Thursday, February 21, 2013

More like 'Next To Useless' - (eye roll)

Current Mood : Enjoying an ironic treat.

It’s often said you can’t always get what you want. It’s weird, being as broke as we normally are, but more often than not, I do get what I want. Sometimes, though, it takes the form of a great big apple of irony.

Back in my Barbie days, and when I first started to have more success with sewing than failures, I went on a mad hunt for patterns. Patterns in books, patterns from pattern companies, online directions, semi-legal ‘pattern trade’ groups, eBay buys, library scans, Japanese/Korean/Yugoslavian/Australian works – it didn’t matter if I already had 32 versions of Barbie pants, I wanted all of them. And there was always Ken clothes, and any other sizes for any other dolls, to hunt down and claim for my stash. I think I still have American Girl patterns on my hard-drive, and the closest I ever came to owning one of them was a couple of yard sale Target knockoffs I never did anything with. I even hoarded patterns for dolls I never owned, because just maybe someday, I’d be good enough to alter the shapes to fit dolls for which those patterns were never intended. Besides, I haven’t filled a hard drive since my ole POS Packard Bell, back in ’95. And there’s always CD-Rs I can load up !

I have no idea how many Barbie patterns I amassed – legally and semi-so – before it crashed to a halt with the arrival of some freaked out monster-themed dolls I started obsessing over – and yes, the pattern craze extends to them, too, even now. But even though I found some of the rarest doll books ever, thanks to my obsessive nature and fondness for various second-hand venues, one book ever eluded me. I’d heard so many good things about Next To Nothing: Teen Doll Clothes, a book of only Babs and co. clothes patterns – the outfits were simple, didn’t use a lot of fabric, were easy for beginners but still offered a lot for more experienced sewists, and, well, it was just perfect, OK ?

Despite years of searching – and only finding it for about $50. or so, ridiculous even in the midst of my craze – I never found one. Only ever saw pictures on websites, and while the cover didn’t exactly inspire me, surely as with most books, the true treasures were within ! Guess what I stumbled over today. That’s right – a full scan of the book, online. Aaaannd…it ranks. It’s one of the worst doll pattern books I’ve ever seen. If I had found it, I would probably only have bought it for a couple bucks, for completion’s sake. I can’t imagine actually using any of the ‘designs’ in it.

First off, despite it being published in the late 80s, where photocopiers were available on just about every street and streetcorner, they used the ‘redraw this tiny grid in the right scale’ method of pattern reproduction. While this may be a real boon for many more experienced pattern makers, for the sewist just wanting to make Ken a couple pair of pants that don’t proclaim the status of the floodwaters in town, it’s a big PITA. Second, the finished items are blocky and don’t fit well, even on the dolls modeling in the book. If you’ve seen enough camisoles from Simplicity and Japanese books, you know how subtle the curves can be – and how blocky and oversized they finished item’s gonna look when they’re squared off with an extra quarter-inch added onto each seam. Third, the few pictures provided don’t show much. Half the time, the doll’s wearing a doily-like crocheted poncho over the blouse the photo’s supposed to show. Or the photo’s so dim and fuzzy, you can’t tell what you’re supposed to see. And I have no idea why dolls are still wearing granny squares in 1986 – I know people weren’t.

I guess I was just really disappointed. After hearing so much about this book, so many good things, it was kind of a shock to see how bad it was, and that I doubt any of its praisers actually made anything out of its pages. Frankly, almost all of my ‘kitchen table press’ purchased patterns are vastly superior, and easier to use with more stylish results. Heck, a couple of the patterns I fought through creating aren't as bad as some of the ones in this book ! 

Of course, now that the Barbie craze has passed me, and it’s been at least two years since I stopped looking for that book, Amazon has it for less than ten bucks, plus shipping. Glad I didn’t waste any money on it, and maybe I need to quit trusting that reviewers are looking for the same things I am. 

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