Sunday, 21 April 2013

Wonderful books for beautiful clothes

Friends, I am sewing a Very Important Dress.

I had a slightly panicked email discussion with Poppykettle last night, when I realised that in terms of sewing advice, I'm on my own here.

The PatternReview boards can only help so much... Map the Sewintists (and my blogroll) show that the nearest social sewists are at least 500km south of my place. Spotlight is omnipresent in Auckland, but I perceive the sewing section to be shrinking by the month. Maybe I really am the only person who sews their own clothes in Auckland. Who to turn to, what to do?

Couture Sewing TechniquesLuckily, I'm a book-lover. I learn best by feeling my way through with step-by-step instructions, but I love a good solid reference book. Side note: I also love libraries, but good reference books have year-long waiting lists.

I bought Claire Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques last year. It's a lovely book, with great photographs of couture clothes and details from her personal collection. This is interspersed with very detailed instruction on how various techniques were achieved.

Claire does a great job of breaking down the tasks, and encourages rather than overwhelms. You come away with a sense that couture clothes aren't impossible, but that you get out what you put in. Time, concentration, and well-chosen materials of an appropriate quality seem to be the key ingredients.

bridalcouture-cdSusan Khalje's Bridal Couture makes a great companion book. It has been out of print for years, and my library has a significant waiting list for it. However, you can order a CD of the book directly from Susan at the link above. I had it about a week after ordering (very impressive considering I'm on the other side of the planet).

This book obviously focuses on wedding gowns, but it's easy to extrapolate the information to other occasion-wear. Again, there are loads of beautiful inspiration photos. I particularly liked the detailed information about different fabrics and how to use them.

Do you learn by doing? Reading? Watching? Something else? Let's talk!

19 comments:

  1. I am more of a 3 dimensional learner. I have to see it done - either on video or in life. Reading a book or looking at "flat" pictures only helps me a little.

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    1. Interesting! Watching videos completely doesn't work for me - I have to rewind/rewatch 10 second intervals until I understand the concept. I guess with a book, I find it easier to re-read.

      Thanks for your input!

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  2. Getting fabrics down in this part of the world is a problem. Spotlight certainly has a big share of the market, and you are right, the range is decreasing. I've also noted an upward movement in price, quite unwarranted given that in OZ the $ is strong so imports should be cheaper.

    I love using books, but I am both conceptual and visual spatial, so need to work multi-dimensionally.

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    1. I agree completely with your assessment of Spotlight. With the increasing cost of postage from the US too, I'm starting to feel like the options are narrowing!

      Great to hear about a different learning style - it's lucky there is such a wealth of varied resources out there.

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    2. I haven't yet ventured to the US, because the postage and handling charges are quite large, as you say. Luckily I have amassed a huge stash over the years - I did predict that it would become difficult getting materials back in the 1990's when I actually sold Bridal Fabrics. I am not sure who is good in this area now, but your NZ friend has suggested a place in Wellington. Good luck with it all.

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  3. You do know about Global Fabrics, eh? The Wellington store is the first place I'd go for special dress fabric (gorgeous silks, also linens and wools) and the staff usually know their stuff. I imagine it's the same in Auckland. I learn by reading, listening and doing. I'm not a huge fan of the video format, though i do have a couple of craftsy classes. I don't like not being able to skim the boring bits and easily reread the hard bits. I learn most by making samples and then reading about why they didn't come out right.
    Good luck!

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    1. I think we have similar learning styles. My reading preference is exactly the same as yours - not everything will be relevant, but I can skip that and focus on the bits I need.

      I do know about Global Fabrics :-) There are a few independent places around town, and I prefer them to Spotlight for quite a few reasons! I just wonder whether Spotlight's decline isn't representative of garment sewing here in general... they're possibly not related, but it's interesting to ponder.

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  4. I learn by doing, every time. Instruction manuals are for when things go wrong or I absolutely can't work out how something should go.

    I hope your project is coming along well as a result of these references.

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    1. I'm more like manual first, then try, then back to manual!

      The project is progressing, which is the main thing :-)

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  5. I am one of the book people too. Videos are too hard to go back to the bit you wanted to rewatch, and too hard to skip all the stuff you already got. I made my wedding dress with the help of the Bridal Couture book, and a friend on the other side of the world giving me fit advice from photos. I didn't even have anyone to help pin the alterations. You'll be fine. We're all here if you have questions.

    I look forward to seeing whatever it is you're working on.

    KathleenS

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    1. Your comment made me smile! Thank you so much! And I do appreciate the offer of help - the sewing community is such a practical and friendly group.

      It's a relief to know that you managed to make your wedding dress the way you did. My situation is similar, with regards to the helpful resources at my disposal.

      There will definitely be photos... eventually ;-)

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  6. I'm sorry to hear there's not much choice in fabric in Auckland. I think I am very fortunate that we have quite a few really fantastic fabric shops where I live.
    Have you heard of Sherry? of Pin Scissors Cloth? She is a sewing teacher... she hasn't updated her blog in a long time, but I *think* she might be from Auckland? not really sure, but I think so. She would know of all the places to buy fabrics in NZ anyway.
    I learnt everything I know about sewing from my mother, and I've learnt some more advanced tips and tricks from commercial sewing patterns too. I think the Vogue Couture series has excellent advice on couture techniques... for example, I have a jacket pattern Vogue 8333 and it is worth its weight in gold for sewing tips. Highly recommended.

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    1. There is fabric in and around Auckland, but it's restrictive if I am looking for something in particular (say, silk chiffon). Also, prices can be so high that it ends up being cheaper to buy from overseas.

      I learnt the basics from my mother too, and Brownie Guides! I didn't know about the Vogue Couture patterns - they sound like they might work well for me.

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  7. I am a self taught sewist, and books are my favourite way to learn, but I am beginning to appreciate Craftsy and videos. I feel your pain about lack of fabric shops, there is only one where I live, and if I want to drive for 6+ hours (summer months only) I can go to many more. So frustrating.

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    1. I'm trying to "get into" Craftsy - maybe I need to be more patient with it.

      My fabric situation isn't quite so limited as yours, but as I said to Carolyn - there's no guarantee of getting what I want, when I want. But there is usually a guarantee that I'll pay too much for it ;-)

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  8. I can learn by reading, but it's not great for me. I learn through a process that involves a lot of crying...

    I'm so impressed! Maybe you should share some of the things you've learned?

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    1. Oh dear. I sometimes have a few tears of frustration when I'm sewing, but thankfully not too often!

      I like your idea... will have a think about how I can share my lessons. Thanks for the suggestion :-)

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  9. I'm a sewer in Auckland! I totally get what you mean, Spotlight rules all. Though I have found about 3 other places that are pretty good, just a bit of a drive from my part of Auckland. I like to read sewing books too! I recently did a post on my site about sewing books; the best I've read so far are The Dressmakers Techniques Bible by Lorna Knight & one I'm reading at the moment Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers by Julie Cole & Sharon Czachor.

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    1. How exciting, there *is* another person sewing in Auckland! :-D

      Thanks for the book suggestions!

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