Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What I'm Reading: Built by Wendy Coats and Jackets

I mentioned earlier this week that I've been dreaming of lovely coats, to combat this everlasting winter funk. From the library, I picked up the book Built by Wendy Coats and Jackets: The Sew U Guide to Making Outerwear Easy (say that three times fast!).


I had previously read through one of the other books in this series (the book about knits) so I was familiar with the setup. The book comes with three template patterns (the official term is "slopers" I believe), and half the book is spent editing those templates to show variations. The other half is spent on general construction techniques for coats.

This is certainly not a beginner's book. It requires quite a bit of patternmaking skills (or at least comfort with them) and probably a fair level of construction skills as well. There are instructions for building the variations in the book, but they're not as detailed as a full-scale commercial pattern would be. I don't know about you, but when it comes to something complicated like a coat, I'd rather not wing it!

The biggest negative to this book seems sort of silly when I write it down, but it was still disappointing to me: there are no suggestions featuring lapels. This also means there are no pattern pieces for lapels. I guess I can understand the omission, but for someone who has been dreaming of a cool blazer, I wished for good lapel instructions.

Now on to the positives. There are TONS of variations on the patterns. And not just changes to length or sleeves, but completely different designs. It would be difficult to browse through the book and not come out with great ideas. The second thing I loved was that there were multiple suggestions of fabric and trim combinations. For example, instead of featuring a standard jean jacket alone, there were three different fabric ideas for varying seasons and looks. There are also styling ideas peppered throughout the text, so if you ever find yourself saying "now WHAT would I wear with this?" you won't be stumped here.

The half of the book that covered construction techniques wasn't too earth-shattering, though the tone is light and fun to read. If I'm not knee-deep in a project like making a coat, I'm not one to naturally retain construction techniques just by reading through them. I learn by reading AND doing at the same time. However, I think it's important to constantly be reading anyway, because repetition is your friend. I almost always walk away from a sewing book with a few tips and tricks that I hadn't thought of beforehand (I'd never thought about interfacing an entire piece of fabric before reading this book...makes me think of all kinds of ideas for my lightweight jerseys!).

If you're interested in making coats and you're not intimidated by adjusting patterns, then this book is for you. I think I'll be tracing off the slopers and setting them aside for later. I'll keep thinking about spring and hoping it gets here soon!

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