I love this book! I've had it for several years now and I reference it time and again. This book gave me the confidence to step away from commercial patterns and try some ideas of my own. A wonderful book and highly recommended--especially for beginners!
This book is divided into 9 chapters:
1. How to Use This Book
This chapter covers some brief, sewing basics. If you've been sewing already, the first few pages may seem unneccessary, but they are so succinct you won't mind having them there. This is not one of those books in which the first half is dedicated to reiterating what's in your sewing machine's manual. Instead, it's helpful for the beginner, but not overdone for more advanced sewers.
The second part of this chapter is very, very helpful! It goes over the premise of the book: that you don't need an existing pattern to make a skirt. It covers which body measurements you'll need to devise your own, personalized pattern. Then it walks you through steps to create your own pattern based on 3 general styles: straight skirt with a fitted waist; a-line skirt with a fitted waist; and a-line skirt with an elastic waist. All of the skirts talked about in later chapters come back to these basic layouts.
2. Basic Skills
This section goes over some basic sewing skills: stitch types, finishing edges, darts, etc. As in the first part of Chapter 1, you may know all of this if you are not a beginner. But, again, it's extremely succinct, so you won't feel like you've wasted your money if you're more advanced.
3. Which Waistline
This chapter offers instruction on making waistbands: with casings, attached, using bias tape, using elastic, using zippers, facings, etc. Again, information is clear and to-the-point.
The final, six chapters show examples of different skirts that fall within each style indicated by the chapter headings:
4. The Classic A-Line
5. Wrap It!
6. Circles & Squares
7. Play It Straight with Flair
8. Layer It!
9. How Many Tiers
Each of the skirts in these chapters illustrates how you can make virtually limitless styles based on the 3 general layouts in Chapter 1. With clear, easy-to-follow steps, you can make one of the 16 skirts shown or mix and match elements to create your own. In fact, the most valuable and unique aspect of this book is that you gain a clear understanding of the underlying structure of skirts and develop awareness of how to tweak or add onto these basics to make your own unique creations. It's a very freeing concept that makes basic pattern design, or at least pattern altering, accessible to amateurs.
As a beginner when I first read this book, I experienced a whole new perpective on clothing construction--a mental paradigm shift of sorts from needing a definite pattern to being more cognizant of how small variations on basic structure can have a dramatic effect and, thus, being more creative and adventurous in my sewing. Now, as an intermediate sewer, I still refer back to this book to refresh myself on some basic skills when I'm not following a pattern or to create my own skirt designs.
The information in this book is great. It was well-thought-out. Lots of information and very little extraneous information. The writing is clear and easy-to-follow. The layout is very nice, too. It's pretty to look at, fun to read, and--best of all--spiral-bound so it lays open and flat while you're working.
I highly recommend this book for beginners and advanced beginners. Intermediate sewers may enjoy it, too, but depending on experience may find it too basic. It's almost certainly too basic for advanced sewers and most definitely not a good buy for professional dressmakers.