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Drei Schnittbucher: Three Austrian Master Tailor Books of the 16th Century Paperback – July 25, 2015
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As a pattern maker and reenactor focusing on 16th century German/Saxon garments (yes, I am a proud member of the SCA) this is an exciting resource to add to my collection. The work that was done to make the information in these manuscripts accessible is wonderful. Translations and interpretations are only the beginning- you also find conversions, period images to reference, tables of fabric types, lists of relevant sumptuary laws of the time, a description of the requirements and expectations of tailors, and much more.
The three original tailor's manuals used to create this book are broken up into sections and listed in a logical order rather than the original, which makes it much easier to compare similar garments. Each section gives a brief overview of what it contains and features images (paintings, woodcuts, sculptures, etc.) of people wearing garments that could be made from the patterns in this book.
Each entry then includes: an image of the original manuscript page(s), a line drawing of the piece layout with each piece rotated and placed to show how the pieces fit together in a garment, an intelligible translation (ie the meaning, not just the words), and any other useful notes the authors thought might help.
What it does not include is anything resembling sewing instructions. The measurements included (if any) are vague and intended for use in estimating yardage needed more than to create the pattern. They are not shown on grids, like many other pattern books, for easy scaling. To make use of these patterns, you need advanced pattern making skills because what you are essentially getting is just a scaled piece layout to use as a guideline for the shape of the pattern pieces you will be drafting yourself. I don't find this to be a problem (in my opinion the most valuable part of a modern pattern is the page with the piece layout- I draft my patterns from scratch by referencing these more often than I use the actual pattern pieces) but I can see how this would be daunting to others who are not as confident in their patterning.
I love this book because it is as close to the source as I can reasonably get. Variations can be made from these patterns, of course, but this is the heart of that was done. I have other 16th century pattern books which each have their own uses. For those interested in how the pattern books I own compare, I will give a brief description of two of the common ones and how they compare to Drei Schnittbucher.
The Tudor Tailor picks a few garments to give you sewing instructions for them. It's a nice beginner/intermediate level; you still have to draft your patterns, but they are made as simple as possible. There are not many options there, but every piece in the book was actually made and photographed for the book so you can see it how it really looks. It also has a section on sewing techniques and other helpful information for someone who is new to historical costume but competent at sewing.
The Patterns of Fashion books choose a sampling of extant garments and give you everything that is known about them. This can be overwhelming and some of the information in them is quite specific to the individual garment and not helpful for learning about what was typically done, but its closer to the source than the Tudor Tailor. The patterns in this book are laid out on a grid too, but must still be scaled to fit the person you plan to sew for, as following the pattern in the book will only give you a replica of the extant piece fitted to the individual who wore it originally. You'll find a lot more options here, but it can still be kind of murky. This I would call intermediate/advanced (depending on the garment- pluderhosen are advanced for sure!).
If you have worked with those books and feel confident that you can handle a book which does not hold your hand at all, you will love Drei Scnittbucher, which I would firmly categorize as advanced. I'm not even sure how to make some of the garments in it, which I view as an exciting challenge. I want to make positively everything in the book- the stranger the better.
The "plus more": Brief descriptions of how the pattern pieces fit together, with fabric widths and lengths, and any notes on garment dimensions, translated into modern terms (both inches and metric). Lots of portraits and woodcut illustrations showing people wearing similar garments; information on historical cloth, dyes, other things the tailor needed to know. Including ecclesiastical vestments and tournament (or parade!) barding for your horse.
Note: The patterns aren't drawn on a grid for scaling up to any given size; knowledge of pattern-drafting, or a basic modern pattern that fits you and some knowledge of pattern alteration, will be really helpful, in re-creating any of these garments. But this book would have taken another year-and-a-half to put out, and cost far more, if the authors had tried to include sewing instructions!
The book does not include, because the original tailors' manuals did not include, any patterns for hosen/breeches. I'd still recommend that the Renaissance tailor also have "Patterns of Fashion III" (Janet Arnold) for hose or breeches patterns, as well as for construction details, and perhaps Matthew Gnagy's "Modern Maker" for tailoring; a 16th-century doublet had as much complexity as a modern man's suit coat.
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It is so amazing, if you like to bring history to life you need to check this book out!