In her latest picture book, Julie Kraulis looks at textiles and clothing from a perspective far removed from both contemporary, disposable fast fashion and flashy haute couture. A Pattern for Pepper is an appealing introduction to classic fabrics and patterns, in which readers step a little out of time as they follow red-haired Pepper through the door of Mr. Taylor’s shop (est. 1928) where she hopes to have a dress made.
Pepper wants the perfect dress, and the tailor takes her on a tour of possible fabrics. With each introduction, the characters are cleverly enveloped in the pattern, as if a bolt of cloth has been unfurled across every double-page spread. A brief explanation of the fabric’s name, history, or use is provided. Pepper dismisses each in turn: pinstripe is glum, toile is too busy, houndstooth lacks colour. For others, Pepper’s reasons are more whimsical – herringbone reminds her of the cold ocean, tartan is associated with the loudness of bagpipes.
Kraulis’s oil-and-graphite illustrations are filled with texture and ornament, yet the palette is restrained to a pleasing combination of browns, reds, and blues, which gives the book a nostalgic feel. Fittingly, the dress Pepper desires is intended for afternoon tea and croquet. (This means shiny taffeta and vibrant kente cloth are certainly out of the question.)
One of the most instructive parts of the book occurs after Pepper picks out a fabric, when Kraulis shows how another type of pattern – the dress pattern – takes the garment from concept to reality. Pepper and Mr. Taylor sketch designs, then he draws and cuts each piece of the dress pattern from a roll of paper, which they pin to the cloth to be cut. The cloth is then sewn and fitted until the dress is ready for the big reveal.
Kraulis’s delightfully sweet story is filled with information that will make young readers aware of the textures, seams, and patterns all around them.