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Table of Contents

Introduction 6
Tools 10
Your sewing machine 14
Sewing know-how 18
Fabrics 24
Sewing language 32


Sizing 40
Pattern cutting 48
Adjusting your blocks 52
Making your sample 60
Altering your sample 74


Adapting the pattern 92
Necklines 92
Sleeves 104
Skirts 122
Drafting a collar 136
Drafting pockets 139

Finishing your dress 142
Constructing your garment 142
Zip closures 146

Separates 154
Tops 154
Skirts: adding a waistband or facing 156

Taking it further 159

Index 160

About the Author

Helen Rhiannon is an award-winning designer specializing in bespoke wedding dresses. Helen was fortunate to grow up by the picturesque coastline of Gower in Swansea, Wales, where she still lives. She creates beautiful, timeless, handmade gowns from her studio.

Helen has gained a solid reputation for her superlative dressmaking skills which has led her to share her knowledge and passion through teaching. Helen set up the ‘All Sewn Up Wales’ sewing workshops in 2010, designed to help people learn and develop new skills, whilst meeting like-minded creative people. Her expert tuition has attracted students from around the world and she regularly makes guest appearances on national television.

For more information on Helen’s work, visit www.allsewnupwales.co.uk where you can also find an extensive online sewing shop, a wide range of tutorials and Helen’s YouTube channel.


Fashion designer Rhiannon (Sew Perfect Pets) serves up a solid introduction to sewing dresses. 'Must-have' tools include a sewing machine, pattern paper, and hand-sewing needles for attaching buttons. When selecting fabrics, Rhiannon recommends cotton for its affordability, crepe for its softness, and polyester satin for mimicking the sheen of silk on a budget. The author walks through how to make a sleeveless dress from the full-sized pattern sheets included with the book, offering extensive instruction on customizing the design with a curved or boatneck neckline, flared or butterfly sleeves, a fitted or gathered skirt, a collar, or pockets. Inclusivity is emphasized throughout; pattern sheet sets are provided in 19 different sizes she has devised and Rhiannon offers tips on adjusting a dress bodice for wheelchair users (the front should be shortened and the back lengthened 'for a more comfortable fit'). The thorough advice sometimes borders on the obvious ('Close your eyes and put your hands on your waist and this is usually the right spot,' she writes on determining where to take one’s waist measurement), but the prose is encouraging ('We need to accept what we are born with... this is what makes us unique'), and the numerous ways to mix and match design components allow for ample customization. This primer gets the job done. 
*Publishers Weekly*

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. 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. Read the full review here.

This book is a little different in its approach to teaching you how to sew! For example, Helen explains how to measure yourself but she has used ‘real people’ to show sizing in practice and how to choose a size when you don’t fall between the pattern’s sizing. There’s also an in-depth section of adapting patterns (after all no pattern will fit you perfectly without!). Each garment detail like sleeves, pockets, necklines etc. is covered individually making it a good book to dip in and out of. The flow of this book makes perfect sense and is in an order that makes it easy to follow. It’s a great book to sit by your sewing machine when you need to re-affirm a technique too!
*The Pattern Pages, Issue 33*

Create beautiful, customized dresses for every shape and size. Mix and match skirts, sleeves and necklines for over 80 stylish variations. Choose the exact size that fits and flatters you from a bespoke sizing chart that takes into account differences in body size across bust, waist and hips.
*Machine Knitting Monthly, September 2023*

In this comprehensive, informative book, Helen explains how to create beautiful, customised dresses for every shape and size. Choose the exact size that fits and flatters you from a bespoke sizing chart that takes into
account differences in body size across bust, waist and hips. Trace off your pattern pieces, then create a sample (toile) in calico which you can then adapt to create the dress of your dreams, in your own choice of fabulous fabric. There are four style options each for sleeves and necklines, including a flared sleeve, a capped sleeve, a sweetheart neckline or a boatneck; and five skirt options, including a fitted pencil-style skirt, a zhuzhy circle skirt, and an A-line, with or without pleats. You can also choose to add a sweet, classic Peter Pan collar, or inseam pockets, to your garment. Alternatively, you can even create a skirt as a separate garment, simply by adding a waistband or facing.
*Craft Focus, August/September 2023*

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