Sew Many Dresses by Tanya Whelan- a book review

Hi there!  I’m Kari from That’s-Sew-Kari with a book review of “Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time:The Ultimate Dressmaking Guide”  by Tanya Whelan.  When Robin approached me with the idea of reviewing this book for Pattern Revolution, I was excited… but also very nervous.  I tend to put sewing for myself on the back burner because a) my girls’ sizing alterations are much simpler than my own; b) it’s so much easier for me to be behind the camera than in front; c) sewing for myself takes more fabric; and the list of excuses goes on.  But, Robin has been excellent in recognizing that I need to let go of my hang-ups and gives the perfect little nudges in order to help me do so.  I honestly almost declined --  blaming my mom’s upcoming visit as the reason for declining.  But then, I had a great idea -- while my mom was visiting, we could spend some time designing the dress together - a little mother/daughter bonding time.  (Obviously, I said yes to the book review.)

This book comes in two versions: Paperback and Kindle.  I’ll be reviewing the Paperback version (I’m assuming the Kindle is nearly the same, just the electronic version).  While the outside of the book is paperback, the pages are spiral-bound which makes it easy to open the book flat. All of the pattern pieces are nested on 3 large pieces of paper, printed double-sided and folded neatly inside a folder on the inside of the back cover.   There are 12 included sizes (named 1-12 so you don’t get hung up on what size you are) which are printed in 3 differing shades of black/gray depending on the size you need.  You simply locate your size (based on measurements) and trace the pieces you need.  [I used a clear shower curtain and a sharpie marker.] Sizes run from bust/waist/hip 32" (81cm) 24" (61cm) 34" (86cm) to 50½" (128.5cm) 42½" (108cm) 52½" (133.5cm) with a fitting and alterations guide for altering the patterns.

The tagline on the front of the book reads: The ULTIMATE DRESSMAKING Guide and this is seriously the best way to sum of this book in just 4 words.  The premise behind this book is really cool.  Tanya decided to create a series of “mix-and-match” bodices, necklines, sleeves and skirts so you could create a custom dress the way you want it to look.  With the idea of making the waist darts on both the bodices and skirts in the same place, it makes them interchangeable and the possibilities nearly endless.  

This book goes beyond the interchangeable pattern pieces though.  There are 6 chapters and over 200 pages of sewing knowledge, line diagrams with clear, concise instructions on how to alter the included pattern pieces (or any pattern pieces, really), and full-color pictures of modeled dresses to get your designing wheels churning.  The first chapter is dedicated entirely to sewing essentials, from tools and supplies to assembling a dress.   The next four chapters feature each of the interchangeable pattern components.  The final chapter teaches you all about any type of alteration you could possibly need.  Many of these pages not only apply to the included pattern pieces, but to any pattern you own.  

My mom and I spent an entire evening looking through the book, gathering ideas and thinking of possible fabric choices. The next day, I spent a good portion working my way through several bodice muslins to see which direction I wanted to head with this dress.  That led to me pulling out about half of my growing fabric stash.  Fabric selection always takes me forever!  I think I went through 4 -5 selections from my stash of “This is it!” before finally picking out the sunny yellow/white polka dot combo that was not in my stash, but sitting on the shelf at the store (hello, Walmart’s Waverly-inspired line!).  Unfortunately for my mom, her visit ended before I started actually sewing, but being able to include her in the designing process was really special and definitely a memory we’ll both have forever.  

The dress I made is the strapless bodice with a half-circle skirt.  I have to tell you that this is the first strapless dress that I have ever worn!  I’ve just never found one that actually flattered my figure or fit me properly.... until now.  I added white piping at the top of the bodice, used boning (for the first time!) on the back/side seams of the lining and opted for a regular zipper on the side.  Note: The book recommends an invisible zip, but I don’t have an invisible zipper foot yet (note to self: order an invisible zipper foot!).  I chose a half-circle skirt partly because I’ve never sewed one before, but mostly because I wanted to eliminate any gathering at the waist while maintaining some twirlability.

I am really happy that I stepped outside my comfort zone and took on this project.  I have already learned a lot from reading this book and will undoubtedly learn more as I work my way through the enclosed patterns.  Hmmm… what should I make next?!

***A special note of thanks to Robin for believing in me and to Tanya for not only writing this book, but also for personally sending it to me!***


-- Happy sewing!


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