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Books & Online Patternmaking Classes
by Don McCunn

About Don McCunn

Photo of Don McCunn

I first became interested in patterns when I was studying costume design and the history of costume at the University of Texas in Austin. My professor was Dr. Paul Reinhardt, a student of Lucy Barton the author of the classic Historic Costume for the Stage. Dr. Reinhardt instilled in me a deep appreciation for well made garments that fit the individual and accurate historic patterns. As a result of these initial interests I wrote a book, How to Make Sewing Patterns. This book was first published in 1973 and has been continuously in print since then.

Using this book I have taught pattern design. I have also had the opportunity to design costumes for a number of stage shows and teach costume design and the history of costumes.

In the early 1990s I had the opportunity to write two articles for Threads magazine, "Draping a Fitted Skirt," (Aug/Sept 1992, Issue 42 pp 64-69) and "Draping a Fitted Bodice," (April/May 1994, Issue 52, pp 62-65). The editors of Threads even came out to San Francisco to shoot a video of the second article. I believe this was one of their first attempts to use videos to accompany the material in an article.

In 2004 I took a wonderful course in San Francisco taught by Bill Jones called Introduction to Fashion Dolls. I knew that Fashion Dolls had been used to convey garment designs since the time of Louis XIV. I had myself tried to "create" Fashion Dolls when I was teaching the history of costuming. I was not successful despite the time it took! I was intrigued to learn that Fashion Dolls were reemerging and appreciate the guidance I got from Mr. Jones.

I enjoyed using Fashion Dolls to explore the many pattern shapes I have seen including contemporary garments, historic patterns, ethnic clothes, and the incredible details of one of my favorite designers, Erte. Despite the opportunities I have had when I designed costumes for the stage, I never thought I would be able to try out some of the more unusual and interesting ideas I have collected in my library over the years.

In addition, when I was teaching pattern design through San Francisco Community College's adult education program I had the good fortune to have students from the garment industry who were professional sewers. They were generous enough to teach me their techniques for assembling garments quickly and easily consistent with quality results. It is a pleasure for me to now be able to share these techniques through the illustrated sewing instructions.

As a result of the popularity of my Sloper patterns, I realized people are interested in creating their own designs. So in 2006 I reentered the general sewing community through various Yahoo Groups. One of the first questions I was asked was "How do you create a pattern for a bra?" This was actually a question I was asked when I taught at the San Francisco Community College. One of the students even brought in instructions that showed how to change a fitted sloper to a bra. Then when I started working with Fashion Dolls the first pattern I attempted for these quarter scale people was to make a bra. I figured if I could make a bra for that scale, then I could make just about any garment.

This encouraged me to immerse myself in a new phase of research and development for patternmaking techniques I had not previously tried. In addition to my R&D in patternmaking, in January of 2008 I started my own online school, Patternmaking with Don McCunn. With the advent of all the new technology I was finally able to realize a dream I have had for 30+ years of presenting my understanding of patternmaking as videos through these online classes. I have since retired from teaching but have made the videos from my online classes available for free at

After teaching pattern design in one way or another for the last 50 years, I have completed a second edition of my How to Make Sewing Patterns, written How to Make Custom-Fit Bras & Lingerie and am finishing a third book in this trilogy based on my experience working with fashion dolls Fashion & Costume Design in Quarter Scale.

Even though I consider myself retired, I share a variety of sewing and patternmaking techniques in Patternmaking and Sewing Notes and maintain lists of online Resources for various aspects of patternmaking and garment construction. I maintain a free forum which is open for questions and comments 365 days a year: Bespoke Sewing Patterns


Copyright © 2005, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2020 by Donald H. McCunn