Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Giving in to a Book Addiction

My best friend is married to an addiction therapist.  Given our personal connection, I wonder if he would be violating any professional ethics if he gave me a few sessions – gratis, of course – to help with my book addiction.  On one hand, I'm giving away piles of Burda magazines because I simply don't have space to store them.  At the same time, I'm buying more books.  Isn't that a sign of addiction?

My most recent purchase was The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques by Lynda Maynard.  Whenever I think of couture techniques, I think of Claire Shaeffer, so I couldn't help comparing the two approaches to couture sewing.  Many of the techniques in Maynard's book are not "couture" in the Claire Shaeffer sense of the word.  Where Shaeffer's techniques are traditional and learned in a Paris atelier,  Maynard's techniques seem more contemporary and bring to mind Fashion Week in New York.    The techniques are divided into three categories:
  • Bindings and Finishes e.g. Banded V-neck on knit fabric, Banded V-neck on woven fabric, Piped double-fold bining on woven fabric, and Baby French binding  
  • Design Details: On Show e.g. Channel-stitched accents, Petersham "Peek" seam, Hong Kong finish on the outside, and Button-on Garment Sections.
  • Design Details: Concealed e.g. Couture Waistband, Organza "Bubble" hem finish, balanced dart, and couture dart.
There is a chapter on Designer Underpinnings in which Maynard tells how fabrics can be "enhanced or inhibited by backing or underlining with various companion  fabrics" and a chapter called Directory of Luxury Fabrics in which she describes fabrics and discusses applications and practical points.  The final chapter is Essential Couture Techniques.  This chapter includes the more traditional couture techniques such as French seams, hanging loops, hand bound buttonholes and covered snaps.

I like the way the book is organized.  The first section of the book is a "couture technique selector" in which the included techniques are listed with short descriptions, thumbnail photographs and page numbers.  I can browse the section, select the desired technique then flip to the directions in the body of the book.  The instructions for the techniques are clear and the photographs enhance the instructions. I also like the spiral binding which allows the book to lay open next to the sewing machine for easy reference.

Maynard's book contains both style details and construction techniques.  For example, there are several methods on applying binding to edges.  One might find the same techniques in a comprehensive sewing book like Vogue Sewing, not a book on couture sewing.  However the use of these techniques goes beyond the basic instructions and elevate the garments beyond typical home sewn garments. 

I have never met a sewing book I didn't like and I admit I didn't need this book (especially since I plan to buy the revised and updated edition of Claire Shaeffer's book when it's released).  But, I'm sure I will eventually use one or two of the techniques.    After reserving it at Borders, I went to the store planning to look through it objectively and critically before making the purchase.  I was fully prepared to walk away if it didn't meet my expectations.   Who was I kidding?  Isn't that the way an addict deludes herself?  I was convinced I was meant to own this book when I got to the register, presented my Borders Rewards card, and got a 33% discount!   After I buy Claire Shaffer's book, I won't buy any more sewing books – and I mean it.


  1. It sounds like a great sewing book Elaray,thanks for the review. Also, I really don't believe your last sentence :). Have a great day.

  2. I hear you about additions and perhaps needing help-lol. I've "fallen off the wagon" on my "vintage pattern addiction" that I had under control for several months. I'm scoping ebay daily to see what the pickins' are. Several coming in the mail! thanks for the book review!

  3. Never say never! You really mean until the next absolutely wonderful sewing book comes along. Thanks for reviewing this. I haven't bought a sewing book in a while and I'm due.
    Good sewing books are like friends and I think I'd like to meet this one.
    Claire's coming out with a new edition of her Couture book?

  4. You can never have too many sewing books! Sometimes I may not like a book overall but there will often be one little piece that makes it worthwhile. When I sew I often have two or three books open at the same time.

  5. I have sewing book addiction too. And knitting books. And smocking. And...(I'm in trouble).

  6. I too love sewing really
    is a good addiction :))

  7. Did you read LindseyTSews post today? She is going to be reviewing 3 new sewing books, which are in a series. I already have them on my wish list at Amazon. Oh, and now I'm going to go order the one you just reviewed. Cause I am a junkie, too!

  8. I'm adding this one to the list! Maybe my Borders will have it, hmm, maybe not, but it's worth a try since I just got a good coupon.

  9. PLEASE!......
    let me know what your therapist friend has to say about book addictions!

  10. I routinely give away books, and lately I have thinned the sewing ones because there is just so much good stuff online to use as reference. Working in a library showed me how nice it is to circulate books! Keep them going...keep them read and keep the ones you really treasure.