Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Illustrated Guide to Sewing: Garment Constrution

I bought this book months ago after buying and loving two other books in the "Illustrated Guide to Sewing" series.  I delayed my purchase of this book because I thought it would contain the same information as the introductory books I already own.  Well, it does and it doesn't.

The introduction says, "These instructions are no doubt more detailed and demanding than those you are used to seeing, or those you found in your pattern envelope."   These are probably the techniques my mother and grandmother used when they sewed.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  For example, if I were sewing a blouse out of delicate lawn or handkerchief linen, I might use self fabric as an interfacing rather than a lightweight fusible.  I would use the instructions for sew-in interfacing provided in this book.  Garment Construction gives sewing instructions for five basic garments: Classic Dress, Classic Shirt, Classic Blouse, Classic Skirt, and Classic Pants (men's and women's).  First, the order of assembly is given, then detailed construction directions for things like zippers, cuffs waistbands etc.  This book is different because the techniques and methods are not the newest, fastest or easiest.    As I read the book, I thought it would be a very good supplement for a beginning sewer who is brave enough to use the patterns in Burda Style Magazine.  When BSM says "insert zip in slit", the sewer can turn to pp 108 – 109 and follow the 14 steps and detailed diagrams and instructions for a centered zipper absent from BSM instructions.  Fourteen steps to insert a centered zipper isn't intimidating.  Step 9 is simply "Close the zipper and turn the garment right side out."

I think of the methods in the book not as "old-fashioned", but as "traditional".  These are probably the methods used by professional dressmakers of the past, when "ladies who lunch" had their clothes custom made.  I wouldn't be surprised if custom dressmakers of the past saw the introduction of basting tapes and non-woven fusible interfacings as a dumbing-down of standard garment construction methods.  However, I am tempted to try some of the methods.  People use vintage patterns – why not vintage techniques?


  1. I think that custom dressmakers still use a lot of these traditional techniques. Certainly they do in couture clothing. Kenneth King says that he does not use fusible interfacing and we talked about the alternatives. Claire Kennedy uses traditional interfacing as well, particularly in her bridal and deb dresses. The women who took Susan Khalje's class can relate I think. You can choose to mix and match the techniques you want to use and have time for. I think that hand basting is often quicker in the end than putting in pins and certainly necessary if you are underlining a fabric.
    Since I have this series as well, I think that it's a good companion to todays patterns. I like that they give a construction order which is often confusing in patterns.

  2. There's nothing like a TNT technique. I have the other two of this trilogy and was saving this one for last. Thanks for the review.