Sunday, April 12, 2020

Weekend Review: The Illustrated Hassle-Free make your own clothes book

The Illustrated Hassle-Free Make Your Own Clothes Book /
Sharon Rosenberg & Joan Wiener
San Francisco: Straight Arrow Books, c1971.
154 p.
I couldn't believe it when I saw this book at Open Library -- I remember this book from an old library collection, I read it probably 30 years ago. It cracked me up!

Rereading it now, it's not as loosey-goosey as I'd recalled. Less so than the most recent book I reviewed from the late 60s, by a fashion designer! This book still recommends and talks about details like facings and hems, although the clothes are kind of popover hippie styles.

And boy oh boy, is this book groovy! The authors want to put the power back into your hands to make your own clothes, for many reasons that you might imagine a hippie commune kind of person would share. The blurb is charmingly quirky and so, so 70s.
Here is the straight-up dope on how to make your own clothing. With or without patterns, machines, or fancy materials—anyone can do it! Got some old clothes that you love and that fit well? Use them as patterns for new ones. Want something new and spectacular, something that fits right along where your head is moving? Cut up, remodel, add on, and let your old stuff evolve!

There are actually some useful ideas and designs, though. Even if the pattern diagrams are all wonkily hand drawn, they are still readable and clear. The patterns are pretty simple; lots of quick body measurements and a caftan, poncho, skirt, tunic or bikini is yours. They do share ideas like adding hoods to kaftans, or extra neckline details, or trim - lots of ways to make things look a little more complex.

I did find this one had enough detail that you could tell the authors actually sewed, though. And I liked their approach to mending and upcycling -- a quick wedge of fabric in your jean seams and you've got yourself some groovy bell bottoms. A bit of embroidery -- even better. They do have some instruction for more complicated things like set in sleeves, nonetheless. And good basics like how to choose the right fabric for your project.

If you want to make up some simple silhouettes by hand, and want a bit of earnest anti-capitalism at the same time, with charming 70s hand done illustrations, check this one out! I actually feel that this one is more than a period piece, that you could actually use their instructions to get something wearable even now. Avoid the garish florals or groovy velvets perhaps, but the looser fitting silhouettes can still be worn.

There is a good section near the end on making belts, scarves, pouches, bags etc from the smaller offcuts, and using them for children's clothes and toys as well. Lots of thought about recycling and reducing waste, and much of it still very useful.

I recall that I thought of this one as a bit too dated when I first read it; but it has been so long since I first saw it that I now think of it as charmingly retro! It has been really enjoyable to revisit it thanks to Open Library. 


  1. "Don't let the words and pictures put you uptight."😂🤣 Words to live by!

    How did I miss this in 1971? It's hilarious how unappealing that cover is today, but back then it would have been my favorite book! It reminds me of Mother Earth News and The Vegetarian Epicure. Grooviness and common sense instruction in equal measure.

    1. Right? LOL! It does remind me of the Vegetarian Epicure, now that you mention it. I'm sure this would have been quite popular when it was first published with all those readers.

  2. I just read Katrina's comment about Mother Earth News - I've got it & have to revisit it... along with Moosewood Cookbook, lol.
    What a groovy book! I will have to ask my library acquisition sleuth to find me a copy when the library reopens. (This makes me so sad. It's the heart of my community.) Anywho, adding a hood to a caftan would probably be less frustrating than my search for the old 70s pattern that I regret recycling.
    Some of the language is hilarious. Old lady,chick and the F bomb! (Written by women?) I wonder what they're up to now Google?
    Thanks for the entertaining diversion. I'll wrap up my reply because I have to go burn my bras...

    1. I too have Moosewood cookbook, and Enchanted broccoli forest.
      They were my staple cookbooks! Still make the recipes.

    2. This is delightful, if you want to check it out online just click the link in the post. The patterns are all done via measurement so you could still use them via a digital copy if you read that way. Yes, the language is quite entertaining! Now you've got me curious to discover what these authors are up to these days.

  3. This book was a wonderful find Melanie. Certainly made me smile. I sewed all my clothes back then, but didn't come across this book.

    1. I found it in a library collection in the early 90s, I think. One of those old titles that was never weeded! I probably would have used it if I was sewing in the 70s ;)


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