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Sew Many Books: Perfectly Fitted — An Excellent Primer on Pattern Making

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Perfectly Fitted
Perfectly Fitted

Perfectly Fitted: Creating Personalized Patterns for a Limitless Wardrobe, by Lynne Garner is a well-designed, attractive book that gives beginning sewists like myself the confidence they need to turn some muslin and pattern paper a pattern to make the dress they really want. It belongs on the shelf of any sewist who wants to stretch beyond simply cutting pieces to someone else’s pattern and sewing them together, whether beginner (like me) or more advanced.

It starts with a couple of brief chapters on basic sewing — measuring, choosing and working with fabrics, and techniques specific to garment sewing. The pictures are cheerful and useful, the instructions are clear and concise, and the author doesn’t make the mistake of assuming the sewist is already familiar with terms and ideas.

From the basics, the book moves to how to create a ‘muslin’ by draping fabric directly on the body or a dress form.

What is a muslin? It’s a “practice dress” (or shirt, or trousers, or skirt) named for the cheap cotton cloth it’s made from. It is usually made in approximately the same weight fabric as the finished garment will be.

The muslin chapter is arranged by garment type, and is clearly illustrated with numbered steps from beginning to end. Making the muslin requires either a dress form that matches your size exactly or a helpful friend, so this is not something you’ll do unplanned on a whim, unless you have helpful friends who drop by whenever they’re handy, or have a dress form sitting around, but it looks to be worth the planning. When my dress form is fixed (I’ll explain in another post), I plan to make one.

Garner then moves on to show the reader how to build pattern blocks from the draped and sewn muslin. This for me was the most interesting part of the book. From the (admittedly involved) preparation work of creating a muslin, a sewist can then create pattern blocks that can be combined in what appear to be infinite ways, refined with various collar and cuff and other detail differences, and made into nearly any garment imaginable.

For me, that is stunning. One of the most shocking things I have discovered about sewing is how expensive patterns are. Like any good cheapskate, I stock up whenever they’re on sale, but first run designer patterns can run as high as thirty dollars. And I learned to sew because I wanted cool stuff, not boring, drab, off the rack stuff — which often means first run patterns.

The second half of the bookis devoted to specific pattern ideas thatcan be made from the paper blocks. First, Garner goes step by step and shows how to make basic pattern blocks, then she goes over in more detail how to vary these patterns toachieve the look you want. She includes a long list of sleeve types, several trouser types and skirt types, and top and dress types. Interestingly, she doesn’t waste space by showing the dresses with the sleeves, she just gives you the pieces and lets you play mix and match.I had checked this out from my local library on yet another book binge, and was about to turn it back in, when I realized how much I liked it and made plans to copya couple pages out of it to try making muslin. On review, though, what I want to do with the book goes far beyond fair use copying, (so Iwon’t be copying it at all)  and I’m going to buy it for myself as soon as I have a few cents to rub together.

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