Thoughts on Books for Pattern Alteration and Fitting

by Ramona on April 17, 2015

I definitely hit a chord with readers of this blog last week and our ASG Facebook page this week. It seems pattern alteration is a skill continually and eagerly sought yet it can be all but blood curdling. Which end of the spectrum are you on?

As I continue to work on this Understanding Pattern Alteration series, I’m finding out more about the thoughts of others (ASG members and non-members) on this subject. Books seem to be as much of a conundrum as pattern alteration itself. There was a very nice discussion on a couple books mentioned on the ASG Facebook page this week. As an educator what I try and do is show different resources available and give insight into their content. There are so many good books on the market from college level text books to those written by professionals who also happen to advertise with ASG and teach at our conference. Each has their own take on techniques and how the approach to garment fitting and pattern alteration is accomplished. Each has great value to the home sewer depending on what a sewist is looking to learn. Some books–such as college text books–can be out of range of the budget for many, but on the other hand they are meant for a person studying the craft for entry into the manufacturing end of the clothing profession.

Other books have the insights of those who have worked professionally with individual clients. Their take is different because the customer is different. Whereas college text books are meant for learning about the process in the manufacturing and retail end of garment sales, books written by a person who works sewing for the general public making custom garments will no doubt have a greater body of experience in pattern alteration with different styles and variations in fitting the human form from petite to tall, flat bottoms to larger busts, and protruding shoulder blades to high hips and so on. In some ways I think their experience is greater because they work with all sizes, shapes and personalities versus a pattern maker drafting for a fit model and the pattern made from a “block” of last year’s best- selling style to be graded to fit the general population of the store’s clientele.

Still other books are written specifically for those wanting to learn to draft patterns beginning with a sloper. These books are sometimes used at the college level, but they are affordable and give insight not in the other books. For instance, Connie Crawford’s book “Patternmaking Made Easy” was used as one of the textbooks in a class I taught in  college. Connie  has also worked over the years developing sewing patterns for the Butterick pattern company. Personally, I find her patterns for the most part work well for me with the addition of the length throughout the pattern pieces—an easy fix. I know how to alter the pattern to fit the style of garment I choose to sew. I can use her commercial pattern as a “block” and then use the book she has written to draft pattern pieces to re-style the pattern as I’d like.

Palmer/Pletsch books go hand-in-hand with pattern company alterations. They have worked with McCall’s for years developing patterns. I especially love their blazer pattern. After I altered it to fit I was able to use the pattern to create blazers in many different fabrics only having to alter and finesse the fit for the fabric being used.  As I age and my shape (choke-choke) changes, I can use their book to alter the pattern to fit the new variation of me and then just sew away with confidence.

Nancy Zieman has written many books and when she was at our conference last year as the keynote speaker, I got to spend a few private moments with her. I thanked her for helping to enhance my skills through her TV show (I’ve been watching since her very first show). Her updated method of the “pivot and slide” technique I found to be easy to duplicate with excellent results for those clients wanting me to sew for them without the true “custom” price I would have had to charge if I were to draft a sloper and create each and every pattern from scratch.

I think there is a time and place for it all. There is no one “right way”. The book to choose is one which is within the budget and will give the outcome sought for what is to be accomplished. Is it to work in manufacturing? Is it just to learn how to make some simple alterations? Is it to have a large body of knowledge to be able to sew for other people using commercial patterns? Is it to be able to create a true custom business by creating individual slopers and drafting each and every garment from the ground up?

I have enjoyed learning all there is to learn about pattern drafting and pattern alteration (I thank my geometry teacher, Mr. Smith, for introducing me to the love of all things parallel, perpendicular, drawing angles, working with graphed x and y axis, and using those pretty color pencils to accomplish it all!) It’s an on-going journey of learning and exploring. Each time a new book comes on the market I want to scope it out to see if there is a new take on an old technique giving rise to an easier way of doing pattern alterations with even better results.

Expand your library of sewing resources to fit the type of sewing you like to do and what you are trying to accomplish with your sewing whether simply a once-in-a-while hobbyist to a custom dressmaker with a private clientele. There is a book out there to fit the knowledge you seek and they all are of great value to your pattern making skills.

Sew ‘til next time….enjoy the journey of sewing!



Here is a sampling of books and DVDs I have purchased over the years as my resources for custom dressmaking and teaching. Please click on the book to be taken to the link at the Amazon website or other website to read about the book and its content.


S3720003 S3720004 S3720005 S3720006 S3720007 S3720008 S3720009 S3720010 S3720011 S3720012 S3720013 S3720014 S3720015 S3720016 S3720017 S3720018 S3720019 S3720020 S3730001 S3730002






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