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New Dress a Day: The Ultimate DIY Guide to Creating Fashion Dos from Thrift-Store Don'ts Paperback – October 16, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Marisa Lynch is a fashion blogger, consultant, and founder of the blog New Dress a Day. A graduate of the University of Southern California, she is a frequent guest on E! Entertainment Television and has appeared on The Early Show and been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Time, and Bust, among other publications. She lives in Los Angeles.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

chapter one

sewing 101

hese are sewing’s basic moves, moves I learned in middle school while hammering out a teal sweatshirt (yes, teal) and humming Boyz II Men (“Although we’ve come . . . to the end of the rooooad . . . ”).

In practicing these basics, grab your needles and thread and make sure you’ve got lots of light (and a good playlist on in the background) (see p. 123). Working at a desk or dining room table where you can set out your needles and spools of thread is ideal; however, you can couch it as long as you don’t have butterfingers! Hidden needles in the upholstery are nobody’s picnic. (Tush + needles = a bloodcurdling scream rivaling Janet Leigh’s in ­Psycho.)

hand sewing

If you’re one of those people who say, “but I can’t even sew a button,” prepare to remove that excuse from your vocabulary. With just some needles, a little bit of thread, and the ability to tie a knot, you can hand sew your little heart out!

There are a bunch of different kinds of stitches that you can learn, but we’ll begin with the easiest and most useful (in my humble ­opinion)—the top three I use all the time.

Running stitch: Prepare to master this basic stitch in no ­time—easy, breezy, and doable for anyone.

1. Grab a piece of thread. I usually trim thread longer than necessary because it’s better to have too much than not enough and run out before you’re done. A good amount to keep in mind is about 1.5 to 2 times the length of the piece you need to stitch. Tie a knot at one end and take the other end and thread it through the eye of a needle.

2. Bring the needle up through the underside of the fabric (the knot will let you know when to stop). Bring the needle back down about ­1⁄8 ­inch away from your first point.

3. Begin stitching from right to left, with evenly spaced stitches. The spacing between these stitches should be small, technically, but you can eyeball about ­1⁄8 ­inch between ­stitches—do what works for you and the piece.

4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 until a seam is finished, a hole is mended, or you want to take a snack break to Yogurtland.

Backstitch: This stitch is one of the strongest, great at keeping seams ­together—meaning you won’t have to worry about your pants tearing at the seam again when you drop your phone for the hundredth time.

This happened to me and I ­didn’t have anything to tie around my waist. Two words. Epic. Fail.

I think of this stitch as drawing an ocean ­wave—it goes forward, then back a little, then forward more, and back a little more.

1. Bring a threaded needle up through the underside of the fabric. Bring the needle back down 1 inch forward from where the needle came through.

2. Bringing your needle backward through the underside of the fabric in the middle of the stitch that was made, go another inch forward and bring the needle back down through the fabric.

3. Now bring your needle backward through the underside of the fabric again (in the middle of the last stitch) and make another stitch forward.

4. Continue this forward, backward, forward, backward movement until the seam has been stitched up.

Overcast stitch: There’s nothing foggy about this stitch, (insert drum ­badump-ump here,) which is perfect for sewing appliqués or fabric on tank tops. The ­zigzaggy overcast stitch is my favorite for putting patches or felted shapes on outfits because it gives a total handmade look.

1. Bring the needle through the underside of the fabric and bring it back down about 1⁄2 inch through the top of the fabric, on a slant.

2. Bring the needle back through the fabric from underneath and continue until you’re through. With each stitch continue to move along the edge of the fabric, progressing farther along as you go.

3. Continue making diagonal stitches along the outside edges of your fabric or appliqué, and back through the fabric.

It’ll look like a pine tree/feather you drew in elementary school.

machine sewing

Sewing machines can be daunting if you’ve never used one. However, when you become one with the machine, you’ll be hanging out and having cocktail hour together.

Beginner machines: All the major ­brands—Elna, Brother, Kenmore, and ­Singer—make great machines for beginners, from mechanical to electronic and ­computerized—it’s like Max Headroom is running the machine! You don’t have to spend a lot ­either—many are under a hundred dollars! Head to retailers like Target or Walmart for a ­brand-­new one, or scope out Craigslist for deals from people getting rid of the machines collecting dust in their attics.

If you’re nervous about jumping into a sewing machine purchase, or want to test the waters first, sign up for a sewing class at a local community college or sewing store. They’ll have a machine (and a teacher) to help you get comfortable before you decide to throw down Benjamins and buy your own.

Machine stitches: Each sewing machine gives you a bunch of different options to choose from:

The straight stitch is the one I use most often and it is exactly what it sounds like. Straight stitches in a row, forming a line across the fabric.

The zigzag stitch is perfect for attaching patches for a homemade look, making buttonholes, sewing stretch material, or even creating ­free-­form letters. This stitch looks just like the front of Charlie Brown’s shirt.

There’s another zigzag stitch, the three-­step zigzag stitch (not to be confused with a ­square-­dance move), that looks similar to the zigzag stitch just mentioned. This stitch is most ideal for elastics or jersey knit because the zigzags are wider, giving more room for stretch and movement.

The blind hem stitch works as an invisible (kind of like Patrick Swayze in Ghost) stitch, perfect for hemming curtains or a skirt bottom. It’s a mix of straight and zigzag stitches.

Many machines also include decorative stitches (like the blanket stitch, satin stitch, or whip stitch) for those who want to showcase their ­super-­excellent sewing skills with fancy monograms.

Machine stitch lengths: Just like the saying: “Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear; beer before liquor makes you sicker,” I came up with a line for cautioning about stitch lengths:

“Short and sweet with no repeats; long and loose probably reproduce.”

This reminds me that the shorter the stitch the more durable it will be (hopefully you won’t have to sew it more than once), and the longer the stitch the greater the likelihood you’ll have to redo it. Stitch lengths will range from less than 1 to 6 millimeters, or 4 to 24 stitches per inch (these are the two scales of measurement). Looking at lengths, finer fabrics (satin) will be 1 or 2 mm; medium-­thick fabric (cotton, linen) will stay right in the center at a length of 2.5 or 3 mm; and thicker fabrics (denim, corduroy) will be 4 or 5 mm.

Machine needles (also see “Needles” on p. xvi): Choosing the right needles for sewing different fabrics is like wearing the right clothes for each season. In summer you wear lighter clothing (and less of it), while in winter you wear layers of thicker clothing. Likewise, the thinner your fabric, the smaller the needle you’d use. Machine needles are sized “60/8” (smallest) to “120/19” (largest), with the first number associated with the diameter of the needle’s shaft multiplied by 100 and the second number associated with the U.S. measuring system

Bobbins (also see “Bobbins” on p. xv): Bobbins are a necessity for the sewing machine. A bobbin is to a spool of thread as Kid Sister is to My Buddy. Sorry if I got that commercial jingle stuck in any of your heads. They are mini spools that the thread is wound around beneath the throat plate inside the machine. The throat plate creates the stitches on the underside of the garment when sewing—­the thread from the spool makes the top stitches—­and without bobbins, the machine is just a big rectangular paperweight.

Wind That Bobbin!

1. Pick your thread and put it on the spool holder.

2. Take an empty bobbin and put it on the bobbin winder.

3. Pull the thread to the left and wrap it around the tension disk once, bringing it ­toward the bobbin winder on the right.

4. Wrap the thread clockwise around the bobbin a few times or bring the thread through the pinhole in the top of the bobbin, depending on the kind of bobbin you’re using. Place the bobbin on the winding spindle.

5. Push the bobbin winder (with the bobbin on it) to the right until you hear the winder click in place.

6. Begin to press the foot pedal and the bobbin will spin, winding thread around it.

7. I like to have full bobbins, so continue to press the foot pedal until the bobbin is almost completely wound with thread. Some machines automatically stop when the bobbin is full, but if your machine ­doesn’t, keep an eye on it at the 3⁄4 point and stop it before it overflows at the bobbin’s edge. You want the thread as smoothly wound as possible.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345532880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345532886
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #400,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I was super, super excited for this book to come out, as I have been following Marisa's clever blog for years. This book has her usual great ideas, and is divided sensibly into different sections, like Mu-Mu's or Quick Fixes. If you are new to Marisa's craftiness and want to learn to upcycle your clothes, you will enjoy her ideas a lot. But I was a bit disappointed, because many of the after pictures did not show a full picture of the new item, instead focusing on arty poses. There also aren't many step by step pictures, which she features heavily on her blog. So if you are new to sewing and need a bit more visual hand holding, this probably isn't the book for you.

Overall though, a very fun book to look at, and Marisa's usual fun personality shines here.
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First the positives -cute playful photos, nice picture sequence of how one dress can be worn(dressipe), advice for people, who don't sew. There are a few dresses that are very nice as in pages 39,57, and 65.
Not so great - majority of the projects use one solution - to shorten the dress(and to lengthen in one case)and cut the sleeves off. Well, I think most people would be able to come up with it, but just in case this book could have featured one or two of these,not most of the projects. Other most common solution - to dye it. Then stencil some design or letters. Pictures of the afters are so creative and cool, that in many reader won't get any idea about how finished project looks like. Like in Mexican tunic project, the only thing that is done -it is shortened, and then the after photo shows just upper part- chest area. I am not joking! One project shortens the skirt with regular packing tape...I wonder what happens to it after first wash. What about sewing ribbon stripes on the leather bag - it looks worse after than before. So do some dresses like on pages 68 and 110. Of course all this is thing of taste. But there is very little of creative ideas that I can use.
I would say, check this book out from the library and decide, if you want to keep this a refference.
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I found this book pretty disappointing and am returning it. If you have been thrifting for a while and already know the basics of sewing and alterations, there's not really anything new here. And if you want your altered stuff to look sharp, this book is no help at all. Even the pictures of the author's finished products look sloppy and childish. For example, when removing sleeves she just says to fold the remaining raw edge under and sew it down. Anyone with the slightest bit of sewing knowledge will know that this will not create a finished look with most fabrics and that a binding or facing is necessary. At best, what this book contains is a list of predictable ideas for very oversimplified alterations, all of which could probably fit on a single page. But it has been expanded into a glossy book that treats different basic methods of hemming as different "looks." Ideas like using extra fabric to create a self-belt, removing and re-purposing embellishments, or cutting the neck out of a sweatshirt are just no-brainers the barely even require a how-to. While I can't imagine anyone but a complete novice finding this book interesting, at the same time I don't even think many of the instructions and illustrations on basic sewing techniques would really be adequate for learning to get a decent result. I own a ton of DIY books for varying skill levels and most have something to offer just about anybody, but I really found this one pretty useless.
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I was so thrilled when I finally got my hands on this book when I picked it up from the library- then I got home and looked at it. The methods are good and everything and some of the photos are good. I say some because I really needed to see the clothes in full due to the fact that I'm bottom heavy. I admit it- the southern hemisphere is why I took up sewing it cover and flatter my bottom end and to see a good chunk of the projects not pictured in full was disheartening. Then the photos are sometimes filtered or blurred because they feature Ms. Lynch twirling- I guess would be great if it were a fashion book but not a sewing book were the images must be clear and sharp.
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Marisa has a knack for transforming old/oversized/drab garments into something cool and trendy again. Luckily in this book she passes on her expertise to help you learn how to make your own unique ones off garments. You don't have to be an expert seamstress most of the transformations are pretty simple to follow, and there's even some no sew options in there too.

The first few chapters of the book are broken down into garment type then other chapters include designer look-alikes, DIY Black Ties, costume party, plus a whole chapter on quick no sew fixes in minutes. The book doesn't just cover garments there are also accessories and projects for using up your scraps and off cuts too.

I can see this book appealing to both the experienced stitcher looking for upcycling inspiration and the novice sewist wanting to learn to revamp their wardrobe. There are step by step photos throughout which will really help newer sewers, as well as a trouble shooting section and a useful notes section at the back which you can use to store your ideas on. This book is the perfect complement to the blog.
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