Here's Wendy Mullin's newest sewing book, Built by Wendy Dresses: The Sew U Guide to Making a Girl's Best Frock and here's some info about it. Surprise! It's all about dresses. And in case you aren't going to read this whole post (no!) I definitely recommend it. It's a great addition to any sewing library and is especially good for anyone interested in designing their own clothes.
Similar to her other books, she provides patterns for a few basic styles (in this case 3) and then a gazillion variations. Actually only 25, but it seems like more. These variations have drawings with dimensions and then you have to make the adjustments to the tissue patterns—just like in her first two books.
The 3 styles of dresses in this book are: the Sheath Dress, the Shift Dress, and the Dirndl Dress. These all can look drastically different, even within the same style, depending on the details. Anyone interested in dress design will eat this up—it's amazing how these three basic shapes can be transformed.
In the front of the book there's a gold mine of information such as choosing dresses that are flattering for your shape, choosing dress fabrics, sewing linings, using pattern-making tools, taking your measurements, pattern alteration and fit issues, stitching seams, finishing edges, sewing buttons, zippers, and closures, and explaining different styles of pockets, collars and sleeves. Quite a bit of info.
There are tissue patterns in the back of the book for the 3 dress styles and the sizes are XS-XL (to give you a sense, the XS waist is 25-26" and the XL 33-34")
For the green dress I sewed up, I used the Shift Dress and added a ruffle collar. Except for some bust dart adjustments that I should have made prior to getting over-excited and forging on, it was a rock solid pattern. Wendy suggests making a muslin first and I wholeheartedly concur. It would be so worth it because these basic patterns can be made into so many styles, once you make a muslin and get it to fit you the way you want, you can just go crazy and don't have to worry about fit issues.
- The information at the front of the book is crucial and there is not a single wasted word. I would recommend this book for the front section alone, even if her design style isn't your cup of tea. This is where I think the value of the book is. It's informative, not over complicated, and clearly written.
- These patterns don't include seam allowances, which personally, I love.
- The design styles are all over the place. Some look straight out of 1980s Mtv and some are classic 1960s mod. Others are more right now, and some are prairie cute. There is a huge variety.You can take a look at her clothing line, Built By Wendy to check out her style.
- These dresses are pretty simple in shape and style—making them a more forgiving sewing project with fewer overall fit issues.
Some items worth pointing out-
- These patterns don't include any seam allowances. I should type that again, but that would be 3 times. That means you have to add them. When I got all excited and started cutting out my dress, I knew to add my seam allowances (the book explains how to do this) and then 1.5 seconds later, forgot and just started cutting away—through the tissue and fabric together. Enter curse word here. So, slow down and don't forget to do this.
- This book requires a lot from the sewer. I think this is awesome and a great way to learn, but might come as a surprise to some people. Although there are drawings for dozens of details like pockets, collars, and sleeve options, they aren't provided as tissue patterns. Only the basic shape of the dress (and sleeve) is provided. So, if you want to add a cute peter-pan collar like the drawing—you have to draft that collar, along with a facing, to do it. She clearly explains how to do this, but it's an extra step. Most styles of the dresses can not be made as shown without pattern drafting on the sewer's part. That means getting all the tools and taking time. This probably isn't a make-a-dress-before-lunch type of book. Not because the patterns are hard, but because you can't be on auto-pilot when you make them, there will be work you have to do first. Which leads me to my next point—
- This is not a book for beginners. I think every clothing sewer would benefit from it—but it's not the first book I would suggest for first-time garment sewers, that would be her first book, and she says as much in her intro. She strongly recommends her first book for new sewers. Not to say new sewers shouldn't get this book, they should! But they need more than just this book, because it doesn't hold your hand. Think of this book as a sort of a cross between Cal Patch's fine book, and Wendy's first book. Of course for beginning sewing projects of the non-fashion variety, I would suggest my first book. And I'd also like to point out how good these dresses would look made up in some hand-painted fabric and you can find directions for this in my second book. (Ahem.)
I have a great interview with Wendy I am posting in a couple days and a book giveaway. Woot!
**I need to say here that although Wendy and I share the same publisher (and this book was sent to me as a review copy) I was a Built By Wendy stalker long before. This interview and book giveaway was all my idea— being the excited-pushy-busybody that I am.