Contemporary Fashion Education – Sewing & Drafting Books, Private lessons

The Contemporary Fashion Education (CFE) Program

How to sew instruction education books, sewing and fitting pattern books

Also check our blog for fashions and technical information

Nine sewing and pattern books support the six-course sample-making program. Each course is inclusive and self-contained.
Each course is supported with a textbook or 2 textbook set that presents the procedures as done in high-end industrial designing departments.
The material is written and diagrammed by an experienced production pattern maker/technical designer
who learned high-end sewing skills in the industry.
New students need only to able to sew two plies of fabric together on their sewing machine at home.

Three books: Sewing Techniques from the Fashion industry, The Basics for Drafting & Fitting Pants and Skirts, and Six High-end Zippers, are for sale on this website.
The other books are written,
but not yet ready for the mass-market. They are available to educators who wish to teach the program.

Basic information about the program

In this fashion technology hands-on program pattern making, draping, and sewing are combined in the courses as done in industry. Students are introduced to designing through personal color analysis and discussion of what would look best on the various members of the class. Students are encouraged to understand color in nature and how engineering underlies technology. In this way they learn how to design lines, and how to combine art and technology to produce functional, beautiful clothing.

Students are taught to plan the garment’s sewing procedures as they draft their patterns to fit themselves. Students learn to fit by fitting each other. This encourages students to cut and sew at home as they are producing personal clothing. Students learn to evaluate the cost and time involved by making clothing. Organizational skills are emphasized. The program has been taught by at two leading universities in Philadelphia over the last 20 years to ensure that all materials can be understood by students. 

Each course is self-contained and independent of the other courses with the exception of Grading to Fit and its sequels, Grading & Sewing a Blouse and Grading & Sewing a Jacket.Minimal equipment is needed. Work is hands on. Any basic lock-stitch sewing machine  (a machine that sews a straight seam and uses bobbins) can be used.   

The program presents the skills the author needed to know when she worked in the fashion industry as a production patternmaker where she set up the work for clothing factories. Because she just happened to have a fit model's measurements, clothing, she also tried on the clothing samples to test the fit and feel. In her classes she has encouraged her students to think of themselves as the fit models for their imaginary companies, grading and sewing to fit themselves. This to the author's mind is the fastest and easiest way to teach students the skills they need not just to sew for themselves, but to understand and learn the skills if they should be planning to enter the industry.

The program is divided into four divisions:

  1. sewing/sample making
  2. grading to fit 
  3. drafting to fit
  4. copying a ready-made garment


The Introductory Sewing Course and Its Supporting Book

Sewing Techniques from the Fashion Industry

High-end design room sample-making and haute couture* sewing techniques are addressed in this 480 page book introductory sewing course that combines the two college degree fashion-sewing courses the author developed and taught. The procedures include: invisible and lapped lined faced zippers, collar-less necks, hems, patch pockets, pleating, and pull-through procedures. The book and course also surveys industrial fashion technology, includes some personal color and design, and an introduction to industrial grading.

The textbook is available for sale on this website.

Students make a 60-page sample book that can also be used as a portfolio, of the extensive drafting and sewing techniques in this course and textbook. The textbook, Couture Techniques, includes three files: a CD of the sample book, all patterns used in the course so the students can print them without cutting the patterns from the textbook, and a printout of  the sample book's pages with the copy so that the students need only to mount their samples in their sample books. All pages in the textbook and on the CD's files are cross-referenced with page numbers.

* haute couture - (French) high-end sewing Some designing departments have couture departments where clothing is cut and sewn for preferred customers.


The Three Grading Courses and Their Supporting Books

First: Fitting Home Sewing Patterns/Grading to Fit


The textbook is written, but not yet ready for the are available for sale.

Students develop personal slopers (basic patterns from which style patterns are drafted) from home sewing shell patterns in Grading to Fit, the first course in this three-course series. The students then use their personal slopers to determine the grading coordinates they need to grade commercial grade-rule (home sewing) patterns to their personal fit.

Their personal slopers can also be used to custom draft pattern styles to their fit.

This three-course series is about grading grade-rule patterns to fit. A grade-rule is a set of measurements used in the fashion industry to produce the sample size, grade all other sizes proportionally from the sample size, and to maintain the sizing throughout a line of clothing. The major home sewing pattern companies and many designing departments use the American Standard Sizing system, originally developed by the Department of Agriculture. Use of home sewing patterns solves the problem of providing students with a variety of patterns that adhere to a grade-rule. Once a student understands grade-rule procedures he/she can then use the procedures to produce patterns that fit from any grade rule.

The coordinates MUST BE TESTED before one is sure they will truly give good results. This is done in the next two courses, Grading and Sewing a Blouse and Grading and Sewing a Jacket.

Second: Grading and Sewing a Blouse

The textbooks are written, but not yet ready for sale.

Students now test the coordinates they developed in the prerequisite course, Fitting Home Sewing Patterns/Grading to Fit, by grading and sewing a blouse from a commercial pattern chosen by the instructor.

This is the procedure:

  1. The commercial grade-rule (home sewing) blouse pattern's shell patterns are traced with the reduced seam allowances used in the industry, the students simultaneously check the shell patterns for drafting errors.
  2.  Additional bust darting, if needed, is drafted in.
  3. The pattern is graded to fit.
  4. The supporting patterns are drafted from the graded shell patterns.
  5. The garment is then cut and sewn from a solid color, fashion blouse fabric. In the process students learn the industrial drafting and sewing techniques needed to produce a woman's blouse.
  6. Once the blouse has been approved for fit, students are then encouraged to cut and sew a blouse to match, and to also vary the style of the blouse if they so desire.
  7.  Learning these skills prepares the students for the considerably more difficult jacket drafting and tailoring techniques in the next course.

Third: Grading and Tailoring a Jacket

The textbooks are written, but not yet ready for sale.


Students next test their coordinates by grading and sewing a jacket from a commercial pattern of their own choice.

The procedure is basically the same as was used in the blouse course, but there are exceptions:

  1. The commercial grade-rule (home sewing) jacket shell patterns are traced with the reduced seam allowances used in the industry, the students simultaneously check the shell patterns for drafting errors.
  2.  Additional bust darting, if needed, is drafted in.
  3. The shell patterns are graded to fit.
  4. The jacket's style and fit is tested with a muslin cut from the graded shell patterns.
  5. The considerable supporting patterns, lining and stiffenings, are drafted from the graded shell patterns.
  6. The garment is then cut and sewn. In the process students learn the industrial drafting and sewing techniques needed to tailor high-end jackets.


Drafting from Measurements

The Drafting & Sewing Pants and Skirts course and its supporting books


The textbooks are available for sale on this website.

This patternmaking and sewing course includes drafting a straight skirt, pant, and optional pleated pant patterns from students' personal measurements. Drafting and sewing skills such as the fly zipper and the pockets are demonstrated by the instructor. Drafting Pants and Skirts contains step by step instructions that show the student how to first fit the waist/hip area and test the fit with a skirt muslin, then draft the crotch area, testing the fit with measurements, and finally how to draft the legs, testing the pant pattern with a muslin. The fully diagrammed step-by-step instructions in Sewing Pants and Skirts, including how to draft pockets and linings present the information students need to make beautiful professional skirts and pants that fit.


Obtaining a pattern from a sewn garment

Copying a Man's Shirt

The textbook is written, but not yet ready for sale.


On the textbook's cover N-Z's delighted husband wears the shirt she copied from a shirt he owned and liked.
She corrected the shirt's fit, sewed, and then appliqued the new shirt with African designs.
In the center is a diagram from Copying a Man's Shirt, the course textbook, illustrating the final step
used in the industry when sewing a collar to the shirt.

On the right is student Christine's finished shirt.

Learning how to copy ready-made garments by reproducing the original industrial pattern is essential if one is planning to work in the industry. It's also a truly useful skill if one sews for oneself and/or one's family.

This is the fastest way to learn what the industry is doing and how they are doing it.

It makes reproducing the garment fairly easy.

And it produces patterns from which other patterns can be drafted.

No stitches are ever removed from the garment that is being copied as to do so may distort the pieces that comprise the garment.