At this point, it must be pretty difficult to write a sewing book that focuses on dressmaking; there are so many out there, and producing something original and new is a huge challenge. For this reason, I was extremely excited about Kristiann Boos' new book Boundless Style: A Mix and Match Sewing Pattern Workbook (you may know her as the designer behind one of the most creative and fashion-forward indie pattern companies out there, Victory Patterns).
I knew about the concept long before I got my hands on a copy of the (awesome) book, and the idea alone was pretty intriguing; a modular, interchangeable collection of bodices, skirts and sleeves for a seemingly endless variety of customized and user generated dresses, tops and skirts. When you add the fact that Kristiann is a masterful stylist and designer, the result is a truly exciting and inspiring sewing book that should appeal to makers of all skill levels.
While Kristiann and I are friends (finally in person after corresponding via email for the last year or so), I was still in awe of what she managed to accomplish with this project. The first time I saw it was at Josephine's Dry Goods in Portland; Bini the owner had just purchased it, and we all oohed and aahed over how beautiful it was, from the cool, original designs to the dreamy, impeccable styling. Before talking to Kristiann about how it all came to be, let's take a look at some of the patterns (you can also play around with designing your own custom dress using the Boundless Style app).
The concept for your book is totally original. What inspired the idea?
I once came across an old Vogue sewing pattern with several sleeve designs. There was nothing else to it, just sleeves! I loved the idea of being able to add any of them to a dress and reinvent a design.
When I’m sketching a dress, I usually end up with a few iterations of a design. They’ll share a similar look but with varying silhouettes or a handful of different sleeve options. But I often struggle to decide which one I like best, so they end up in a shoebox until I can make up my mind. I’ve always wished I could give people all the options so they could choose for themselves.
In the meantime, I see makers create sewing mash-ups by taking their favorite skirt from one patterns and adding it to pieces from another pattern. So considering all of this, I thought it would be fun to try modular design that allowed the freedom to create your own design, given a set of components. It’s basically the same concept as the Vogue patterns, but you get all the other pieces to mix up together.
I've been told that working on a book like this is a monumental amount of work. I was especially impressed with all the photographic step-by-step pictures. How did you manage your life and business while this was going on?!
It IS a monumental project! For the instructions, I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to create them in full-color so I shot the garments step-by-step as I sewed them, capturing each significant step of construction. This meant making one set of garments for the editorial and one for the instructions.
As for managing life and business, I had an epic amount of support and encouragement from my partner and family. I definitely couldn’t have done it without them. Balancing this project with my business and life was a really big challenge for me. When I’m creating something that I care about, I put all my time and energy into it. I felt really guilty at first that I wasn’t giving my business enough love, but as a one-woman show, it felt impossible to juggle the book and the biz and do both of them well. I felt a bit spread thin so I chose to focus on the book and return to my business once it was completed.
What was the most challenging part of the book writing process?
I think the beginning of the project was a bit terrifying for me. It felt like I was standing at the edge of a mountain that I didn’t know quite how to climb or how tall it was. I knew it would be a lot of work, but I really couldn’t comprehend just how much. Sometimes starting is the hardest part: building a new routine and work-flow, learning to take it all in bite size pieces. Slowly it all starts to come together and you develop a clear view of what you’re working towards.
I think you have a completely unique style in the pattern designing biz. Where do you take inspiration from?
Thank you! The things that inspire me change all the time, but overall, my mom has always been inspiring to me. When I look back at photos of her from the 60’s and 70’s, she had incredible style and always put thought into dressing every day. I think I learnt that contentious approach to dressing, being proud of what you wear and the notion that it can give you confidence, from her. I think I often design for her in that time.
I like to go to the library when I’m beginning to design and pour through books on costume and fashion history, cultural dress, vintage designers, beautiful couture or draping techniques, painting books, or whatever else has been floating around in my head.
Now that the book is out, what can we look forward to from you?
I’ve developed a new collection of patterns that I’ll be releasing throughout the year. I’m also going to try brush up on my old love of painting and explore working with fabric design in the near future.
Like most sewing books, the first half is dedicated to basic sewing skills. While I often skip this part, I learned a few things myself by reading through it (like that sturdy stitch I often use in tailoring projects is called a cross tack!) This section is pretty much mandatory in any sewing book; publishers want to make sure that their books will appeal to as wide an audience as possible, but I like that a lot of the pattern details in Boundless Style would appeal to a more advanced maker as well.
One of the best technical features of this book is all the step by step photos rather than illustrations; if you are a visual learner it would be quite easy to follow along (but my brain literally explodes when I think about how much work this must have been to prepare!)
I also love that even the options have options; bodices have different collars and details, or the ability to colour block. Sleeves and skirts can be shortened or lengthened. And are you as in love with the styling as I am? After spending the weekend with Kristiann at camp, I can say from experience that she has truly original personal style (she was always wearing the most awesome outfits) and I think her unique point of view reads loud and clear throughout this book. The mix of patterns and textiles is bold and inspirational throughout, and most of the finished looks are broken down and explained if you're curious about what fabric was used on a particular garment.
While you can just make straight-up dresses, there is also the option to make peplum tops or standalone skirts. The last chapter in the books explains how to pull all these pieces together into a cohesive whole.
The book is spiral bound (yes!) and the patterns themselves come in sizes 2 to 16, and are available on a CD-rom to print at home. This may be an issue with people who hate assembling PDF patterns, but I can understand why the publisher went that way considering how expensive it would have been to print out all these styles.
I really, truly think this is an amazing sewing book and I can't wait to have a go at designing my own Boundless Style dress. This is what I'm thinking right now:
Or maybe this one. I CAN'T DECIDE. And I guess don't have to!
What do you think of Boundless Style? Do you think it's a fresh take on the dressmaking book? Enter the rafflecopter giveaway below to win your own copy from Fons & Porter/F+W! Just tell us what your favourite design feature is and I'll randomly select somebody next Thursday, November 5th (a physical copy will be sent to a winner in the US or Canada; international winners will receive a digital copy).
You can also purchase the book on Amazon right now for under $24.