Saturday, 11 April 2009

A new book (!)

I have a wonderful new book that arrived in the post today, I must tell you about it...

Actually, I have a number of wonderful new books that have been turning up in the post and I've been keeping quiet about it. I have totally failed so far to keep to my planned book budget. My sister reminded me that the same thing happened last year when I said I was going to stop buying books - that time I lasted 5 weeks and then bought all the books I'd not been buying all at once.

So where does this leave the book budget? O.K. I can't afford the books - unless I re-arrange all the other budgets. I've cut my planned spending for yarn, travel and clothes. It looks like the vet bills should be less this year and I've got a statutory off road notice for my motorbike (that last one hurts, but it makes sense just now).

When I thought things through, the books really matter to me, more than most other things.

I'm restricting myself to good reference books and meanwhile making use of the local public library who charge 80p to request a book that's in the county and only £1 extra for "out of county". Out of county includes the British Library, so there's a vast range of books I have access to.

Excuses over.... the new book is:

Couture Sewing Techniques, by Claire B. Schaeffer, published by The Taunton Press, US, 2007, ISBN 978-156158-497-0.

Thanks to Peg for her review of this book last year.

I've had my eye on it ever since. I don't know if anyone else has spotted this, but Amazon (at least in the UK) are suddenly offering some big discounts on a few titles, and also free postage on all purchases. When the price of this book, delivered, showed up at £9.87 last week I did not hesitate to place my order.

Peg wrote a description of this book, I won't repeat what she has said. I'll add to it by saying why this book is important for me.

I came to textile crafts in my 30s, having avoided learning as much as I could avoid as a school kid, because I resented the fact that there was a tendency to push girls into domestic science when I wanted to learn to construct things - I wanted to learn to fix machinery and build furniture and boats - and there was virtually no opportunity for me to do any of this. In my 30s, a bit more relaxed about life in general, I discovered one Sunday when we went for a walk in the Peak District a business called Heirs and Graces which was at that time in an old chapel in the village of Longnor and run by Ann Esders who had started out making christening gowns and moved into supplying materials for patchwork sewing and teaching patchwork skills. I was bowled over by the range of gorgeous fabrics and signed up for a "block a month" sewing class on the spot.

One of the very first fabrics I bought were simple fabrics from the Kaffe Fassett range, woven with different warp and weft colours, plain and striped. I learnt more about these special fabrics just recently when I heard him talk on Weavecast (link to episode 37) It turns out they are handwoven fabrics that came about as a result of a project with Oxfam to help villagers re-establish a traditional industry after a tsunami - quite a story. Even without knowing the story, these have been my favourite fabrics ever. From first seeing them, I looked at them closely as I wondered why they were different to other fabrics; that was my first lesson about weaving and cloth construction.

I came back to sewing garments, something I'd avoided for years, via patchwork. With Ann, I learnt hand and machine stitching of complicated designs as well as applique and quilting. As I'd made my own patterns and designs for patchwork, so I went back to sewing clothes with a pattern cutting book* and a roll of brown parcel paper. The dressing gown specially designed and made for my boyfriend is so successful it's been made up 4 times now in two different wool twills, a plain weave wool and plain weave linen. Making the same pattern over again is a good way to learn about different fabrics.

* Metric Pattern Cutting, Winifred Aldrich, 3rd edition, Blackwell Science 1997, ISBN 0-632-03612-5

Now the reason why I especially like Couture Sewing is because unlike the other books I have on sewing up garments, it deals with the details and it is largely about design, cutting out, preparing to sew and hand stitching. The careful attention to small details (such as pages about button holes, handmade buttons, handstitching technique) reminds me of my patchwork sewing classes, where I learnt to be patient with the fiddly bits. I learnt to slow down, plan and prepare everything carefully and then have the pleasure of seeing how careful preparation enables you to get everything just right and produce something so good it looks like someone else made it!

Oh, and Couture Sewing also tells you how this or that fashion house finished this or that detail of their garments, so it's all in context and opens a door on a world of high fashion where designer garments are still handmade to measure for those who can afford to pay. Entrancing. Unusually for a reference book, I can see myself reading this one from cover to cover as I would a good novel.

Here are a couple of quotes from the author's introduction:
"What makes haute couture garments so special that some cost as much as luxury cars and small houses? What construction techniques are used for these garments? Are they really different from those used in home sewing ..... If so.....can home sewers duplicate them?"
"The book itself is divided into two sections. The first five chapters are designed to introduce you to the world of haute couture and familiarize you with the basic skills and essential techniques of haute couture. The last six chapters focus on the application of couture techniques to garments."


Leigh said...

I have Claire Schaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide which I really like. I'll have to keep my eye open for this one as well.

Barbara Blundell said...

Hi Dorothy,
Catching up. Had difficulty leaving a comment about the scarves, Thought them wonderful especially thecolour combinations and have saved some for reference. Hope you don't want royalties !
Used to love sewing and my idea of bliss was a day with the sewing machine without interuption.
Hope you enjoy the book It sounds very comprehensive and will always be there for reference justifying the cost!

Life Looms Large said...

Oh - the book budget! When my husband and I got together, he took one look at how much I spent on books and bought me a library card at the nearest big library here. (Our small town has a small library....way too small for me!) I also love books......always have.

That sewing book sounds good. Some day I'll head in that direction and keep this book in mind for when I do. I wonder if it's at my library?


Margreet said...

Hi Dorothy,
I cannot resist books either. Thanks for reminding us about this book. I remember Peg telling us about it (as you mention here). I've added it to my list of interesting books now. I keep an eye on Amazon too for interesting books but I always check at Book Depository as they are sometimes cheaper (their prices are inclusive delivery costs Worldwide). :-)

Dorothy said...

Here I am tempting you all with another book and Leigh returns the favour with Claire Schaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide. Thank you Leigh, I like this author's style so yet again I'm thining of seeking out another book!

Thank you Margreet for the tip about the Book Depository, I've not used them before.

Barbara - please do take the scarf colours for your own inspiration, I can't claim credit for the wonderful combinations in the warp stripes, I admire the genius of Noro yarn's designers.

Sue, my local library is very small, however, via my local library I can request any book published in Great Britain. Wow! Please everyone, support your libraries, any one with access to a good library has access to the wealth of knowledge that is in print. This is far too valuable to take for granted.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Don't you know that buying a book doesn't count on your budget....(grin!)?
I'm glad you are enjoying it. In sewing,however, I am now into learning how to sew those wonderful rayon-lycra knits. This is a whole different ball game, but, once figured out, will be far quicker sewing than I am used to. My weaving an knitting projects take so long that I am using this new sewing direction for quicker results.....

Irene Adler said...

Dorothy, if your book budget splurge means that you don't have much left to buy yarn for your rug project I can recommend an ebay seller who has very cheap rug wool.

I bought 3 sacks of Axminster rug yarn (! - but he does sell smaller quantities) at less than £1.50 a kilo, including delivery. The only catch is that you have to wind it into balls yourself from what can be rather large tangly skeins.

Irene Adler said...

woops ... and I forgot to say the ebay seller's name is textile-fibres, but just type in "rug yarn cone" if you want to look.

Dorothy said...

Irene, very good of you to recommend the ebay seller, however, I already have a considerable quantity of rug wool, so if I don't get on and weave some of it the next three sacks you see for sale on ebay could be mine!! I think I could weave from stash for a couple of years now.

Anonymous said...

Save for an apron and a dozen fitted diapers, my sewing is limited to squarish things like pillows. But, I've always wanted to learn more about fitting garments better. I'll definitely check the book out!