Friday, July 29, 2011

Sewing Book Reviews. . .

Dear readers,

I'm in the middle of sewing a skirt, a top, and a pair of shorts for J.  In addition, I've made (oh, horror!) a myriad of home decorative projects!! Yes!  I won't torment you with those - but I did make them from my Japanese fabric scraps.  I've bought the following books over the past six months, along with a short summary of my findings:

1.  Patternmaking for Fashion Design (1st ed.).
Recommendation to buy:  Yes, if you have already taken a patternmaking or sloper (basic block) class.  

This learned book by college professor Helen Joseph Armstrong is excellent, but I do warn you it is a textbook; therefore in my opinion it is best utilized for someone with patternmaking experience or at least has a basic block to start with.  I have fairly comprehensive reading skills, and simply would not have understood it without instruction.  I bought the first edition, on the advice of our instructor at the time.  It tells you how to manipulate darts and how to take your basic block and create designs of your own.  In other words, it frees you from patterns once you have a block of your own.  I enjoy having the extensive technical expertise.  

I have seen the criticisms on Amazon and other reviews, wherein it appears that the editing of the book (in terms of grammar, etc) must be improved.  But, I tell you, it doesn't bother me in the slightest.  I'd bought the book for the technical skill and craft of pattern-making by an experienced instructor - I blame the grammar on the editors. For what I wanted it for - it was excellent!  I hope to start keep using it for a long time to come.

2.  Reader's Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing:
Recommendation for buying:  Yes, with the caveat, only if you don't have a previous edition or want a newer or more modern feel. 

I have heard (and read) from various bloggers and sewing sources - this was a comprehensive source of sewing knowledge.  So, when I saw a new edition, with pretty pictures -- I immediately purchased on sale.  I agree, completely comprehensive source.  If I had known this resource was the best - I think I would have bought this (and only this!) to start out with as a basic beginning sewer.  

3.  Threads Sewing Guide:
Recommendation to Buy:  Yes, for all - I think the intermediate to advanced sewer would enjoy it. 

I am an intermediate sewer (I think I am), and I did find that this was somewhat duplicative of the Reader's Digest source, but that this book had some unusual techniques, and explanations of the techniques in the book that I have not seen before. 
Examples include:  tailoring and lining techniques in detail, more pattern alternations, fundamentals of couture sewing. . . this resource is an excellent complement or companion to the Reader's Digest guide. 

This book is a luxury item, and if you can afford to splurge - you will enjoy it.  It is well-written, contains beautiful pictures.  It is not a necessity; rather the book is a sewing indulgence. 

4.  Sewing Secrets from the Fashion Industry (vintage).
Recommendation for Buying:  Perhaps if you can find a copy for the right price (mine was less than $5.00 at the Chamblin book mine in Jacksonville, Florida).  

For the price I paid and the age of the book - I loved this book - and this initial purchase actually spurred me on my book buying spree of the Threads and Readers Digest materials.  I learned some new techniques I had not seen before.  Specific surprises included:  
Excellent discussions on the pros and cons of buying commercial sewing machines and sergers. 

The use of sewing guides.  I never have used them before but am 
definitely thinking of using the ones that came with my machine; yes, I've heard of other bloggers' lamenting the use of these guides - but I realize even with the best machines I don't sew that straight. 

The ingenious uses of the sewing awl.  The different methodologies explained made me go out and buy one to try.
A guide for seam allowances - although now I have the Armstrong book that discusses this in detail; I found it helpful.

Well, I only wanted to summarize - lots of reviews on these materials are available - but these mentions are from my own viewpoint?

Does anyone have any other recommendations?  I have Susan Khalje's book I really adore on Couture Sewing (the older addition) and other books I don't treasure as much as these. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Patternmaking class - Finished!

Dear Readers,

I've been off in Newport, RI for a week teaching and returned to finish my bodice block in the advanced patternmaking class I've been taking. . .

Here are the results of my efforts:
And, here are the skirt blocks I made last November - hope they still fit  -  I've gained a few pounds:)  Oh, the piano is my pattern "staging area."
I also use J's piano to stage my patterns that are cut out (heehee!).

For the bodice, I have a different right side and left side because my left shoulder is taller than my right (I attribute this to an old skateboarding rotator cuff injury).

So, double the fun.  One of the most interesting portions of this class was learning my measurements - and quite frankly, they were quite different than I thought.  No wonder RTW never fits perfectly in the bodice area.

I am thrilled to have a bodice block that fits well!  If you are interested Shearie from Sew La masterfully teaches these classes.   They are very complex and now I realize that I didn't know what I didn't know.  In this regard, I mean that  pattern-making is a complex art that takes (I think) years to master.  So, I didn't realize all the measurements that go into a commercial pattern.  I didn't realize (and am still learning) all the ways to manipulate the blocks to achieve a certain look or style.

I also bought the recommended patternmaking book and as an aside, random new and vintage sewing books (I'll review these in an upcoming blog post). . . Off to sew. . .

Happy Fourth of July!!!

Little P relaxing. . .