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."