Saturday, February 5, 2011

One Dollar Sewing Books

I woke up to a beautiful morning today-beautiful weather in the low twenties, a nice break from the 36-43 degree weather we've had the past week. So I decided to visit a park in one of the eastern suburbs with William. While I was having a look around the place, I noticed a secondhand bookshop in the corner and decided to check it out.

At the door, they had a one dollar book trolley, which to my amazement, had at least 8 books just on sewing and patternmaking. Most secondhand stores and opshops don't carry anything about sewing worth buying, but these were really good, hard to find secondhand books in mint condition. Needless to say, I snapped them all up, and the nice lady brought out some more she had at the back. My eyes nearly glazed over with the stack of books I had.

See, every now and then, I'll go on Amazon and read reviews of sewing and patternmaking books, and I would make a list of all the books I'd like to get my hands on. Once I want to learn about something, I'd get every piece of information available about it, and still wouldn't be satisfied. It's because I love books, I love reading, and now I'm addicted to sewing and patternmaking. Much like people collect recipe books, I collect sewing books. When the TAFE or WEA course book comes in the mail (FYI, these are short courses and community learning programs for adults), I'd read the fashion section to see what was being offered at the time. They'd have dressmaking, alterations, bra-making, corset-making, patternmaking classes etc. I'd love to attend, but being a mum with a very attached little man, it's a bit hard.

Aside from that, I learn very well just from books-I taught myself how to knit, sew, draft and cut patterns for myself just from books. It doesn't work for all people, I think most people would benefit immensely from having an instructor to teach hands-on. But visual learners could probably manage without if they need to.

I also tell myself (and Wyld Man) that for the price you'd pay to attend these courses, you can buy loads of books and materials and learn to do it yourself. So my love affair with sewing-related books continue.

Anyways, these are the titles I got this morning.

1. The Vogue Sewing Book: Revised Metric Edition. Pub.1978.
This is a hefty book at 464 pages thick. It was also the most expensive of the lot I bought at 15 dollars. But anything Vogue puts out is good. This book covers more than just the usual basics. It has a chapter on sewing menswear and fitting for men, tailoring, and even talks about using fur and feathers for embellishments. There is a page on how to build a cutting table, as well as a big chapter on common fitting problems. I've added the Contents page below.

Some pages from the book are below.

2. Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich, 3rd Edition. Pub 1996.

This one was a real coup. I couldn't believe that they were selling this for a dollar. My Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's WearI bought at Dymocks for AUD76.95. I've now got the whole series, including the ones on menswear (Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear)and childrenswear(Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear and Babywear).

I really love this whole series by Aldrich. Her books are surprisingly thin, but very dense with information. I learnt most of what I know about patternmaking from her book on womenswear.

Here is an inside look at her book.
As good as her book is though, I've found though that she drafts with a lot of ease, even with the close fitting block. And the bust apex follows a set formulae instead of your personal measurements. This can point your dart somewhere else rather than your actual bust point. But if you have some knowledge of pattern drafting, it is easily corrected. The strength of this book lies in the extensive illustrations. Her explanations are very brief, but to the point. No wasted words here.

3. Make Your Own Patterns: An Easy Step-By-Step Guide to Making Over 60 Patterns by Rene Bergh.

 Time and time again I've seen this book on Amazon or Alibris and read good reviews about it. So I was really glad to find this book, especially one in such excellent condition. It is 128 pages, with glossy full colour illustrations. It covers how to make your own bodice, sleeve, skirt and pants block, as well as how to draft different necklines, sleeves, and skirts. Looks very promising indeed.

Above is the page on the bodice block draft.

Aren't the illustrations pretty? This is the first pattern cutting book I've seen in colour.

4. Pattern Alterations by Pat Fernon. Pub. 1990 by TAFE Publications

This is a fairly comprehensive book on fitting problems. It does not teach you how to draft, only to fit commercial patterns. There is a companion book called Figure Analysis, but it seems quite good on its own. Being a TAFE publication, I reckon it's quite rare, and you can't really get it anywhere else.

It covers some unusual alterations such as 'prominent shoulder blades on a narrow back' and a 'bottle neck' (what in the world is that?!!)

My next finds were:

5. Singer Sewing For the Home Pub 1995, 128pp. This is a good basic book on home dec. I don't like project based home dec books-but this one guides you through home dec techniques such as how to measure curtains (I recently tried to measure my windows to make curtains, and believe me, I got confused about how much fabric I needed to the pleats!), how to line curtains, hem tablecloths and apply mitred bound corners to place mats.

6. Singer Sewing Essentials Pub 1984, 128pp. A very basic book to have, and I daresay I'm familiar with most basic techniques, but I couldn't pass up the chance to start collecting the Singer books. It has tonnes of gorgeous pictures instead of illustrations.

7. Singer Sewing Lingerie Pub 1995, 128pp.

I was really happy to get the three from the same series. The Singer Sewing Reference Library books are packed with step by step photos over a broad range of subjects. Of the three books, my favourite was the Sewing Lingerie book, because there are so few on the market. This book also has glowing reviews on Amazon.
It covers lingerie fabrics, lace insertion and application techniques, how to make slips and camisoles, loungewear and sleepwear. However, it's a pity it does not cover bra-making.

8. Sewing With Sergers: The Complete Handbook For Overlock Sewing by Gail Brown and Pati Palmer. Pub 1990. 128pp.
 A really good book on sergers. However, being black and white only, it's a bit boring.

9. Pants For Any Body (Revised Expanded Edition) by Pati Palmer and Susan Pletch
I haven't sewn any pants yet, but having read the multitude of problems sewers face when they try to sew and fit pants, I thought it would be a good idea to have a pants book around. However, I think the newer version called Pants for Real People: Fit and Sew for Any Body (Sewing for Real People series) would probably be better, as it is in full colour instead of black and white illustrations.

  A good book to get.

10. Easy, Easier, Easiest Tailoring (Revised Edition) by Pati Palmer and Susan Pletch
This book is about tailoring shortcuts. It's not about custom tailoring. It's an ok book for an 8-hour-jacket, but I'd probably refer to the newer edition called Jackets for Real People: Tailoring Made Easy (Sewing for Real People series). Again, black and white illustrations.

Lastbut not least, I got 2 pattern catalogues, a Simplicy Spring and New Look Winter.

Why would anyone buy a pattern catalogue? To get drafting ideas on different blouses, dresses, necklines, sleeves etc; fabric suggestions for certains looks and patterns as well as an idea of the yardage needed for a design. Technical drawings are what I like about pattern catalogues, because when you draft from scratch, a coat for example, you need some reference as to how wide the collar or pockets should be. The style lines in the technical drawings are very helpful. When I see an interesting and unusual pattern, I like to turn it over in my head like a puzzle and figure out how it was drafted.

Everything I bought was a dollar each except for the Vogue Sewing Book and the Singer books (which were four dollars each). So I spent 35 dollars on 12 books in all.

This made my day!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Three Maternity Summer Tops

It's been a super hot week. It was 42 degrees Celsius today, about the same yesterday, but will go down to 33 degrees tomorrow. I've been itching to sew, and thought it would be a good time to make some summer tops to go over the burgeorning bump.

I ran through some designs in my head, and remembered this Vogue Patterns Anna Sui V2850 top which I fell in love with some time ago and decided that it would be perfect converted into a maternity top.

I love the version with the neck flounce. I had a black, loose weave, chiffon-like polyester material in my stash that I bought from Spotlight just for it.

As usual, I drafted my own pattern. Unfortunately, I didn't take any drafting or construction pictures (it was too hot and I was lazy...) The pattern had to be quick and easy, with lots of room for the baby bump. I didn't want any darts or closures, so it had to fit over my head easily, but not gape at the neckline. I didn't really follow the technical stylelines of the Vogue pattern. It was primarily the neck flounce that I wanted to copy.

When I got to work with the fabric, I decided to take it slow, and handsew. It was extremely unstable, stretching everywhere because of its loose weave. The fabric had to be underlined with something, but I didn't have anything suitable, since the fabric had a bit of stretch. The only thing I had on hand was a red tricot, so I used that. I quite like the effect of the black on the red. The tricot is a bit shiny, but is toned down under the black chiffon, so it looks rather sneakingly snazzy.

It was a good thing I decided to handsew the tricot underlining to the chiffon. It stabilised it, so I was able to eliminate facings on the neckline and armhole. After all the seams were handsewn, I overlocked the edges with a 4-thread overlock. And neck flounce and hemlines are roll hemmed.

This top came together very quickly because there was no darts, no facings, no closures. I'm really pleased with this top. Here's a couple more views.

I like it with or without the belt. And it looks quite like the Vogue one I think.

Because this one came so easily together, I decided to use up some other fabric in my stash on this same patter, but with different sleeves. My mum had brought over some nice summery fabrics from Malaysia, and I thought they'd be perfect.

I sketched some designs with the same bodice pattern, but with different sleeves, and decided to cut out two garments at once to save time. I made one with a circular sleeve flounce, and one with a triple cap sleeve.

This one is a very light polyester print with a raised texture, similar to a seersucker. I love how the sleeves came out.

The sleeve flounce was roll-hemmed, and the neckline bias-bound.

I used the Banded V-Neck on Woven Fabric technique described in Lynda Maynard's The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques. I've fallen in love with bias bound finishes. I used to think that it was really hard to cut bias strips out without a rotary cutter and mat, but I actually do them quite well just with scissors. And I also used to think that it was fiddly to bind an opening, compared to sewing in a facing, but I have to say that bias bound finishes are so much neater than a facing, doesn't flip up, and they just look so good. I've been using them on everything lately.

This is the third top I made.

I really like this one too. I've been wanting to try out the triple sleeve effect on something. Looks pretty cute. Without the belt, it's quite casual, but I love both looks. Again, I used self-bias binding on the neckline, and the the lower armhole.

Three tops in a week is my best sewing record to date. I love quick projects! (Ones that turn out all right.)

I'm probably going to make more maternity tops with this pattern, since it's so easy, and quite the TNT (tried and true) pattern. I'll just have to think up some different neckline and sleeve treatments to make them all distinctive.

I'm not sure which is my favourite top-Wyld Man can't decide either. Which one do you like best?

Incidentally, I didn't finished roll-hemming my black top till after the two others were done. When I did the neck flounce, my overlocker needle broke, and now my overlocker won't sew properly anymore. Boohoo....I'll have to send it away for a lookover. Hopelfully that won't take too long and I can get some more tops done soon!