Archive for the ‘co-ordinates’ category

A good wardrobe pattern for a core wardrobe ?

March 3, 2012

Wardrobe pattern books are inspirational, but once you know how to make very simple changes, you don’t need a book to get an easy group of co-ordinates. Just start with a wardrobe pattern.

Most wardrobe patterns are for a ‘Core 4’: top/dress, jacket, skirt, pants. All items with a closely similar look.

Wardrobe patterns which include patterns for more tops or layers are much more powerful as the starting point for a core wardrobe. Because they can give more variety of looks.

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An example pattern

I often like McCall’s wardrobe patterns. They’re rare but stylish. I find the recent one particularly inspiring, McCall’s 6519.

This pattern doesn’t use the same style for both top and dress. It has two different underlayers.

My focus here is general issues about expanding to a wardrobe from a single pattern, with this pattern for the examples. I don’t mean to imply that everyone should use this pattern as their starting point ! These styles wouldn’t work well for all body shapes or personal styles. Do you think these styles would look good on a Rectangle ? an Inverted Triangle ? an Hourglass ? With my small bust and large hips, these aren’t the best style elements for me. I don’t look good in flat notched collars, or boxy jackets, or full pleated pants. Close fitting knits don’t flatter me. And I need tunics and vests in my basic wardrobe.

But this pattern makes a good foundation for thinking about wardrobe building.

Modern styling and some interesting style elements.

And hurrah, they’ve been generous : there’s a size 14 in the pattern envelopes for both larger and smaller sizes.
And hurrah again, they’ve put the finished garment measurements with the website pattern information. McCall’s used not to do this.

They made it in red, white and blue.
Fashionable colours this season. (Election in the US, Olympics in the UK.)
But not flattering for all of us.
So think of that as : accent colour, light neutral, and dark neutral.

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The base items

For their examples McCall’s made :

Jacket : accent colour, solid, woven
(Unlined, edge-to-edge front. Shoulder dart under the collar, so it’s more shaped than the line diagram looks. Slight side-seam waist indent, not as much as suggested by the photo. 3/4 sleeve.)


Dress : 3 colours, large scale print, knit


Skirt : dark neutral, solid, knit


Top : 2 versions : one in dark and light neutrals, small scale print, woven; second in light neutral, solid, woven.


Pants : 2 versions in the same 2 fabrics as the top.


That makes 7 garments in all.
Which combined without the jacket make 7 different outfits.
Add the jacket to each, makes 14 outfits.

Could be a good basis for ejvc’s Spring Capsule at Stitchers’ Guild. Or her ‘Lucky Seven’ idea (see here page 20, Feb 25).

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Other patterns

I think the key to the success of this McCall’s wardrobe pattern as a base for wardrobe building is that it includes 3 different tops. So different items in combination have different effects. Helped by accessories, you can go from business-like to casual with only a few garments.

Not many patterns like this, but I have found a few.
These ‘5 item’ patterns work well for Judith Rasband’s minimum ‘cluster’ of 5 garments (in ‘Wardrobe Strategies for Women’).

If you prefer more classic styles, new Butterick 5760 has two overlayers. A notched collar princess blazer, jewel neckband knit cardigan, and band collar shirt/ dress, as well as skirt and pants.


Wonder of wonders, rare in a wardrobe pattern – an underlayer with sleeves.
In their look book BMV add a shell in an accent colour, and jeans. 8 different items in all, a good basis for a short trip wardrobe. (Shirt, dress, shell, formal and casual jackets, skirt, pants, jeans.) Add a ‘dressy’ top if the trip includes a special occasion. More ideas on styling for a business trip at this wardrobe site.

Simplicity 1945 is a softer group for knits, this time with two underlayers. A raglan sleeve top with cowl neck, and a set in sleeve top with side drape front. Plus a simple jacket with cut on sleeve and cascade front. Pattern also has simple skirt and pants.


Add another jacket with a higher cascade collar, or a v-neck cardigan with banded neckline, for another group of looks. Or a light high-necked top to layer under those tops. . .

For a more ‘dramatic’ look there’s Vogue 8718 – with 2 very different underlayers (and a peplum jacket :D). The top with sleeves is a knit.


A version of the jacket with flat not ruched sleeves would add an ‘everyday’ look.

If you like ‘vintage’, Simplicity 2154 is another pattern with a choice of overlayers giving a good variety of looks, a 60s ‘Jackie O’ style.


Lengthen the top for a dress. Make another top without a bow.
Add pants with a slightly tapered leg, perhaps Colette patterns Clover pants. This style is from the days when people rarely wore jeans (and pants were’t allowed in good restaurants), but capris would be acceptable casual.

For the simplest of relaxed casuals, there’s Park Bench Central Park, which has three overlayers !


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Finding a good pattern to start from isn’t the only question about building a wardrobe from a single pattern.

I have other posts planned, on how the shapes and ease of the styles in the McCall’s pattern work together as co-ordinates.

Then there are the very simplest strategies for adding items to make a minimum wardrobe.

Change fabrics : see my post on Kate Mathew’s wardrobe plans.

Change lengths : for inspiration look at patterns which include multiple sleeve and body lengths. See this post (also includes another 5-item wardrobe pattern). Or Butterick’s ‘The Cut Line’ patterns which work as tops, tunics, and dresses.

Change pockets or trims : see that post again.

Change necklines or remove collars : see my post.

Add basic patterns with minimum style elements : see my power of the boring post. (Also in that post, an example of building onto a 5-item cluster of separate patterns.)

These hugely expand the range of options you can get from one pattern starting point. As well as the sewing interest. And without needing to know anything fancy about pattern making 😀

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Patterns and links available March 2012

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Wardrobe pattern books – other possibilities

February 4, 2012

More on wardrobe pattern books which claim to have all the styles and patterns you need in one book. Here are some books which are more of a challenge to find or use ! There are also brief notes on children’s patterns and learning to sew.

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Out of print books

Rusty Bensussen. Making a Complete Wardrobe from 4 Basic Patterns (1987).


Draft your own 80s oversized patterns for pullover top also used for dress/ jacket/ coat, plus dirndl and circular skirts, and pants, from simple instructions. Pullover up to about 50 inch hip, skirt up to about 45 inch hip. Easy to enlarge (every 1/2 inch added to width of front and back pattern pieces adds 2 inches to the size). With many simple suggestions for pattern alterations. Add ease to jacket and coat, or you get top/dress, jacket, coat all the same size ! Complete sewing instructions (mainly words) only for the most basic styles.

Sandra Betzina. No Time to Sew (1997).


Patterns for slim and full pants (one-seam styles), skirt, tee, shirt, dress, vest, jacket, with suggestions for style alterations. All dartless. Simple advice on fit. Up to 43 inch bust, 46 inch hip. Melanie points out these are good for layering (in a comment on my layering wardrobe post). Sewing instructions have most steps illustrated. Conventional tissue paper patterns. Rare to find book and patterns together, as the pattern envelope isn’t part of the book. Easy to find the book, difficult to find the patterns. Search for the pattern pack as “Rodale Designer Collection” or “Sandra Betzina Rodale”. She now designs for Vogue Patterns.

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Japanese pattern books and magazines

If you enjoy a challenge, there are 100s of Japanese pattern books and magazines. In a huge range of styles : casual-crafter, 60s dresses, arty, lolita, drapey, quick makes, fitted structured blazers and coats, mother-and-daughter, for children, multi-layers, young modern. . . See Simply Pretty.

One type of book (such as ‘Mrs Stylebook’) just tells you how to draft the pattern based on your personal block. So you can get a good fit, but you’re expected to know how to sew it together.

Other books have a traceable full size pattern sheet, though the sizes may be rather small (as in Extra Large with 38 inch hips :D). These books do have sewing instructions. In Japanese but with very good illustrations, so it’s usually quite easy to work out what to do. See sample instructions at end of Simply Pretty excerpts.

A couple of these books have been translated into English. As I already have several Japanese books in similar style, I haven’t looked at these. If they’re direct translations of the Japanese versions, they have sheets of full-size traceable patterns, and sizes may be small.

Simple Modern Sewing by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha


This book has 8 basic patterns : for 2 dress styles, 3 tops and shirts, 2 skirts, pants. With 3 versions of each pattern, including tunics, light jacket and coat. Some photos of the styles here.

Shape Shape


From the cover and description it looks as if the styles are more ‘arty’. See more information here.

For children and learners

There are also many pattern books for children’s clothes. Most of them by designers with children’s pattern companies. And most have a tissue pattern pack. Often also teach sewing. Find them using the links to other books provided by Amazon with :
Oliver & S Little Things to Sew

Bunkhouse books are written for children learning to sew, but of course can be used by adult learners too. All with full size traceable patterns : 27 – 38 inch bust, 28 – 40 inch hip, in girls and misses heights. Reviews at Amazon, but here are links to the parent company as you can scroll down the product page to photos of the styles. Also patterns for matching 18″ dolls clothes.
Stitches & Pins
Beginner sewing for girls. Patterns for simple skirt, vest, pants, top – also usable for nightwear, plus accessories. (Comments at Amazon that a complete beginner needs help.)
Buckles & Bobbins
Similar for boys.
Pins & Needles
Intermediate : patterns for vest, blouse, culottes, dress and jumper dress, shawl collar jacket, shorts, tee, sweatshirt, sweatpants, hoodie.
Pintucks & Lace
Advanced : heirloom sewing, mainly baby and home items. Also blouse (use pattern from previous book), half slip, 2 skirts, shrug.

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Previous posts in this group :
Wardrobe pattern books – casuals
Wardrobe pattern books – mainly dresses

Pattern books are no longer unusual. They’re a growing type of sewing publishing, with many fascinating possibilities. Well worth looking out for. There’s a huge range of styles to explore, if you like the idea of easy co-ordination by just having one starting point for all your sewing.

But perhaps you prefer to sew every project completely different, rather than being sensible and wardrobe building 😀

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Links and most books available February 2012

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Wardrobe pattern books – mainly dresses

January 21, 2012

My first post on wardrobe pattern books talked about books with casual styles. The books in this post mainly have patterns for dresses in fitted shapes. Some are in frilly-girly or modern vintage style. None include pants. A couple have jackets or coats.

Most of these pattern books emphasise pattern altering rather than wardrobe building. All have a pack of full sized patterns, usually conventional tissue.

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Colette Sewing Handbook
by Sarai Mitnick of Colette Patterns.
(link to Amazon)

(not all to same scale)

Patterns for several fitted-waist dresses, top and skirt. No jacket or pants. Look like warm weather styles to me 😀 Nothing with long sleeves among her main top and dress patterns either, and only a couple with high necks. She’s in Portland, Oregon – hmm. Obviously she doesn’t feel the cold, she wears these styles even in winter. No jacket and only one coat in her main patterns (here’s a detailed coat sew-along by Gertie). There is a pants pattern, if you’d like to add them. Don’t know about sizing in the book, but her conventional patterns go up to 46 inch bust, 48 inch hip (BMV size 24).

I haven’t seen this book but it gets excellent reviews, including for the wardrobe advice and the sewing instructions. Some fit advice. Website also has sewing techniques, fitting and pattern altering advice.

Built by Wendy Dresses
by Wendy Mullin.


Patterns for :
– raglan ‘sheath’ with front darts. Despite the name and the darts, there’s only a little waist definition, this isn’t closely fitted. Some styles with zip.
– loose shift dress with set-in sleeves.
– dress with fitted bodice (french darts), waistline seam and gathered skirt. All styles with zip.

Instructions for at least 8 versions of each pattern, plus many more suggestions. You’re expected to draft pattern pieces like collar, cuffs, pockets, facings, from instructions. Sized up to 41 inch/ 104 cm bust, 44 inch/ 112 cm hip (BMV size 20).

These are casual/ boho/ edgy dresses, not fitted and frilly girly or vintage glamour.
If you like Colette patterns this may not be for you. Or you may prefer this if you avoid closely fitted styles.

A little about body shape and fit. Instructions not for beginner sewers. Some reviewers say they had problems with fit or shape. So do make a trial version.

Combine with her other books to get a wardrobe, see my previous post.

Sew Serendipity
(link to Amazon)

by Kay Whitt of Serendipity Studio patterns, who also designs for McCall’s.


Patterns for skirt, short-sleeved peasant style top-dress, jacket-coat. Raglan sleeves and empire waists. Up to 44 inch bust, 46 inch hip (BMV size 22).

Half a dozen variations described in detail for each pattern, plus other suggestions. Some guidance for sewing beginners. She tells you how to make a muslin to check fit, but not how to adjust it. Many hand drawn diagrams in the instructions. No discussion of wardrobe co-ordinates. Kay Whitt loves combining many prints, which is very ‘current’.

Burda Style Sewing Handbook
by Nora Abousteit and Alison Kelly.
(link to Amazon)


Patterns for fitted styles of blouse, skirt, dress, lined coat, bag. Shorten coat for a jacket. Sized up to 41 inch bust, 43-1/2 inch hip (BMV size 20).

Printed book with full-size traceable patterns overlapped like the patterns in Burda magazine (no seam allowances). Or e-book with download patterns. Tell you how to make a muslin, but only a couple of sentences on adjusting it to fit.

Said to be aimed at beginners (several reviewers say it’s not for intermediate or advanced sewers). Personally I wouldn’t recommend this to a beginner, even the most adventurous. Silk charmeuse and lace for a first ever project – what a recipe for misery and disaster. Only 3 of the 15 projects have the lowest skill level rating. And all those require pattern alterations and are not easy easy. The old Burda Level 1-2-3 patterns are all easier than these. Many construction steps briefly explained with no illustrations. I’m disappointed in this as a book for beginners – I was expecting something more like an update of the old Burda beginners books (not in English), which are more realistic about what a beginner can do and have many photos of technique.

If you are a complete beginner and like to be creative, build your confidence with something like Sewing Machine Basics or DIY Couture or one of the “Sew What ?” books, before trying this.

The big emphasis is on making your own versions. Three guided projects for each pattern. Even more possibilities if you swap tops and bottoms around those waist seams. As a source of inspiration for variations the book is good. My guess is the book was only tested on an ‘inner circle’ of Burda Style site users, who are already happy pattern alterers and devise-your-own-method sewers.

These are attractive styles – but only if you already know what you’re doing, or don’t mind many puzzles and disappointments on your way to success.

P.S. A couple of new books since this post was written – I haven’t seen them :

Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing by Gretchen Hirsch has patterns for 2 blouses, 2 skirts, 4 dresses, jacket and coat-dress.
Photos of styles included, in this helpful review from Couture Academic.

BurdaStyle Vintage Modern by Nora Abousteit and Jamie Lau.
Review from Frabjous Couture has pictures of 3 dresses, shirt and pants included, and an example of pattern altering.

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If you love dresses, here are some more pattern books. I haven’t seen these myself, and know no more than is available at Amazon. Some of these books focus on fitted styles, some have loose dartless ones. They get mixed reviews, and some patterns are only in small sizes.
Little Green Dresses
Dress Cutting [draft your own 30s styles]
Famous Frocks [simplified versions, photos of styles here]
I am Cute Dresses [photos of some styles, scroll down here.]
Chic Simple Sewing

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Each wardrobe pattern book has its own distinct character and added features. Perhaps the casuals in my previous post on pattern books aren’t to your taste. Are any of these dresses and fitted styles good as a basis for your own special type of wardrobe 😀

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Books and links available January 2012

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Wardrobe pattern books – casuals

January 7, 2012

Part of getting a easy co-ordinated wardrobe is to have everything in similar shapes (see my post on reducing the number of shapes). And an easy way of achieving that is to use a wardrobe pattern.

The advantage of wardrobe pattern books is they have space to discuss building a wardrobe of co-ordinates. Plus instructions for altering the patterns to make different styles. So they’re good starting points if you want to try this. Get the basic patterns to fit, and then any variations you make are likely to fit well too.

Some books emphasise wardrobe building, some pattern altering. A few have advice on fit. Some have guidance for sewing beginners. Unless otherwise mentioned, all have a pack of full sized conventional tissue paper patterns. Most go up to 44 or 46 inch/ 117 cm bust, BMV sizes 24 – 26.

There are now many books which include full-size patterns. I started by thinking I knew them all, but now know I don’t ! This is a rapidly expanding area of sewing publishing. I’m focussing on books with patterns for a wide range of garment types. I have collected rather a lot of these 😀 so this topic spread and spread and I’ve divided it in sections. My next post is planned on books which emphasise dresses. Then there’s a third post on out-of-print and Japanese books.

There are two starting points used for pattern making (see dartless block post). One is a fitted block. The other is a looser fitting block without darts. This post is about pattern books with casual styles. The first are based on the casual dartless block, the others are more fitted.

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Your personal preferred wardrobe plan

Does the ‘Core 4’ idea meet all your wardrobe needs ? – top, jacket, skirt, pants. Wardrobe patterns may be the best starting point for that type of wardrobe. There’s only one book based on a Core 4, and it’s for a petite plus body type. And it has a woven blouse top, not a knit. There are many wardrobe patterns with knit tops.

Several pattern books don’t include a jacket. So they’re not sufficient for people who need to layer, unless you’re happy with shirt-jacket style.

Some pattern books don’t mention dresses, so aren’t for people who like to wear them. Books with dresses are mainly in my second post.

If you wear multiple layers (top, shirt, vest, jacket), there’s one out-of-print pattern book by Sandra Betzina with all these. If you’d like a wide range of garment types in one book and enjoy a challenge, there are Japanese pattern books in many styles. Those are in my third planned post in this group.

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Patterns for casual classics

Design It Yourself Clothes
A book on simple pattern making using personal measurements, by Cal Patch.

(not all to same scale)

Basic patterns for knit tee, dartless shirt, skirt, pants, dress.

The special feature of this book is you draft your patterns to your own measurements ! Mainly words with few pictures. Minimal sewing instructions. No discussion of wardrobe co-ordination. Basic patterns are classic casuals, many suggestions for adapting the basic patterns to make modern styles. More dresses from the shirt and tee patterns.

Some other simple books for making your own patterns

Sew What Skirts by Francesca DenHartog

Sew What Fleece by Carol Jessop and Chaila Sekora. Good if you want easy warm jackets, vests, coats, robes to add to a wardrobe book which doesn’t include them.

I like these books. They make a good starting point for beginners. No very poor reviews at Amazon.

A different take is Make your own clothes by Marie Clayton. This includes software for making personal patterns. Sorry, I don’t think much of either the software or the sewing instructions for beginners. Here’s my review at Pattern Review.

P.S. Rosie Martin of DIY Couture has a new book of simple make-it-yourself patterns which don’t involve complex drafting, plus illustrated sewing instructions for beginners. Haven’t seen it yet but it looks fun.

Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew Way
By Kerstin Martensson.

(not all to same scale)

Simple basic patterns for knit tee, dartless blouse, 2 skirts, pants (elastic waists). Kwik Sew type patterns on thick white paper. Up to 45 inch/ 114 cm bust, 47 inch/ 120 cm hip.

Many simple instructions for changing the patterns to make other styles, from zip front hoodie to nightwear. The dresses shown are all two-piece, but you could extend these patterns to simple shirt and shift one-piece dresses. Good for beginners, with Kwik Sew’s simple clear sewing instructions. No discussion of wardrobe building. Fit advice only about changing length. Universally good reviews.

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Wendy Mullin’s books

Many modern casual styles are more fitted and do have darts. Wendy Mullin’s books are bursting with excellent pattern altering ideas, but the patterns and sewing instructions sometimes need care.

She has her own RTW clothing line and used to design patterns for Simplicity. There are 4 pattern books, which build into a comprehensive wardrobe (though there’s no discussion of that). All books have 3 basic patterns.

The first, Sew U, has patterns for skirt, shirt, pants. (I’m disappointed there’s no pattern for the bag on the cover :D) Up to 38 inch/ 98 cm bust, 42 inch/ 107 cm hip, BMV size 18.


Many suggestions for changing the style elements on these patterns. Advice for sewing beginners, though these styles are perhaps a bit much for timid learners. Fit only mentioned in passing. Rightly well known.

Home Stretch Knits


Patterns for :
– set-in sleeve tee.
– raglan hoodie.
– dress with waistline seam.

Pattern alteration and sewing instructions for 6 versions of each style – changes in neckline, length, shape. . .

Good knit sewing instructions for beginners, but no advanced techniques such as stabilising or using a double needle.

Some people like close fitting knits. Some like their knits loose and baggy. Reviewers say these patterns make up large. So check for your preferred level of ease. And some think the result doesn’t look like the picture. So do make a trial version.

Wendy Mullin also has a book on Dresses. I’ve put that in my post on books for dresses.

Built by Wendy Coats & Jackets


Patterns for :
– armhole princess fitted jacket.
– dartless casual jacket described as ‘not-too-snug’ and used for loose styles like a parka.
– raglan sleeve dartless outerwear coat.
A good range of basic shapes for outerwear. Most styles have neckline and front opening interfacing, but no more complex support structures. Many have linings.

Sadly these jacket and coat patterns are tiny, only 1 – 2 inches/ 2 – 5 cm ease. Barely movement room, certainly not large enough for layering. Here’s my comments at Pattern Review.

The pattern altering instructions for jackets and coats are good and inspirational, with multiple variations. But the sewing instructions are not always clear and the patterns are unusable. These are exciting styles – what a disappointment ! You need properly sized patterns and a technique book if you want to try these jacket or coat styles.

– – –

Perfect Plus
by Kathleen Cheetham of Petite Plus patterns.


Patterns for blouse, jacket, skirt, pants. This is the only wardrobe pattern book I know of which covers a ‘Core 4’. Sized for petites 40 to 50 inch/ 117 cm bust, 42 – 52 inch/ 132 cm hip, BMV sizes 18 to 28. Lengthen lines on the patterns, so you can alter them for height.

Much good discussion on using the patterns to build a wardrobe. Only simple pattern changes, such as different sleeve lengths, a small choice of collar shapes, some trim changes. 14 pages on fit, covering all the main issues. Good sewing instructions with many photos and diagrams.

Final mention for
Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp.
For sewing beginners not wardrobe planning. Over 100 5-star reviews at Amazon, but look at the 3 star reviews to get some heart felt comments. I have seen this but ‘handed it on’ as the projects aren’t my style and I didn’t need the guidance. That was some time ago so I can’t now comment in detail. With patterns for several garment types.

P.S. Sewing Machine Basics by Jane Bolsover is a learners book which gets enthusiastic reviews from beginners who have made the projects. Leads up to making simple pants, skirt, and blouse. Full size traceable patterns up to 42 inch hip. (Nothing on pattern altering or wardrobes.)

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It’s Stitchers’ Guild ‘Sewing With A Plan‘ time again, so many people are thinking about wardrobe co-ordination.
Would any of these wardrobe pattern books give you a simple starting point for your own co-ordinates ?

Second post planned for the books mainly with dress patterns. Is that more to your taste 😀

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Books and links available January 2012

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