Oliver + S

oliver + s building block dress

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

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 alteration 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!

Share your photos on Instagram with the hashtags #buildingblockdress and #oliverands.


oliver + s building block dress
  • Description

    Recognized as one of the best craft and hobby books of 2016 by the Independent Book Publishers Association, Oliver + S Building Block Dress: A Sewing Pattern Alteration Guide provides a completely 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.

    Benjamin Franklin Award

    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


  • Average rating: (4.9 of 5) based on 56 reviews

      Building Block Dress
    Reviewed by Mary ( Verified Buyer) on 12/21/2021
    This book is a wonderful resource for creating girl’s dresses. It is informative and has great tips for useful tools. I have made an infant dress and a dress for a five-year-old. Both turned out well. I look forward to making more dresses.
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      Oliver and S Building Block Dress
    Reviewed by Mary Knight on 11/14/2021
    I have made 3 dresses from this book so far! I find the instructions very detailed. The pattern pieces all fit & are well drafted! I used sizes 3, 5 & 6. The girls love their dresses! My sewing confidence has improved so much. I’m looking forward to modifying the patterns even more.
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      What a Treasure!
    Reviewed by Jane Gerhart ( Verified Buyer) on 06/27/2021
    WOW! My creative juices are flowing like Niagra Falls! infinite possibilities limited only by the imagination. I can't wait to get started.
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      The best
    Reviewed by Olivia Gonzales ( Verified Buyer) on 01/11/2021
    Such an incredible resource. Thank you!
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    Reviewed by Sandra Snarr ( Verified Buyer) on 09/17/2020
    I loved this sewing book. I made the first dress and picked up new tips even though I had been sewing for years. My little granddaughter will look so adorable. Even her Daddy loved the little dress
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      A good curriculum for modifying patterns
    Reviewed by Christie ( Verified Buyer) on 08/21/2019
    My mother was an amazing seamstress and could make ANYTHING, with a commercial pattern or one she drafted herself. I’m not there yet, for a few reasons, but I have intermediate-advanced skills. I read this book cover to cover; I’m excited to test & modify the block to get better at the kind of mods that make handmade garments absolutely one of a kind. The instructions are clear and detailed. Some of the tweaks are very special (like the scalloped hem) and some more common (adding a collar or princess seams); all are ways that a sewist could really build skills in design, construction, and alterations. This book is a great tool for putting in your “ten thousand hours” to become expert, and it’s also approachable and user-friendly enough that you could use it for the first few of those hours. Love it.
    3 of 3 customers found this helpful.
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      Can’t wait to start!
    Reviewed by B Boyle ( Verified Buyer) on 07/11/2018
    I would give 5 stars but haven’t had an opportunity to start a project yet. The book looks great!
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      Great book and pattern
    Reviewed by Salome ( Verified Buyer) on 04/18/2018
    I really like the building block pattern that comes with the book. The alterations shown in the book give lots of ideas to get started. I'm very glad I got this book!
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Building Block Dress
    Reviewed by Sherry Reese ( Verified Buyer) on 03/24/2018
    This book is so clearly written and so well illustrated that it makes dress design and patternmaking accessible to anyone with good sewing skills. I use it as a textbook in my sewing school for kids, and I have 9- to 12-year-olds fearlessly drafting their patterns and fitting their muslins. It is truly a gateway for my young sewing students to take their technical skills up to a new level of creativity and satisfaction. The teens' and adults' editions cannot come out fast enough!
    3 of 3 customers found this helpful.
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      Great book
    Reviewed by Sadie ( Verified Buyer) on 03/22/2018
    I found this book to be very informative and inspecting. I only wish the patterns were available digitally to be printed out. Perhaps something that could be done now and then given to all of use who have already purchased the book?
    We deliberately don't make a print-at-home version of the pattern available because you won't achieve the best results if you use something you have printed out. The techniques taught in the book need to have seam lines drawn in, and you'll want to make a lot of markings on your pattern pieces. You will have much better results if you trace the size you want to make from the pattern included with the book and then use that traced version to begin making your alterations.
    4 of 4 customers found this helpful.
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      Building Block Dress
    Reviewed by mary swendson ( Verified Buyer) on 12/01/2017
    I have made one dress for sizing. On to the second with the correct measurements. It is nice to have all the sizes available. The instructions are clear and the ability to make the dress exactly as the recipient requests, i.e., pockets, length, sleeves was exactly what I needed. Thank you.
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      Drafting Book
    Reviewed by Joy Welsh ( Verified Buyer) on 08/22/2017
    I was so happy with this book! I love making patterns and this book has some really good tips for pattern drafting!
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Great idea for helpful sewing tips.
    Reviewed by Mary Thompson ( Verified Buyer) on 07/21/2017
    I would have been a much better seamstress if I had this book 30 years ago.. There is tons of helpful information and easy to follow directions. Thank you for putting this in print. I would love to see what others are making with your ideas too.
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Wonderful Book!
    Reviewed by Elizabeth Miller ( Verified Buyer) on 06/06/2017
    I ordered the building block book about a month ago. While I haven't yet actually made anything from it, I have read it multiple times while eating breakfast etc. I wish I had had this book thirty years ago. I think the idea of the book, with its multiple options of sewing different parts of the dress is a God-send. Here you have instructions that you can apply to not only this particular and classic dress, but also to other patterns you may already have on hand from previous purchases. I also particularly like the attitude of generosity and encouragement the author gives. Now that I have finished a quilting project, I can't wait to try some creative options and learning some new techniques from Liesl's wonderful book! Thank you, Liesl!
    5 of 5 customers found this helpful.
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      I love this book!
    Reviewed by Ann ( Verified Buyer) on 05/08/2017
    I would highly recommend this book to any sewist. Even if you only bought it for the basic dress it would be worth it, but it has so much more! Yes, altering the pattern to get the desired look takes time, but I'm learning a lot about dressmaking in the process. Thanks Liesl for making this available and affordable!
    2 of 2 customers found this helpful.
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      Great addition to pattern library!
    Reviewed by Kelly Utke ( Verified Buyer) on 03/17/2017
    The thing I love most about Oliver & S patterns, besides the fact that they are super cute designs, are the techniques learned. This book provides the opportunity to learn how to customize patterns, and it turns out that is really fun! I have used this book to make dresses for my daughters, as well as gifts for new babies. This book is a great addition to my other Oliver & S patterns!
    2 of 2 customers found this helpful.
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      Just What I Wanted
    Reviewed by Raphaelle ( Verified Buyer) on 11/28/2016
    I bought this book as soon as it became available. I've always loved Oliver+S patterns and trust the sizing. I've been trying to make my own designs from scratch and never quite got the results I was looking for. To have a basic dress that I know will fit right and can just modify without worrying about the rest was my main goal. But the instructions in the book are even better! Clear illustrations, tons of pictures... And the instructions can be used on any pattern. It's just a great resource! I would love a follow up including pants and outerwear with techniques like how to add a hood (how cute would a hooded A-lin dress with a kangaroo pocket be?)
    2 of 2 customers found this helpful.
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      Building Block Dress Book
    Reviewed by Christine Breaux ( Verified Buyer) on 11/23/2016
    Love, love and love this book. So helpful mixing ideas and patterns. Since I already love sewing using Oliver + S patterns, this book has taken to an all new level. I honestly have every pattern for girls and reach for them first when purchasing fabric (which is almost an obsession.) I would recommend this book to all my sewing friends or suggest as a great gift for all sewers. Great job! Thanks again for sharing your sewing gift with us.
    2 of 2 customers found this helpful.
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      I love this so much
    Reviewed by Marsha ( Verified Buyer) on 11/04/2016
    This book has revolutionized the way I look for sewing inspiration. I really feel like I can make just about anything I see or can imagine for my girls now. I was a little scared as I started constructing my first project, but I was really happy with how it turned out. The bodice has less ease than the other Oliver+S Patterns I've worked with, so I may size up next time for my toddler to get a little extended wear or may try an a-line next time. I would definitely suggest putting the effort in to sew a fit muslin for older girls.
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Oliver & S Building Block Dress
    Reviewed by Susan Drescher Terrill ( Verified Buyer) on 10/31/2016
    I have become fascinated with this book and also with the creative dresses I have seen on the blog as a result of the book. I was, however, somewhat disappointed when I opened the template pullout and discovered it was just for the one dress. I had hoped to find the A-line and some of the sleeves patterns because, although Leisl explains in detail how to go about drawing the lines and splitting the pattern apart to achieve the new pattern, I have got to admit that I am lazy and I do not have the apace or the patience to do thatl I just go to an old pattern and find a pattern and use it. But now that I know how to do it, I can combine just about anything to achieve what I want. That is pretty amazing. I am having trouble finding out how to achieve the sleeve that I want. I know what it looks like but I don't know how to do it. I thought it was a flutter sleeve but it is not like any of the sleeves in the book. But this is a work of art. I have never seen anything like it for children's clothing. It has gotten so many people starting to use their own imagination instead of just doing what the pattern says to do. I think it is transformative and I am just rather lazy. Thank you Leisl and Todd and S for this work of love.
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      Great resource for designing clothes
    Reviewed by Becky Wright ( Verified Buyer) on 10/30/2016
    Love this book!! Have owned and sewn several Oliver + S patterns (and her other book) but this gives you even more opportunities to sew more designs. This book gives you ideas how to adapt patterns but also design your very own. Love how the book shows you how to change and add different features to create original designs. Also love the fact that you can apply the same ideas to adult clothing patterns. And I'm so lucky to meet Ms. Gibson next week at one of her workshops!!
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Enjoy it!
    Reviewed by Betsy ( Verified Buyer) on 10/29/2016
    I've enjoyed so much this book. I've had other sewing books but the instructions and illustrations by Liesel are far superior--even my eight year old did some pattern adjusting by studying the diagrams on a dress we are working on for her. I've already grown in several points of knowledge and I love that my children can see me studying a book to increase my skills and that the book is clear enough and beautifully made enough that they will study it themselves. My only point of displeasure is the pattern is only available in paper format and it's double sided and has overlapping lines. There's many times I wish for a copy I could print out fresh rather than having to retrace. Also I can't even cut it apart to have smaller bits to work with or scan myself a digital copy since the individual pieces can't be separated. My work space is the dining room and I take up most of table every time I have to trace something. Usually my work time is when kids are busy having a snack or doing school and we keep bumping into each other. It's awkward also to open up the whole page if I want to check back on something. It just is more difficult and I think will wear out my one hard copy faster. Maybe I should go have a copy made a shop somewhere. But I highly recommend this resource. It's a great investment and a great company to support. I may purchase a few copies for Christmas gifts. :)
    We're glad you have enjoyed the book. Regarding the pattern sheet, when you start to make your alterations, it is actually quite important that you work with traced pattern pieces rather than the original or with copies printed from a PDF. This is because you will want to have only the lines and markings for the size you are going to work with when you start modifying it. You will have a much easier time making the alterations and sewing (and you will get much better results) if you work from a traced pattern piece.
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Having an Experienced Pattern Maker Hold Your Hand
    Reviewed by Cathy ( Verified Buyer) on 10/27/2016
    I've been sewing for more years than Liesl has been alive and have always modified (or hacked) patterns to be able to sew what was in my head. Even with all that experience I found better ways to modify and help with how to change things. The sleeve variations were especially helpful. Dresses (and tops) from in all variations in the book and in my head will be in my sewing from now on.
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Now able to easily 'mix it up'
    Reviewed by Frances Lee ( Verified Buyer) on 10/26/2016
    I am a scientist but found myself always needing a pattern, afraid to 'go it by myself' - even tho in my real life I have to figure out complex stuff all the time. Using this book has given me the confidence and know-how to 'go it by myself'. I just took a favorite O&S pattern (music box jumper) added sleeves & peter pan collar and removed buttons in favor of an invisible zipper. The result is stunning. Yes, I had read about doing these things on the blogs/pinterest links/youtube etc. but sometimes that info was unclear/incomplete. Well this is a whole new world for me... The book is terrific; a must have for those who want to be creative and take those design risks... I have already marked pages, obtained a big stock of freezer paper and am looking for a 'french curve'... Now when the great nieces ask 'can you make me...?' I can say 'sure, what color?' Thank you Liesl.
    3 of 3 customers found this helpful.
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      Love this book!!
    Reviewed by Laura ( Verified Buyer) on 10/26/2016
    I absolutely love this book! I haven't had the chance to sew anything out of it yet due to previous obligations but I have so many ideas just from reading that it is sure to put quite a dent in my stash:) My daughter is at the upper end of the size range but I look foreword to grading up to at least two more sizes and also using the techniques on other patterns. This book is exactly what I have been looking for and the only thing better would be a women's version that addresses the fitting issues relevant to women's sewing! I have already recommended this book to all of my sewing friends! Thanks for a great job done!
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Just ok
    Reviewed by Natalie ( Verified Buyer) on 10/24/2016
    1-Size chart found to have error, was corrected but the book I paid for is printed wrong. I'm sure that no corrected book will be sent to me. 2- Some of the photos were a little deceiving. I thought that I could make a dress with a rounded neck, but it turns out that it's just a facing, not a separate piece. 3. No pdf is made available for the actual pattern, so once it rips, you are out of luck. Not a good selling point since a majority of O+S patterns ARE digital. Not great customer service in that aspect.
    We're sorry you're not satisfied with the book, but perhaps some explanation will help. There is, indeed, a minor error with a small number of the entries in the finished measurement chart on page 40. But rest assured that this error will have no impact whatsoever on sewing from the book. We deeply regret this--as we do any error found in our products. It will be corrected in subsequent printings. In the meantime, if you wish to update your copy from the first printing, we have revised the chart (download a copy here). You can print and tape this corrected chart over the version with the error.

    There is nothing "deceiving" about the photos in the book. All were taken of dresses made from the book using the pattern pieces and the nine collar alteration techniques included there.

    For the time being, digital versions of the book and pattern sheet cannot be produced and sold due to contractual issues with our book distribution partners. Electronic distribution rights restrictions are not applicable to our sewing patterns, only to our book products. Additionally, the techniques taught in the book need to have seam lines drawn in. You will have much better results if you trace the size you want to make than if you start with a printed version from a PDF.
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      Love it!
    Reviewed by Tara ( Verified Buyer) on 10/24/2016
    I have made several Oliver and S patterns and have been impressed.I have four girls, two that are teens, but the other two still under size 12. This book is fabulous and is what I have been looking for! To take one dress and be able to create many different dresses is wonderful. I like the detailed directions on how design the dress you want with the different parts and the ability to use that skill on any other pattern. Thank you!
    3 of 3 customers found this helpful.
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      Take your sewing to the next level
    Reviewed by Julia Rhodes ( Verified Buyer) on 10/24/2016
    As my daughter is a teenager, I have no one to sew dresses for but that did not stop me from ordering this book. It's a great way to learn how to alter patterns and spark your creativity. I have sewn 2 dresses and just cut out my third. The instructions are clear, the concept brilliant, and the book awesome.
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Taking Garment Making to a New Level
    Reviewed by Laura ( Verified Buyer) on 10/24/2016
    I learned to sew a few short years ago and most of what I've learned was from sewing O+S patterns. No other patterns every measure up as far as instruction goes so it doesn't surprise me that this book has pushed me to an even more challenging level with major ease! What is so awesome is that you can start off at easy and just keep adjusting and adding more challenging elements. This book has easily taught me even how to adjust one of Liesl+Co patterns because your learning such beneficial techniques. I'll use this over and over, year after year!
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      A Great Resource!
    Reviewed by soumya mupalla ( Verified Buyer) on 10/23/2016
    This book is a great resource for anyone who wants to make modifications to or experiment with any pattern that they already have. I am, in fact, using the book to make subtle changes to women's patterns! And the design ideas that are already sketched out in the book are so good too! Now to just find time to realize all those ideas! A must have for any sewing beginner!And oh, I absolutely love the concept and format of the book too. It's so nicely put together.
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Building Block Dress
    Reviewed by Carole Di Fabio ( Verified Buyer) on 10/23/2016
    An inspiring book to nurture your inner designer and a great resource to stretch your sewing skills and learn new techniques. The book is beautifully designed with clear instructions and illustrations. It is obvious to me that Liesl Gibson through her sharing her knowledge and expertise wants us to succeed. I just completed a dress using this book and found the examples helpful in making my design choices. Having purchased several Oliver and S patterns to sew dresses for my great-nieces prompted me to purchase this book without hesitation. I strongly recommend it.
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Loving it... now just finding the time to do it justice!!
    Reviewed by Katie ( Verified Buyer) on 10/23/2016
    I am thoroughly enchanted by this book and get excited every time I get a chance to open it, I just can't wait to find a time to narrow down some options for my first make!! Thanks Liesl & Todd, you never disappoint, I want to follow in your footsteps!! Xo
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Fun waiting to happen
    Reviewed by Fredricka Vaughan ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    I have loved all the posts of dresses that people have made. I am even a little intimidated by the creativity that is out there. But, I confess, the book is drawing me to sew and create for my grandchildren; however, I am already committed to several sewing projects so my adventure with the book will have to wait a while longer. As with everything Oliver + S, the book does not disappoint.
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Unique must have sewing book!!
    Reviewed by Rachelle Feese ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    I was so excited when I saw that this new sewing book was coming out. I couldn't believe someone had actually made a sewing book like this! I just moved. I homeschool my kids. My two youngest are only two and one years old. So I haven't had time to actually sew anything yet. I have looked through the book though, and it's amazing! I've also been following along on the facebook group, and seeing lots of amazing dresses! I have sewed with other patterns from Liesl Gibson before. They are my favorite's! She is an amazing person, to not only be able to design patterns, but also to be able to teach people how to sew through her patterns! Anyone on the fence about purchasing this book, don't be! You won't be disappointed!
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      What a great gift to us!
    Reviewed by Debbie Hill ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    I am so impressed with this book! I've read it through a couple of times--details, details, details! Such a help to me and others, I'm sure! I love the possible combinations available. I see several that I will work on for the spring for my granddaughter. I love this opportunity to make my own design and dress using your great pattern and suggestions. Thank you so much. I haven't sewn my first dress yet, but I am getting things lined up to do so!
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      Wow What a book!
    Reviewed by Mary Mather ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    So far I have only begun to read this marvelous book. I am planning a velvet or velvetine dress for my granddaughter for Christmas and will work through the book as I plan and implement this. I have learned so much from all of your patterns that I have made for her so I know I will find this book just as great.
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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      Love this book!
    Reviewed by N Pultorak ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    Love, love this book! I've been sewing for over 50 years and never saw a reference like this! The pattern alterations can be applied to any pattern. Illustrations and written directions are clear and easy to follow. A must have for any sewist!
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    Reviewed by Donna ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    A book for the beginner and the want to be creative seamstress. Beautiful layout sets a creative atmosphere. Liesl is a master educator and her care for us students is obvious in her attention and ideas. The book is a gift/work of love from her whole family - which enables us to sew for those we love.
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      Love it!
    Reviewed by Mary Coonts ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    I own many Oliver + S patterns. I'm enjoying making sketches and seeing how I can come up with many ideas. I have a book on vintage children's clothes and I'm getting ideas from that. Now I can use this book to figure out how to do some of those styles and details. I know I would not be brave enough to try many design changes on adult clothes but doing so on children's garments doesn't seem so intimidating. Thanks, Leisl
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      Building Block Dress
    Reviewed by Cindy Cooksey ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    I already own several Oliver and S patterns and prize them for their clear directions for even the most intricate details. This book continues this tradition, while giving us creative freedom to design our own dresses. There are plenty of examples to inspire the reader. I have made one dress so far and am delighted with the results. I am already planning a second dress for my other granddaughter- how wonderful it is to have two little ones to sew for!
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      Love Build Block Dress
    Reviewed by susy ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    I've used almost every oliver & s pattern Liesl has published for my 7 year-old granddaughter.Her patterns are precise, careful and wonderfully detailed. As a self-taught intermediate sewer, every explanation and suggestion is helpful. My only disappointment was the book didn't include a template for a A-line skirt. However Liesl made sure to tell us how to modify the skirt/dress to do that. My dream is to meet her and take a workshop from her. Fingers crossed for 2017!
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      Not another book like it
    Reviewed by Michele ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    This book is a must-read and a keeper! Liesl Gibson walks you step-by-step through the process of making basic Building Block Dress with the same clear instructions as in her patterns and tutorials. (Haven't tried an Oliver & S pattern or new to sewing? She offers several free patterns on her website; I urge you to try one. I guarantee, you'll be hooked.) But that isn't all. Once you've mastered the basic dress design, the book offers simple instructions on variations to the dress that will be sure to inspire you for years. I can't wait to start the next dress!
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      Love it!
    Reviewed by Bonnie ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    Love the book, very, very helpful especially since I sew for my great-niece 2000+ miles away. Her mother can send me basic measurements and I can make a pattern to fit her. Only criticism is that I understood from early info about the book that there would be a basic form onto which I could sketch my planned dress and that did not materialize.
    Bonnie, you'll find the form you are looking for on page 5 of the book. And you can download extra copies to print here: https://oliverands.com/worksheet.
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      Exactly what I've been looking for!
    Reviewed by Rachel ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    This book is the primer I've been looking for for a few years now. It starts with the basic sloper and teaches you how to do just about anything with it. I've been looking at blog tutorials and wishing for something in book format. I couldn't believe the price on this either. With all the information provided, I would have expected to pay at least twice as much. Now that I have this book from a trusted pattern designer, I'm finally brave enough and confident enough to alter patterns of all sizes. I feel liberated from commercial patterns.
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      Building Block Dress Book
    Reviewed by maggieb! ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    Every sewist NEEDS this book in the library! Not since Elizabeth Travis Johnson has anyone taught drafting in such a simple to use format. I'd buy this book at 4X the price. It is a gem! I HIGHLY recommend this book!
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      Confidence builder
    Reviewed by Sheila Yamaguchi ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    I have retired and am getting back into my aspirations to sew. I have glanced through the book and am working on planning some projects as I now have 4 granddaughters and 1 grandson under 5 years some of who have sensitive eczema skin and so I want to sew with mostly cotton with no scratchy tags or seams. I think the book will be an excellent inspiration to help me get through the difficult times during sewing, help me more efficiently plan and provide documentation and hints. Thank you so much for the excellent videos, book and guidance.
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      My missing link!
    Reviewed by Linda ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    I have been sewing for many years, and have become very good at it, but have always wished I was able to make design and size changes to my patterns and garments. Plus, I recently started sewing for my granddaughter. Both of these is why I was so excited to hear about Liesl's new book. To me, it is the missing link and has helped me to now be able to accomplish what I couldn't before. The book is so well written with lots of examples and explanation - all easy to understand and very logical. The options are endless. And I expect it will also translate to my own garment sewing. I love it!
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      A book to grow your budding sewing skills
    Reviewed by Bethany V on 10/22/2016
    I've been sewing for my kids for a few years, mostly self taught, mostly indie patterns. While I love the creativity you can find with indie patterns, they lack the refinement and attention to details that professionally trained pattern makers bring to the table. With every Oliver + S pattern I have sewn my eyes have been opened to new methods for making my work look less homemade. This book is the ultimate for someone who wants to come up with their own designs, but yet needs the help of a professional to guide them with the particulars. I've sewn two versions of the building block dress so far, and my 5 year has many more creations she is planning, and with the options in this book her wardrobe will most certainly bloom. We are both thrilled for this new outlet to use her creativity. It has been a joy to work though some of the options in this book, and the final product made everybody happy. Thank you Liesl Gibson for empowering home sewers around the globe!
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      Amazing resource
    Reviewed by Jenny McCann ( Verified Buyer) on 10/22/2016
    About 7 years ago I decided to start sewing again, as I was expecting a girl. I discovered O +S, which is a less frilly style than others and more to my taste. I also discovered a patternmaker who wanted ME to grow in my skills as a sewist. The styles brought me in, but the instructions and my personal growth and the community kept me coming back. Now, there is this book. And OMG what a book it is. It takes my sewing to a new level and brings me confidence because I know that following the clear instructions will yield success. And one of the things I do really like about this book is that even though it is for "little girl" dresses, there are a ton of skills that can be applied to other patterns. I also like the fact that it helps me understand why I am doing what I am doing so I can take that skill and transfer to the world outside little girl dresses. Honestly, you can't go wrong with this book.
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      Oliver & S Building Block Dress
    Reviewed by Brenda ( Verified Buyer) on 10/21/2016
    Love this book - the techniques show you how to re-draft the building block dress pattern so you can choose exactly what you want to sew. The explanations are so clear anyone can follow them and be successful! 5 star for sure :)
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      Inspires Creativity
    Reviewed by Sally ( Verified Buyer) on 10/21/2016
    This book inspires creativity. Liesl shares her experience in fashion design and pattern making. Following her instructions and hints will produce professional results in your sewing. I've been sewing for 50 years and have learned so much from the book.
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    Reviewed by Louise ( Verified Buyer) on 10/20/2016
    I love the idea behind this book--to turn any sewist into a pattern designer--and the execution of it is marvelous. I made the basic dress right away, and was so pleased with the clear, detailed, easy-to-follow directions, in the manner we've all come to expect from an Oliver + S pattern. The directions for the many alterations require a little more gumption and faith in one's abilities to get through, but are still better than many major pattern companies. I have complete confidence that by the time I've implemented even a small number of the pattern alterations, my children's wardrobes will have doubled, and my confidence in my sewing and drafting abilities will have as well.
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      Wonderful book!
    Reviewed by Allison ( Verified Buyer) on 10/19/2016
    Anyone who is even considering garment sewing should own this book! I have learned more from this one book than any other book or workshop combined! Liesl equips you with all the knowledge you need to go from an inspiration to a perfectly-fitting dress. Not only are the possibilities with the building block dress seemingly endless, the skills you learn can be applied to most any pattern--giving you even more options to sew. It truly is as if you have a personal instructor sitting right at your sewing table with you!
    1 of 1 customers found this helpful.
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    Reviewed by Veronica Rojas de la Parra ( Verified Buyer) on 10/19/2016
    This book is really useful, not only it includes instructions to make the most amazing variety of girl's dresses, it has really inspired me, and changed the way I look at clothes and patterns in general (not just girl's dresses). I honestly feel that I now have more tools to make my vision come true. It is such an empowering feeling! I can't thank Liesel enough for helping me unlock and develop this new skill! Also, my daughter can't decide which of the designs in the book she likes the most, so my sewing queue has gotten really long!
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      The best sewing book/pattern ever!
    Reviewed by Ragon ( Verified Buyer) on 10/19/2016
    I love this book so much! As a self-taught sewist that sews primarily for my daughter, this book is amazing for learning new sewing techniques and learning how to alter a basic pattern to make 100s of different kinds of dresses. I love that the pattern goes all the way up to size 12 so I can use it for years! I've already made two dresses based on this book, both of which turned out awesome and I can't wait to make so many more. I can use this book to create pretty much any dress that either I or my daughter can imagine and I can apply the techniques to other patterns as well. Well worth it!
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      Awesome book!
    Reviewed by Lisa ( Verified Buyer) on 10/06/2016
    I love this book! It provides clear, detailed instructions for modifying a base pattern to use different sleeves, collars, pockets, hems, etc. I've started drafting my first pattern, and it is nowhere near as daunting as I expected.
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  • Determining Which Printing You Have

    As errata are discovered, they are marked for correction in subsequent printings of the book. To determine which printing you have, look at the book's copyright page. Just above the Oliver + S logo, there is a series of numbers. The lowest number indicates the printing from which your copy has come. For example, if the lowest number is "2," you have a copy from the second printing.


    1. In the first printing of the book, there was an error in the finished measurements chart on page 40. The chart should read as follows:

      Size Chest Dress Length*
      6-12M 21 1/4" 17"
      12-18M 22" 18"
      18-24M 22 1/2" 19 1/4"
      2T 23" 20 1/2"
      3T 23 1/2" 21 1/2"
      4 24 1/2" 23"
      5 25 1/2" 25"
      6 26 1/2" 26 3/4"
      7 28" 28 1/2"
      8 29" 30 1/4"
      10 30 1/2" 32 1/2"
      12 31 1/2" 34 1/2"

      *Measured from shoulder at neck

      If you would like to download an updated chart to print and insert into your book, you may do that by clicking on this link.


  • 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!


  • From the Discussion Forums

    Discussion on the oliver + s building block dress from the Oliver + S Discussion Forums.

  • Your Photos

    A selection of your photos from the Oliver + S Flickr group.

    Find and share more photos on Instagram using the hashtags #buildingblockdress and #oliverands.