You're not often confronted with your "apron situation". I recently was, and the end result was a little embarrassing. For some reason, the only aprons I own are kitschy and weird throwbacks to a time when women suspended a lot of weird things in jello. Ten years ago I used to find it funny to pick up, say, a mustard yellow floor length apron with white lace trim at the thrift store (70's pioneer chic), and wear this at Thanksgiving to amuse my friends. But recently I was baking up a storm and covered in flour (as you do), and when I pulled out my sad, stained, thrift store collection of aprons I knew it was time for a change. While aprons aren't really the sort of thing you'd think to spend money on, they are the PERFECT thing to make when you have a spare hour or two. For that reason, I was very excited to tackle the cross-back apron project from Sanae Ishida's new book Sewing Happiness (I reviewed it here earlier in the week).
I know at this point it's almost a cliche to say that sewing people are the best people, but really, they are. This is never more apparent to me than when I get to travel around and meet them. When I was in Seattle last year I had the enormous good fortune to have lunch with the inspiring and smart Sanae Ishida; I had such a real and lasting feeling of true kinship (or kindred spiritship, as Anne Shirley might say) that it has only made reading her lovingly written and documented blog that much more meaningful long after the fact (I can not say enough about her honest and brave accounts of financial recklessness here).
While at lunch, Sanae showed me a galley proof of her new book Sewing Happiness, and I was positively giddy looking at; that feeling was only magnified when a copy of my own arrived last month.
This book is beautiful. It's beautifully written, beautifully styled and photographed, and beautiful to hold in your hands. It's the kind of book that you would be thrilled to receive as a gift, and even more excited to give away to someone you love. It's the kind of book that reminds me why I feel in love with sewing in the first place, and the million tiny ways it has changed my life, given me confidence, and taught me about patience, creativity and mindfulness.
Because Sane is a wonderful writer, this book is filled with writing. Half memoir and half craft, it tells a maker's story over the course of a year, as Sanae uses sewing as a means to find balance and health after a period of stress, anxiety and illness. Broken down into seasons, Sanae's story unravels along with simple, lovely projects you can make in an afternoon.
I buy lots of sewing books but not many with the kinds of general projects you'll find here; having said that, I would love to make almost everything in this book. Many are inspired by Sanae's Japanese heritage, and the calm, handcrafted, thoughtful aesthetic intent of each project is like holding up a cool compress to your forehead. My stress levels dropped just turning the pages.
Refreshingly, this book does not contain patterns, rather, charmingly hand drawn illustrations at the back of the book walking you though each project. Simplicity at its best and most refined.
Also included is basic instruction in sashiko stitching, a Japanese embroidery tradition. I want to put it on everything in my home.
I think many of us these days are looking for sewing books that push our skill levels, or offer complicated patterns or instruction we can't get anywhere else. This isn't that book. What it offers is an inspiring emotional and visual story that I am grateful to have read, and highly recommend to anyone with an appreciation for good writing and design. It's the rare "general" sewing book that I am very happy to own.
This year I rediscovered the simple pleasure of a magazine subscription; no tablet, no screen, just me, a cup of tea and an hour or two in a patch of late afternoon sunshine while I dog-ear pages and jot down ideas. We all know the magazine industry is suffering, and it seems like every other month a craft magazine is shutting down; its for this reason that I started subscribing to Threads. We can't expect these publications to survive if we don't support them. And how else will we get to see Kenneth King demonstrating sleeve fit in hip hop pants?!
In that spirit, I encourage you to pick a sewing or craft magazine this year and actually buy a subscription. That little thrill you get when you see it waiting for you in your mailbox is priceless, and there is something real and lasting about taking the time and turning the page, rather than the ceaseless onslaught of online data 24/7. Here are some suggestions.
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.
One of the biggest roadblocks I run into when designing patterns is trying to figure out complicated or new-to-me construction methods. Often I'm figuring out the construction methodology while I'm in the design process, and while I have pattern-making books up the ying yang, there are surprisingly few resources out there that actually walk you step by step through different methods of actually putting a garment together. Which was why I was super excited when Laurence King got in touch with me about reviewing their new title, Sewing for Fashion Designers by Anette Fischer.
This is an interesting book. It's geared towards someone who wants to make a career out of designing RTW clothing, so it includes a mix of a lot of information. It's basically a broad overview of clothing construction from start to finish; while it's not as construction focused as I was initially expecting, it does include a a good mix of general sewing basics and more specific construction information.
The first few section of the book includes information you've probably seen covered by sewing books in your library; the standard breakdown of tools, needles, thread, fabric, supplies etc. I still read these parts because you never know what new little trick you'll pick up. In the pressing section I discovered that spearmint water can be used to eliminate strong creases in fabric, as well as helping to eliminate shine from over-pressing. Who knew?! While some of the information is probably common knowledge for the average sewist, I like how specific it got when it came to things like interfacing and stabilizers. I can see how handy this would be for someone trying to get clothing into production, but I love looking at fashion from more of a RTW perspective so I ate all this up.
I also quite liked this guide to hem allowances; I bookmarked this page for later reference.
There is a lot of interesting information on commercial machines and production that I found really interesting and haven't really seen anywhere else. I dream of the day I have room for some of these weirdly specific industrial machines...
Of course no sewing manual would be complete without covering seam finishes. There were a few nuggets of wisdom in this section; I now know how to work a french seam around a sharp corner!
My favourite part of this book is the breakdown of basic and more advanced construction techniques. While it's not completely exhaustive (for that I often turn to the Reader's Digest Complete Book of Sewing), it does cover the basics of pockets, neckline and waistband finishes, fastenings and finishing touches.
There are some real gems in here. I am quite desperate to attempt this tailored waistband with zipper guard. Gorgeous guts!
All in all, I really enjoyed Sewing for Fashion Designers. It's a good one to sit down and read from cover to cover and my copy is currently filled with post-its I'll be referring back to in the future. While it does cover a lot of the sewing basics you've probably encountered in books before, the focus on commercial production gives it a fresh feel, and like all Laurence King releases (see my other reviews, Draping by Karolyn Kiisel and Patternmaking by Denmic Chunman Lo) it has a clean, modern, minimalist layout that I love looking at. All the included shots of gorgeous designer detailing doesn't hurt either.
Would you consider adding this book to your library? Do you have any other suggestions for books that cover clothing construction in great detail? I love nerding about this kind of stuff, clearly.
Sewing for Fashion Designers is now available for pre-sale, and will be released on April 30th. Laurence King provided me with a complementary copy of the book to review, but all opinions are my own.
I'm going to be totally honest: I get sent quite a few books to review. I almost always say yes when someone asks because it's hard to gauge the contents by the cover (I subscribe to old school adages), but these days I rarely blog about them because I'm frequently yawning too hard to type. So many boring patterns, I can't even. For every 5 snooze-worthy books I receive (currently giving me doleful side eye from my bookshelf), I'm lucky if I stumble on one winner.
And today, I have a winner. The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie is written by Katherine Sheer and Laura Stanford, two lingerie designers who have worked for companies like Victoria's Secret and Agent Provocateur; basically, these two know what they're doing. When I started sewing lingerie, I looked around for relevant books but not much has been published in the last 10 or 15 years. Most of the ones I found were out of print or terribly dated. Not this beauty.
The book includes a heap of beautiful, vintage inspired lingerie patterns. There is no legend or key but I count eight panty patterns (including knickers and tap pants), three bra patterns, three garter belt patterns, three camisole patterns, two wedding garters, a lingerie bag and an eye mask. That is A LOT of bang for your buck. Let's take a look.
You can definitely feel the vintage vibe right? So charming. My only criticism is that a lot of these patterns are more "looky here, lover" and less "comfy all day undies". I imagine you could make an amazing lingerie trousseau for your honeymoon to Paris, as long as you didn't leave the hotel room. There are a handful of patterns that calls for knits, but otherwise everything is sewn with silky woven fabric, tulle and non-stretch lace. None of the bras are wired and hence not great for bigger busts, but that sort of lingerie making requires a whole book, so I don't blame them for skipping it (for bra making help, see Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction by Norma Loehr). I have a giant butt that doesn't respond well to non-stretch fabric, but maybe some of you perky bummed ladies could pull off wearing cotton voile knickers all day.
The strength of this book is in the instructions. There are some really specialized lingerie sewing techniques in here I've never seen before. I think it's worth buying for this information alone.
Great stuff! And such pretty illustrations. The patterns are nested and printed on a heavy paperstock, but tracing off isn't really an issue when the pieces are so small. There are 6 sizes ranging from 81cm-106cm at the bust and 81cm-106cm at the hip, whatever that means in imperial, pfft.
Alas, since this book was published in England, the book is only available directly from Amazon in the UK, but I did find some for sale from independent sellers on the US Amazon site. Truly a lovely, helpful resource to add to your sewing collection! Has anyone else picked up a copy yet?
I cannot even tell you how excited I was to hear that Tilly's first book Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking was at last being published in North America, and that I was finally going to get my dirty little hands on its oh-so-pretty pages. I wanted to buy it the minute it came out, but alas, shipping from the UK is no joke.
This is truly one of the prettiest sewing books I've ever seen. Everything, from the garments to the graphics to the instructions, looks fabulous. It's got that fresh, poppy 60's vibe that I associate with Tilly; it's the sort of book you can display on your coffee table, which is always a consideration at the Closet Casa.
This book is geared towards the novice sewer, which isn't surprising since Tilly has built her growing business by addressing the needs of those new to the craft. It's a beautifully written and encouraging guide for those who want to master basic skills, and it would be my first choice for any friends who want to start sewing. Unlike a lot of intro to sewing books, all of the steps are photographed instead of illustrated, which is helpful when you're first starting out. The seven included designs range from a super simple headscarf and pajamas to more advanced projects like a skirt, blouse and two dresses.
From a design perspective, I love the bright colour story and clean modern layout. It really is a joy to read cover to cover, which I did the day it arrived. The chapters are also punctuated with fun entries on "Make It a Lifestyle"; tips on making a great sewing space, shopping for fabric, fitting sewing into a busy life, etc. My only complaint is that it doesn't have a spiral edge which is better when you're reading while working, but it does include real paper patterns which are so much easier to sew with.
While I'm a more advanced sewist than the target audience for this book, I still loved it and would have bought even if I hadn't been sent a copy. It's just so pretty! Throw in some cute patterns and a fun host to sew with and you've got yourself a winner.
Speaking of winners, I have one copy to give away! The other one I am happily displaying on my coffee table. Leave a comment below, like Closet Core Patterns on Facebook and I'll choose someone randomly in a few days. I am going to restrict this giveaway to readers in the US and Canada only since shipping a book can be a little pricey. Hope that's okay!
I'm sure by now you've heard that Tasia from Sewaholic has released her first book, The Sewtionary: An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques and Definitions. I was so excited when I heard the news, because Tasia was one of the first people I turned to when I rediscovered sewing. Her blog is one of the best sources on the web for sewing tutorials, and I knew any book she was a part of would have the same friendly, conversational tone and professional advice we've come to expect.
Is there anything this woman doesn't know about sewing? Apparently not. The Sewtionary is bursting at its spiral bound seams with everything you'd want to know about about the various sewing terms, techniques and supplies you come across when you're starting a project. Organized in an A to Z format, it's a comprehensive guide of sewing know-how, all illustrated with clear, step by step photographs. I especially loved that she included patterns from Grainline and Colette for use as visual examples; it's that kind of spirit that makes me so happy to be a part of this community. We're all in this together!
When Tasia asked me to participate in the blog tour, I immediately had a laundry list of questions for her. Thank you Tasia for telling us a little more about how this whole book thing works.
I'm sure you've gone over this before, but for those of us who don't know your history, how did you get your start designing sewing patterns?
Before starting Sewaholic Patterns, I worked in the fashion industry. In 2010 I started my blog as a creative outlet since my job was more technical than creative, and was excited to see so many other people sewing and blogging! I'd started talking about fitting my body and accounting for wider hips and a smaller bust, and other people said 'hey, I have the same problem!' Which led me to decide I could make patterns to fit that body type. I'd only planned for my patterns to be a side project, but when I was laid off from my full-time job, I thought why not give it a try making it a full-time venture? I had that moment of making a major life decision: to either spend my savings on printing a first pattern and launching this business, or play it safe and look for a sensible job. As you can see I went for the much scarier option and I'm quite glad I did!
How did The Sewtionary come into being? Was this a concept you already had or were you approached by publishers?
I was approached by the publishers! It's the most amazing email to get, and reminds you that you never know who's reading your blog. They'd seen the Sewtionary page I started, with all the tutorials I'd written, and thought it would make a good book concept!
We all know what an extraordinary amount of work it is to publish a book. How on earth did you manage your company and the demands of the book at the same time?! You can be honest; you have a doppelganger, right?
I wish! To be honest it was all I did, work and write the book. I started off 2013 with the notion to keep on putting out patterns as planned but started to fall behind, and of course the book deadlines had to come first. The hardest part was keeping quiet about it, I'd started writing these 'Behind the Scenes' monthly posts and on top of everything else I wanted to add "...and I worked on my BOOK!" but of course I couldn't. I kept the business running and I met all my deadlines, but everything else was on hold. I said no to pretty much every social invitation and event. It takes over your life, really! The way we did this book - with actual fabric examples and sewn samples for everything, instead of diagrams - was incredibly time-consuming but it looks so cool now that it's done, it was worth all the time invested.
I was really impressed withe vast scope of techniques and terms you include in the book. Was it hard to reduce everything into just 101?
For sure! I think my initial list had 220. There's just so much to say, and so many terms that relate to each other. Once you include 'Zippers, Invisible' you also have to include 'Zippers, Lapped' and 'Zippers, Centered.' Plus I didn't want to make any of the entries too long and complicated. The book could have easily been three times as long, although then it would be three times as heavy and thick!
If time and money were no issue, what is your dream selfish sewing garment?
Ooh, good question! I do love sewing coats and jackets, and I don't get as much time to really get into a heavy involved project these days. Plus a coat gets so much wear in this climate, and a well-cut coat can do so much for your overall appearance. It would definitely be a coat, hand-tailored, in some luscious thick tweed coating. I'd add all those special details like piping between the lining and facing, bound buttonholes, the perfect buttons. Now you're making me want to plan out the perfect coat project!
Finally, any plans for another book release from Sewaholic?!
I'd like to see if this one does well first, before even thinking about writing another book! Having gone through the process once I know I could do it much better the second time around. I'd also want to have an new original idea first. There are so many sewing books in print right now that you want your work to stand out on the shelf. The Sewtionary is different as it's not project-based and many of the books out there are, plus it's hardcover with that great spiral binding, plus it's alphabetical and designed to be an easy reference. So if I were to write another book, I'd have to come up with something completely new and different!
The Sewtionary is a great book to add to your collection. I've picked up a few new tricks, and it's lovely enough that you can sit down with it and read it cover to cover with a cup of tea, my number one criteria for sewing books. Congrats Tasia, and thank you for including me in the blog tour!
More stops on the tour:
- Wednesday, September 10th: Thread Theory Blog
- Thursday, September 11th: Miss Crayola Creepy
- Friday, September 12th: Coletterie
- Monday, September 15th: City Stitching with Christine Haynes
- Tuesday, September 16th: Tilly and the Buttons
- Wednesday, September 17th: Madalynne
- Thursday, September 18th: Closet Core Patterns
- Friday, September 19th: By Gum, By Golly
- Monday, September 22nd: Lladybird
- Tuesday, September 23rd: True Bias
- Wednesday, September 24th: Four Square Walls
- Thursday, September 25th: Ginger Makes
- Friday, September 26th: Did You Make That?
- Monday, September 29th: Ada Spragg
This little baby nugget of adorableness is my nephew Jack. He happens to be lying on my very first quilt (a rudimentary and simple one, but quilted with actual batting nonetheless). My sister called me a few months ago asking if I could make her a crib quilt, in that sweet, naive way that people who don't sew ask for handmade things. I love my sister and I was thrilled to make the blanket that her son would be lying on for his first year, but I also had to suppress a sob since quilting is on par with paragliding, lace knitting and souffles with me; that is, things that look interesting and challenging, but mock me with their precision and upper body strength.
It was appropriate that the good folks over at Interweave just happened to send me a lovely quilting book to review around the same time. Normally a quilting book would have been delegated to the coffee table pile of "pretty things to look at while drinking tea" but I thought maybe it would help me figure out what to do.
While I love me an old fashioned quilt as much as the next lady, I am totally drawn to the more modern interpretations of the craft (like the gorgeousness produced by Folk Fibers). The Quilter's Applique Workshop: Timeless Techniques for Modern Designs by Kevin Koshab, definitely falls into that category. These are modern, graphic quilts which feature a variety of beautiful applique techniques, including raw edge, prepared edge and needle-turn applique.
The book assumes you have a basic understanding of the craft, and focuses more on teaching new ways to add texture and dimension to your quilts. There are some truly beautiful designs, and I love the way they styled them in mid-century modern settings.
Since I'm a quilting novice and was facing some serious deadlines in other areas of my life, I decided to make a really simple striped quilt inspired by the China Cupboard quilt in the book.
When the Fabricville in downtown Montreal was closing down, I hit up their quilting section. It was pretty bleak in there. I was hoping to score some cottons in soft greys and yellows, but the selection was pretty horrible (I was kicking myself for not having gone to the glorious Effliloche, which is the best quilting store in Montreal). I settled for blue and yellow, a little traditional for my taste, but rationalized that babies can't even distinguish colour till the 4th month (silly babies).
I basically just sewed strips together in varying widths and then topstitched in straight lines like (the much more accomplished) China Cupboard Quilt. I was hoping to add applique but Jack would have probably been 72 by the time I actually found the time to do it, so a simple bound hem sufficed.
Nothing fancy, just something soft and cozy he can drool on for the next year or so. I'm secretly hoping it will be his security blanket, and becomes that bedraggled, filthy and much loved piece of comfort that stays with him until his friends start making fun of him for bringing it to sleepovers.
I won't be entering it into any quilt fairs, but this book and this project definitely awakened a latent love for the soothing, methodical and creative pursuit of quilting. I bought extra bamboo batting and am hoping to make something for my sofa over the winter. I might become part of the sewing cult that saves every single scrap, just in case.
If you're interested in this book, it's available for a good price on Amazon here. If you've never quilted before and don't know where to start, Craftsy offers a few free mini-courses that will help with the basics such as Basic Quiltmaking Skills, Creative Quilt Backs and A New Look at Long-Arm Quilting. Can't beat free!
*I was provided with a complimentary book for this review, but was not compensated by Interweave in any other way. This post includes affiliate links. All opinions are totally my own.
Welcome to a new Closet Core Patterns feature: Book Club! You may not know that I am a total book and reading nut. I have grade school report cards that complained to my mother about the novels I hid behind my textbooks in class, and I have to wear glasses because I used to try and read by the light of my alarm clock after getting busted reading under the covers with a flashlight one too many times. So, it's appropriate that I have a few publishers sending me titles to review these days. Books make me very, very happy, especially ones crammed with information about sewing.
With the veritable explosion of DIY fashion culture, the craft section of the book store is becoming an increasingly exciting place to be (especially considering the upcoming releases by Colette & Tilly!) Many of you probably already have a great sewing library filled with vintage sewing books, or some of the newer releases by Gertie, Burdastyle, Christine Haynes, Sewaholic or Colette. These are all invaluable resources, but for those of use who want to take our sewing game up a few notches, a thumb eared copy of a pattern making book is invaluable.
Let me introduce you to your new bible:Pattern Making by Dennic Chunman Lo. Laurence King sent this gem after I reviewed Draping: The Complete Course (another must for your sewing library). The author is a professor at London College of Fashion, as well as an independent fashion designer. Pretty solid bonafides.
I was intrigued by the Patternmaking title since I'm a self taught pattern maker. I've used a very of tutorials, technical textbooks and classes in my own practice, but I was curious about what a book designed for the layperson would look like. I was not disappointed.
Patternmaking walks you step by step through the pattern making process. There is a great chapter on the kinds of materials and supplies needed, which makes the scary drafting tool section of your fabric store much less intimidating.
After explaining the basic fundamentals of pattern making, Chunman Lo walks you through drafting a simple bodice, sleeve, pant and skirt block. These blocks can then be used as a base for designing new garments.
Pattern designing is highly technical and mathy (which appeals very much to my left brain) but the methods used in this book break down every step in an easy to comprehend way. The books includes a lot of "cheat sheet" information that explains common pattern making rules and measurements - invaluable!
After the more basic pattern making principles are covered, the book moves on to more complicated and advanced pattern making techniques. Using designs by the author, you learn how to use your basic blocks to create unique patterns. This section was not as long as I would have liked, but it would be impossible to cover everything in one book (or a dozen, for that matter). I would LOVE to see a book that breaks down the pattern making techniques of designer or couture designs - something like the Cutting Class in book form (Hey Lawrence King - that blogger deserves a book deal!)
Finally, Patternmaking provides basic information on transferring you pattern to a digital format, and some basic information on computerized drafting.
Overall, I was thrilled with this title. I think Pattern Making is very successful at breaking down the pattern making process in a way most people with a basic knowledge of garment construction will understand. If you are interested in designing your own clothes, this would be a great book to get started with. I think it would be especially helpful for drafting custom slopers, but you will probably need additional resources to work out fitting issues.
Does anyone else own this book?
Would you be interested in learning to draft your own patterns or do you prefer working from commercial offerings? I'd love to know!
It was basically like Christmas came early when Laurence King sent over a copy of Draping: The Complete Course for me to review. It was exactly like that scene from A Christmas Story when Ralph unwraps the Red Ryder BB Gun, but no one shot their eye out.
My eyes did FALL out of my head, but it was because of the staggering and welcome amount of information in this tome (and it is a tome - very satisfyingly thick and weighty, and has the heft of a text book, something a book nerd like myself finds extremely satisfying). This book explains the art of draping in tremendous detail, and presented a topic I viewed with some level of mysticism ("Draping? That's when you prey to Shiva, do a rain dance and call on the ancient spirits to make clothes, right?") with clarity and approachability.
Maybe my confusion about what draping entails can be blamed on Project Runway. Whenever a contestant was described as a "draper", it generally meant they were ripping off Madame Grès with fluid, jersey dresses that they made by wrapping and hand sewing on the spot. While this more free-form type of clothing design is certainly part of draping, I had no idea that you could (quite easily) design traditional patterns using draping techniques.
Traditional flat pattern making is much more technical and mathy, and I think requires a bit of education and practice to wrap your mind around. I come from a technical design background so teaching myself this method when I released the Bombshell wasn't a crazy jump in logic, but the techniques outlined in this Draping book would have made the process infinitely more intuitive and fun. It is inherently a more creative approach to pattern making since you are manipulating the fabric on a dress form in real time. You can visualize the design since it is right in front of you, and don't have to do the mental gymnastics to visualize a 2D pattern in 3D (or make numerous muslins, since the first step is actually making the muslin).
The book explains the basics of draping fundamentals (grain lines, tucks, dart placement etc) and provides a number of projects where those techniques are applied to different garments in a step by step, beautifully photographed way you could easily follow along with.
What's kind of fun about this book is the projects they use to teach the techniques. It's a mix of beautiful designer pieces (who hasn't wanted to knock off things they've seen on the runway?!) along with iconic ensembles from films and the red carpet.
The breadth of draping projects is impressive - dresses, gowns, skirts, blouses, jackets. Obviously, you would need a dressform to apply the techniques, but I've never been more inspired to save up and finally buy a real dressmaking dummy instead of the cheap plastic collapsible model I have now.
Some of the projects are topical and may not age well, like Rihanna's crazy tuxedo. The choice to include Gwyenth Paltrows' pink Oscar dress made me laugh, since it is kind of famous for fitting her really poorly:
My favourite project is a Jean Harlow 30's gown. No surprise really - the 30's is my all time fantasy period for evening wear and nothing makes my heart beat faster than a bias cut slinky gown.
Finally, there is a chapter on more improvisiational draping, which is what we generally think of when we think of draping in the first place. This may be a good place to start having fun with these methods:
I couldn't be more excited to try out some of these ideas, particularly as I find myself more inspired to design my own makes from scratch as my sewing skills grow and improve. It feels liberating to be handed a key to limitless clothing possibilities, and especially nice that the key is a book you can buy on Amazon.
This would be a great last minute gift idea! It is definitely the prize of my sewing library at the moment.
Who among us does not love BurdaStyle? They made the brilliant decision to create a thriving social network for all us home sewist's and it was one of the first places I turned to when I started learning how to make my own clothes. It's been a great place to get feedback and share information, and I was honored to be a featured member in October. You can read the interview here.
I got the first BurdaStyle book last year; great projects and a wonderful resource when I was learning the ropes. Needless to say, I was thrilled when Jamie Lau contacted me to make a project from the new Burdastyle book she co-wrote with Nora Abousteit, Sewing Vintage Modern.
Like the first BurdaStyle book, it includes information on the basic equipment needed to produce the included projects, along with a primer on making pattern modifications. However, it does not include lengthy chapters on sewing basics, which I think was wise. That information can get repetitive for anyone who is not an absolute beginner. Instead the focus is on summarizing vintage periods by decade and creating iconic garments from each period in a modern way. For this reason I consider this new book a companion to the original rather than another primer on how to learn to sew.
The book includes 5 base patterns that can be modified to create 19 different projects. There are excellent instructions on how to adapt the basic slopers into different garments and I think is a really great introduction on how to modify patterns, which can be intimidating if you haven't done it before.
Here is a good example of the clear instructions provided to convert one of the basic dress blocks into a strapless dress:
For vintage aficionados, the basic introduction to the styles of each decade (notable designers, key accessories etc.) may not be fresh news, but it is a good summary of how fashion has evolved since the 20's. Each decade is represented by one or more iconic looks.
The classic 20's flapper "Louisa" drop-waist dress is the dress I chose to work on.
A classic 60's shift:
I especially loved the 70's patterns (maybe my favourite vintage era). I adore this cotton blouse. So Laurel Canyon:
A full sleeved blouse with bow neck is so romantic in this sheer fabric:
A bohemian maxi evening dress: