Book Review: Make Your Own Dress Patterns

Adele P. Margolis, Dover Publications, 2006 Home » Pattern Drafting » Book Review: Make Your Own Dress Patterns

“Anyone who can work through the labyrinthian directions for sewing that company the commercial pattern can surely learn the comparatively simple and clear rules for pattern making,” says Adele Margolis, author of the book in question. 

This book was first published back in 1985 and the 2006 release is its unabridged republication. This is why the illustrations and their overall look may seem somewhat out of date. Fortunately, this fact does not affect its great value or what it offers to its readers.

Great book for beginners in sewing and altering patterns

If you want to read this book, it does not matter whether you can sew or not, whether you know nothing about altering patterns. It is of no importance whether you are aware of what a dart or a pattern is. It will teach you the basics you need to know in order to follow the step-by-step instructions in the book.

All the basics you need to know about sewing patterns are covered in this book.

Good readability

How do I perceive it? I find it very easy to read and follow. It’s a well-written manual containing everything one needs to know about ALTERING BASIC PATTERN BLOCKS for skirts, bodices, sleeves or trousers to achieve various designs. This is actually the main focus of this exceptional book. The reader can learn how to add, shift or remove darts. Do you take interest in slashing and spreading patterns, creating gathers, tucks, or pleats? All is in there.

The main focus of the book is on altering basic sewing pattern blocks/slopers.

The book has a superb index and makes finding any modification type straightforward and simple. Although I already own many books on pattern construction and design, I prefer this one if I want to check a specific design construction.

Bodices, skirts and sleeves

The main part of the book deals with modifications of bodices, skirts and sleeves for women’s wear. You can find just very little about children’s wear and almost nothing about men’s wear.

The book DOES NOT cover construction principles of the basic pattern blocks although the title might suggest it does. There are no examples of fitting issues you may run into and how to solve them such as wrinkles or pulls in different directions. 

To make pattern drafting easier for myself (and anyone else interested in pattern making and altering) I have created calculators that will help gain specific pattern dimensions based on your (or anyone else’s 🙂 body measurements.

How to use the book?

How do I use the book and what is it good for? At the beginning, there are small – quarter size – pattern blocks, which you can redraw on paper, and use to try out the individual steps of modifying basic blocks. This is really cool as you avoid doing real size alterations and one saves a lot of paper, time and money too. All you are going to need is the book, paper, a pencil, a pair of scissors and scotch tape. It is great for practising different design types.

Practice pattern alternations and the creation of new designs on quarter-size pattern blocks included in the book. You can also download half- and quarter-size basic blocks from

Practice altering patterns with quarter and half-size patterns

I have created my own quarter and half-size patterns to work with based on my half-size tailor’s dummy (they are slightly different from the ones from the book). If you wish to use them, feel free to download and print them out.

I use this book mostly in combination with Pattern Making For Kids’ Clothes which contains really basic patterns for kids’ wear. It’s an amazing combination that I use a lot and I can wholeheartedly recommend.

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