Well, today’s the day when I finally get to show you the book I’ve been alluding to for months now. I hope you’re as excited about this as I am. I can hardly wait!
I’ve already told you how I realized I could teach you to alter patterns in order to make your own unique designs. By taking this approach it won’t be necessary for you to learn the technical, time-consuming techniques of patternmaking from scratch because we’ll start with a block pattern and make simple alterations to it in order to develop new styles. This means that you can become the designer, and you don’t need someone else to develop the pattern you want to make. You imagine it, and you make it!
This book contains all the tools you’ll need to design and sew the dresses you want to make. But how exactly does it work? I’ll give you an overview today.
It’s my pleasure to introduce you to the Oliver + S Building Block Dress book!
The Building Block Dress
The title of the book comes from the classic dress pattern that serves as the basis for the book. This is the block pattern we will work with when we make all the pattern alterations. Here’s what the block dress pattern looks like, without any customization.
When you buy the book, a full-size Building Block Dress pattern is included in a nice little envelope at the back of the book. It’s printed on two large sheets of paper and includes sizes from six months all the way to twelve years. You’ll be able to sew a lot of dresses for a lot of children for a lot of years with the pattern.
The Building Block Dress is a typically well-drafted Oliver + S pattern. Even if you don’t make any alterations to it, it’s a pretty, classic dress style that you could enjoy sewing again and again.
To begin the book, I’ve assembled a lot of inspiration to help you start imagining what you can do in your own projects. I sewed 18 different dresses for this book, each based on the Building Block Dress and each using various pattern alteration techniques explained in the book.
And these 18 dresses are just the start. You can make literally thousands of different dress styles (60,481 actually; Todd did the math, as he tends to do) by mixing and matching the pattern alteration techniques in the book. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
I’ve included a simple worksheet in the book to help you organize your thoughts and start planning your designs. The worksheet includes a very light, dotted-line sketch of the front and back of the Building Block Dress to serve as the basis for you own designs. You can sketch your design over the dress outline to help visualize what your ideas will look like when they are made.
The worksheet also gives you space to add fabric swatches and trims, and you can plan your dress by writing down which pattern alterations you will need to make and the pages where those instructions are found in the book. We’ve even made it easy for you to get additional copies of the worksheet. You can download the worksheet file from our website and print more copies.
You’ll be referring to this page frequently while working on your dress, and you might even want to save your worksheet after the dress is finished in case you want to refer to it again. In fact, you could collect all your design worksheets in a binder to keep track of each project you design and sew.
Getting Started and How-To
The front of the book guides you through what you need to know to get started. You will need a few items in your patternmaking toolbox before you begin, and I show you how to use them. Since you will want to save the original pattern sheet to use in making future dresses, I teach you how to trace a pattern. This section also explains the basics of making and fitting a muslin, which will come in handy as you develop some of your designs.
The Sewing Instructions
As with all our patterns, the Building Block Dress includes detailed instructions and illustrations to guide you through the sewing process. You will use these instructions for sewing every dress you design based on this pattern. If you’ve sewn with our patterns before, you know that you can feel confident that we’ll take you through the sewing step-by-step and that you will end up with a finished product you can be proud of.
The Good Stuff
Now we come to the exciting part. The rest of the book is divided into chapters to help you navigate all the pattern alterations options available to you. By mixing and matching options from each section, you’ll be able to create the pattern for just about any dress you can imagine. Here’s how this section is laid out.
Sleeves: We start with sleeves, and I show you how to alter the pattern to create ten different sleeve types–from puffed sleeves, to bell sleeves, tulip sleeves, cap sleeves, and even sleeveless. Sleeves are a perfect place to start because they are small, and you’ll learn the techniques that we use throughout the rest of the book in a low-stress environment.
Silhouettes: This is the area where we really start taking the pattern into new places. You can completely alter the look of a dress by changing its silhouette, and I show you how to alter the skirt from the basic A-line shape of the original Building Block Dress to a fuller flared skirt, a gathered skirt, and we’ll even add box pleats to it. We’ll also change the shape of the dress to Empire waist, dropped waist, and A-line. Plus, we’ll add princess seams to the pattern. We’ll even do a little color blocking since that’s an interesting way to change a pattern as well.
Pockets: Everyone loves pockets, and I show you how to draft seven different pocket types including a variety of patch pockets, in-seam pockets, and some interesting front pockets that can be used to add fun detail to all sort of sewing projects.
Collar and Necklines: If you’ve ever wanted to add a collar to an existing pattern, here’s how. In this section I teach you how easy it is to draft a professional-looking collar. Then we begin playing with the collar by adding a variety of shapes to it including scallops, a front tie effect, and even a sailor collar. (So many of you have asked for this over the years; here it is at long last!) I also show you how to alter the shape of a neckline and finish it with details like facings, external facings (so you can use the neckline as a design element), and bias binding as well as bias facings.
Finishes Including Hems, Closures, and Linings: The details don’t get enough credit when it comes to dress design, so in this section I show you how to finish all sort of hems, including drafting a scalloped hem. I also help you include a lining, and I cover buttons and zipper closures. But if you hate buttonholes and zippers, I teach you how to change the closure to a keyhole so you can avoid both of them entirely!
The back of the book includes our popular glossary of terms as well as additional information about making bias strips and bias binding. This way you have everything in one handy location.
Applicability to Your Other Sewing
When I was younger, my mom sewed for me and she would take inspiration from the sleeve of one pattern and sew that sleeve onto another pattern to create the dress that I wanted to wear. That’s what this book is all about. It gives you the tools to customize any pattern at all. So don’t limit yourself!
Once you’ve learned these techniques, you can use the book as a reference guide and refer to it over and over again. The pattern alteration techniques I cover in the book aren’t limited to working with the Building Block Dress. All the techniques in the book can be applied to any sewing pattern you own (or want to own). This means that you can use any pattern you like as a block and alter it to create other styles that suit your tastes.
That said, we have been discussing doing a similar book for women in the future. That book would need to include information specific to the fit issues faced in sewing for grown-ups. Before we take you through all the details of completely altering block patterns for women, I want to assemble a course of materials that will help you learn good fitting techniques. Once you understand fit techniques for women, we can tackle using darts and all of the exciting things that can be done with them.
But that’s a project for the future, and we’ll determine if we can undertake it based on how well this book sells. If it sells well enough to justify doing a similar book for women, we’ll consider doing that book at a later date. So if you’re interested in that book, you can place your vote for it by purchasing a copy of this one!
How to Get Your Copy
The book will be available for sale here starting at 11 AM ET next Monday, September 19. While you wait, you can preview the book’s product page in our shop to get more information. You can even leave your email address there and we will send you a message just as soon as copies go on sale.
Oh, there’s one more thing. If you come back here next Monday, just before the book goes on sale, I’ll have a couple of special offers to share with you. They will be available only for people who purchase the book from us next week. I think you’ll like them.
So what do you think? I hope you’re as excited about this book as I am!