Sunday, April 21, 2019

Weekend Review: The Essential A-Line

The Essential A-Line: make 17 flirty skirts from 1 basic pattern
Jona Giammalva
Lafayette, CA: Stash Books, c2013.
128 p.
I've owned this book for quite a while but haven't yet gotten around to making a skirt from it. I spent this week looking through it and examining the ideas that Jona Giammalva shares, and noting the designs and tips I liked. For example, there's one intriguing lining method that I've never seen before.

As the cover states, there are 17 different designs created from one basic a-line skirt pattern. That is a tiny bit misleading for new sewists, since the designs require a bit of pattern hacking for each one -- it's not hard but you will have to retrace and alter the master pattern for the different additions and designs. There are lots of illustrations telling you how to make changes, and the instructional tone is quite engaging and complete.

The sizing is good -- from 0 -20, or xs to xl, which equates to a 33" - 47.5" hip. The master pattern is for an a-line skirt (obviously) without a waistband, which is intended to sit an inch below your natural waist. The pattern is a fold out sheet in the back of the book, made to trace off in your size.

The book is laid out in sections: first, tools and notions, then information about the pattern and fit tips, then finishing techniques. It's pretty thorough, covering basics like altering for a slim or curvy figure, altering darts, adding belt loops, inserting zips, hemming options and so on. There are many lovely photographs both in this part of the book and of course in the project part as well.

The majority of the book is the project guide. Each variation is photographed, clearly described, and the sewing steps are clear and logical. The book is aimed at new sewists and so includes a lot of basic information, which I think would make things less intimidating for newbies. The style is very country chic, though; most of the skirts use quilting cottons, and many of the photos are of women in a field or hanging laundry, etc. If you can't see past the images to the potential of the pattern lines, this might put you off at first.

I think it's a pretty interesting take on how to change up one basic pattern shape and get a lot (really, a lot) of different looks from it. There's even a maternity version here. It's an encouraging set of ideas on how to make the most of one well fitting pattern which sewists could apply to any of their favourites.

 It did give me a couple of interesting ideas, but overall it's not 100% to my personal taste. I like to sew with cottons, including quilting cottons, but the aesthetic of this book isn't really mine.

 Also, I don't like skirts that don't sit at my waistline -- I always feel like they're about to fall off and I'm continually hitching them up. So I doubt that I'll actually make anything from this particular master pattern, but I might use another basic skirt pattern that I like and try some of her techniques for embellishment or colour blocking. I really liked her patchwork version! And adding some gathered strips along the bottom edge looked kind of neat as well.

So a pretty handy and well laid out intro level book. If you know someone who's just starting out, this is an easy gateway book! It makes sense, since the author is known for her blog, Stop Staring and Start Sewing, aimed at getting people to start sewing instead of wishing they could sew.

You can get a good look into the contents at google books, including that unusual lining tip on p. 29 if you need any encouragement to check this out.


  1. A line skirts don't work on me at all, and I see what you mean about the photos- all very pseudo-rural lol I can't be bothered with tracing or re drafting either, I like to buy a pattern, and use it pretty much out of the packet. Lazy!

  2. Have to say, I rather like the look of this book! I am always intrigued at how many ways one basic pattern can be changed for many looks, and this fits the bill for inspiration if you are after a skirt. I can't really say what I feel about Aline skirts on me as I don't usually have a need for skirts. But.. they are in my size and it is always good to try something different.


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