Thursday, May 30, 2013

Apparently I Have Been Drafting The Oriental Way

So, I bought a new old book this week. 

I've always been partial to ancient drafting books; the more out-of-print they are, the more likely they are to be superior drafting resources. Nothing against the new shiny drafting books you can buy off amazon - I just feel those tend to be: one, overflowing with information and two, overflowing with information that isn't quite foundational (or digestible) enough for learning the principles well. But that's just my opinion, okay? 

So, anyway, this is my newest out-of-print book, first published in 1971. I got it from one of amazon's marketplace vendors, for $15 (after discounts and before shipping). I can't remember how I found it but I liked what I read in the reviews. When it arrived, I was tickled to discover the original title under which this book was published:
The Oriental Method! How intriguing! I never knew there was such a thing. 

Moving on to the introductory note, I read Ms Moore's first impression of this Oriental Method (see fourth para):

That sounded familiar, right down to the newspaper (and I thought it was just me being a cheapskate). Sounds like what we do in Singapore. And, apparently, Japan and Hong Kong. And, from what I've heard from some Vietnamese friends, in Vietnam, too. Maybe it's an Asian thing. Is that how it got its name? As opposed to, say, The Occidental Method of Pattern Adjustment? I didn't know whether to be amused or horrified.

Let's say I went with amused. 

I took some time yesterday to procrastinate further with the dress  skim through the book and, honestly, the more I read, the more it felt like reading a manual of my own dressmaking methods. Except this was a manual with instructions. See - don't those first two paragraphs sound just as didactic as I do in my drafting posts? 

Let me take you through the book now. First, I LOVE the spiral binding that allows the book to open flat like a real manual. Here's the contents section for an overview:

Some of the lovely illustrations:

The very important first section on measurement was impressive - 10 pages focused entirely on measuring. In addition to the obligatory Single Diagram With All The Measurement Areas Annotated:

there was also a breakdown of all those measurements so even beginners and those of us who cannot mentally multitask could follow along.

Then there were the fitting tips that are such gems to find - 

plus some different ways to shape darts. Mum did this all the time with her darts and, as a young person, I'd always assumed she was just too lazy to get a ruler and draw them straight. Silly LiEr. When I finally understood what she was doing, it was an aha moment like no other.

Foundation blocks now. I am always very pleased to see french dart slopers because all I ever seem to see of the modern slopers are waist dart ones with maybe a shoulder dart. Nobody seems to draft armscye or french darts. Why is that? I mean, they are the loveliest for a nicely-fitted armscye. Then I think, "Does nobody's armholes gape, then? Everyone must be an A-cup in this country." Then I go to Target and there are all these DD-cup undergarments. Well. So much for my theory. 

There, see - the hideous gaping armscye Before and After. 

Now, sometimes (like when I'm procrastinating) I read sewing blogs and forums. And I keep reading about people bemoaning their back-fitting issues. And I imagine that their front bodices (and armscyes) must be amazing if they are only disgruntled with their backs. I mean, when I'm drafting for myself, I usually forget I even have a back because I'm working so hard on my front armscyes. Anyway, so here you go - back-fitting-problem troubleshooting guide:

Ah - my foundation blocks all look like this. Except my lines are rarely this neat or straight. 

Sleeve-fitting guide next. You know what's especially interesting? That the bicep line is not equally divided- the front bicep is wider than the back. The modern sleeve drafting methods have you start with equal widths and adjust the sleeve cap curves to match the different front- and back -armscye lengths.  This book recommends both methods and explains when to use each. My sleeve drafts are more like these asymmetrical ones i.e. I adjust both the curve of the sleeve cap and the width of the bicep to fit the armscye. And I used to feel guilty doing that. Hah! 

We don't do this often in modern patterns but behold: two waist darts. Remember two smaller darts are better than one (if necessary) big dart?

Ah, my favorite chapter: princess seams. Ms Moore also covers princess seams which have additional darts.

And look at all the fun ways to use princess lines! Double princess seams and branched princess seams. I personally have never done them (yet). 

Some additional chapters towards the end of the book - for children

and for men:

I had to laugh when I saw this chart at the end of the book. Remember this post and my mother's cryptic rule: "Buy the length"? Hey, Mum! It's safe to come out! I found others just like us!

So . . . this is the Oriental Way, huh? Hm. Slightly awkward name aside, it appears there is a method to my madness after all. Good to know. And now, if you've been hoping that I'd someday write a drafting book for women, there's no need to wait. Buy this one. It's better. And yes, it's perfect for beginners.

P.S. I finished the dress. And altered the husband's shirt. And turned out the closets for a garage sale. And got the kids to swim lessons and the doctor. And got a haircut. And took all these photos. Guess how I managed all that? Four words: Take out. All week. When you declare a moratorium on the from-scratch domestic food-and-beverage services, stuff actually gets done. I shoulda worn my superhero costume for extra kitchen snub points, though... and for the deliciousness of the irony. 


  1. Oh yes, I bought the book! I kept saying I was going to print off every one of your drafting tutorials and make a binder, but buying a book is so much easier. :)

  2. Looks like an awesome book. I must keep an eye out.

    Life of an Agnostic Sunday School Teacher

  3. I love this book! I will look for this book. It is amazing.

  4. I agree, this is a great resource about pattern drafting. I found a copy for $2.00 at a library sale about 10 years ago. In this post by Renee,, she has a picture of a newspaper article about Dorothy which describes how she came to write the book.

  5. Looks like your book was quite a find!

    Yay for take-out... and for all you accomplished because of it! I'm proud of ya, girl! Now let us see that dress!

  6. Thank you for helping me to be happy today. It worked. ;) k.

  7. Ooh, I want... no, I need, this book!
    And take-out or frozen dinners are the only way to get anything done some days. =)

  8. I looked and found a copy for a bit more than yours on Trademe which is the New Zealand equivilent of Ebay, none of the cheaper sellers would ship to NZ so I count myself lucky to find it at all! I want to do more pattern drafting and although I have a few books, many don't seem to remember that the front and back of a person are not the half of our circumference!

  9. You know, I might own that book (hard bound, not spiral)! The name and cover look familiar. I inherited some books from my aunt via my mom, but haven't gone through them yet. And now they are packed in a box that I won't open before August/probably October. I'll be looking for this when we do unpack, though!

  10. I just bought the book off Amazon. The whole idea of drafting is intriguing. I hope I can figure it out. It looks like it will be worth it even if only for the pants chapter. I I'm tall and have a hard time finding pants that fit the way I like. HOORAY!

  11. This is my go to book and I have had it since 1971!

  12. Ever since you posted this, all the copies of this book have disappeared. My hubby is comming to the USA for a few weeks and I wanted to take advantage of him being there to get a copy, but the only one left is $65. A far cry from the $2 library sale bargains one reader snagged.

  13. Hi, LiEr,

    I know this is an old post, but I found it because I was trying to remove a small amount of gape from the armscye on a knit top I'm drafting. This really helped me visualize what I need to do-- thank you so much for posting!

    I was wondering if the book happens to say anything about then reducing the sleeve cap to fit the new (smaller) armhole circumference. I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on how to tackle this.

    Thank you so much! Have a great day!

    1. Rachel, I don't think it does. Or at least, I can't remember. But reducing a sleeve cap is not difficult. The first step is to decide what exactly in the sleeve cap needs to be reduced to fit that armscye. For example, the first question one should ask, faced with a reduced armscye is, "What was the sleeve cap fit like before?" If it was
      (i) great at the shoulder, just loose at the armpits because the armscye was huge anyway, I'd suggest taking in the sleeve at the underarm seam, and not touching the shoulder portion of the sleeve cap at all, and see how that works.
      (ii) pointy at the shoulder because the wretched shoulder seam was too square in the first place which was what made the armscye so big, then flatten the sleeve cap.
      (iii) voluminous at the armpit in either the front or back or both, then take in ease at the sleeve cap (i.e. redraft it to be more curvy there) there as well as the underarm seam of the sleeve.
      These three things are really more about reshaping the sleeve cap than solely reducing the sleeve cap. Often, the problem with lousy-fitting armscyes has to be fixed with sleevecap reshaping more than just simply reducing it. It's a shape issue, not a size issue.

  14. I got this book for $3 at the thrift store a while back...will try to do the basic bodice block soon.

  15. I feel extremely lucky today!! I came across this book in a thrift store and bought it for $1.34!!! It is in excellent condition and is a signed copy (Best Wishes, Dorothy Moore) in ever so neatly written cursive. It also has the measuring tools taped onto the inside back cover. I had taken a pattern drafting course over 20 years ago and it never stuck. Now maybe I might be able to get somewhere with this book. I am so thrilled I decided to buy it today!!!

    1. Hooray for you, Lesley! A signed copy, at that. You ARE lucky!

  16. I saw the page 34 picture on Pinterest and recognized it immediately. I inherited a 1971 edition from my mom. We took some lessons in pattern drafting when we lived in Singapore in the late 70's. The instructor used the methods in this book. Thanks for reminding me of this great resource. Even if someone doesn't want to draft from scratch, this book is great for teaching how to alter and manipulate commercial patterns, Marlene

  17. Freakonomics had a recent podcast all about Deliberate Practice and asked for people to respond to them with the task/skill/ability they'd most like to master. Dressmaking and drafting patterns is mine. I can stumble my way around and make something that works, but the precision and technique these books teach is my Holy Grail. I bought the book. I'm on a quest.

    Thanks for the recommendation!


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