Tag Archives: Sewing Book

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!




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: 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:


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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!


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.


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.


You can see the pleats a bit better here:


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


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!
boundless-style-13 boundless-style-14

I like the Ella skirt – and this seems like it would be the best option for adding peplums to the bodices.


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


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.


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!


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!


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!


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.






#SewDots Delphine Skirt

We’re nearly at the end of November and I’ve still not posted all of my October makes! This is my second entry for Rosie Martin‘s #sewdots initiative – it has a surprise spotty lining!

sew-dots-delphine-skirt-4The pattern is the Delphine Skirt from Tilly and the Buttons’s book Love At First Stitch. I’ve made one other pattern from the book – the Mimi Blouse – but it’s a little small now, especially as it shrunk in the wash. I made the size 2 of the blouse but it was always a little snug, especially around my arms, so I looked again at the measurements of skirt and I came out as a size 3, with a little ease around the waist, which I wanted as I always make the mistake of fitting things standing up, then I sit down and it cuts me in half!

sew-dots-delphine-skirt-3As you can probably see in the above photo, though, there ended up being a little too much ease. But actually I think the fix would be to angle the waistband in a little instead of taking length off it. Marie from Sewn Bristol talked about doing this in one of her youtube videos, so when I make this again I’ll definitely use her tutorial. She is talking about the Grainline Moss Skirt, but the theory should be the same. You can see how it sits away from my waist in the below picture even more – sad face for dramatic effect!

sew-dots-delphine-skirt-6Having said all of that, I’m pretty pleased with this skirt – I don’t plan to wear it like this so it will be less obvious the fit is a little off! Though I might take it up just a little. I expected it to come out quite short as most of Tilly’s patterns seems to, but on me this is knee length. I maybe should leave it as it is, though, so it’s more demure for work!


It actually looks a bit better from the back weirdly. Though it seems to have a couple of drag lines in the photo – I don’t think they’re there in real life. I always seem to get this step thing with zips in skirts, though, and I don’t know how to stop it – any tips? I put a pin into the zip on the second side to mark the waistband seam so they would line up – and the waistband seam seems to. Maybe I just sewed the top seam inaccurately?

sew-dots-delphine-skirt-7I do love this fabric. And I love the shape of the skirt, it’s very cute! I used Tilly’s tutorial for adding a lining to a skirt and I can definitely recommend it, it was very simple and didn’t involve any hand sewing!


I’ve started wearing skirt and dresses more this Winter – I was cycling last Winter so it was a lot easier to wear trousers all the time – so I think I will make this again. Not sure what fabric to make it in though…..any suggestions? I think it would have to be something with body so it holds its shape.