Building Block Dress, a Book Review

It is no secret that I am a big admirer of Ana Sofia’s work, from the blog S is for Sewing, also I have the pleasure of meeting her in real life and calling her my friend. It is also no secret that we are both great admires of Oliver + S patterns. For that reason, it was no surprise that we both got the book “Building Block Dress” as soon as it came out.

The book was published a little over a year ago and our intension was to make a book review back then but, as you know, sometimes life gets in the way and we postponed the review. Now that is the book’s first anniversary thus, we thought that was a good time to make it happen and I’m so glad we’ve made it.

It was not the first time we’ve made a joint book review (see here). I really enjoyed it as it’s always a pleasure to chat with Ana Sofia and exchange opinions. 😊

Now, about the book and why in the first place did I bought it. As you might have noticed, I rarely make alterations to a pattern and the ones I make, are always minor. This is because I am (or was…) always afraid of ruining everything. I sometimes have ideas but then I am too afraid of messing everything up and end up not doing it. This book is just about pattern alterations and how to make it, exactly what I needed.

The book includes one pattern, for a basic dress, for ages 6 months to 12 years and examples of alterations you can make as well as instructions to perform them.

I’ve made two different projects from the book and I will start with the dress I made for F.

I asked F what she would like me to make her and she said a dress. She was very detailed and precise about what she wanted, from the colour to the ruffles, size of the sleeve and where the waist line should hit. I managed to make everything as she asked except for the colour. She asked me for bright blue but I asked if it could be navy blue instead and she agreed on that too.


From the two projects I’ve made, this is the one with less changes to the base pattern. I started with size 7, took a few centimetres of the bodice and made a gathered A-line skirt to make it more twirly than the original one, which was one of the requirements.


F also requested a ¾ sleeve with shoulder ruffles and for that I just took a few centimetres from the long sleeve option and made the flutter sleeve following the instructions available, but instead I have cut the fabric on the fold, so no hemming was needed. Next time I will make the ruffle narrower though, just for personal preference.


Although the book offers several pocket options I haven’t added any. There are also several options with explanations for hemming, but once again, I’ve kept it simple with a basic hem.


There are a few extras in the dress that are not in the book, but F asked me if I could make them and they are quite simple so why not make her happy. Those “extras” are the sash with a bow and the ruffled collar. The sash is just a stripe of fabric attached to the bodice and the ruffled collar is also a stripe of fabric with twice the length of the collar attached following the bias-faced neckline instructions.


There are instructions to change the closure at the back, but I kept the original, with buttons. The only thing I’ve changed was omitting the skirt placket once it was unnecessary for F to dress/undress.



The second project required some more changes, but with the instructions that was no problem at all. I would say the main change was to move the closure from the back to the front.


I started with a basic bodice for size 6, moved the button placket to the front and shortened by a few centimetres. I kept the long sleeves as the original but inserted elastic at the bottom.


The collar was made the same way as the one from the dress and the bottom part of the blouse are just two rectangles of fabric gathered at the top. Simple, but I really like how it turned out.


My main challenge was moving the closure from the back to the front and now that I’ve made it, I don’t know why it was scaring me that much!


The pattern includes seam allowances and explains how to make a muslin and to adjust the pattern to get the best fit and that, as everything else in the book, is valid for any other pattern.


I know there are other books about pattern alterations, but knowing Oliver + S patterns and how detailed their instructions are I knew the book should be no different and I was right. The explanations are simple yet effective and very visual, with photos and figures to help.


I am still finding it hard to believe that starting with the same pattern I ended up with two completely different garments. Bear in mind that I don’t (or didn’t) usually hack patterns and was something that used to scare me a bit.


So, summarizing, I found the book very helpful for pattern alterations in general and not only for the one included in the book and a good reference book to keep in a sewing library. I’m glad I got it! 😊

If you haven’t yet, go and see what Ana Sofia made (so pretty!) and what she has to say about the book. 😉

I really enjoyed making this book review with you Ana Sofia. Thank you! 😊