Wednesday, May 13, 2009

chic and simple sewing

I really wanted to like this book. Really.
I got "Chic and Simple Sewing: Skirts, Dresses, Tops and Jackets for the Modern Seamstress" by Christine Haynes at the library. The cover is cute, and I immediately liked that the book lays flat and included full sized patterns. Unfortunately, that's about all the praise I can give it.
The designs are arranged by season, even though it's quite clear that it's arbitrary. The patterns are designated on a level of difficulty from one to five and list the required skills. The very first dress, "The Classic Wrap Dress" is pretty cute, as is "The Opera Dress". Those are the only ones that look even close to something you'd wear.

None of the designs have zippers, buttons, darts, lining, facing, interfacing/stabilizer, or even embellishment suggestions or views in alternate fabrics. Everything is shapeless and shoddily constructed. The hems are all machine-stitched, and the designs don't even fit the models that well. All of the accessories on the models were wrong, too, including a prominent black woven belt that keeps reappearing to hide many elastic waistbands. There's also a large bottom ruffle shown on FIVE different dresses.

There are very few diagrams, and I was surprisingly annoyed that Haynes didn't even show how the patterns ought to lay on the fabric. She mentions in the 40 page general sewing instructions that all of the patterns should be laid out to maximize your fabric usage.

That reminds me: the patterns. I went ahead and made the wrap dress, and the book told me to cut out a handful of patterns that came with numbers, like "20, Bodice Back Side". The previously-mentioned full sized patterns are still printed on tissue paper, and every piece has generic names. There's no mention of the dress as well, so I could've easily cut out another "Bodice Back Side" if I didn't also match the number.

Back to my making of the wrap dress. The instructions offered little more than, "Cut out your pattern. Sew your dress." I bought the recommended yardage, but after cutting, I still have about half of it left (that's fine-- I'd rather have extra than coming up short, and I'm also glad I picked fabric I like).

Here's an example of the vague direction given: "For this dress, pick something lightweight, medium weight, or even slightly heavier." (p.105) Lots of help, eh?

If you're still with me, I will say that the small pattern actually seems to be a small. And the wrap dress did indeed come out OK. I promise to post pictures soon, but right now I'm way too tired to model. Bottom line, "Chic and Simple Sewing" gets a big thumbs down from the Park Avenue Sweat Shop.


  1. One of the best books I have on garment sewing is one of those really tiny books (even smaller than a paperback novel) you sometimes see at the checkout counters of a grocery store. It was about "patternless" sewing. Yet, it was so well written and straightforward and informative! All in a little tiny book!

    As a pattern designer (for quilts, not garments), it has always made me nuts when instructions are poorly written for projects. A person should be able to buy a pattern or a book of patterns, and be able to reproduce that intended something they wanted to make! Otherwise, how can they call themselves pattern designers????

    Designing and making something for yourself is very different than making something you will want other people to be able to reproduce without your being present! Very different!

    Sorry you have had this unpleasant experience. However, you seem very talented, and seem to be able to adapt most things to your own liking. I'm not sure you need a book anyway! I bet you could modify just about any basic pattern to suit your own tastes! And save money by not buying books with 5 dresses that all have a large ruffle(Are they serious???!!!)

  2. Thanks for the review. I decided not to purchase this book. :D