Oliver + S

oliver + s building block dress

oliver + s building block dress
Price: $24.95
Brand: Oliver + S
Item: OLV-OS053BBD

Imagine it. Make it! You don’t need to be a designer or pattern maker to create and sew the dress of your dreams. Let Liesl Gibson teach you how to alter the elements of a pattern to make exactly the dress you imagine. With the included Building Block Dress pattern (sizes 6m–12) and Liesl’s detailed pattern alternation instructions, you’ll learn how to create almost any dress you can imagine. Use the skills you learn in this book to customize other patterns as well. With these techniques, you’ll look at sewing patterns as just the starting point for your creative expression!


oliver + s building block dress
  • Description

    Oliver + S Building Block Dress: A Sewing Pattern Alteration Guide provides a new approach to sewing project books. Rather than presenting a set number of projects to complete, the book shows you how to alter a sewing pattern to develop and sew a dress of your own design. You, in effect, become a designer yourself—without needing to have years of education or experience.

    The books works like this. You start with the book’s worksheet to design a unique girl’s dress—selecting from different sleeves, silhouettes, pockets, hems, necklines, closures, and linings. Once you have designed your dress, you use the book’s detailed instructions to make a series of simple and straightforward alterations to the classic girl’s dress pattern (sizes 6 months - 12 years) included with the book. With your completed pattern, you follow the book’s step-by-step instructions to sew your dress. By mixing and matching different design elements, you can make literally thousands of different dresses—all from the one pattern included with the book. Suddenly, a relatively novice sewist can make almost any dress she or he can imagine!

    The concept for this book is especially empowering because the techniques taught here can be applied to other sewing patterns as well. You will learn how to add a collar, change a sleeve shape, develop different pocket styles, add fancy hems and necklines, include facings or linings, and change from a button closure to a zipper. If you can envision a new garment style and have a sewing pattern to use as a jumping-off point, you can make exactly what you want.

    Featuring inspiring photographs of eighteen different dress styles made with the techniques presented here, the book includes a full-size pattern sheet for the basic Building Block Dress.


    1. Getting Started: How to use the book
    2. The Building Block Dress: Sewing instructions for the included dress pattern
    3. Sleeves: Ten sleeve variations
    4. Silhouettes: Twelve modifications to a dress’s shape
    5. Pockets: How to make seven different pocket styles
    6. Collars and Necklines: Nine collar and neckline styles
    7. Finishes: Eight hem, closure, and lining options
    8. Appendix

    Book Details

    • Pages: 152
    • Illustrations: 624 color photos and drawings
    • Trim size: 8.5" x 11" x .5"
    • ISBN: 978-0-692-68725-3

    Shipping and Handling Charges for this Item

    For orders of one book shipping to addresses in the United States, we are able to use USPS Media Mail. This provides a reduced shipping rate, but delivery time for items sent using Media Mail may be somewhat slower than items sent via other methods. If customers shipping to United States addresses wish to include sewing patterns with their order, we must use USPS Priority Mail or a parcel shipping method instead.

    Media Mail rates are not available on orders shipping outside the United States. To determine shipping costs to your country, add a copy of the book to your shopping bag and then use the Estimate Shipping link on the shopping bag page.


  • English System
    Size Chest
    6-12M 19 19 ½ 19 ½ 27-29 17-22
    12-18M 19 ¾ 20 ½ 20 ½ 29-31 22-27
    18-24M 20 ½ 21 21 31-33 27-30
    2T 21 21 22 33-36 30-33
    3T 21 ½ 21 23 36-39 33-36
    4 22 ½ 21 ½ 24 39-42 36-39
    5 23 ½ 22 25 ½ 42-45 39-44
    6 24 ½ 22 ½ 26 ½ 45-49 45-55
    7 25 ½ 23 27 ½ 49-52 56-64
    8 26 ½ 23 ½ 28 ½ 52-54 65-72
    10 28 24 30 54-56 73-77
    12 29 25 31 ½ 56-58 78-82


    Metric System
    Size Chest
    6-12M 48 50 50 69-74 8-10
    12-18M 50 52 51 74-79 10-12
    18-24M 52 53 56 79-84 12-14
    2T 53 53 56 84-91 14-15
    3T 55 53 58 91-99 15-16
    4 57 55 61 99-107 16-18
    5 60 56 65 107-114 18-20
    6 62 57 67 114-124 20-25
    7 65 58 70 124-132 25-29
    8 67 60 72 132-137 29-33
    10 71 61 76 137-142 33-35
    12 74 64 80 142-147 35-37


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  • The Oliver + S Building Block Dress contains all the tools you'll need to design and sew the dresses you want to make. But how exactly does it work? Here are the details.

    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.

    Building Block Dress

    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.

    Building Block Dress Inspiration

    Building Block Dress Inspiration

    And these 18 dresses are just the start. You can make literally thousands of different dress styles (60,481 actually) by mixing and matching the pattern alteration techniques in the book. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

    Building Block Dress Inspiration

    Building Block Dress Inspiration

    Oliver + S Building Block Dress


    The Worksheet

    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.

    Building Block Dress Worksheet

    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.

    Building Block Dress Variation

    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!

    Oliver + S Building Block Dress Variations


    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.

    I hope you're as excited about this book as I am!


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