Book review: Home Sewn

Back in November, the challenge over at The Monthly Stitch was to make something from a sewing book. Ever since I heard about it, I’ve been interested in Home Sewn – a book put out my the New Zealand Fashion Museum, with a history of the New Zealand fashion industry and a bunch of patterns by New Zealand designers. Seemed like a good time to get to know the book better!

Homesewn Image

Although I hunted and hunted when I first found out about it, I couldn’t find any images of the patterns that came with the book. Anywhere. I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit hesitant to buy a (rather expensive) book when I don’t know if I’ll like what’s inside it. So I took the safe route and wandered on down to the public library to borrow it and decide if I wanted to buy it.

To save you all the effort (especially if your library doesn’t have a copy of it), here’s my thoughts on the book.

It has an interesting history of the New Zealand fashion industry, covering where fabric was stocked, the importance of home sewing, and little snippits of information (such as that Hallenstein Bros opened the very first garment manufacturing factory in NZ, down in Dunedin.). However, it’s only about 10 pages worth, and very very light. It left me wanting to know a lot more, with no tips on where to go to get more information..

The 10 patterns that are included in the book are from an interesting selection of designers – from very well established ones like WORLD and Starfish, to more up-and-coming ones like Katie-maree Cole.

There’s a good number of patterns, but sadly the collection itself isn’t all that great. With the exception of the Miss Chalmers skirt from Papercut, which comes in five sizes (yay!), all the other patterns only come in one size. Which is usually a (New Zealand) size 10 (about a 6-8 US size), and they’re the size 10 of the designers themselves, so aren’t consistent from one pattern to the next. Several are very simplistic designs – e.g. two tshirt designs, a dirndell style skirt made of stripes of fabric. The one from WORLD is the most disappointing, being a simple two-piece tshirt. Sure, it looks like a nice cut, but still. From one of our most quirky labels, it’s just a tshirt.

Others are more interesting, while still being simple in their construction. The Chrystalline dress from Cybele is only two pattern pieces, yet has interesting draping and construction. (I’ve seen this one made up, and it looked fabulous.) The Miss Chalmers skirt from Papercut is quick and easy to make, but has a shaped yoke and front gathers to keep it interesting and fun. The Swirler dress from Starfish is an interesting concept and looks like it would be fun to wear

The pattern pieces themselves are kind of odd. They’re all done in whole pieces, rather than cut-on-the-fold (e.g. you cut an entire front of a skirt out at once, rather than folding the fabric in half and cutting on the fold). It’s an unusual way to do it, and I don’t see the reason why they’ve done it that way. It makes it harder if you’re wanting to do any grading, as you have to identify the centre point (easy on everything except the Cybele dress) then trace only half of the piece before grading.

Home Sewn seems to be targeted at people who are learning to sew – there’s lots of gentle encouragement to learn, simple cuts and constructions with the patterns, and a big section at the back with great how-to’s from Katie (from Papercut) on things like measuring, pre-washing fabric, making and sewing bias binding, inserting an invisible zipper, and sewing a blind hem. Yet with the exception of the Papercut pattern (which has great instructions), there are very few diagrams in the instructions for creating each garment, and the instructions themselves can be kinda sparse. Some designers (such as Starfish and Vaugh Gleeson) have included one or two sketch diagrams, but the majority have none at all. It’s kind-of half-way towards being a good beginners resource, but then misses the mark with most of the instructions, which is a huge shame.

Overall, it’s a good concept, but I found it a bit disappointing. I would have liked to have more history to read, and multi-sized garments. (Ideally a couple more interesting garments as well, but I realise everyone has different taste so this pattern collection may be perfect for others!)

Since I’ve never managed to find images of the patterns anywhere, here they are for anyone whos interested, to give you a taste and help you decide whether this book is for you or not:

From 27 Names – a cute, basic dress. A-line style, with bust darts and a zip up the back.
27names

From Company of Strangers – an ‘abstract top’.
companyofstrangerstop
Kinda hard to see the details of this one, so here’s the line drawing for you as well:
companyofstrangerslineart

The pattern I found most interesting was the one from Cybele – the Chrystalline dress. It’s a two-piece, assymetric dress (the one featured on the books cover.) Not my normal style, but I’m rather curious about it so may have to try making it at some point just to see how it works!
cybeledress

From Lela Jacobs – leisure pants. Rather strange, this one – a pair of trousers with a wide, dropped crotch.
lelaJacobs

The most versatile pattern in the book is from Papercut – the Miss Chalmers skirt. (I made it – I like it. :-) )
papercut

From Starfish (which has sadly since gone under) is the Swirler. This is a rather interesting one – it’s made of knit fabric and can be worn in about 5 different ways, which they describe in the book.
starfish
Here’s three more of the ‘how to wear’ options:
starfishthree

From Katie Maree Cole – the Sugar tee. A simple tee with cut-on sleeves, and a bib front. (I made this one as well, expect a blog post on it sometime in the future.)
sugarTee

From TK Store – a lounge suit. Made in knit fabric, this looks super-comfy to wear, although I’m never fully convinced of the practicality of garments that make you fully undress just to go to the bathroom…..
tkstore

From Vaughan Geeson – the Cuba skirt. An A-line striped skirt that gathers at the waist.
vaughangeeson

And from WORLD – a two-piece shaped tshirt. There’s quite a lot of shaping in this one – it looks like it would be a really good fit. Even though it is a basic tshirt (and from one of New Zealand’s most creative labels, I must admit to being rather disappointed they provided something so simple), I’m going to try making this at some point and see how it does fit, as it goes in a lot at the waist before flaring out again over the hips.
WORLD - Home Sewn book

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16 responses to “Book review: Home Sewn

  1. Thanks so much for reviewing this, and taking time to scan & show the patterns. We’ll probably never see this in a U.S. library, but there’s always amazon uk.
    del

  2. I do really like many of these designs! Had never heard if the book so was nice to see some new designers makes.

    • We’ve got quite a thriving, unique fashion industry over here, some designers doing some really interesting things. :-)

  3. I had a look at this book and I had to admit I was a bit disappointed too – I love the idea. But I wanted something more though in terms of the history side of things. I do like some of the patterns, but like you say they are pretty plain. I have been thinking of buying the Miss Chalmers skirt anyways (as everyone seems to look fab in it) maybe I will see the cost of this book vs the cost of the Miss Chalmers Skirt. Although the thought of having to grade up ALL of the patterns in tedious.

  4. Great review Kat. I did buy the book without looking inside, for a couple of reasons 1. I wanted to support a good NZ initiative and 2. if I just like two of the patterns it would have been worth the investment. Like you I wasn’t overly impressed with the patterns provided – esp. from World! I want to sew up the Cybele dress (because it’s interesting), the Papercut skirt and the Starfish top, although I think the 27 Names dress might be nice easy to wear, although not my style.

    • I’ve been so tempted to buy it to support the idea as well, but just couldn’t quite justify the $45 price tag! I’ve just seen it on Fishpond for a lot cheaper though, so may have to get it, as the more I look at it the more tempted I am to try making the Cybele dress. And I agree – that 27 Names one looks very cute, I’m kinda tempted by that as well, reckon it would look good with a belt. :-) (And a very very simple make, too!)

      Have you made anything from it yet?

  5. we have a fashion history museum? learn something new every day.
    Great review too :)

    • We do indeed! I think it’s mostly run by Doris Du Pont (who used to do the DNA label). They do exhibitions every so often – there was one up here last year of NZ fashion and a lot of the garments in the Home Sewn book’s history section were featured in it. Really interesting to look at!

  6. Hi Kat, thought you might like to know why the pattern pieces in the book are ‘whole’ pieces. Industry pattern pieces for mass production are never cut on the fold as it makes the lay much less accurate. All cutting is done with the fabric open to the full width, usually right side up with a marker on top. It is no different to grade as you can put the zero point wherever you like and move the increments accordingly. If it’s a symmetrical piece you can fold it in half to save time. I think cutting on the fold is a commercial pattern thing done to save cutting space. PS: Love your cherry dress, it looks fab.

    • Oh, thank you so much!!! Now it all makes sense. :-) (And it makes SO MUCH SENSE I’m doing a face-palm and wondering why I didn’t figure that out myself, haha! ;-)

  7. I secretly like the lounge suit ;) I wouldn’t wear it in public but it does look comfy!

  8. The Miss Chalmers skirt is definitely the best of the bunch!! :) good of you to do this review as it’s a very hard book to find, and for me it certainly saves me the grief of spending an arm and a leg on a book I’d only use one pattern from ^__^

    • I really really wish I liked more of the patterns, as I really want to support the idea. But I just struggle with it…. *sigh*

      (Especially since I can buy the Miss Chalmers skirt by itself from Papercut, which is a heck of a lot cheaper than the book!!)

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