Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Dressmaker's Handbook and other sewing gems

I have a habit of checking sewing books out from the library, thinking I will read them and refer to them during my sewing projects, but actually I just let them sit in a pile collecting dust and overdue fees. But yesterday I brought home this book...

and I almost read it cover-to-cover in one sitting. The techniques and photos were that enthralling. Okay, maybe enthralling is the wrong word. But they were like little gems. Little beautiful pieces of information that I can't wait to put to practice. For example, I learned what "stretch-pressing" is and how it will improve my bias bindings.* Sort of like Colette Pattern's "Snippets" series - also a treasure-trove of useful tips.

The Dressmaker's Handbook starts out with no less than 12 techniques for binding a neckline without using a facing, and each of them looks oh so lovely and smooth and professional. I'm going to share just two little photos to give you an idea, and hope that the copyright police don't come after me.

I would love to try that bottom one - a ribbon with a picot stitch over it - to finish the sleeves on a Taffy blouse.

If it happens, I'll be sure to document it - because I've reached that level of sewing geekdom. I don't know how I got to this point, but I'm sure glad there's the internet community to help validate my concern over things like bound buttonholes and seam finishes. And if you too are into that sort of thing, here is another sewing gem (sewing nerdery) that I found today:

Hand sewn Colette Sencha blouse on Peanut Butter Macrame
Fellow sewing geek and blogger Peanut Butter Macrame just finished a beautiful silk Sencha blouse that was mostly stitched by hand. So lovely! And I'm sure this picture isn't even doing it full justice. A few years ago, I would stifle a yawn at this kind of stuff. In fact, I did just that when I helped our local museum catalog 100+ historical garments. I just didn't have the practical knowledge to appreciate what I was looking at and what the garment expert was telling me. I thought she was eccentric and strange. Oh how the tables have turned.

Here's something funny in parting. I looked up The Dressmaker's Handbook on Amazon to see if other reviewers were as entranced as I, and check this out:

I tried to make those arrows red, but Photoshop continues to thwart me.
A thousand dollars for this book?! What are those wacky people thinking? I love it, but not that much. I checked a few other websites, and they advertise it at a much more reasonable $26.95. So who knows what those folks at Amazon are up to.

That's all I've got for now! Anyone have some sewing gems to share? Favorite sewing books?

* Since you're dying to know! When you cut a bias strip, you pin one end to your ironing board and gently pull the strip as your iron it. It will stretch, decreasing in width a little, and supposedly this will prevent your bias strip from rippling and pulling when you apply it to a neckline, armhole, etc. I haven't tried it yet, but for some reason I just trust this Lynda person.


  1. I don't know how I missed this post! Thanks for the shout out. I'm following you now and can't wait to see what else you do.

    1. No problem! I was really inspired by how carefully and slowly you worked on that blouse. I'm taking a tailoring class now, so hopefully I'll have some new stuff up soon!