Sunday, October 11, 2020

Weekend Review: Cal Patch's Design-It-Yourself Clothes

Design-It-Yourself Clothes  / Cal Patch
NY: PotterCraft, c2009
158 p.

This book is a fabulous intro to pattern drafting and making your own patterns and clothes. That is exactly what it is -- there are no patterns in this book, but instead there are five items with variations for a total of 15 possible makes. The trick is to take her instructions, your measurements, and the desired look of a garment and build your own. 

The first 30 pages are a necessary introduction to the concept, and a lengthy, thorough look at measurements -- which ones you'll need and how to take them. This is more extensive than the basic measurements that sewists are familiar with and use in our work with existing patterns. These measurements are the core of what you'll use to create the patterns she shares in the second part of the book.

Part Two has the five core patterns and three variations for each: A-Line Skirt, T-Shirt, Button Down Blouse, Dress, and Pants. Each one starts with the basic pattern; there are instructions on the block and then how to use your measurements to create a pattern unique to you. Then there are two variations, and they are pretty big variations, so that the item looks like another piece, ie: Button Down to Jacket. You have to be a confident and I think at least an intermediate sewist to follow along and feel comfortable manipulating patterns in the ways shown here. If you're not already familiar with patterns I think you might feel a bit lost. Still, the instructions are thorough and the illustrations are simple but clear. 

Basic dress on left; Phoebe skirt and Betsy Jacket (my fave item) on right

Part Three gives some more elaborate changes to the patterns from the previous section, one for each, and encouraging the reader to experiment. This section involves significant changes like adding flare or yokes & pockets. It really does give you the idea that once you've become comfortable with making changes like this, designs are innumerable.

There is also a tiny bit of info included on fitting, grading patterns, and a few basic techniques. However, this book isn't really about the sewing as much as the pattern creation, so the process of sewing isn't much more than a paragraph for each project. But as the expectation is that readers who are making patterns will be experienced sewists, I didn't find this much of a drawback. 

There is also a brief, two page bit at the end on using readymade clothing and rubbing off patterns, which can add to your own collection of patterns. 

Overall I thought this was an interesting book with lots of inspiration and information, and one that could start you on a pattern drafting journey. The designs are fairly simple, so they aren't going to put you off your first go at pattern making. The only thing about this book that raised my eyebrows a bit was the claim that before this book, a reader was "hard pressed to find self-teaching tools" that weren't dry or outdated. I've found plenty of excellent, fun guides before this one, so I'm not sure where the person who wrote that blurb was looking. Otherwise, this is a great book to search out if you're interested in beginning drafting your own patterns and need a bit of guidance. 

The author, Cal Patch, also has online classes on this topic on CreativeBug. You can get a free trial or a low-cost deal often on CreativeBug if you'd like to check it out. If you don't have a subscription to CreativeBug yourself, check out your local library -- some libraries do subscribe to CreativeBug for their users, so you might be able to access her classes with your library card. 


  1. Happy Thanksgiving. Agreed, this does look interesting. Let us all know in the bloggingverse the minute you have tried some of these self drafting challenges. Love your blog!

    1. Thank you! Will do -- if I ever get to one of them!! So many things I want to try :)


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