Sunday, 8 March 2015

Fashion with Fabric book review

Just as the Great British Sewing Bee seems to have evolved as a TV series (more challenging tasks, contestants working with a variety of different fabrics and techniques etc), so too does the accompanying book. I reviewed the book for the first series here and was mostly positive about it, my main criticism being the lack of patterns included. I was recently asked to review the book for the current series - Fashion with Fabric - and wow, what a difference a couple of years makes!


The focus this time is on the fabrics used, which makes for a surprisingly interesting read. The book is split into four main chapters based on the most widely used and popular fabrics: cotton, wool and other animal fabrics, stretch fabrics and luxury fabrics. The reader is encouraged to use the book as a starting off point, then experiment with their own ideas, which I think is a great approach to take. Lots of projects also have 'hack' suggestions, some of which are improvements on the original pattern in my opinion! Each chapter also contains advice and tips on working with these different fabrics, which I found really useful.


Unlike other pattern books (and I include the first GBSB book here), there is a comprehensive section of the book dedicated to adjusting patterns for an accurate fit. As well as standard bust, waist and hip measurements, the reader is told to take a high bust measurement to determine whether a full or small bust adjustment is required. It then shows you how to do one. This is such an important fitting step for a lot of women, yet it's only ever skirted around in a lot of books. There's also advice on moving darts, broad or narrow back adjustments and a page of useful tips on fitting trousers and fiddling about with crotch depths and lengths. The author - Claire-Louise Hardie - has years of experience as a theatrical and costume designer and runs her own sewing school. She's also the sewing producer for the show and this working knowledge absolutely shines through in the book.


There are 30 projects in the book, including a few from the series to date (Capri trousers, Walkaway dress, men's kilt and curtain skirt), and a couple of men's and children's patterns. For those who want to get their teeth into more challenging projects, there's a corset dress (with bustier hack), a leather jacket and the afore mentioned kilt. The patterns come in a separate pack, which in my case anyway, will actually encourage me to use them. Patterns that live in the back of books tend to get easily forgotten in my world, but if they're in a separate pack, they can live with my patterns! The patterns are full sized but need tracing off as there are several on each sheet. This isn't the headache it sounds as they're all clearly marked and colour coded - nothing like a Burda magazine!  The women's patterns come in seven different sizes ranging from size 8 (32 ½" bust, 25 ½"waist, 36" hip) to size 20 (45 ½" bust, 38 ½" waist, 49 ½" hip)

Of the patterns themselves, there are several that I'll probably try out at some point...

… the sleeveless shell top ...


… the silk woven tee ...


… and the sleeveless collared blouse.



I also like the look of the Capri trousers, despite the hideous example the poor model has to wear in the book…


There are some patterns that I can admire from afar but will probably never try: the men's kilt is one - although I'm tempted to make it for the sole reason of getting Jon to model it! The drapey knit dress is another as it's so far removed from my personal style. I can admire it on others who CAN rock that style though, I'm thinking specifically of Karen's version from Did you Make That? Simply stunning.


I've been keeping one final pattern up my sleeve  - the lace pencil skirt - as it's one I've already made!




I kept coming back to it in the book and in the end just decided to give it a try with some leftover fabric from my lace top. For the underskirt I used a sea-green lining fabric previously used to line the sleeves of my boiled wool coat, so all in all, a good stash busting exercise! The skirt is a simple, elegant shape with no front darts, an invisible zip and a facing. I only ever intended it to be a practice run to test out the pattern, but I think the finished version is totally wearable. I also made it before this week's episode of the GBSB and let me tell you, I could NEVER have finished it in 3 hours or however long they were given. Hats off to the semi finalists!



Using the finished measurements as a guide, I made a size 10 with no adjustments, and the fit is spot on. The two skirt layers are made up separately, but attached around the zip as a single layer. They're then treated as two separate fabrics below the zip. It's a brilliant technique which I'll definitely use again. I also used hairline seams for the first time, where the seam is stitched, narrowly zigzagged and then trimmed. A hairline seam is a good choice for sheer fabrics and it worked well for my lace overskirt, creating a very light finish.


I'm amazed by the number of excellent tips and techniques I've picked up from reading this book - I learnt two new ones just from making a simple skirt! I'll keep you updated with anything else I make from it, but so far, it's shaping up to be one of my favourite sewing books to date.

'Fashion for Fabric' was given to me free of charge for review by Quadrille Publishing. All views my own.








32 comments:

  1. I too thought it a really good book, I just can't seem to put it down. I am so impressed with your pencil skirt, having watched the contestants making it I thought it soooo difficult!

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    1. It's a great book isn't it?! The skirt is actually really easy to put together....if you sew it nice and leisurely! x

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  2. Your skirt is stunning! And you're right about the contestants, they are incredibly fast. Can't wait to see who will win, but my guess is Neil.

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  3. I will have to take a look at the book; but meanwhile that is some gorgeous skirt you made. Love the lace fabric, and the ribbon detail of the lace pattern is wonderful.

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    1. Thank you, it's such a pretty lace. x

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  4. Your skirt looks absolutely lovely!

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  5. Hello! Excuse me Your skirt is impressive but I felt in love with the top. which pattern is it? lovely thanks

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    1. Sadly I didn't make the top, it's a very old (about eight or nine years old) silk top from Marks and Spencer! It's a really simple shape though: plain bodice with a small bust dart and side invisible zip. The sleeves are what make it a bit fancy, they're all floaty and drapey. Fabric-wise it's the thinnest top I own which is why I'm wearing it with the lace skirt - anything too thick just leaves a bulge when tucked in! x

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  6. SUPER flattering skirt! Looks great on you. I got last year's book and am yet to make something in it. This looks a lot more exciting!

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    1. Thank you! Yes I didn't make anything from the first year's book either, this one is definitely more exciting! x

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  7. Wow, I love the lace skirt - the colours & the shape are perfect. What puts me off sewing my own clothes more and more these days is that my stuff just doesn't seem stand up to washing. It looks fine for the first wear but as soon as it comes out of the washing machine, there are loose threads aplenty, and the whole thing generally looks like it's been used to scrub the floor. And then the car, and maybe a brick wall :-) I probably need to work on my finish?!? Anyway, I love love love the skirt you made and it goes perfectly with the top too. Hats off, Jane! x

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    1. Aw thank you so much! I overlock the living hell out of all my seams to prevent any unravelling - seems to work! x

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  8. That is one of your prettiest makes - just beautiful!

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  9. Glad to hear the patterns seem to fit and I presume are easier to follow than previously. I have so many sewing books I might put it on a wish list and see if it gets bought for me at a future date. I have decided to try making things from the books I have. :)

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    1. Yes, I should do more of that too! x

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  10. Gorgeous skirt! I'm in awe of the speed sewing that happens on GBSB. not something I could ever do! I'm really impressed with the book too; I wasn't convinced by the first two but ponied up for this one as a pre-order purely based on the author! I'm not disappointed and love that it encourages hacking patterns!

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    1. Yes, some of the hacks are fab - even better than the original patterns! The speed sewing stresses me out just watching it! x

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  11. I'm hoping to make the same skirt eventually, I'm thinking black lace on black though, a work appropriate skirt that is a little bit fun.

    Yours looks fabulous though, I wondered if attaching the zip would be difficult but as the two fabrics are treated as one for the zip installation I can see it would not be as hard as previously thought.

    An excellent book review.

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    1. Thanks Pam! I think a black on black version would be lovely and so wearable. I didn't have any problems with the zip, it all went together like clockwork as the instructions are very clear. Good luck! x

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  12. I've just finished the sleevel shell top, from the book and it was a lot of fun to make. Being 5'10" it's a teensie bit shorter than I'd like, but that's completely my bad for not adjusting it, otherwise it fits wonderfully. I've now adjusted the pattern and will make another one quick smart.
    I also want to make the Capri trousers, but I'm kinda taken with their patterned version. I think im gonna make a patterned pair too :-)
    I agree with everyone, nice skirt!

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    1. Haha, that's just my prejudice against floral capris! For some reason that pair in the book really annoy me! Good to know the sleeveless top fitted you well as that's definitely on my list. I like the look of the all in one facing! x

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  13. Sold! My copy will be arriving tomorrow. I'm hoping the Japanese draped top pattern from tonight's final might be in it, but no reviews have mentioned it. Your lace skirt is terrific.

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    1. No, that's not in there... I looked last night, as soon as the final finished :-(
      If you really want it, there's a pattern (or should I say drafting instructions) in the book "pattern magic" by Tomoko Nakamichi, the Japanese pattern book that started all Japanese design trend, that's going on atm. I'd reckon this is where they got the pattern in the first place :-)

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    2. Thanks Anna that's really helpful - I don't know if my sewing skills are up to drafting yet though :( I think I'll give the Capri pants a go first.

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    3. Or there's a similar one in Drape Drape 2 - Lizzy wrote an excellent blog post about it here http://sewbusylizzy.com/2014/01/30/drapedrape2-no4/ x

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  14. Spent today reading my shiny new copy, and I just love it. My list of things to sew has just got a lot lot longer, and I shouted "hallelujah" when I saw the measurements they have used reflect my RTW sizes exactly.

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