I don't have everything memorized I find it to be a great resource for quick and easy pattern drafting and adjustments. Recommended for sewist's who want to draft for themselves or friends/family. Or for aspiring designers alike.
Draping, The Complete Course by Karolyn Kiisel was well reviewed and recommended when I bought it. It's probably my least used recommended book not because there's anything wrong with the book. I just love this book in fact. I find the clear and simple photographs and accompanying DVD incredibly easy to follow. But I don't use it much because I mostly draft for children and have a so so kids dress form and if I do draft for myself I use the perfectly fitting sloper I created using Suzy Furrer's method and not my dress form. Anyway, I think draping is an incredibly usable tool not just for the professional or aspiring designer going to fashion school, but for the aspiring home designer as well. By placing a piece of unadulterated fabric on a dress form, it can be moulded to fit by adding darts and clipping. There are a variety of resources that can walk you through the process of draping other than this book like Craftsy classes for example (and a variety of other draping texts). I had a hard time finding a good youtube resource for draping when I first became interested so I bought a class on Craftsy and eventually this book for ongoing reference. This book is recommended for the aspiring designer.
Professional Pattern Grading for Women's, Men's and Children's Clothing by Jack Hanford is the book that everyone seems to want when it comes to grading patterns (changing the size of a pattern up or down). My first attempt to find this book was very disappointing. Because it was out of print people were selling it for $400 and up online. So I located a copy through my interlibrary loan program to take a look and found it was definitely worthy. I haven't researched enough pattern grading books out there to compare. However on a quick glance at a couple of the more recently written grading books, I found them laden with complexity not suitable for the aspiring designer. Professional Pattern Grading however, is one of a couple of older grading books that has a real straightforward and easy to follow design, which, given the complexity of grading itself, is why I appreciate this book so much. Recommended for the serious home sewer who wants to draft for friends and family or aspiring or professional designers alike.
Pattern Grading for Children's Clothes, The Technology of Sizing by Gerry Cooklin is probably my second choice for grading, however it is also out of print and hard to find. My first search for this book found used copies available for $300 plus. However I also found this book through my interlibrary loan program. What I appreciate most about this book is the effort to explain and simplify how grading rules have been determined and why they are what they are. I am always able to produce something better, whether a cake, a dress, a pattern or a photograph when I know the explanation behind why a process is done in a certain way. This book is recommended for the serious sewist who wants to draft for children personally or professionally or the aspiring or established professional.
How Patterns Work by Assembil is my newest sewing book. As a self taught seamstress and designer I've followed a funny pattern of learning that's involved a bit of backtracking. When I first became interested I jumped in to the area I was interested in instead of going to the root like how traditional educational systems are organized, and building my learning up. So this book is probably a book that would have been good to begin with (although it was published relatively recently so I couldn't have begun with it years ago, really). It's actually interestingly straight forward, fundamental and basic. It's pretty much a concise and precise simple guide that seems, to me, to be suitable only for the beginner. But I do wish I'd had access to it from the early on. Recommended for the beginning pattern designer.