Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Review: Sew What? Skirts

Sew What! Skirts (16 Simple Styles You Can Make With Fabulous Fabrics)
by Francesca Denhartog and Carole Ann Camp

I think if I were a sewing instructor for a beginning sewing class, this is the book that I would have students buy and choose their first projects from. It provides an easy way to draft and design a basic skirt with several variations. What a way to motivate students to sew, find their own style and understand the basic mechanics of construction. (And it only costs $16.95) It does not teach you how to use the sewing machine but pretty much everything else is there - tools needed, calculations for size, variations in fabrics, etc.
 
The book has a cool vintage-feel and tons of drawings or photos to help you follow the instructions. Nearly every page has color diagrams and photos, sketches or copies of tools and supplies. There's an internal spiral binding, and the book is glossy, made of sturdy stuff so it isn't likely to fall apart on any of us after just a few uses. ( I have the hardcover edition.)

This book will not make a skirt for you -you have to do that on your own. This book will give you some good, sound advice on how to go about making your own skirts from scratch, and the rest is up to you.


Each chapter gives the title for the upcoming project like "Singing the Blues" for a floral blue skirt, then a short, supportive paragraph to get you going: "This simple cotton skirt couldn't be easier to make. The drawstring waist is a cinch...," along with a facing page (the photo comes first) of an actual blue floral skirt, though blurry to represent motion, for effect, of a torso, some hands--it looks like a young woman (she is wearing killer stiletto heeled chocolate nearly knee-high boots, and is in the act of leaping which is something I sure as heck never could do in stiletto heels, and certainly wouldn't try. The skirts are made around the classic "A-frame" which the authors made clear early on, crediting Christine Dior for the original design.


There is a "Stuff You Need" in list format: fabric, thread, exact extra fraction of fabric for pockets, a package of rickrack, cord for the drawstring..., and later on, and all over the place, the authors tell you to change it, wing it, play with it, do it as you please, which is what I need to hear because I don't like rickrack, drawstrings have a way of coming undone on me, and big flowers aren't for me.





Tourist Trap Skirt


I fell in love with the skirt on page 55, called "Tourist Trap". I loved how the authors used a vintage souvenir tablecloth from Florida (palm trees, beach balls, men without shirts, blues, reds and whites)  with folded down pockets with buttons.


I feel inspired and prepared to alter, complete, wear and repeat projects with various embellishments and a maverick's attitude. As I paged through this book, I started thinking about how I'd use this waist with that bodice and those pockets with that ruffled hem and lighter cotton fabric plus fewer tiers and other colors, solid/print/solid/print... and how I thought and felt was a direct result of the inspiration, direction and confident attitude of the authors who were not afraid to say outright, "do it your way." So I know I got a bargain by buying Francesca Denhartog & Carole Ann Camp's Sew What! Skirts.



I wish the authors would make a book on blouses and dresses, too. (There is a book called Sew What! Fleece and one for bags from this series too.)


I have to admit that this book is not totally without it's flaws. One con is that it does NOT cover linings at all, and I wish that it did because I have to line most of my clothing. I sew in order to afford clothes that are lined. Linings make the garment nicer and feel sturdier -not to mention making it more opaque so that a slip is not needed.(Again, perfect for the first sewing pattern or the first time you are drafting a skirt on your own.)


More elaborate information on darts and making different kinds of pockets, would have improved the book too.




 A couple of things I've learned and would apply to the information in the book:


1. At least for the first A-line or straight skirt with a zipper, put the zipper in the back. Yeah, it's an extra seam, but it makes taking in the sides and/or adding darts if necessary easier.


2. Give a lot more ease through the hips than the book calls for. Otherwise, especially if you're working with a thin fabric, it will bunch up when you sit down and stay that way when you stand up. You can always take it in later.


3. If the skirt is a straight or A-line skirt that hits at or above the knee, you are sewing with a lightweight fabric, and you are reasonably well-proportioned, you can probably get by with a straight hem and waistline. To keep the hem from "bunching," prepare the bottom following the instructions for sewing a straight line to a curve and then hem.


4. If possible, cut out the facings so that their bottom edges run along the selvage. Nobody sees them anyway, and it saves you from having to stay-stitch them.


5. You can "line" the skirt by making longer facings and sewing them to the front and back pieces first, before stitching the side seams.

6. Consider using petersham ribbon on the hems, it will help to shape the skirt.


1 comment:

  1. I really like this book, too. I succesfully drafted and sewed my very first skirt with it a couple of years ago and I'm still happy with it! (which does not apply to all clothing I've sewn in the meantime). And though I now know how to draft more accurately, including darts etc, it really helped my understanding of basic pattern drafting.
    I also agree that I would have liked some information on lining - skirts climbing up your tights are a real pain - plus more on pockets. But otherwise, this book is really a little gem.

    Have fun sewing,
    Constance

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