Book review: How Patterns work by Assembil Books

how-patterns-work-fundamental-principles-pattern-making-sewing-assembil-books-paperback-cover-artI saw this book advertised through the Assembil website (a great resource) a few months ago and decided I had to have it –  what sold it was the way it was described “Instead of learning hundreds of separate pattern making processes, “How Patterns Work” will break the process into simple principles that can be applied to any pattern change.” Having done lots of pattern alterations this idea was very appealing.

The first thing you should know about this book is that it is essentially a textbook for fashion/design students. This doesn’t diminish its usefulness, but it does affect the formatting with some very short chapters and a chapter overview at the start and chapter summary at the end of all chapters. There is also a lot of repetition designed to allow you to dip in and out of the book without needing to refer back to other parts of the book too much. This focus has an effect on the discussion of the processes, where it focuses on industrial processes and procedures.

The Amazon page describes it as being “has also been specifically developed for the kindle format” and this shows in the print copy – it is a beast of a book at 500 pages, and frankly it could have had a third less pages as there is a huge amount of unnecessary blank space.

However, the above are niggles; this is a really useful book. It starts from absolutely basic principles – the design process and how patterns relate to the body. Once it gets onto how you change patterns (adding seams, adding volume etc.) it shows all the processes using cut and spread, pivot and draping methods. When showing these different methods for each alterations it repeats much of the text which means that when reading I scanned large sections without reading the text. I found reading about the pivot method very interesting, as this is what I have been doing for a while as sometimes I don’t want to cut into my patterns – it is nice to know there is a name for what I have been doing.

As a book for first principles this is great – what I have learnt about patterns I have learnt from using patterns so this was a great way to think about some of the basic principles which I already knew from experience but may not have fully understood. The focus on changing patterns is great for me as I don’t draft patterns – just alter them. The pictures in this book are also great – absolutely clear and brilliantly useful.

My one complaint about this book is that having spent lots of time explaining the principles behind pattern alteration the book stops short of actually demonstrating these principles on actual pattern drafting or alterations. In one way this is understandable, as the book is aimed at complete beginners with no prior knowledge and specifically says “this book does not include paper patterns and does not cover specific pattern drafting exercises”. Therefore it may have complicated matters and required lots of explaining to include such demonstrations. However I found this frustrating – when I was getting to the end of the book I wanted it to continue to discuss how the principles were applied in practice – even just a couple of examples would have helped me solidify the use of these principles. Perhaps this is a whole different book that I need to read – any suggestions?

So my summary – this is a really useful basic introduction to patterns, but I am not sure it is one I would use again and again as a home sewer – I would recommend you get it out of the library  to read then return it – I am not sure it is worth the investment to have one on your bookshelf.

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