Some Wonderful Sewing Books

As visitors to my studio will attest, I love books!  Over the years I have accumulated a wide variety of books relating to dressmaking, pattern making, fitting and alterations, fashion styling and assorted fabric and embroidery techniques.  I have always enjoyed reading and, whenever I find an intriguing technique, I love to make a sample and think about how I can work my new skill into the next project.

I am often asked about the best book for beginning sewers.  A couple of reasonably priced and very good selections are “Teach Yourself to Sew” and “Easy Guide to Sewing” – both published by Taunton Press.

Teach Yourself to Sew

Teach Yourself to Sew

Easy Guide to Sewing

Easy Guide to Sewing

They are both well illustrated comprehensive and with easy to understand information about basic sewing techniques.  “Teach Yourself to Sew” comes with an instructional DVD as well.  They are also both available as E-books.

For those interested in assessing fit and making alterations, there are many books on the market.  All of them offer great information and illustrations and will most certainly guide you to a good result.  I have been using the following publications with great success over a number of years – “Fit for Real People” by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto and “Fast Fit” by Sandra Betzina.

Fit for Real People

Fit for Real People

Fast Fit

Fast Fit

When it comes to information about fabric, my go to books have been Claire Shaeffer’s “Fabric Sewing Guide” and “More Fabric Savvy” by Sandra Betzina.

Claire Shaeffer's "Fabric Sewing Guide"

Claire Shaeffer’s “Fabric Sewing Guide”

More Fabric Savvy

More Fabric Savvy

Both of these books contain descriptions of many different fabrics with suggestions for their use and what equipment and techniques will work best when using them.

My newest acquisition is “The Mood Guide To Fabric and Fashion”.

The Mood Guide to Fabric and Fashion

The Mood Guide to Fabric and Fashion

which has been published by Mood Fabrics in New York.  This store came to prominence as the supplier of fabrics for Project Runway in New York.

At first glance I believe it will be another excellent reference book.  It has lots of information to consider when buying fabric and deals with a lot of the newer textiles which are rapidly coming on to the market.

Another recent new addition to my library has been “Knits for Real People” by Sue Neall and Pati Palmer

Knits for Real People

Knits for Real People

– I believe this is the definitive book for working with knit fabrics and a must for all sewers.

In recent years, there have been several books published which as well as providing excellent, well presented information also include patterns which can be traced off to make a selection of garments featuring different technique elements.  These are well priced and have a lot of appeal to younger sewers.

“Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing” and “Gertie Sews Vintage Casual” by Gretchen Hersch include excellent technique instruction based on tried and true techniques which focus on accuracy and quality results.

Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing

Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing

Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

She has also recently published “Gertie’s New Fashion Sketchbook” which is great for budding designers as it contains 300 figure templates which are proportionally true to the female form and adaptable to different body types.

Gertie's New Fashion Sketchbook

Gertie’s New Fashion Sketchbook

When it comes to good reference books that I could not do without, this would be my selection:

 

Vogue Sewing Revised and Updated

Vogue Sewing Revised and Updated

Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer

Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer

Couture Sewing Tailoring Techniques by Claire Shaeffer

Couture Sewing Tailoring Techniques by Claire Shaeffer

Shirtmaking - Developing Skills for Fine Sewing by David Page Coffin

Shirtmaking – Developing Skills for Fine Sewing by David Page Coffin

Threads Sewing Guide

Threads Sewing Guide

Cool Couture - Construction Secrets for Runway Style by Kenneth D King

Cool Couture – Construction Secrets for Runway Style by Kenneth D King

as well as my old favourite, very first sewing reference books:

Commonsense Dresscutting and Drafting for Adults; Simplicity Sewing Book; The Vogue Sewing Book

Commonsense Dresscutting and Drafting for Adults; Simplicity Sewing Book; The Vogue Sewing Book

I hope you will also enjoy some of these books – perhaps Santa might like a clue or two!

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Some Thoughts On Fabric Layout and Construction Order

Do we really need to follow the fabric layout and construction order in the pattern guide sheet?

All patterns (except for Marfy designs) come with a guide sheet offering a suggested fabric layout and instructions to guide sewers through the construction process.   While it is wise to study the information to identify all the pattern pieces and how they fit together, the layout and order of construction can often be changed for more efficient use of your sewing time and easier handling of your fabric.

Fabric Layout:

Before deciding what fabric layout will work best for your project, consideration of a number of aspects the fabric being used is vital:

  • Do you have sufficient yardage and is the fabric wide enough? This is especially important if the pattern has been altered for fit.  The fabric yardage required can also be affected if wider seam allowances and hem allowances are needed.  Wider seam allowances can be required if fabric is likely to fray easily.
  • Does the fabric have a nap or one way pattern? If not, the layout may be changed so less fabric is needed.  Facings and bindings may be able to be cut from a similar weight but different fabric as they will be on the inside of the garment.
  • Similarly, does the fabric have a pattern or weave which needs to be matched? Many patterns state that they are not suitable for one-way designs; however, it can still possible to use such a fabric provided extra yardage is available.  Using a single layer layout is really the best way to maximise success when matching prints and patterns.

Preparation of Garment Sections and Interfacing:

  • Will the fabric be easy to work with? If it is likely to fray easily, fusing the edges of each piece with a thin strip of fusible interfacing may be necessary so this does not occur.  With very loose weave fabrics, overlocking the edges is often insufficient and the stitching can actually fray away with the fabric.
  • Does the fabric have enough body to support various elements? Different areas of the garment will often need different types of interfacing and the instructions suggest the very bare minimum of interfacing as a guide only.

Construction Issues:  

  • Does the garment contain construction elements which you have not attempted before? Even if you have had experience with the included techniques on other garments, it is really worthwhile to practice on scraps of the fabric before tackling the actual garment.
  • Is the fabric easy to press? If not, pressing each seam/detail as you go is doubly important so that when the garment is finished, a light steam may be all that is necessary.
  • Does the fabric mark easily when being pressed? Testing how the fabric behaves when seams, hems, etc are pressed is important so that a more appropriate technique can be chosen if any problems are highlighted.
  • When sewing garments in smaller sizes, it is often much easier to change the order of assembly to minimise the wear on the fabric if it has to be manipulated in a small space. For a waisted dress, or a garment with a band joining separate pieces, these elements should be constructed for the front and back and the zipper installed before side seams are joined.  Simply leave the last 5cm/2″ of each horizontal seam unstitched until the zipper is in place.  Vertical seams can be sewn and pressed and the remaining horizontal seams finished as mentioned in the guide sheet.
  • If any elements are repeated or mirror imaged, complete them in tandem. This is particularly important with welt pockets, bound buttonholes, patch pockets, etc. so that they will be the same size and be positioned properly.
  • Check that buttonhole positions are going to suit the body of the wearer and change them as needed.

Regardless of whether changes are made, I find I get the best results if I always:

  • endeavour to be as accurate as I can at each step of the process
  • read the guidelines a couple of times before making any changes to be sure I am making good decisions
  • use a ruler during the layout phase and be doubly sure that all grain lines are accurate along the whole length of every pattern piece
  • transfer all pattern markings, not forgetting centre front and centre back
  • stay stitch outer edges
  • stitch and press directionally
  • use a press cloth
  • press every seam as sewn, open and to suit my seaming method prior to any piece being joined to another
  • work on like tasks in batches – sew all the darts, stitch all easing lines, press as required
  • complete at the same time all elements which must match.

I hope this information is helpful as you start your summer projects.