Monday, January 8, 2024

Book Review: Sew Your Own Scandi Wardrobe

This is going to be an awkward post, so prepare yourself accordingly.

I was asked by Quadrille Craft if I wanted a copy of the book Sew Your Own Scandi Wardrobe by Oda Stormoen and Kristin Vaag.

I made sure to check that they were prepared for me to make an honest review and mention both good and bad, and when that was confirmed, I said yes. As you know I do not say yes often to these offers, but being from Scandinavia myself, it was too tempting. I was already following both the Norwegian authors/bloggers, so I knew who they were, but never communicated with either of them.

This blog post won't contain any photos besides the front cover unfortunately, because I am unsure which ones I am allowed to use. And despite several requests to Quadrille I haven't gotten any answer yet. And I don't want to deal with any copyright issues. Strangely enough I can't find the book on Quadrille's website, but I did find the Norwegian version on their Nordic publishing company Gyldendal. And they are showing a 36 page Flipbook with selected pages from the Norwegian version of the book HERE. I'll be referencing to a page number in that flipbook if a photo match up with what I'm describing. Also, the style on page 24 in the flip book is not part of the English version. I guess it got edited out.

Now here is the awkward part, I am really disappointed in the book. 

Now before I go on, I want to remind people that a review is always subjective. We do not all sew the same way, use sewing books the same way or need the same things from sewing books. So this is MY opinion based on my perspective as I opened up the book, flicked through and looked at photos, then started reading here and there, and then finally took a deeper dive to understand how to use the book and also looking at the patterns.

And all I can say is, if I had spent money on this book I really would have regretted it. Naturally I also regretted saying yes to receiving a free copy because I could have avoided writing this awkward blog post, ha, but here we are. Of course I could have just chosen to do what so many others do in the blogging community, say nothing if the product is not to our liking. But as I have talked about so many times before, I just do not think that is very helpful. It creates this glossy unicorn world where people suffer in silence and subpar products keep being pushed to more consumers, who then suffer in silence and the circle continues. 

So the first thing I did was to flick through the book and look at the photos of the styles offered in the book and my heart sank. First impressions were not good. I wonder if they were under some insane time constraint to get those made? Some of the samples of the clothes in the book are really not sewn well. There is no other way of saying it.

There are up close photos of invisible zippers that are not invisible. And the 'corners' from the zipper to the neckline are very rounded (they should pretty much be 90 degrees). There are coats and blazers that are so badly pressed they look slightly puffy (page 20 - 21 in flipbook). A bathing suit with an underarm that looks like someone chewed on it (page 22 in flipbook). Necklines that are not understitched, but some are topstitched 1 mm from the edge, which make garments look very homemade and not in a good way.

There are also some woven dresses with necklines that are so close fitting, I get a slight choking feeling just looking at them (page 18 - 19 in flipbook).

Now you might ask: Why does this matter? You can just sew it nicer yourself. But I see books as either educational material or inspirational, preferably both. So if this is your best work, then you are not quite ready to teach others yet. Again, my opinion! Or if this is a matter of sloppy/rushed rush work, that certainly is not inspirational either. At least not to me.

The book also has a chapter with sewing tutorials for various details such as how to sew a zip fly, a dart, a welt pocket, a facing, etc. And interestingly enough it seems that these are of a better quality. One example is how to sew a dart, and they talk about how to curve the seam at the bottom of the dart, so the dart can be pressed smooth. But then on page 121 there is a wrap dress with darts amongst the sewn up models and it does not have a smooth tip/bottom. 

Also in the same chapter they show how to sew an invisible zipper. They do not show it in a garment (in that chapter) but simply show it sewn in between two pieces of practicing fabric (which I have no problem with) and the zipper looks great and invisible like it should. But then all the sewn garments in the book that have invisible zippers look like they have been sewn by a different person because they look nothing like the sample they show in the 'tutorial' chapter. 

My next surprise happened when I realized this book actually does not contain any printed patterns. It's PDF only (A0 and A4). You download them on a website mentioned in the book. And as you know I am one of those that actually prefer PDFs because for me taping is a lesser evil than tracing (I know, I know, PLEASE let us not start this discussion again. It is okay to have different opinions about this and that is why both options exist. 😂) But my expectations for sewing books is that you get the printed pattern sheets too. Especially for a book that costs $35. Now I LOVE the sewing books that offer both. And maybe we are heading towards a world where sewing books come with PDF patterns only, which is fine, but then I want a reduced price for those with PDFs only, as opposed to those that also come with the printed pattern sheets.

Also, there are no pattern print overviews in the book, so to see the pattern sheets without actually printing and taping them, I had to open the A0 files. Just a tip if that is something you like to do too.

Opening up the pattern files gave me another surprise but also really made me understand the concept of the book.

And now things are REALLY going to be subjective because I can actually imagine some thinking this is a fantastic concept and this will teach them a lot. It just is not what I personally want from a sewing book. So what you get pattern wise is 5 files x 2 (A0 and A4). They are named: Skirt/Trousers, Swimsuit, Jacket, Fitted/Straight Top and lastly Baguette Bag. So two of the files contain 2 patterns, so in total you get 7 patterns. And they are pretty much bare bone patterns. They are basically what I would call slopers. If you have ever taken a pattern drafting course, you will know that you start by taking your measurements and then you draft a sloper (typically a fitted skirt or a fitted sleeveless top is the vey first thing you do). It will have no finishes or details at this point. Then you sew a muslin of that (front and back pieces and that's it), do the adjustments/fittings (which you will need even though you've drafted the sloper with your own personal measurements) first to the muslin and then transfer them to your sloper paper pattern. And from here, you are finally ready to draft your garment pattern. So you trace your sloper (you need the original sloper unaltered forever to make other patterns) and then you add additional ease for whatever fit you are looking for, change/make the details, draft finishes such as facings, cuffs, ruffles, or whatever you are making.

So basically with this book you get five slopers but in standard (meant as opposed to your personal measurements) sizes US 2-18. I know, this is not a size inclusive book! And the two authors are also the models of the clothes and they are both very similar in size and height. The baguette bag and bathing suit are the only two patterns that are more ready to go. 

They do give you a few more pattern pieces too. The Fitted/Straight Top contains two basic sleeve patterns that go with each top plus a shirt collar and band-in-one plus a cuff. The Skirt/Trouser file also gives you a waistband that fits both the skirt and the trouser plus two zip fly pieces. The Jacket gives you a jacket collar, pocket and pocket flap. No facings, tie bands, ruffles, pocket bags, belt loops etc. Instead there's a chapter on how to draft these things yourself. There are also several pages on how to change the basic sloper pattern into the various sleeves they are showing in the sewn up samples, like a balloon, puff, etc sleeve. 

Now here is the thing, I know how to do these things. Pattern drafting is not the thing I enjoy most about sewing, hence why I buy patterns instead of drafting them myself which technically I can. So let us pretend I bought this book (instead of getting it for free) and now I basically have to draft half the damn patterns myself. No thank you. But like I said earlier, I will acknowledge that this might sound really helpful and awesome to someone who either does not know how to do pattern alterations yet, but wants to learn, or loves doing that part.

The whole process seems a bit oversimplified to me though. I do worry how the results will look, and even more importantly, feel while wearing if they are made by less experienced sewists. But I guess I should stop worrying about things that do not concern me, ha. Besides I am the type that over explains and gives so many details and information it can utterly overwhelm people, so that is not good either.

So for each sample they show, there is a separate chapter on how to make it. There are 'Extras' mentioned such as zippers and interfacing and there are fabric suggestions. But only fabric amount for the sloper, not the actual variation that each pattern is. Then they give you a pattern illustration overview. Whatever is drawn with black is the pattern sloper you need to use and then purple dotted lines tell you what you have to change and/or draft yourself.

I have two examples of things I read in these chapters that I really do not approve of. (And full disclosure I have not read the whole book word for word.) There is a dress (with the choke-y neckline) and big puffy short sleeves. 

And there is the explanation on how to draft those: "For the sleeve, draw a rectangle with a width that corresponds to the circumference of the armhole on the pattern x 2. The length is up to you - we made our sleeve about 40 cm (16 in) long."

If you are a beginner you might say, ok?! If you know how to draft patterns, I am guessing you are whispering WTF right now.

Another example is the Jumpsuit where they are combining the Fitted Top with the Trousers pattern but there is also a long rectangular waistband that goes between those two pieces and which you have to draft yourself (not use the curved waistband that comes on the sheet).

And here is the explanation on how to draft that: "The waistband between the top and the trouser pieces should be 6 cm (2 3/8 in) high and as wide as the length along the top edge of the trousers/bottom edge of the top after darts and seams are sewn. We recommend cutting the waistband after other pieces are sewn together for exact measurements."

I simply cannot believe this advice is in a sewing book. We always draft pattern pieces based on measurements from the PAPER patterns. You can never count on the measurements from your fabric. They change the second you cut it and again when you lift it up and start touching it, sewing with it, etc. Also, unless I missed it, this book does not mention anywhere the importance of measuring everything (for any pattern) in the sewing line, not the outer line, which is crucial information when making pattern alterations, but in my experience is not common knowledge. HERE is a link to a blog post of mine that talks more about this subject in case you are curious.

So yeah, this was probably not the review they hoped for, but this is my opinion. Peace out!

Also, thank you to my two friends, you know who you are, that helped me weed out the worst of all my grammatical errors. If there are any left, it is entirely my fault.

1 comment:

  1. This review was a whole word! I'm glad you were honest and specific in your criticism. I was initially interested in the title as I'm going through a Scandi phase myself. Thanks for taking the time to write down your thoughts and educate us at the same time.


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