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Wendy Ward Book Review by Louise

Having become more and more dependent on the stretchy garments in my wardrobe, I was keen to give Wendy Ward’s new book ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics’ a go. The book contains six basic patterns, which are included at the back of the book, ready for you to trace. Wendy guides you through the sewing of these six patterns, and includes multiple options with each pattern on how to further customise your creation.

The first pattern, the Peak tshirt, is the pattern I used to make the dress shown on the front cover. There are different sleeve options and different length options, and instructions for adding eye-catching details to your tshirt (or dress) such as shirring, patchwork, cuffs and colour blocking. Each option is clearly explained with thorough instructions and clear diagrams, plus beautiful photos of the finished garments.

The second pattern is for the Derwent trousers - a wide-legged pair of comfortable trousers with three length options: long length, standard length or cropped. These look super easy to make - just two pattern pieces. You could probably whip them up in an hour!

Next up is the Winnat’s tank pattern - a scoop-neck vest that can be lengthened into a knee length or maxi length dress (or even a colour-blocked maxi dress). As a vest it looks like the perfect stash-buster as it only uses 1 yard of fabric (assuming your fabric is 60” wide, which most knit fabrics are). I’m pretty sure this will be next on my list to make!

The fourth pattern in the book is for the Monsal lounge pants - another versatile pattern that could be used for lounge pants, pyjama bottoms, workout pants or shorts. My favourite version of these is the full length pants with pockets and cuffs. I particularly like the sample shown in the book where the cuffs, waist band and pocket bands are sewn in a contrast fabric.

The Kinder cardigan is next - again in a range of lengths with a range of customisation options. Wendy says she had ‘been thinking about making the perfect cardigan loosely inspired by kimonos’, and I must admit that I definitely get a ‘dressing gown’ vibe from this pattern! Included in this section are instructions for how to add a patch pocket, which is obviously a good transferable skill. The peak tshirt/dress and Winnat’s tank/dress would both look good with a patch pocket added, I think.

The final pattern is, I think, quite divisive: you’ll either love it or hate it. The Longshaw skirt is ‘an unusual and bold design that creates a flattering, curvy silhouette’. Personally, I love it! I would definitely like to try it as a dress with the Winnat’s tank vest as the top, possibly in plain black.

As well as all the patterns and variations thereof, the book is packed with information about all the different types of knitted fabrics and how to handle them, plus the tools you will need to sew the garments, information on sizing and measuring, sewing machine tips and explanations on using and adjusting sewing patterns. There really is everything you would need to know before sewing, and a whole lot more!

So, now I’d like to show you the dress I made from the book. As I mentioned earlier, I used the Peak tshirt pattern to make a short sleeved, knee-length dress with an elasticated waist. This basically involved extending the length of the tshirt by 40cm, and sewing some elastic at the waistline. I did make it a little more complicated than it needed to be, however, as when choosing my fabric I decided I wanted to line it with something smooth so it would slip easily over tights without riding up. So, when I ordered the Jersey Fabric from Minerva, I also ordered the same amount of Stretch Lining Fabric. This meant that in effect I had to make two versions of the dress and then sew them together.

I made the main body of the dress (front, back and sleeves) in both the lining fabric and the main fabric. I then sewed the two together (right sides together) at the neckline before turning out the right way. Technically, I could have just topstitched here and not bothered with the neckband, as the raw edges were hidden away by this point. However, I still added the neck band for durability and because I like the look of it. After this, I hemmed the lining into the sleeves so that they would stay together, and hemmed the lining in with the bottom of the dress. I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

I matched the stripes at the side seams of course, like the dutiful seamstress I am. This was made much easier by the way that I cut the fabric in the first place: I matched up the stripes before cutting and even pinned every other stripe into place to keep it from shifting. It was worth the time it took to do this, because not only was it easy to match up the stripes, but also the stripes are definitely as straight as the spirit level!

Overall I’m pretty happy with the finished garment - it’s bigger on top than I am used to, but that is the style and the way it is meant to be, and I think the skirt transforms it from a just a baggy tshirt to something a little more stylish. It’s certainly something that is easy to throw on and you can dress it up or down, plus because it’s quite a loose fit I don’t feel self conscious in it, which is good!

I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to review Wendy’s book for the book tour, and to Minerva for the lovely fabric!

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