Book review – ‘The Maker’s Atelier: The Essential Collection’ by Frances Tobin

I have a confession – I put ‘The Maker’s Atelier: The Essential Collection’ on pre-order on Amazon as I was so desperate to get this book! I absolutely love Frances’ patterns, so the thought of getting 8 patterns for under £30 was compelling.

 

The book is beautifully presented, with the printed patterns in a string bound wallet at the back of the book. The photography and styling is simple and clear and very aspirational. I want to look like that! All the items are in a co-ordinated palette of neutrals and very elegant. The Maker’s Atelier exhibited at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate last November and they had a rail of samples which you could try on which I so enjoyed! I wanted all of the patterns, but at over £20 each, I settled for one.

The patterns in this book are simpler than the main collection, so initially, I wasn’t sure I really liked them. But I already had a couple of pieces of fabric, so decided to quickly have a go at making two of them. And that is the thing – they are very speedy makes.

I made the stretch pencil skirt and the drape neck top and I am so happy with them.

The stretch pencil skirt, I made out of some printed scuba and it feels so comfy I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this skirt. I took about 3cm off the hips in total as I don’t have much of a behind, and I am really happy with the fit. It could have been tighter, but I don’t think it would be so comfortable. As the scuba didn’t need hemming, it took me about an hour to make.

I wasn’t sure the drape neck top was going to suit me as it is rather oversized which is not always a good look when you have a large bust. But I made it from white Milano jersey from the Fabric Godmother and it is surprisingly good on me. Again, an easy make, but watch out if you are making it in jersey – the front pattern piece is different for jersey and woven fabrics and the jersey one is on a different pattern sheet. it took me a bit of rummaging through all the printed sheets to find it.

I am so delighted with how these have come out that I have already cut out the cigarette pants and am planning to make the wrap skirt too. There is information in the book about different fabrics and how that will alter the look of the garments and how to wear them too. I think this is a book I will come back to time and time again.

Why I started sewing again

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I have always sewn – from my teens onwards, I learnt how to make my own clothes. My mother taught me the basics (as she had always made some of her own clothes) and I became quite ambitious. I wish I had photos of some of the clothes I have made over the years – I made a reversible satin parka once!

But over the last couple of decades, I have made less and less – I still don’t really understand why. Then a few years ago, came the Great British Sewing Bee – I never missed an episode. At some point in 2015, I really started to look properly at fabrics in shops again and became inspired to start buying a few pieces of fabric.

I realised that there were very good reasons to start sewing my own clothes again. Firstly, that like many people, I felt slightly guilty about overconsuming. I hardly needed any of the clothes that I was buying. I wanted to have a closer relationship with what I was wearing – to feel that I had ‘earned’ them in some way and that they belonged to me. And as my shape has become less and less standard as I have got older, most of the clothes that I bought didn’t really fit me well.

I am fairly short (5’3″), with a big bust. My waist has also got larger in middle age, but my hips and bottom are resolutely small! I also have really skinny legs, so I am a triangle shape. Trousers that fit me around the waist are too big on the bum, and blouses always pull across the bust. Making my own clothes has meant that I can address all these issues and make things that actually fit.

I started buying vintage patterns on ebay as they often were a better shape for my figure than contemporary patterns.

Then I found that there were new independent designers offering a totally different look and experience. Around the New Year of 2016, I discovered Sew Over It, ordered a few patterns and I became hooked! (Although I do have to do a full bust adjustment on them).

So 2016 was the year that I started to obsess about sewing. From Sew Over It, I discovered Lisa Comfort’s vlog, then other vloggers such as Rosa from Sewn. Then Seamwork and The Foldline and that was it – there was no going back!

I now won’t buy any item of clothing that I can make. Since the Spring, I have bought shoes, underwear and cardigans – everything else I have made. Sometimes, finding time to actually make all the things in my head is almost impossible – I probably manage to make 1-2 things a month. I wanted to start blogging about my experiences because, though I have been inspired by other bloggers, they do all seem very young to me! I thought there might be room for someone who still cares about what she wears in her 50s and wants it to be the best that she can possibly make.