Category Archives: book review

Drape Drape 2; One Piece Japanese Asymmetrical Top

When I saw this top on The Great British Sewing Bee Series 3, I was completely fascinated. The contestants were given just the pattern piece, nothing more. They had to figure out how it went together, then sew it. The time limit was 90 minutes,

On the Form

This cute top has a scoop neck and a single side seam, the other side is a fold. It has drop shoulders, one side extending into a cut on sleeve. The hem is steeply asymmetrical, so when the hem is worn level on the body, the folded side falls into lush drapes.

And that’s one key to success with this top. The bottom hem must fit snuggly enough so that the longer, folded stays level on the body with the shorter, non draped side. In other words, this top is ideal for hourglass shaped bodies. My body is not hourglass shaped anymore.

The top is an easy sew, once you’ve figured out how it all fits together. I think that an average sewist, who has the complete pattern piece in the right size, and knows how it goes together, could easily complete this pattern from layout to wearing in 90 minutes.

Tracing the pattern is horrendously difficult. It’s divided into three sections, all superimposed on each other, along with the pattern pieces from three other garments, all printed in lovely shades of gray and blue. None of the pattern sections are labeled. Some labeling is printed around the edges near the sections, and one section has a cf grainline printed on it. If the GBSB contestants had to begin with tracing, they’d need a lot longer than 90 minutes! The hardest part was done for them already!

I cut the large, and the result fits a little too snug through the middle for me, too snug to drape gracefully. This top is a give away.

It was a fun experiment. If I try this top again, I’ll first enlarge the pattern, then add a narrow elastic casing at the bottom to help it stay on my hips.

On a hanger note the asymmetry

I might play with some of the other designs in the future. But, nothing else in this book is on my must-do list.

You might like this book if:
You enjoy Japanese style draped patterns
You don’t mind the crazy tracing

You probably won’t like this book if:
These styles are not your “thing”
You dislike tracing off, especially difficult to follow tracings
You do not fit into the sizes; these patterns don’t look easy to size up.


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Sew Iconic – Book Review

Sew Iconic is a collection of patterns for 10 famous dresses from 10 classic movies. The book includes full size pattern pieces for each dress – but one size only. So chances are you’ll need to resize the patterns to fit you.

<b>Book Index/Chapter headings</b>
Materials & Techniques
Julia Roberts – Polka Dot Dress from Pretty Woman
Audrey Hepburn – Black Dress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Jennifer Grey – Pink Mambo Dress from Dirty Dancing
Marilyn Monroe – White Halter Dress from Seven Year Itch
Keira Knightley – Evening Gown from Atonement
Catherine Zeta Jones – Showgirl Dress from Chicago
Grace Kelly – Blue Chiffon Gown from To Catch a Thief
Rita Hayworth – Sheath Gown from Gilda
Faye Dunaway – Coat Dress from The Thomas Crown Affair
Kate Winslet – Evening Gown from Titanic
Glossary of Sewing Terms

<b>PaperBack or HardBound?</b>

<b>Does this book have clear illustrations or photographs?</b>

<b>Would you recommend this book as a MUST HAVE?</b>
No, not a must have, but fun if you want to recreate these dresses

The Materials and Techniques chapter discusses, well, you guessed it – materials and techniques! It starts with a chart of the sewing techniques needed for each dress, followed by a list of basic sewing supplies accompanied by a nice photo of each item. It has a clear illustration showing how to measure yourself and explains in detail how to trace off the pattern pieces. Using the first dress to illustrate the example, it identifies the component pieces (front, back, facings). It devotes several pages to explaining how to resize the pieces to fit you, which is VERY important because the pattern is only one size. The chapter continues with explanations on how to lay out and cut your resized pattern pieces, including a diagram of on-grain and bias layouts. It covers fabrics for the garments, linings and facings, and explains stay stitching, basting, gathering, draping and cutting, darts, different kinds of seams, hems and fasteners.

Each of the dress chapters starts out with a discussion of the actress who wore the dress, the movie, the designer and the dress itself. Then it moves on to making the dress itself, including a supply list, recommended fabrics. It guides you through cutting out the pieces, assembling the dress, adding finishing touches to recreate the look from the movie, and a How To Work It section, which talks about where/when/what kind of events the dress is appropriate for, make up suggestions, accessory suggestions, and alterations to personalize it for yourself.

All of the recreation examples are spot-on except the last one, the Titanic gown. Because the original gown used expensive glass beaded net, the book suggests substituting lace weighted with trim to capture the effect.

The Glossary of Sewing Terms is just that – a condensed explanation of sewing terms.

I have NOT tried to use the patterns yet, so I can NOT comment on their accuracy.

This book is a fun read and ideal if you want to recreate these dresses exactly
or to create designs based on/inspired by these dresses

I also enjoyed the brief discussions of the dress designer. Like most other behind-the-scenes people, they are vital to movie making, but seldom get the spot light.

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Book Review – The Apron Book

Time for Summer Book Reviews!

First up is The Apron Book – MaThe Apron Book: Making, Wearing, and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfortking, Wearing and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort, by EllynAnne Geisel I bought this hardcover book from a used book store on a whim.

My personal history with aprons is remembering my grandmother and aunt wearing aprons while cooking and cleaning. Myself, I quickly got into the habit of changing out of my nice work clothes and into junk clothes, which don’t need the protection of an apron, for cooking dinner. But, I still enjoy wearing a fun apron when I host dinners or parties. My favorite apron was a gift, on the front, it says “One Martini, Two Martoonies, Twee Martweenies, Floor!

Back to the book review This book begins with a nostalgic history of aprons, and discussion about how aprons fell out of fashion when the Womens Movement began. Aprons were associated with homemakers and housewives. As women joined the workforce, they stopped wearing aprons at home. Soon, aprons became a quaint symbol of the past, unless worn by a man cooking on the grill.

Next the book analysis the anatomy of an apron. Frankly, there’s not much to an apron, so much of this chapter is devoted to choosing apron fabric, basic sewing, and patterns and instructions for sewing a basic half apron, a bib apron and a smock apron. I do like the no-wasted-fabric cutting layout for the half apron.¬† This chapter includes clever ideas for charming apron pockets, and suggestions for combining fabrics in an apron.

The next chapter is a personal essay about aprons in the kitchen. It includes an apron with potholders sewn into the hem, so they’re always at hand, and a children’s apron.

The following chapter is another personal essay about the functionality of apron pockets, and patterns for a three pocket apron. It’s followed by a chapter about the Man Apron. The next chapter is about the functionality of aprons on the job.

Holiday aprons are addressed in the next chapter. The chapter after that, called “Not Your Grandmothers Apron” covers fun, modern aprons like my favorite.

The final chapter talks about incorporating vintage aprons into gifts or mementoes, and displaying a collection of vintage aprons.

If the “meat” of all these chapters seems a little thin, well, that’s because it is. There really is only so much you can say about aprons!

But, the author manages to fill¬† almost 140 pages, with photos of vintage aprons and vintage apron pattern envelopes. Household tips, like “Chill candles in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using so they will burn evenly without dripping” are sprinkled throughout the book. Recipes, like Chicken Olivia Casserole are included. The whole book is padded with page long essays by other people, sharing their memories of aprons and the people who wore them.

Pattern pieces for all the aprons are included in an envelope glued to the inside back cover. I have not opened my pattern pack, so I can’t comment on the actual pattern pieces.

While a few things here and there felt like they were included as padding, I enjoyed reading this little book.

You would like this book if:

You enjoy aprons

You want to make aprons

You want clever and cute ideas for fun aprons

You enjoy reading nostalgic essays

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Sew Retro: A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution Book Review

Grab a cup of coffee, or tea, or cocoa. It’s time for another book review

Sew Retro – A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution by Judi Ketteler

Sew Retro is a combination history and how-to book. Patterns for the projects are included.

DISCLAIMER: I have not actually made any of the projects using the provided pattern pieces or instructions. My pattern pieces are still sealed in the envelope bound into the rear of this hardback, spiral bound book.

The book covers roughly 150 years of history, from the 18000s to the 1980s. I guess anything newer than that is too new to be retro!

A fun timeline marches across the bottom of the pages through all the chapters, noting important sewing related events.

Each chapter begins by talking about the changing role of women, major events and circumstances that affect the United States and their impact on the home sewing industry. Biographies of key women in fashion history and interviews with contemporary women in the industry pepper this section, and advertisements from the era provide rich, intriguing illustrations. The history portion is followed by several projects that (are supposed to) reflect that time period.

Chapter One – 1800s – Victorian Pin Cushion, Elegant Shawl, Sweet Sewing Basket, Charming Needlecase

Chapter Two – 1910s; 1920s – Opera Bag, Flapper Apron, Smart Felt Hat

Chapter Three – 1930s; 1940s – Patchwork Potholders, Pinch a Penny Change Purse, Cafe Curtains, Tea Party Tablecloth, Ribbon Embellished Napkins

Chapter Four – 1950s -Hostess Apron, Mod Gathered Pillow, Pretty Little Purse, Birds of a Feather Table Runner, Handkerchief Bag

Chapter Five – 1960s; 1970s – Not So Mini Mini Skirt, Cool Coasters, Easy Elastic Headband, Groovy Patchwork Throw

Chapter Six – 1980s – Saturday Afternoon Skirt, Farmer’s Market Bag, Catch-All Caddy, Almost Effortless Scarf

Every project includes a photo of the completed item. Many of these projects are (or could be) quite useful items, for example, the Thrifty Thirties Patchwork Potholders, or the Victorian Sweet Sewing Basket. Others, like the Mid Century Modern Birds of a Feather Table Runner and Almost Effortless Scarf, are just not my taste at all. And some, like the Mid Century Modern Pretty Little Purse, are actually quite cute, but not in the fabrics and colors chosen for the examples.

All the projects are Easy or Very Easy. A few, like the Easy Elastic Headband, a fabric tube with an elastic insert, are easy enough for children. The Patchwork Potholders would be a good project to introduce kids to quilting, and the Groovy Patchwork Throw could make an easy project for a beginning quilter. Some projects, like the Cafe Curtains or the Elegant Shawl, are simple projects that an intermediate sewist could probably create on their own without the book (I know I’ve been making simple curtains like for over 30 years, often out of sheets).

Each project includes a list of needed supplies, the pattern pieces used (if any), a list of what fabric pieces to cut, and assembly steps accompanied by illustrations with a hand-drawn quality.

Will you like this book?

If you are looking for a how-to-sew book, this probably isn’t for you. It does include some sewing information, and a couple of projects could be good introductions to quilling, but the how-to information is largely limited to how-to do each project, not sewing in general.

If you are looking to recreate authentic items from a specific era of history, this book is not for you. The projects are all modern interpretations inspired by the mood and feeling of a specific era.

If you are looking for Easy or Very Easy sewing projects (including some that can be done by hand, or by children, or by hand by children) you might like this book. If you dislike the way an item looks in the project photo, do not be put off. These items can be made in different colors (or in prints or solids) and different fabric, producing different results.

If you enjoy vintage advertising, sewing history, interviews and biographies of fashion industry figures, you might like this book.


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