Librarian’s Corner: How to Use, Adapt, & Design Sewing Patterns – Hollahan

15 Jun

How to Use, Adapt & Design Sewing Patterns - Hollahan

I had high hopes for How to Use, Adapt, and Design Sewing Patterns when I picked it up from the library — surely such a shiny new, and hip looking book must be ever so much better than some of the older sewing books out there! It’s so shiny, after all! And green, too! I want to be green!

If I had to guess at the target market for this book, I’d guess it was meant for folks who had spent a significant amount of time watching Project Runway. The stock images throughout focus heavily on bolts of high end fabric, pattern-standard looking models, high-end dress forms, and commercial pattern pieces and muslins hung on racks.

That said, I think this book is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. It’s clearly targeting those who don’t have much experience with patterns —  the use, adaptation, or design thereof – but it’s a skimpy book, y’all. I’m not sure what I was expecting — a miracle perhaps? – but sometimes, there’s such a thing as too big a scope for the number of pages, and 140 pages to cover ALL the basics of pattern use, pattern adaptation, and pattern design is so optimistic as to border on hilarity.

So, things must be left out… let’s find out what they were!

HtUADSP - Simple Bodice Alterations

Since I’m only evaluating this book on it’s ability to teach me how to do bodice alterations, the deck is already stacked against this slim little book! While it may do better in future reviews for it’s other elements (I am curious about pattern design), it’s not faring too well in my test of “help me figure out how to alter a bodice to fit!”

There are 3 sections in the book – pattern use, pattern, adaptation, and pattern design. Pattern use is your basic info about how to measure yourself, how to buy the right pattern, how to understand the markings of the pattern, and how to prep your fabric and pattern for cutting.

Part two is altering a pattern – this section is actually just for simple alterations, so the chapter is really a misnomer. I would have preferred they give the simple alteration, followed by the advanced alteration… mostly because if you’ve got a big bust, alteration isn’t an option or a skill you can pick up later. You’ve got to figure it out, even if it’s a really advanced skill! No need to intimidate the newbie by putting it in a separate “advanced” section!

Part three is the pattern design section, and buried within it is a little section on advanced pattern alteration.  This section is also followed by a series of pattern blocks, which look cool, but only go up to size 18, and — surprise — there’s no info on pattern grading provided in the book! There’s a section that teaches you how to scale up the pattern blocks from the back of the book, but there’s a missed opportunity to talk about how to extend these to larger sizes. If your size falls outside the range provided, they simply instruct you to purchase a set of pattern blocks from one of the pattern manufacturers.

On to the simple bodice alterations…

HtUADSP - Simple Bust Increase

Above, you’ll see the extent of the solution provided for the problem I’m having. The remainder of the bodice alterations chapter talks about lengthening or shortening a bodice, shortening the shoulder, and moving the bust dart. For those of us with large busts, they warn that the method above is only for busts that are fractionally larger — 2cm — than the specified pattern. If you’re a bigger gal, you’ll have to skip to the advanced method, described below (note: there was no mention of this method in the simple alterations section — I had to go hunting for it in the pattern design section… kind of misplaced, in my opinion).

Okay, we’ve been waiting for it… are you ready to learn how to make a large change to a bust measurement on a pattern? Wait for it…. wait for it….

HtUADSP - Advanced Bust Increase


No, seriously. That’s it. No, really! Everything you see above is all the instructions you’re going to get from this book on how to increase bust size in a pattern. I have a lot of problems with that. First of all, they’re using that darned distorting slash method for making the pattern bigger. Second, really? This is all the instruction they provide? They don’t even tell you specifically what you are trying to accomplish here… or how to determine the spread between each of the pieces! This is pretty depressingly unrealistic as far as advice goes.

Final Ratings:

  • Ease of method for beginners:  1 star, pretty much nonexistent instruction for increasing bust size
  • Adequate use of images detailing method:      1 star, one image does not an instruction make!
  • Logical progression of instructions:    1 star, you can’t go mixing up your sections — all alterations belong in the “alteration” section
  • Limited use of technical jargon:   3 stars, jargon was well defined, and the book contained a glossary and technique dictionary
  • OVERALL REVIEW: 1 stars, this book is a fail in the making for beginners hoping to alter a bustline
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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in book review, new skills


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