DIY Couture by Rosie Martin

Ok, so I’m super into this. For Valentine’s Day I asked Mikael for “DIY Couture” by Rosie Martin. I’d been looking at the amazon preview for a while, but I already have so many sewing books that it was going to take something special to entice me to buy. I’ve been hit with sewing book burnout. Either the book starts at size 36 bust and I’m feeling too lazy to grade down, or I realize the patterns lack some basic info and I’d have to make a muslin just to figure what size I should then make a muslin in, or the patterns are like ones I already have so even though I like the book, there’s no reason to own it. And of course, the main reason is that since I have so little time to sew, I’m reluctant to add new projects to my sewing wishlist. I’m currently stuck on a Burda pattern that isn’t hard, but I just haven’t had time to focus on it (it involves drafting an asymmetric collar).

A little about DIY Couture: the idea is, by using half circles, rectangles, and by tracing around clothing that already fits you, you can make simple clothes. Usually I recommend practicing first by making a tea towel or tote bag or something, but I can honestly say, after using some scrap material to get familiar with your machine, you could probably actually make an item of clothing from this book. I grew up with sewing patterns around. My Grandma was an amazing seamstress and her photos bear witness to her skill. But, through the years of talking to my friends who want to take up sewing clothes, but never do, some people just don’t get patterns or the idea behind sewing curves into 3d dimensional shapes. So, I can see where this book would be great for them. Some people fall outside the size range of commercial patterns or have to do so many alterations to patterns that it becomes overwhelming. Some people want to make simple clothes but can’t find any very easy, uncomplicated patterns. And finally, some people suffer from sewing burnout in its various forms.

What attracted me to DIY Couture? Well, through my 30s, I wore fitted clothes, usually made out of wovens with minimal stretch. I favored a “soft vintage” look with a girlish vibe or else an early 60s Audrey/Jackie look. But post baby and on the cusp of 40, while the classic early 60s look still works, I’ve been feeling a little “mutton dressed as lamb” in my “Aughts referencing the 70s referencing the Victorian/Edwardian era.” I want to pare down my style to something simple and more mature that’s still fun and eclectic. As a result, I’m really feeling the glam side of the 70s and the new wave side of the early 80s. I recently cut my hair into a bob, and that was definitely a part of my desire to wear clean shapes.

A few reviews I read have thought DIY Couture was geared toward younger seamstresses, but really, I haven’t seen a recent sewing book that isn’t. And The 10 basic clothing shapes seem pretty flexible:



1. straight skirt (A line, straight, or pencil)
2. grecian dress (dolman/kimono sleeves)
3. skater skirt (a circle skirt)
4. waistcoat (trapezoid and rectangles)
5. cloak (circles)
6. slouch top (super cool and reminiscent of Japanese pattern books)
7. goddess dress (easy riff on Marilyn Monroe’s “Some Like it Hot” dress)
8. hoody (dolman sleeved jacket)
9. trousers (elastic waist)
10. romper (trousers above with a top piece)

Note! nothing has darts. A few pieces have pleats or tucks, but not the straight skirt. I recommend you make it out of material that has stretch or just wing it and put some darts in during the fitting before you sew on the waistband.

Each of these pieces is then shown in one of eight collections, with cute titles like:
Acid Candy, Monochrome Art, American Road Trip, Rude Disco, Coffee Classic, Jungle Punk, Safari Prep, and Tea Picnic. With the exception of Rude Disco and Jungle Punk each collection has something to offer me- esp Road Trip, Coffee, and Safari (pics below).

diy diy_0001 diy_0002
I find them simple, but thought provoking. I like circle skirts, but it’s nice to see them in a non-vintage setting. They look so fresh and clever when done in unexpected fabrics (like black denim) or paired with structured, geometric new wave blouses.

I feel the book succeeds brilliantly in what it sets out to do: introduce novices to sewing and empowering them to make their own clothing by demystifying the technical aspects of sewing. She’s definitely punk’s response to Pink Floyd. And I love pretty seam finishes as well as the next person, but I find even the idea of keeping up with the home vintage couture craze exhausting. My only wish is that she’d talked a little about grain and nap. To be clear, if you love detailed, complicated patterns or clothing that fits closely, this book is not for you. If you want your structured clothing to mold your body into a shape other than what it is, this book is also not going to make you happy. But if you’re a fan of Japanese pattern books and soft, fluid styles, clothing that flows over or floats above the body, in an origami way, and yearn for very simple patterns, then this is a great book. I for one, want to explore some rad, batwing New Wave looks crossed with plaids, tweeds, and florals. Why yes, I have been looking at early Vivienne Westwood ;D

diy_0006For each project, there’s a large photo of the Acid Candy version, paired with a drawing of the pattern pieces you’ll make as well as small photos (different from the ones earlier) of each variation.

Next, there is a front technical drawing of each variation paired with written instructions explaining how the variations differ from the Acid Candy version.
Detailed visual instructions with both photos and clear, technical illustrations show you how to create the shape, cut the fabric, and sew together the Acid Candy version. If you want to create a different version, refer to the written instructions at the beginning of the project’s chapter. If something diverges radically, then Martin often has a special page devoted to the variation to help you create anything too difficult or hard to visualize.
Who knew there were so many variations of a circle skirt? Not me.
This one is my favorite. And I love that it’s so easy.

At the end of the book, there are line drawings of most of the variations for you to copy and mix and match together.

Today I dug through my ridiculous fabric stash and found 3 fabrics to start with. After my Burda dress is finished (I refuse to ufo it), I want to make a woven plaid circle skirt, a grecian dress cut down to blouse length, and a waistcoat. Obviously, I’ll be modifying the patterns a bit by using invisible zippers instead of the simple lapped zippers shown, as well as sewing up the sides of the coffee classic waistcoat instead of having it wrap. But the thought of just sewing something up and not fussing with set in sleeves is really nice right now. I’ll keep you posted!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. You are a dream for sharing this book #1 on my wishlist now!! LOVE it. Thanks for all the detail in the post too. So excited for my own copy now!!!!

    1. I hope you like it. It really got me thinking about sewing again in a positive way, as opposed to an “everything has to be perfect and complicated” way 😀 Plus with summer coming up these are pretty much perfect shapes for my lifestyle- easy to wear and move around (and chase my son) in.

  2. I have always preferred clever to complicated 😉 And much of the designers I am obsessed with, particularly sustainable designers use geometric pattern making for fabric conservation. Beautiful. So into this. Thanks again!

    1. you’re welcome! I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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