Friday, March 9, 2012

Book Review: How to Use, Adapt and Design Sewing Patterns

A serendipitous library find, this smallish book presents familiar information in a way that really works for me. Written by Lee Hollahan and published by Barron's Educational Series, it seems to be an introductory fashion text that might be used in a classroom setting.  The book doesn't attempt to be encyclopedic or particularly linear in its approach, which makes for excellent browsing. The technical drawings are simple and yet convey large amounts of information.

The first chapter, Tools and Materials, is probably fine but is of little interest to me, since I seem to have pretty much everything covered in the chapter. I would have thought the next chapter, All About Commercial Patterns, would be similarly basic from the title, but I actually found its sections on measuring, selecting a size, layout, cutting and marking to have lots of interesting tips.

Chapter 3, Simple Alterations for Commercial Patterns and Chapter 4, Designing Your Own Patterns, are the meat of the book. So many great ideas for fitting and altering patterns! 

I used the technique for decreasing sleeve cap ease seen at the bottom of the page for taming the excess ease in my Vogue 8747 blouse.

I'm definitely planning to try this alteration instead of my usual approach to narrowing the shoulders of my patterns, which has been to trim off the seam allowance at the armhole. This method seems as though it would do a better job of preserving the original shape of the armhole.

This one is notable for its diplomatic wording (and for the fact that I need it myself): Adding in extra room for rounded figure shapes. What I like about the illustrations is that one clearly sees the conceptual approach as well as the step-by-step instructions for the particular alteration.

Again, so tactfully expressed: adding in extra room for a rounded stomach or backside. So much better than other books' terminologies, such as "prominent abdomen" or "large buttocks."

The alterations techniques are followed up with a section on actually creating patterns for design elements such as sleeves and cuffs, skirts, dresses, collars, facings, waistbands and pockets. Hollahan also covers dart manipulation very well. I have a hard time focusing on drafting design elements from scratch since it seems as though commercial patterns offering the elements I am looking for are readily available. But if drafting it yourself is your cup of tea, this book offers lots of straightforward suggestions and advice.

Next up is a set of pattern blocks and a description of developing your own sloper. This is something I'd like to do, but I will use a commercial block when I attempt it.

Finally, Hollahan offers nice compendium of core sewing techniques. Again, it's not exhaustive, but it's nicely presented and fun to look through.

I really enjoyed this book. It feels more accessible than Adele Margolis' Make Your Own Dress Patterns, considered a classic on the subject. Worth checking out from the library, or maybe adding to your own!

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