Book: The Singer Sewing Book

A few weeks ago The Boyfriend spotted this book in the charity shop he works in and he, very kindly, bought it for me (for a couple of £s I think!) and it’s great! It covers every technique you could possibly need. I slightly assume that home sewers had books like this in the 50s and 60s to tell them how to do the things that the pattern instructions don’t explain?!

I love, love, love the poetry of this dedication. And I wish I’d called my blog ‘a happy purpose’!

I’ve seen some other similar posts on facebook about how to plan for your sewing time by making sure your dinner is prepared before you start and you’ve done your hair and make-up ready for when your husband gets home and there’s a little of that here, but I ike the practical tips of making a date with yourself to sew (with or without friends) and planning ahead of time what you’re going to make.

I like this little guide about the different number of stitches each type of fabric needs, and which needle to use.

There are colour wheels to tell you which colours would suit you depending on your hair colour.

This is my one – I assume I’m a medium brown. It’s kind of accurate – for my blue-grey eyes I should go for 7, 9-16 and all us medium browns can wear 5 & 6 and beige, ivory and maroon. This at least includes all the blues, including turquoise which is one of the colours that makes me look the least ill. I’m thinking of adding maroon/burgundy to my palette for the Winter (though I doubt I’ll get around to it!).

This bit is a bit dubious – I’m not sure I buy into the idea that each body type has specific shapes and types of clothes they suit. I think everyone should wear what they want. Though this was written in the 50s and maybe it’s in the context of making fit adjustments.

Speaking of fit adjustments, there is a whole section on making pattern adjustments – I definitely need to get better at making adjustments, then transferring any adjustments I do make onto the flat pattern, so I think this section should be really useful.

This book covers everything you could think of – and probably some things you woulnd’t think of! There;s a section on basting and markings.

Darts and tucks.

Gathering, shirring and ruffling.

Pleats and insets.

There are tips on pressing as you sew – one of the things that helps makes look much more professional.

Seams and seam finishes.

A whole section on every sewist’s favourite thing – pockets!

Neck openings and collars.

All the kinds of sleeves you could think of.

Belts and belt loops.

This section on ‘tailoring well done’ will hopefully come in handy with my suit refashion and if I ever get around to making a coat.

This is a section I would not have thought of – cording, tubing and self-trimming.

At the end of the book is a series of fashion illustrations, demonstrating some of the techniques covered in the book.

And no book like this would be complete without a section on hand stitching!

I’m hoping this section will come in handy – it tells you how to mend things, including darning holes. I’m trying to become a bit more conscious of how I consume things and extending the life of garments by being able to mend them is definitely a step in the right direction.

I do usually google things when I’m not sure of how to do them, but I think a book like this does have a place still, as it can tell you about techniques you may not have known existing – you can’t google how to do something if you don’t know it’s a thing!

 

It’s also nice to own an old sewing book, too, and to see that things really haven’t changed very much; the way my Grandma sewed a french seam is the same way I would sew a french seam. I like the continuity of sewing and that those of us that do it now are continuing something that has been done by generations of women before – women who would prepare pudding before sitting down to sew!

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Book: Decades of Beauty

A couple of weeks ago, The Boyfriend earned some real Brownie points by buying me this book from our local Oxfam. I saw it in the window on my way home on the Friday when they were already closed. He then went out on the Saturday morning to get bread and milk and came back with the book, before I had a chance to buy it myself! Aw!

I love this picture of the woman (in I think the 20s) running on the beach! Also fair warning, there are a lot of photos in this post!

The book takes you through each decade of the hundred years from 1890-1990, looking at fashion, beauty and hair trends as well as a brief outline of the historical happenings and social norms for each period.

Each decade gives you 3 style icons that typified the fashion of that era, or were perhaps a bit groundbreaking for their time. I love that Calamity Jane and Princess Alexandra are both there for the 1890s!

You also get hair and beauty trends for each decade – shame I’ve got such short hair, some of these look like fun! Especially the giant ‘do on the far left hand side!

Any clothing that requires first of all help to get into and second of all someone else’s foot in your back cannot be comfortable!

At least they weren’t likely to get sunburnt! I’m tempted to recreate one of these beach outfits…

I love this photo of women at work – in the US in 1908 – it looks like it’s some kind of textile work, though I can’t tell what they’re doing exactly – any ideas? The caption just says ‘women at work’. Helpful.

Here are the icons of the 1900s. The only one I’d heard of, shamefully, was Lillie Langtry – and that’s mostly because there’s a pub named after her in Norwich, where I went to university! Also one of my friends lived near Newmarket for a while and Lillie Langtry’s house was on the corner of the track leading to her house.

The below product looks like it will help you look healthy without needing make-up, presumably. But it contains arsenic, so I don’t think the ‘healthy’ glow would make you that healthy in the long run!

I refer to my above comment about corsets – no matter how much they might hope it, I’m sure it was no ‘a dream of comfort’! She’s so comfortable she’s taking a nap, after all!

And we think unrealistic body image is a new phemonenon……No-one could possibly have had a waist that thin and been still able to breathe, let alone admire oneself in the mirror.

Of course the 1910s was the era of the Suffragette and it’s good that this book covers the social context of each decade as well as the fashion and beauty trends.

This is the first decade where I recognise all 3 of the icons!

I love that in the earlier decades in the book there are fashion illustrations instead of photographs (obvs!). These ones are particularly great. There are also some designers who were particularly influential in each decade mentioned – I didn’t realise Lanvin was so early!

Also Elizabeth Arden started in the 1910s! No idea she – and the brand – were that old.

Oddly after I took all these photos of the book, I discovered a new podcast called You Must Remember This, all about the unknown and hidden stories from classic Hollywood. The first few episodes are random, but then she goes into themes – like dead blondes, blacklisted, stars at war – and one of the episodes is about this woman, Theda Bara. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but it was great timing because I thought she would be an interesting woman to know more about!

Black Ascot sounds super creepy, but I thought I would post this photo of the text that explains it – and how it influenced My Fair Lady!

 

I think 1920s fashion illustrations are definitely my favourites!

I love pretty much everything about this photo of Clara Bow – I especially want her shoes. And he hair actually – I’m thinking of growing mine out and this slightly frizzy ball might be achievable for me!

I absolutely love this! And it shows there must have been a bit of variety in the clothes people wore – there wasn’t just one shape or style that everyone wore, though there are, of course, similar elements.

Having said I loved the other photo of Clara Bow, I think that might have been in part because I can’t see her eyebrows. Check these out for a brow style! I’m not totally sold on them to be honest…

Another huge, famous make-up name which has been around much longer than I thought! Max Factor started in the 20s, who knew?

Having watched all of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries about 3 times, I knew from watching a clip talking with the costume designer that she was desperate to do a tennis episode because tennis – and the associated clothes – was hugely popular in the 20s, it was pleasing to see this photo in this book.

There’s not really much to say about these icons! Except I fancy wearing a tux one day. Maybe when I’ve sewn everything else I can think of, I’ll make myself a tux?!

I read a whole book about Jean Harlow a few years ago – she had a very short life and a fairly tragic end, but she did pack in quite a lot! She was the first platinum blonde bombshell.

I couldn’t not include a photo of my namesake! Shamefully I don’t know much about her except that she disappeared. Though recently it was in the news that they thought there was a photo of her and her navigator on an island in the Pacific. Curiouser and curiouser.

Of course in the 40s women went to war.

It’s funny to reconcile the above photo and the 3 women below – the reality of life for a lot of people during World War 2 and the continuing glamour of Hollywood.

I pretty much only know Veronica Lake from her hair, so it’s funny to see this photo in the book – maybe that really was what she was most famous for?

The advent of the bra much had been a huge relief for all concerned – though I’m sure I read somewhere that the bra Howard Hughes made for Jane Russell was incredibly uncomfortable, so maybe sticking to corsets wouldn’t have been so bad, at least temporarily!

I didn’t seem to take so many photos of the 40s. Weird. Well, onto the 50s…. I like the contrast in the 2 photos below – black and white vs colour, austerity vs plenty.

And we get 3 of the most iconic actresses of all time in one decade! I definitely have a soft spot for Marilyn Monroe – Some Like It Hot is one of my favourite films. It was also the biggest decade for the Hollywood musical, but that doesn’t really get a mention here.

Ah, Givenchy and Balenciaga. I’m going to see the Balenciaga exhibition at the V & A in September and I am really excited!

And onto my favourite decade 😀

I love how different some of the 60s icons are – Jackie Kennedy vs Twiggy vs The Supremes. All great, in their own different ways.

Edith Head is definitely someone I want to read more about – I read recently about the brown evening gown Bette Davis wears in All About Eve and how there was a mistake in the measurements so it ended up being off the shoulder when it wasn’t supposed to be. I bet there are loads of make it work moments like this throughout her career.

I think I might add all of these designers to my list of ones to cover in future posts.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but this has to be the most iconic haircut of the 60s. I might grow my hair into this finally, and take the plunge!

I kind of love/hate the 70s. Some of the style is great but some of it less so!

Possibly my favourite thing about this whole book is that Miss Piggy is one of the style icons of the 70s!

I might also cover all of these designers in future posts too.

It seems that the 70s was when jeans really took off, so I guess we do have one thing to be grateful to the decade for.

The photos for the later decades definitely got fewer….

Dynasty has to be the most quintessentially 80s programme.

The gown on the left, from the 80s I think must be Valentino because it looks quite like the gown Julia Roberts wore when she won her Oscar, which was a vintage 80s Valentino dress. Apparently this kick-started the trend to wear vintage dresses on the red carpet.

I feel like the 90s was kind of the start of fashion being comprised of multiple trends.

I think it’s fitting that the last photo I’m posting is of the Spice Girls, the most 90s of groups! Apparently Geri’s union jack dress was made by her sister out of a tea towel – if that’s true, it’s awesome that something made at the last minute became so iconic!

Do you have a favourite fashion history book?

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Book: Couture Sewing Techniques

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?

 

 

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Book: Boundless Style

boundless-styleOne of the best Christmas presents I got this year was Boundless Style by Kristiann Boos of Victory Patterns. I haven’t made any Victory Patterns yet, but I do love the Hannah Dress so I might have to treat myself to that at some point – when the weather warms up a bit!

Boundless Style is one of the cleverest sewing books I own – and I own an embarrassing number of sewing books! It has loads of patterns in, but they are separated into bodices, sleeves and skirts, allowing you to add together the elements you like the most to make things you love – you won’t be thinking ‘oh, I love that dress, but with these sleeves,’ because that’s the whole point of the book! You can also make the bodices with peplums, to make them into blouses and the skirts on their own as skirts. And all the patterns come on a CD in the back of the book – each different thing comes separately so you can just print off the bits you want.

These are all the bodices:

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I personally really love Billie, which is particularly excellent in the colour-blocked version on the cover. I also like Celine and I’m surprisingly drawn to Georgia, though I don’t normally like wrap/ crossover things.

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I love the fabric combinations used throughout the book, and pretty much want to copy this dress made with the Billie bodice, even though it probably wouldn’t suit my colouring! I think I’m falling back in love with collars.

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I’m slightly less keen on the Catrina, but I like the fabric choices and the use of piping to highlight the seaming. There a tutorial on applying piping in the front section of the book, too, which is great.

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I’m undecided about the Jackie and whether it would look good on me. I like how it’s styled here, with the peplum top and then a pencil skirt underneath. There’s also a version of this bodice which has a tie on the front. I think the thing that puts me off this one is how low the back seems to be cut – not sure if you’d be able to wear a bra underneath!

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I think my second favourite, after the Billie, is the Celine as there are various ways she shows you to style it: with contrast neckline, matching neckline, and with or without the tie at the neck. I think this one with the peplum looks particularly great. I need more work-appropriate tops in my wardrobe, so I’m thinking some of these peplum tops might be just the thing!

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After the bodices, come the sleeves. Again there are 5 to choose from. I particularly like the Monroe and Bardot; they both have some interesting pleating details. Some of the sleeves also come in multiple lengths, so there are really loads of options!

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After getting more into 70s style with my Alix dress, I might give the Farrah sleeves a go –  I assume they are named after the epitome of 70s style, Farrah Fawcett.

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I wonder if I love these sleeves because I love the colour-blocked dress on the front cover. Bit love them I do. I like the length as if I have long sleeves, I always end up rolling them up anyway, so just below the elbow seems like the perfect length for me! You can just about make out in the photo below that there are some lovely pleats just to the front of the shoulder on these sleeves.

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You can see the pleats a bit better here:

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The Bardot sleeves have a lovely big pleat on the top of the shoulder, which I really like.

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The last section in the book is the skirts, which all can be made in multiple lengths, including peplum, cocktail, tea and mid-calf. You wouldn’t think there were that many kids of skirt!
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I like the Ella skirt – and this seems like it would be the best option for adding peplums to the bodices.

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I also like the Lydia, and think the pleated skirt could look nice with several of the bodices.

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I think this dress which I loved in the front of the book is the reason I particularly like the Lydia skirt……..! Still thinking I might copy this. And I love the piping around the waist seam, I would never have thought of that myself but it’s a really nice way of highlighting the design details.

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You can also make the skirts just as skirts. And she shows you how to make linings for each of the skirts. There really is everything you could need to make a giant mix and match wardrobe of clothes in this book!

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I particularly like this page in the back, to show you all the steps you need to do to make any of the dresses, regardless of which bodice, sleeve or skirt you choose. Also hopefully means you won’t end up forgetting to sew a zip into the dress, which is definitely the kind of this I would do!

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I wanted to include this last photo, from the beginning section of the book about all the techniques you need, because I love how she uses crazy coloured fabric – and a different colour for each different section of the skirt – to show you how to construct things. I find it really irritating when you have photos telling you how to make something but you can’t tell which is the right side and the wrong side of the fabric, or which piece is which, so I think this is a brilliant idea!

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Do you have Boundless Style? Are you tempted to get it? What is your favourite sewing book? And do you make many of the patterns from sewing books? I always have plans to but then I forget they’re there sometimes.

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Book: No Patterns Needed

After posting my #SewDots dress I thought I would share a little review of Rosie Martin’s book No Patterns Needed. I was going to post this a couple of days ago but my computer is on its last legs and wasn’t cooperating all weekend.

no-patterns-needed-1I had hoped to have something made from the book, but I haven’t had time yet. Also I just counted and I have almost 50 patterns (!) so it might be a while until I get around to making one of the garments from this book!

It’s split into 3 sections: rectangles, circles and triangles – and each section is colour coded. The rectangles section is pink.

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The way the book works is that she gives you instructions for how to make each garment – there aren’t any patterns: hence the name! She also gives you a page to fill in with your measurements to make it easy to calculate the dimensions for drafting the ‘patterns’.

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Each sample garment is made in the colour-coded fabric, but then she shows you other versions on other people, of different shapes and sizes. This is the part I particularly like – it shows you how you can make each thing fit your style. I love this dress version of the cape sleeved top.

no-patterns-needed-6I like this shirt dress too.

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And then both of the other versions look different and both of them are cool – and seem to fit their styles. Also love the pink hair!

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I like the circles section – it definitely helps that blue is my favourite colour!

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The segment dress is one of my favourite things in the book – I love the easy swingy shape.

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I think this might be the first thing I make – as I’ll probably get around to making something next Summer! I think I’ll leave off the ruffle too, like these versions.

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There’s a circular wrap skirt in this section too, which is pretty cool, though it seems the dress is the only thing I photographed for the circles! So onto the triangles, in green.

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I like the kimono top – especially the pink version and the way it’s been styled. I basically want to just copy this whole outfit!

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This is my other favourite garment from the book – the four slice sweater – which is also the thing Rosie made for the #sewdots initiative.

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Again I really like the other versions and they way they’ve been styled – and the fabrics they’ve used. I love the monochrome one with the culottes and I love the blue with the flowery fabric – it’s a great combo which I probably wouldn’t have thought to put together.

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The last set of instructions in the book is for this triangle dress. I love the cheeky cut-out!

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And I like the colour-blocked version, and the different skirt lengths.

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Have you got this book? Are you tempted to self-draft items to sew? I’m a bit scared to be honest, but it seems like I’d have a better chance of getting something that fits well if I draft it to my own measurements!

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