Pattern books for wardrobe building

Few indie pattern designers offer patterns which make a complete outfit, let alone a wardrobe.
What some of them do is produce a book with several patterns. Many of these books are not oriented to wardrobe building – individual patterns which aren’t specifically designed to co-ordinate, or no jacket included. For example the marvellous Japanese pattern books, some of them now in English. But there are some pattern books which do include at least a ‘Core 4’ of jacket, top, skirt, pants.

I’ve written about pattern books before. Here are some of the posts :
Wardrobe pattern books : casuals
Wardrobe pattern books : dresses
Wardrobe pattern books : other possibilities

Publishers are usually unhelpful about these books. In most cases the information about what is included has been collated by other people after the book was published, it isn’t in the book publicity. So before the book was published there was no way of knowing what’s in it. There are so many pattern books now, I want to know more than the designer’s name and enthusiastic reviews of the photos, before I decide to buy.

Here are some of the ‘Core 4’ books which have appeared since my earlier posts. Print books unless mentioned. No ‘instant use’ patterns. Some have traceable pattern sheets, some have download pdf patterns.
These books don’t focus on wardrobe building, but do provide the patterns for it. The first 3 have good sewing instructions intended to teach, but none of these books are for early beginners without help.

Sew Over It’s City Break capsule has 5 download patterns in an e-book with good photo instructions, sized for bust 33″-45″.
Jacket, 2 tops/ dresses, skirt, pants. Make all the variations and you would be well supplied with clothes for a weekend away.
Line drawings in this post, which has suggestions for extending these patterns to a wardrobe, and adding more jackets.

Merchant & Mills Workbook
Patterns for jacket, 3 tops/dresses, skirt, pants.
Photos on this pinterest page (except shawl which is in the Sewing Book).
Patterns don’t overlap on paper pattern sheets, but are printed on both sides so you do have to trace them, sized for bust 32” – 42”.
Line diagram instructions, intended to teach sewing skills beyond the ones in their Sewing Book.

I’ve already written a post on Alison Smith’s big Dressmaking book.
That post shows line diagrams of the 12 base patterns for jackets, tops, dresses, skirts, pants. There are 32 variations (clear instructions for pattern altering). Re-scale or individual download patterns, sized for bust 32” – 46”.
Patterns are fitted classics which look very drab in the fabrics chosen, but the photo instructions are excellent if you can get past that and use your favourite fabrics. If you made them all I think you would have good intermediate level sewing skills. You would also learn some simple pattern altering by making the variations. And this is the only one of these books which has a section on fit.

There is now a shorter version, Dressmaking step by step – the same 12 patterns and 19 of the variations, suitable for advanced beginners.
The focus of these books is on good sewing skills and simple pattern alterations.

Magic Pattern Book by Amy Barickman of Indygo Junction patterns.
Print and Kindle. 6 base patterns, line diagrams on front cover of book : 2 jacket/coats, 2 tops/dresses, skirt, accessories. 6 variations of each.
Add RTW jeans and leggings, there’s no pattern for pants – none by Indygo Junction either.
Patterns on CD with the print book, download with the Kindle version, both print-at-home pdfs. Separate pattern for each variation, no pattern making needed.

The first 15% of the book is an intro for beginners. Adequate instructions with a few diagrams.
The focus of the book is on showing how you can vary a pattern to make other styles.

The Maker’s Atelier by Frances Tobin
a gifted marketer with an expensive line of minimalist patterns.
Photos of book pattern styles in this review.
Paper patterns printed on both sides, so tracing needed, bust 32- 46.
Modern classics – have you already got patterns for notch collar jacket, big tee, cowl drape top, bow neck top, wrap skirt, slim skirt, slim pants, and tote? Though there are many ideas here for variations.
People who have made them say the instructions are good. Probably usable with help by early beginners.
General opinion from reviewers – these garments are so simple they need to be made in quality fabrics to look good.

The next pattern books have minimal instructions – tell you what to do, but little about how to do it. Unless you’ve made these style elements before, you need a good reference tome for help.

Lotta Jansdotter Everyday style
5 clothes patterns – for jacket, 2 tops/dresses, skirt, pants. Plus 4 bags. Length variations only.
Paper pattern sheets with overlapping patterns need tracing. Helpful diagrams of where to find the pieces needed. Sized for bust 32” – 43”.

Line diagrams are just outlines, no style elements represented on them, so it’s no help to show them here. The garments are :
Jacket / coat : raglan sleeve, edge-to-edge front opening, cut-on front facing, side-seam pockets, unlined.
Sleeveless top / dress : gathers at centre front, bias binding finish to neck and armhole edges.
Sleeved top / tunic / kaftan : front darts, fitted sleeves or cap sleeves (1/8” hem round armhole opening), neckline facings, optional front neckline slit, optional square patch pockets.
Skirt : bias cut, ribbon waist support, side seam invisible zip, optional square patch pockets.
Pants / shorts : tapered, cropped, cut-on waistband – flat at front, elastic at back, optional belt loops.
(I only discovered the style elements by puzzling through the instructions.)

These are simple styles, and the sewing section is only about 20% of the book. Minimal instructions – not for beginners. The other 80% is style photos. This is a style book not a sewing book. It is good for showing how you can make very different-looking garments just by changing lengths and fabrics.

Burda Wardrobe Essentials
Not sure who these are essential for, an inner city high flyer perhaps – no tee, jeans, cardigan.
Photos and line diagrams of the 20 patterns on this pinterest board.
That board has the individual pattern numbers. If you like any of the styles, I suggest buying the individual download pattern from burdastyle.com.
Different patterns have different size ranges, mostly for bust 30” – 40”.

Print and Kindle. I’m not rushing to recommend this book. Traceable very overlapping paper pattern sheets with the print book. Add seam allowances.
Avoid the Kindle version in which the patterns are next to unusable – you just get downloads of the traceable sheets. For several styles you have to assemble 3 of the 16-page pattern sheets and then find and trace the pattern pieces.
”burda-450”
Hmm do you want this garment so much. . .
5 levels of sewing difficulty. Instructions a little fuller than Burda Style magazine, but not as good as Burda tissue patterns, not enough to learn the skills needed. And no index or cross-referencing. Leading up to a double welt pocket in an inset corner with minimal instructions – eek.
Not much thought given to the needs of the reader. Can you tell I was rather peeved with the Kindle version !

I’d better end on a positive note about Burda Style. They have several pattern books which I haven’t felt kindly towards.
But what they do have is download pattern collections, and most include at least a Core 4. These patterns have appeared in Burda Style magazine and have the usual minimal sewing instructions, so you need to know what you are doing. But a collection has a generous number of patterns with individual downloads. I mentioned them in my post about wardrobe patterns. Current collections here.

P.S. November – If you read French, that opens up many other possibilities, but I haven’t seen these so can’t comment.
Dressing idéal , from I Am patterns.
Ma garde-robe a coudre pour toute l’année by Charlotte Auzou.
Ma Garde-Robe chic et intemporelle from Pauline Alice patterns. Hurrah, line diagrams on front cover.
Vestiaire scandinave by Annabel Benilan.

I’m a pattern nerd who loves reading pattern instructions and I like real books for reference (prefer to use Kindle only for fiction), so pattern books are one of my favourite items 😀

Books and links available October 2017

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2 Comments on “Pattern books for wardrobe building”

  1. gelasticjew Says:

    This is very useful, thanks! I think I’d get the most use out of the Jansdotter book; have added it to my Amazon wish list.


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