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Dressmaking: The Easy Guide Review

Dressmaking for beginners book

This is a book review of Dressmaking: The Easy Guide by Helen Rhiannon and published by Search Press written by Julie Briggs. 

Helen has been designing and making dresses for a long time and, in this book, she shares her knowledge to allow you to measure yourself and adapt patterns to cut and sew dresses for the perfect fit, whatever your shape, height and size! All the instructions have been thoroughly tested with Helen’s army of ladies who range from small to curvy, so you can be confident that the patterns will work for you!

Helen runs her own successful sewing business All Sewn Up Wales in Swansea. She has been teaching sewing since 2010.

Helen Rhiannon sewing teacher

Helen’s method goes back to basics and the book introduces what sewing tools you will find useful, a short introduction to the sewing machine and some simple sewing techniques to get you started if you are a beginner. She also explains about different fabric types you might choose for a particular garment and provides translation for the sometimes confusing terminology used in sewing! The book offers a very comprehensive introductory section and will provide a useful reminder for all levels of sewist.

How to measure properly for dressmaking

The key to this book lies in discarding conventional high street sizing and taking measurements of YOUR body. Helen explains how to take comprehensive measurements of your own figure and some extra useful measurements too, with a handy chart you can copy and use. I love that Helen has included measurements of real women so you can see her method in action.

Draft your own dress pattern

The book contains a large pattern sheet of ‘nested’ basic block patterns with blocks for the Front Bodice, Back Bodice, Front Skirt, Back Skirt and Sleeve. You will need to have access to Swedish tracing paper or tissue paper to trace your correct sized pieces and have a large table or the floor to work on. Helen show you how to trace off the pieces and include the markings too. She then goes on to help you adapt the pattern pieces to fit you as closely as possible. The book is really well illustrated with great line diagrams and notes.

Making a toile for dressmaking

Helen strongly advises you make a toile, or sample, using calico so that you can then tweak the measurements to match your own body before you launch into cutting more expensive fabric. She explains how to lay out the pattern pieces, sew darts and other shaping, alter the toile and then transfer any alterations back to your pattern pieces – a very comprehensive section that should avoid any expensive mistakes.

How to sew dresses and skirts

The book then continues with lots of options for sewing four different necklines, four sleeve styles, five skirts and adding collars to your dresses. Each technique is thoroughly illustrated and explained. Techniques such as sewing zips are also covered, and you can use your knowledge to sew separate tops and skirts too.

Helen’s book covers a lot of ground and techniques and is very well illustrated. The patterns are only for sewing dresses and adapting the techniques to sew tops and skirts but you could use similar techniques for sewing other garments such as trousers, once you understand the adjustments that can be made. It would be a useful book for anyone interested in dressmaking and wishing to adapt commercial patterns too.


‘Dressmaking The Easy Guide’ by Helen Rhiannon is available from Search Press for £19.99

Read an extract from this title here, Helen’s guide to choosing the right fabric for your garment.