Every couple of weeks I pop into my local Oxfam bookshop to have a look at the sewing/craft section. There often isn’t much, but the other week I stumbled across this gem:
It’s a book written by Claire B Shaeffer who is an expert in sewing and construction techniques. She has a website and has designed sewing patterns for Vogue. This book has since been updated and revised, but this version is still really good! I’ve only had a flick through so far but I will read it in more detail!
I love the above photo showing personalised dress forms at the house of Christian Dior – that really is couture!
The first part of the book is a history of couture sewing and there are some amazing examples! Like the below dress, which I’m sure must have been the inspiration for the amazing one made by Cynthai Settje of Red Threaded. As of writing, the dress is her profile picture on instagram, and there are some amazing photos of it in progress and also finished!
And I couldn’t not post the photo of the classic Christian Dior outfit! If I had unlimited time and resources, I would definitely recreate this outfit, hat and all!
After the history chapter comes one on hand sewing techniques. I definitely need this! As I mentioned in my Dressmaker’s Ball dress post, I did a lot of hand sewing and did quite enjoy it, but I don’t think I’m very skilled at it. Also there are loads of different stitches for different places on garments so I’m thinking I’ll do a sampler or something to practice.
And who knew there were so many different needles! I guess it makes sense – there are different needles for different things on sewing machines, so I can’t believe I’d never thought that there would also be different needles for different hand sewing tasks!
And of course, there are as many threads as there are needles, for all the different things you could want to sew.
There’s a great section on all the different kinds of seam you could need. I like the look of this false french seam, though I can’t imagine sewing seams by hand would be strong enough!
One of the things I like about this book is how thorough it is – I would probably never think of all the things it covers, like interfacing. There would definitely be some helpful tips in here for properly tailoring a jacket or coat. It also mentions the non-fusible kind of interfacing, so I’d like to have a go with that when I do some proper tailoring.
The dress below holds its shape purely with interfacing!
The next chunk of the book looks at edge finishes like hems, facings and bindings.
I love, love, love this sketch by Christian Dior. I wish I could draw like that and show what a garment will look like with relatively few lines!
There’s a great section on buttons and button holes, including bound button holes, which I still haven’t done! I love the buttons below from a Schiaparelli jacket.
After all the sections on general techniques, Schaeffer shows you how to apply these (and other) techniques to actual garments.
I love this Dior skirt and jacket combo! Another one to copy one day…..
The below photo of a Balenciaga dress is from the dresses chapter. It shows the structure underneath a loose, billowy front to make sure it stayed where it should. I really want to see the Balenciaga exhibition at the V & A to see all the amazing things going on underneath the clothes!
Below is another Balenciaga dress, with structure to keep the shoulders in shape. Definitely getting some tips for next year’s Dressmaker’s Ball dress, assuming they run it again next year!
There’s a chapter on sleeves and there are loads of details about tailored and non-tailored sleeves. I like these diagrams that are scattered throughout the book,which show you how different elements are drafted and constructed.
Another useful diagram from this book shows all the details that go into a tailored jacket. I do really want to have a go at making something properly tailored either for me or for The Boyfriend – I did promise to make him a coat!
This is the section I’m possibly the most excited about! Definitely tips for my next evening outfit. If the Dressmaker’s Ball happens again next year, I definitely want to make something more ambitious, both in terms of construction and fabric choice, so hopefully this chapter will come in handy then!
I’ve not yet sewn anything with boning, so I definitely want to give that a go at some point. It actually would have helped to have more structure inside the dress I made for this year’s ball! Then I wouldn’t have needed the tape…..
The below photo shows embroidery done by machine! I have no idea how you would even do that! I think there must be some applique in there too.
And I hadn’t even considered beading before I came across this section!
At the end of the book there is a really great glossary of terms, which is super helpful. I can definitely feel myself turning into more of a sewing nerd after flicking through this book. I already think about it for most of my waking hours, and now I’m all enthusiastic to learn new skills and techniques and to make some more involved projects, rather than just churning out loads and loads of fairly basic garments, though there are some gaps in my wardrobe still so I will still be doing some of that!
What’s your favourite couture-type technique? Are there any techniques you’re dying to learn?