Sunday, July 21, 2019

Weekend Review: Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing

Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, Rev. Ed.
Montreal: Reader's Digest Canada, c1995.   432 p.

Well, when I start talking about compendiums of tips and tricks for sewing, I'd be remiss not to include this one. 

The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing -- this is the revised edition from 1995 -- is one of the first books I relied on when I began to sew. This copy was bought for me by my lovely husband, before he was my husband, way back when it was newly released. I can't say it had any direct influence on the outcome of our relationship, but.... ;) 

I use this book a lot. It is always in the handiest spot on my sewing bookshelf where it won't get lost behind fabric or other sewing room stuff. It always falls open easily to the section on invisible zips now. Even if it has only been a month or so since I've put one in, I often have to reassure myself on the process!

The book is broken into sections -- starting with the necessary equipment, then on to pattern and fabric selection including cutting tips, a short section on basic functional pattern alterations, and on to the heart of the book -- 234 pages of construction techniques moving from general techniques to specific areas like collars, pockets or fastenings. There are a couple more brief sections at the end: sewing for men and children (16 p) and home sewing (17 p). It's clear that the audience for this book is women, and the assumption is that they'll be sewing for themselves and then maybe for their husbands, children and homes (because everyone has all of those). It is a bit dated in this way, and in some of the illustrations which also show its age. 

However, it includes every bit of random sewing information that you're likely to need in a pinch, even if you are already a practiced sewist and just need some reminders. There are some elements to the book that I've never tried like smocking, or some of the many seam finishes discussed. It's handy when it talks about parts of a pattern and how to recognize fit issues, and alterations to adjust for them. This might be especially interesting for a newer sewist -- I still like going over some of it as well. 

Like any Reader's Digest book, it's heavily illustrated both with photos and drawings. There are plenty of step by step diagrams to guide you through specific techniques, and the tone is very clear and concise. RD might not be so good at publishing fiction, but they put out great non-fiction and reference books!

Basically this is my sewing info standard, and although I also own a few of the vintage books like the Vogue sewing book and Simplicity sewing guide, this RD one is the one I use most. I'd recommend it to everyone since I think it's a standard for any sewing library. Lots of fun to browse for enlightenment, as well as rely on the complete index for specific needs. I'm sure more people than I have used this book heavily.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Moon Landing for Sewists!

As everyone probably knows by now, it's the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing! What an event to commemorate -- though the question "where were you when..." doesn't quite apply to those of us who weren't yet born.

In all the excitement of the space program, many of the women involved are overlooked. NASA has been sharing links and stories about many of these women over the past few weeks, which has been wonderful. We're all now aware of the black women who did so much for the space program, including some of the essential math and computing, thanks to the book and movie Hidden Figures (which also has a wardrobe to envy!)

But one of the stories that was shared has another connection of interest for all sewists -- it's the story of the making of the Space Suit. Did you know it was created and hand sewn by previous bra-makers and seamstresses from Playtex? It's true!

There's a book on the making of the spacesuit -- Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo by Nicholas de Monchaux.  And apparently, there is a movie in the works based on this books about the thrilling story of sewing the spacesuit!

And there's also a brief clip from a NASA documentary about the women responsible for creating the spacesuit. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Cover Designs! #12

It's been a few months since my last Cover Designs post! Cover Designs is a feature in which I try to match up the outfit on a book cover with a dress pattern and sometimes even potential fabric matches as well.

Today's featured title is a book that's been on my TBR for a long time. It's The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy -- a story of WWII on the island of Guernsey. Vivienne de la Mare is caring for her two young children and her mother-in-law while her husband is away fighting in the war. But when Guernsey is Occupied by the Germans, she falls in love with one of the German soldiers billeting next door. When the reality of the Occupation begins to get more harsh, she has to make a decision...

When I saw this cover image, a pattern in my own stash immediately came to mind, mostly because of the distinctive puff of these cap sleeves. The dress I'm thinking about, Simplicity 2591, has the same silhouette as this one -- fitted bodice, fuller skirt, and the same little sleeve. 

That little pink puffed sleeve is so similar!
When you can only see the cover dress in a misty brown, it's hard to match details, but it looks like she's wearing some kind of belt as well -- either that or the bodice is way too long for her! It would be easy to wear a full belt rather than the decorative button band on the pattern cover to really match. You can see the similar look better in the line drawings. I'm thinking of View A, fully covered up and with the little sleeve. To match this cover image, you'd just need to wear a little lace collared underblouse that would peek out at the neckline.

To cap off the vintage look (ha ha) you would also need to wear a hat. The Rosabelle Cloche would be perfect! Not only is the right kind of hat, it's a free pattern created by Wendy Talené for Sew Mama Sew some years ago.

photo: Wendy Talené of Elsewhen Millinery
Or if you prefer you could always buy yourself a little summer straw hat with a small brim, and attach a fabric band, finishing it off with a rosette. Then wear it all to the seaside! 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Weekend Review: 1000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts & Tips

1,000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts & Tips / Deepika Prakash
Minneapolis, MN: Creative Publishing, c2010.
168 p.
I picked this book up a while ago; as any sewist who is a member of PatternReview will know, it's full of great tips from fellow sewists. 

This book is a compilation of tips from the first 9 years or so of PR's existence. Owner Deepika Prakash put together this physical collection to skim through when you don't feel like being online! It is what it says it is: tips and shortcuts. Short tips from members on a multitude of topics, plus a couple of longer articles by some of the sewing experts who participate in PR as well. 

Deepika notes that it's hard to organize something like this, seeing as it is made up of a lot of random information. But she's sorted the tips out into  9 general categories -- Sewing Gear; Sewing Room; Design & Pattern Prep; Fabric, Thread & Notions; Layout, Cutting & Marking; Fitting; Sewing; Finishing; & Embellishments. There is also a decent index in the back. I found this all worked pretty well. 

It's the kind of book you're going to browse through, anyhow, not read straight through. I enjoyed it -- there were tips that I recognized that I've done before. And there were some new ones that I've missed and rediscovered! There were some that I wouldn't do, but that's normal as everyone has their own techniques and sewing habits. Also, as a member of PR myself it is fun to recognize some of the user names. 

If you find a copy somewhere, take a look -- it's entertaining and educational to browse through. Because it's a little older, some of the tips are dated -- mostly around using technology. But there is still a lot to glean here, and the five more in-depth sections by sewing experts add a lot too. 

And then if you're not already a member of PatternReview, pop on over and sign up. There's a free membership option that you can use to check it out. And if you want to take advantage of all the features, like the discussion boards and tips that make up this book, you can upgrade to a paid membership. I really enjoy my membership, and this book was an extension of that for me. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

80s Fashion in Stranger Things

I've been off work this week, and while I didn't get as much sewing done as I'd planned, I had a great week. And I spent some of it watching Stranger Things Season 3. 

I have been surprised by how much I liked this series, and Season 3 was just on fire. I loved it. And one of the reasons I love the show so much is the fantastic 80s setting. I'm an 80s girl myself so I love watching for all the 80s memorabilia in the background, and catching all the references to 80s pop culture. And of course, the fashion is fabulous!

They really have the 80s aesthetic down. Though even my favourite fashionable character, Nancy Wheeler, doesn't have hair that quite matches my own enormous 80s do!

1988, fall of Grade 12

Nancy has the greatest outfits this season -- she's interning at the local paper so wearing things a little more summery and dressy than previously. This means lots of shirt dresses, matching tops and skirts and the cutest 80s pumps.

According to the wardrobe designer, many of Nancy's outfits were original 80s wear found on Etsy and places like that. Jealous! But you know, as sewists we can make what we like, and I have made some 80s inspired pieces recently. 

From my Style 4037 to my New Look 6344, I have a number of 80s era patterns I've made. And I own a ton more patterns copyrighted in the 80s that I have not yet made! Here are a few that I think might suit Nancy Wheeler if made in an appropriately 80s fabric choice. 

It's funny how many of these are brand names. I know I have an Esprit romper in my stash somewhere as well, and that's definitely one of the brands referenced in Stranger Things! I also liked the blouse that Robin was wearing in the last episode, but can't find any images of it -- just a black blouse with white accents -- I can see a hacked Stretch & Sew 345 to copy it (incidentally also another 80s pattern!) 

What about you? Are you inspired by the 80s? By Stranger Things? By your own favourite summer viewing? 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Basic Black

Sometimes you've just got to make something that you really need, even if it seems like boring sewing! I really needed a new black skirt -- my default RTW pair are both getting old and tired, and somehow they don't seem to fit well anymore...

Instead of going shopping, obviously I checked my stash of patterns and fabrics. I found this Butterick 5466 and matched it up with a remnant in my stash, a fairly sturdy stretch woven that I'd picked up cheap because it had some markings on the wrong side. With this panelled skirt I was able to cut around most of the markings and make something useful!

I chose View E, and didn't make many alterations. I cut the waist at 18 and the rest at 20, basted and tried it on and then decided to add some side seam pockets. I used scraps of cotton broadcloth for lightweight pockets. They mostly worked; the right side sags a bit so I'll be unpicking the pocket seam and redoing that side, just snugging it up a touch to make it lie more smoothly.

Otherwise, it fits quite well, and I like the higher, faced waist. I decided to use a bit of bias binding left from the scraps of an earlier project to cover the bottom edge of the facing. I can't stand skirt patterns drafted to fit below the waist -- they don't work on my body, I'm always wanting to pull them up.

I didn't shorten the pattern pieces, so I just decided what length I wanted to hem it at once it was done. I like this length and think that this basic will be very useful. Not an exciting or pretty make, but one that was much needed!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Weekend Review: Sew...The Garment Making Book of Knowledge

Sew...The Garment Making Book of Knowledge / Barbara Emodi
Lafayette, CA: Stash Books, c2018.
255 p.

I received this book a year ago but am only getting around to talking about it now. And that's not because I haven't been using it! This is a charming and useful book by Barbara Emodi, a past contributing editor to Threads magazine, a sewing blogger at Sewing on the Edge, and regular guest on one of my favourite sewing podcasts, Clothes Making Mavens.

This book is written in a conversational tone, so much so that I feel like I can hear Barbara talking throughout. It is comprised of a series of lessons about sewing, sharing the little details and tips that you might miss if you're a self-taught sewist. There are lots of great nuggets of information here -- I learned quite a lot about a lot of different things.

What I really like about this book is the inclusion of the opening and closing chapters -- both deal with why we sew. She talks about the reasons we start sewing, and why and how to make it a satisfying practice. Once that's sorted, other chapters deal with choosing the right patterns, and the right fabrics for them; fit -- always fit! -- and alterations; sewing gear; and rules of sewing and how and when to break them, or not.

Mixed in with all this solid information are mini-lessons on little steps in sewing, ones that will affect your results if you can master them -- inserting invisible zips, topstitching, casings, necklines, matching print motifs, and more. There are lots of illustrations and guidance about the smallest parts of these techniques.

The book finishes with a sewing glossary, a list of further resources, and a list of all the patterns used to illustrate each chapter. These are all very useful additions, and I think they add a nice touch to this book.

While I wouldn't say that this is a start-to-finish, covering everything kind of book, it's still full of excellent information which is the kind of stuff someone who knows how to sew but isn't an expert can find helpful. I'd say it's the perfect book for all the new sewists out there who are ready to move beyond new beginner status. And it's casual and friendly too -- of course the author is a fellow Canadian so I think that shows :)

Definitely a great resource for curious sewists!