Friday, April 23, 2010


I'm only the 8000th person to review this book, so if you're looking for new insight the likelihood is slim. I will, however, natter on at length.

I'm entirely like 7999 others in my unilateral appreciation of this excellent piece of instructional writing. What a tremendous complement to Wendy Mullin's other books.

I've mentioned before that I am impressed with BBW patterns. So far, I've had more luck - and consistent quality of experience - using them than any other sort. She cuts for a narrow frame - but not so narrow that breasts are a challenge (even if you aren't an alterations expert). Her sizes (XS, S, M, L) cover a good range. Note: they don't accommodate those at either end of the bell curve, which is unfortunate, but they do work for a large subset. Wendy herself (apparently we're on a first name basis) concedes that her independent company is currently too small to meet the needs of every body type.

But about her newest book, a frockaholic's dream: It's predicated on the idea that many dresses can be made (more than 25) on the basis of 3 slopers (i.e. basic patterns without seam allowances built in) which the user modifies to suit her needs. The 3 pattern shapes are: shift, sheath and dirndl. (Seriously, people shouldn't call anything a dirndl. It's just not exciting.)

Each sloper pattern is very clean and easy and offered in all 4 sizes. The sizes are particularly gradable (able to be sized up or down) given that seam allowances are not included. I never would have thought I'd appreciate the omission of seam allowance, but there you go.

The fewer rules you've got to go by, the easier it is to modify - which is what this book is all about.

In addition to the basic shapes, Wendy shows you how to make different sorts of pockets and facings and collars and other fancy design elements.

Here's the deal: You have to be willing to do some simple pattern drafting or this book isn't for you. When I say simple - I mean it's all clearly articulated and info provided. But it's not a cut-, or even trace-and-go. You still have to do the work.

The general process (not "supa-quick easy" - but, let's face it, no sewing is):
  • You read the book.
  • You trace your first sloper (sheath, shift or dirndl), in your presumed size (Measure it first - I've learned from experience that the measurements provided aren't necessarily accurate on the pattern.) This takes a good hour.
  • You add seam allowances - size is your choice, but she recommends.
  • You make a muslin. (It's a simple one - 4 pieces max. I did mine in an hour, which is insanely fast.)
  • You fix it to fit yourself perfectly. (Not suggesting this is easy, but that is the gist of it).
  • You reflect those changes on your master paper pattern (the paper sloper).
  • You use it as a guide to make any number of dresses suggested (in some detail) within that pattern type chapter. Maybe you merge a few of the ideas and come up with your own!
  • Start again with Sloper 2...
With this book, raw creativity will get you almost as far as technical skill but you're best to have a smattering of each, rather than a surfeit of either.

I bought this book as soon as it came out (I preordered) and read it immediately. Still, it took me till this week to start working on the patterns contained within.


Well, it's a bit of a commitment. I had to be ready to think and pattern alter (albeit in the simple - but smart - "Wendy-style").

Today I finished the Shift sloper and I was amazed by how well the medium fit with no alterations. It could be a smidgy smaller in some spots (tighter seam allowances will easily fix that) and shorter (I slashed it up 5 inches). But the bust (36-37") actually fit more or less perfectly. If I use a fabric with a tiny amount of stretch (my preference for a lot of reasons), so much the better! Note: I do prefer a close, if not tight, fit in all of my garments.

I may actually use the sloper as a pattern, un-embellished - it's a bold idea, I realize. I've also decided on the variation I'll try: "Deep Impact" (page 127), a sleeveless, deep-V, empire, pleated number. Sounds all wrong for my body-type but I think I can make it work.

A lot of reviewers have commented on the wealth of great sloper embellishments (aka patterns) offered within. I have to be honest - I don't gravitate toward most of them. For me, they're too hippie or young or designed for straight figures. But that doesn't mean I won't benefit from this book tremendously.

One other thing: You can make this as easy (within reason) or challenging as you choose. This book will follow your development as a sewist. So go out and buy it. If you don't like it, you can call me to complain!


  1. I like the idea that she did a book that covered so many angles of dress production. Patterns can be so difficult to manage and interpret.

    You're really moving along with your skills, K!

  2. Well no I've neither heard of it nor read it-- so it's all fascinating to me!

  3. Hey, doesn't this know that WendyB has the trademark on Wendy style!;-) I tried to sew once. That was it for me. NEVER again. NEVER. I am all thumbs. For that reason I am even more amazed by your skill. I truly believe that there is nothing you couldn't do if you put your mind to it. You are a maple-leaf Martha.

  4. Anything with "Wendy" on it has to be good.

  5. Trademark that K- "maple leaf martha"


  6. E: Thank you! It really is a great book because it grows with you...

    Christina: Read it and let me know if you agree.

    Bel: I really find that hard to believe. You know, though, I think sewing is the kind of thing that isn't ready for you until you're ready for it. If I lived closer to you, I'd make you take it up with me! And I continue to LOVE LOVE LOVE Maple Leaf Martha. That is the best and sweetest nickname. I treasure it.

    Wendy: It goes without saying.

    Hammie: Isn't Bel the best??