Tag Archives: Books

Book: Edith Head

I was very lucky to receive this book from The Boyfriend for my birthday this year. I didn’t even know I wanted it until I got it. He had to pop to work for a couple of hours in the morning on my birthday so I spent a happy hour or so looking through this delectable book!

Edith Head was an American costume designer who won 8 (8!) Academy Awards for her work. She designed for so many famous films, including Sweet Charity, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Vertigo, To Catch and Thief, White Christmas, Sunset Boulevard, and countless others – just look at her page on IMDB! One of the things I really love about this book is how we see the sketches for the clothes and the actual clothes. I wish I could sketch like that!

Edith Head’s iconic image includes these dark glasses – apparently they were so she could tell what the fabrics would look like in black and white.

I love this photo of Edith as a young girl – shes’s on the far right. It shows clearly the fact that she was born in 1897! Amazing considering how many iconic films she costumed throughout the 20th century.

She was clearly a fan of the bob throughout her life – and why not!? If you find a style you like, you may as well stick to it!

She designed quite a lot of costumes for Mae West, and I had to share this quote.

Here is Veronica Lake in a dress that was originally designed for Kay Linaker – Edith would recycle and reuse looks from other films for publicity stills. I can’t imagine this happening now! Apparently Veronica Lake said “excuse me while I put on my other head”. 😀

A very young Bette Davis here, in Beyond the Forest, after she parted ways with Orry-Kelly and Edith started designing for her.

One of my favourite facts from this book is that Head would mock up her costumes on dolls before she would make them full size.

Edith Head designed the iconic brown gown that Bette Davis wears in All About Eve. You can see from the sketch that it was meant to have a square neckline, but I read somewhere online that due to a measuring issue, it ended up being off the shoulder instead.

Although Head was so known so wearing plain clothes, at home she wore loads of bright colours, and she had this amazing house – Casa Ladera.

Edith sort of designed clothes for Audrey Hepburn, though of course a lot of her film (and I think real life) wardrobe was made by Givenchy. It seems like Head would design for the whole film, but then not make the clothes for Hepburn?

I love how this book puts colour sketched next to black and white stills, so you can see what colour the actual clothes are!

Ah Grace Kelly. So beautiful. There’s a great story where Kelly and Head conspired to trick Hitchcock into thinking Kelly was wearing padding in her bra because he didn’t think her boobs were big enough I guess (gross), but Head pretended she’d added padding, while Kelly just stood up as straight as she could and they successfully tricked him! Excellent!

Ah, these sketches are so amazing!

Slightly later in her career Edith designed the costumes for Butch Cassidy – I’ve mostly included this photos because Paul Newman.

One of her biggest hits of the late 60s was Sweet Charity, which is a great musical, featuring the song Hey Big Spender.

The Sting was one of the latest films she ‘designed’ the costumes for, though looking at the quote from Bob Mackie, it seems like it was controversial for her to take credit for it.

I definitely have a bit of a crush on young Robert Redford. And I like how Edith designed clothes for men as well as women.

Katharine Hepburn brought fabric swatches with her to the consultation with Head about her costumes for Rooster Cogburn.

Obviously there are loads and loads more photos in this book – it has 400 pages so I can’t share them all! But I hope I’ve whetted your appetite to want this book for yourself.

I find since I’ve been sewing more and looking at more things that inspire me, the more I look at costumes in films and TV and think how good they are generally. I would be interested in retraining to become a costume designer, but I can’t afford to do another degree – do you have any tips for how to get into it?



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?




Book: Learn to Knit, Love to Knit


I’ve had this book for quite a while – over a year I think. I was planning to write a review of it and post my first make from it in the same week, but I cast on a jumper in January (in black wool with gold sparkles, it’s amazing!) and it is nowhere near completion, so I thought I’d review the book anyway. And hopefully I’ll get my jumper finished for when it gets really cold!

Learn To Knit, Love To Knit, is a great book – I was drawn to it because there are several patterns in it that I like and will hopefully make one day. It’s written by Anna Wilkinson:


I love her jumper in this photo, but sadly it’s not one of the ones in the book!

She goes through everything you need to know if you’re a beginner knitter, like what tools you’ll need,


how to cast on,


how to knit and purl,


and how to cast off!


There are some other techniques in the book and she outlines how to do common stitches, like moss stitch.

Now to the patterns! I quite like these wrist warmers (which feature on the cover), though if I’m brutally honest, I’m not sure if I would really wear them. But I do like to roll up my sleeves, then my wrists get cold (especially when working on a computer), so maybe these are actually just the thing!


I like these bobble hats – they’re knitted on quite big needles (10mm) so I bet they knit up really quickly!



This is the jumper I am currently knitting – I’ve realised that I like simple knits, even though I am also drawn to patterns with lacey bits and cabling and stuff, they’re not really my style.


Speaking of cabling, though, these cardigans are quite cute!


I weirdly also really like this lace top – the wool used looks like the softest thing in the world, and I would imagine you don’t need loads of it so could probably use something nice and expensive.


I love, love, love this stripey jumper – it would be a great stash buster! I definitely have plans for one of these. I like the one with blue sleeves especially, but the colours used in both definitely work – how do people do that? I wouldn’t know where to start with picking complimentary colours!


This American-style cardigan that looks like a jacket is also cute – and I love the way they photos are styled.


I think what drew me to this book, aside from the great patterns, was the way the photos have been styled – it makes knitting your own clothes look stylish and not just something your granny would do! Do you have this book? Have you made anything from it? Or do you have suggestions of other great knitting books? Now the weather is getting colder, I feel like my knitting will take off again.

Book: 200 Crochet Blocks

200-Crochet-Blocks-1Having learned to crochet a couple of years ago, I’ve recently got back into the swing of it, by making an amigarumi pusheen and by making a present for someone, which is now pretty much 2 months over due, but basically finished! I have made a cushion cover using a crochet block pattern and I’m thinking that I would like to make a blanket out of blocks too, so luckily a friend of mine bought me this book a year or two ago.  I’m having the same thoughts about making a quilt – I’m yearning to make our flat nicer to live in I think, but without the ability to decorate properly as we rent.


This book is really great and tells you how to mix colours and the block designs to make lovely (if slightly dated-looking) blankets.


And then, of course, come the block designs themselves. I like the ones that are symmetrical and not too complicated looking. I like the openwork square below.


I really like the Waterlily block, below. I’m not sure how many of these I would like in a blanket – maybe just one in the middle, but I’d like to be able to make one!


There’s also a page of Christmassy blocks! I really don’t think I make things quickly enough to make something just for Christmas, but I like the tree and the snowflake!


I like all the blocks below, except possibly the steps square – not sure why.



I like all the blocks below too, and more so because they’re more in my colours (though I can see the pattern as separate from the colours used in the book, I’m still attracted to blues and greens!).


I like all of these ones too – I’m not sure how I’m ever going to be able to make a decision on which one(s) to make!


The book also shows you alternate colourways for some of the blocks, to help you design your blanket in whatever colours you like.

200-Crochet-Blocks-10For blanket inspiration, I think I’ll look to my sister. She has been crocheting a lot longer than me and even released her own amigarumi patterns for a while. She has made loads of blankets!

This one is some lovely earthy colours, which matched her living room in a previous house.

Phoebe's earthy colours blanketThis is a gigantic granny square, with a lovely bright cushion – I really like the idea of bright colours, joined together with bright white. It looks really fresh and modern. I love the gigantic granny square too, it’s a classic!

Phoebe's giant granny square

I love the colours she used here – the bright pink is particularly excellent! I’m not sure I would have had the eye to put these all together, but they look great. And there’s bright white in there too.

Phoebe's pink blanket

I think this all white blanket/ bed spread is a fairly recent one. I love the combo of the different sizes, and different designs of block but all tied together with the colour. I’m thinking of something monochrome and maybe with a pop of a bright colour, like yellow or pink.

Phoebe's white blanket 2

How lovely and clean does this look?

Phoebe's white blanketMy friend Farn, who I learned to crochet with is also excellent at making lovely things:

Farn Cath Kidston Blanket 2

Do you crochet? How do you decide on the designs and colours? I’m hoping that being able to make small things and have the small wins of finishing each square, that I will enjoy making a crocheted blanket and not lose interest and stop half way through as I have done too many times before with larger projects!

Book: Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

I’m sure if you read sewing blogs, you have come across the awesome Gertie, or Gretchen Hirsch, whose excellent New Blog for Better Sewing is a great resource for all things vintage ahd home-sewn. I have her first book, Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing and although I’ve only made one pattern from it, it is a great resource for information about fabric, fitting and how to alter patterns to make variations and lots of other things. So I eagerly asked for the new book for my birthday back in November and my lovely boyfriend bought it for me.

Gertie-Sews-Vintage-Casual-1 Like with the first book, there is a lot of great information in the front about fitting sportswear, so it’s definitely worth having both books as they cover different types of garments.


I’m definitely going to use the tips on fitting pants/trousers when I finally tackle some!

Gertie-Sews-Vintage-Casual-5Who is your vintage casual icon? I’m definitely more 50s than 60s, but I need to study the types a bit more to decide for sure.


There is a great overview of the styles of clothes from the past – I love the drawings in Gertie’s books and I pretty much want the whole wardrobe drawn below!

Gertie-Sews-Vintage-Casual-3And, of course, no modern sewing book would be complete without a lot of patterns included! I think I prefer the patterns more in this book than the first as I think more of them could fit into my style. As much as I love the idea of a big, swishy 50s dress, I just don’t think they’re really me – I’m more of a 60s shift-type.

I love the 40s style blouse! I like that it’s not overly fitted.


And there are 2 variations – sleeveless, which I actually like, even though I’m not generally drawn to sleeveless blouses.


And the bomber jacket is a variation of the blouse! Mind blown! It just does to show, the possibilities really are endless when it comes to making your down clothes!


I really like this cute little knit top – when I get around to sewing with knits, this will definitely be on my list!


I like this little scoop neck sweater, too. I love me some sparkles!


I’m not totally convinced by the cigarette pants – though possibly it’s just the tartan putting me off.


But the variations include pedal pushers, which were popular in the 60s, and the flared shorts are really cute!


The sailor shorts and jeans variations are also great. I’m not sure I could pull off the sailor shorts, but I do think they’re cute!



This basic knit pencil skirt is nice too – I have the Colette Mabel skirt to have a go at, but this one might make it onto my to-make pile one day!


I like the one-shouldered romper, though I’m not sure I’d have the balls to wear it. And I’m not sure Britain really gets the weather for it, for more than a couple of weeks!


I absolutely love the sweetheart neckline romper. I’m coming around to the idea of rompers/ jumpsuits and have the Holly Jumpsuit on my pile, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago. I think one-shouldered is a bit much, but with 2 shoulders/ straps, I think it’s doable!


Gertie has a new book due, just about dresses! I think I definitely will be buying that one!

Do you have this book, or do you think you’ll buy it? Are you looking forward to the dress book?