Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: Cal Patch’s Design-It-Yourself-Clothes: Pattern Making Simplified

Beth at Project:Project is doing a series of craft-related book reviews.  She’s covered some really fun finds already, and I’m honored to be a part of the series by reviewing Cal Patch’s Design-it-Yourself-Clothes: Pattern Making Simplified.

Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking SimplifiedCal Patch is a professional designer, formally with Free People and Urban Outfitters.  She now has her own Etsy store, Hodge Podge Farm, as well as teaching sewing and pattern making in New York.  She has a lovely blog, and makes a lot of very nice things.  I had wanted this book for some time, and was super excited when my husband gave it to me for Christmas.

The idea behind the book is to help you understand how to draft simple, basic clothing, which you can use to expand into more complex and stylized designs on your own.  The book spends quite a bit of text explaining the process of body measurement, and where and what to measure to get an accurate fit.  From there, it goes on to explain how to combine some of these measurements to make a T shirt, skirt, dress, pants, and shirt.  After you’ve drafted the basic clothing patterns, Patch gives some ideas on expanding your designs to include more detailed clothing using the basic patterns as a starting point.  It kind of reminded me of how one would learn the basics of writing or arithmetic.  Patch teaches you the basics, so that when you get to more complicated designs you understand the reasoning behind them.

At first flip through, it looked almost too basic for what I was looking for.  I mean I’ve already started drafting some of my own patterns, so I have the basics down, right?  But to better review the book, I decided to pick a basic clothing piece and follow Patch’s instructions to draft a pattern.  I wanted to try the pants, since my one and only pant attempt ended in total ill-fitting failure.  But I was crunched on time, so went with the basic T. 

I followed the instructions for getting all my measurements, and started making my pattern.  One thing I did find, I think I would like this book better as a spiral bound.  I kept flipping back and forth between the drafting instructions and the measurement information found in the front of the book.   And it wouldn’t have been an issue at all if I had followed Patch’s instructions to take and record all my measurements before even starting a pattern.  So now I’m going to go back, take and record every measurement, and print it on a laminated book mark to keep in the book for ready reference. 

The text and instruction are easy to find and easy to read information.  I had no trouble, once I actually read the instructions and didn’t just assume I knew what to do, getting all my measurements and starting the drafting process. 
My only complaint about the actual content is lack of detailed pictures.  If you’ve spent any time looking through my tutorials and sewing lessons on my blog, you know that I have a need for illustrating nearly every step in a process.  I’m a very visual person and have a hard time translating written instruction into real life application without a little pictorial aid.  There are some drawings for some steps of the drafting process in the book, but not very many at all.  And some of the steps I just didn’t understand.  I really got confused on the “squaring corners”.  I still have no idea if I did that part right.  But my patterns did get drafted, and material cut out.   So, clearly understood or not, I was nearly there.
As for the actual construction process, the book doesn’t go over much more than a paragraph of very basic instruction.  I’ve made shirts before, and didn’t have any trouble figuring out how put together the pieces, and didn’t find it a problem.  But if someone who had never actually constructed a shirt before was doing so strictly off of the book’s information, I’m really not sure they’d be able to do it.   So I would recommend at least a basic understanding of simple garment construction as a prerequisite for this book.  This is a book on how to draft a pattern, not to teach you how to sew.

So after about 1.5 hours, including time to fix my kids lunch and deal with various little boy-related needs, I had my measurements documented, pattern drafted, pieces cut, and finally, the shirt made.  It was time to see how well it would really fit me…


Pretty darned well. 
I was actually shocked at how perfect the fit was.  I mean sure, I followed the instructions and did what the book said, but really?  This thing fits amazingly well.  And I didn’t even put hardly any time or attention into it!  I love that I could make the neckline and the length exactly where and how I wanted them.  I hate having my shirts pull up above my waistbands when I bend or sit.  The idea that I can make great-fitting layering shirts in about 30 minutes off of this pattern is seriously enough to make Design-it-Yourself-Clothes: Pattern Making Simplified  one of the best purchases my husband’s ever made for me.  And I am super excited to take the pattern I made from this book and apply it to some of my ideas and designs for other tops.
So even though at first glance I didn’t think I’d use much of the information in this book, other than maybe the pants, now I’m planning on drafting all of the patterns in the book as soon as possible.  I don’t want to sew another garment for myself without first referencing this book for fit.  If I can actually get the ideas I have in my head to fit on my body as well as this shirt, I’ll be happy dancing all all around my sewing machine!  This book is most definitely found a permanent spot in my studio.  Okay, I don’t really have a studio.  I have a corner.  But it’s totally found a permanent spot in my corner.  If, like me, you are just getting into drafting your own patterns and need some good, basic, and easy-to-follow instruction on achieving fit, I completely recommend Cal Patch’s Design-it-Yourself-Clothes: Pattern Making Simplified.
Be sure to check out Project:Project for other great craft and sewing book reviews.  Thanks, Beth, who knows when I would have gotten around to discovering what a gem of a book I had sitting in a pile under a bunch of fabric without your motivation!
**I received Design-it-Yourself-Clothes: Pattern Making Simplified as a gift from my husband, and was in no way compensated for my review.**


I Heart Salt Lake said...

I gotta check out this book! Thanks for reviewing it.

CraftyCripple said...

Thank you for this detailed review. This has been in wish list for a while but was a little unsure about it. I think it's just bumped up towards the top.

Craft book reviews really are useful.

Mama Lusco said...

I've also had this book on my wish list since it was published. Thanks for the honest review. Your top fits so well! I may be sold :)

Crafty Housewife said...

I am so excited to see this! I am adding it to my wish list NOW! =) Thanks for sharing!

Christie @ A Lemon Squeezy Home said...

It really does fit so great! I'll have to borrow your book sometime;). And I LOVE the new look. It really looks great!

Cook Clean Craft said...

I got this book for Christmas too, but have only read through it, and not made anything. It seems to be designed so you have to do each project in turn, rather than dipping in and out. Squaring off is shown in more detail in the skirt drafting.

Good review - the top looks great - I better get sewing!

ppags said...

thank you for a review. i have been looking for a book like this and have added it to my wishlist already.

Cricket said...

Thanks for the comprehensive review. I've been thinking about this book for a while, but was never sure it would be what I need. I have lots of sewing experience and like to wing it, but I am terrified to make clothes for myself even from a pattern. All that time and and energy with a chance it might not fit.

And I am glad someone else admits to only having a corner. I own a 6 x 3 foot space to call my own.

BLD in MT said...

I just attempted to make my own pattern for the first time last night. It went...okay. I learned a lot.

I am totally going to get this book to help me on my way...

(and I just have a corner too!)

SAMZE said...

Oh I'm soooo glad you reviewed this book. It's been on my wish list, but I was wondering if would really be something I could follow since I'm such a novice. I see that parts of it may be a little tricky for someone like me. And like you, I actually needs LOTS of pictures. It's a pet peeve of mine when a "wordy" procedure, or procedure with a lot of lingo is not accompanied with a photo or a drawing...the next picture you get is, "uh, how in the world did they get to that?" We shall see if I get the book. It does sound useful! :)

Your top came out fabulous! :)

Thanks again for the review! :)

landwehrlinda said...

I have ordered this book. Sabra I like your simplified approach to things. I have a pattern making program but you have encouraged me to try something more simple.

Kris said...

This is one of my all-time favourite books! I have made dresses, shirts, and pants from this book and found it so helpful.
Beautiful shirt, by the way!

landwehrlinda said...

It seems you are very fast at what ever you undertake. 1.5 hours start to finish! WOW

I will see how I do when I get the book.

Jacqueline said...

I am your newest follower. I am enjoying the wonderful detailed tutorials your offer. Thanks for doing this book review. I was thinking about getting it but I really need visuals to walk me through step by step. Thanks again.

Kate said...

Just found your blog/review searching for more info on fitting and drafting basic t-shirt patterns. I'm actually wearing my first attempt at the basic T shirt from this exact book! I'm pretty happy with it too, though the shoulders are a little too peaked/strange on my version... any suggestions on how to modify that? I was thinking I'd just slant the shoulders down that way a bit (or a bit more, I can't remember how it goes)

I'm going to have to buy this book (just borrowing mine currently from the library)

Thanks for the nice review - to make me sure that's probably a good idea to get this book!

Justine of SewCountryChick said...

Great review and your shirt is super cute! I would agree the book needs way more pictures and to be spiral bound! But the other instructions are pretty good. Squaring pattern corners is taught for production pattern methods so seamstresses in a factory match things up perfectly without pinning and it's a great habit for pattern making. I'm glad Cal mentions this because I've bought patterns online that don't have squared corners and it always annoys me because sometimes the seams don't match up. Thanks for linking up!

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