My long-ago-ordered copy of The Dressmaker's Technique Bible arrived at the library this morning. Feels like I've been waiting for ages! I worked my way through it whilst eating my lunch, so here's a very fresh first First Impression...
author: Lorna Knight
This is a spiral-bound hardback covering a wide range of sewing techniques, with the sub-title A complete guide to fashion sewing.
The book is divided into four section, with a glossary and resources list at the end.
This first part of the book looks at the basic sewing set up - what you would need if you were starting from scratch. So there are notes on what to kit yourself up with (different types of rulers, marking tools, scissors, needles and pins, threads etc.), and a basic description of the parts of a sewing machine and overlocker. Then comes a section on how to choose a (commercial) pattern, and how to work out what size to get, and how to adapt it to your (non-pattern) shape.
This first section also gives guidance on body shapes (hourglass, pear etc.) and fashion shapes (descriptions of different types of clothes (eg. smock, culottes, peplum jacket), including which body types might suit which styles of clothing. For each clothing type there is also information on what sewing techniques might be used in their construction and brief advice on embellishments and fabric choices.
This section describes different types of seams and seam finishes, pleating and gathering, insertion of zips and linings.
This is the largest section of the book. It covers a variety of techniques for waistbands, hems, sleeves and sleeve insertion, cuffs, necklines, collars, fastenings and pockets. it also has a more detailed description of inserting linings into skirts, jackets and dresses.
This final section looks at decorative finishes for garments such as top stitching, embroidery, applique, (hand) smocking, beading etc. There is also advice on choosing and cutting fabric, sewing, pressing and washing it.
Finally there is a short glossary of terms, and some web addresses for magazines, pattern brands, sewing machines and sewing sites.
My first impression
It's a nice compact book about an inch thick, and the spiral binding makes it great to keep open whilst you're trying to get to grips with something.it really does try to cover everything, and I think, depending on your existing knowledge, this makes it a winner or a loser. My overwhelming feeling is disappointment.
Sorry to be so negative so soon, but I had really been hoping that this book would provide a good amount of technical detail, especially as I want to sort my darts out for once and all, after all that palaver in the spring. But while the book does cover a very wide range of techniques, everything is very general, and I wanted precise measurements like I've previously found on the internet.
I also feel that the book could have been slightly better arranged. I always feel these sorts of books should be arranged in chronological order - deal with issues as they would be likely to come up in real life - but this is somewhat lacking (for example putting choice of fabrics and pattern cutting advice at the front, rather than hidden at the back). And I'm not sure that the descriptions of body shapes and appropriate clothing types are necessary in a sewing book. Some of the descriptions too seemed superfluous (eg. "Bra: A close-fitting functional undergarment fashioned to be both comfortable and attractive").
The Fabric manipulation section was comprehensive but I was left with the feeling that each description told you what something was rather than how to construct in in purely technical terms [Disclaimer: I trained in the sciences so perhaps this makes me pickier than most - I want my instructions to be technical technical]. In particular, seeing as so many people seem to lack confidence with zips, there was barely any information on inserting these.
If you have done any sewing before, particularly from commercial patterns, it's likely that you will have a grasp of most of the items covered in this book, either because you've already done them yourself, or because you are sufficiently able to follow a pattern to work out what you're supposed to be doing. That said, I did learn a new term or two, and got to grips with the difference between flat-fell, welt and lapped seams.
Interestingly, the Resources page at the end was exceedingly brief, listing only six on-line magazines and six 'useful sewing sites'. The Burda sites were nowhere to be seen, and given that they seem to represent such a large on-line sewing community, this seems rather short sighted.
So, not a book for me. Perhaps the use of the word 'bible' in the title should have given it away, but even I have my young and foolish moments.
However, there's got to be a market for it out there somewhere, no? Well, possibly. My feeling is that this might work for people just learning to sew, kids and adults alike. It gives a wide range of information which would allow a beginner to feel less intimidated by terms and techniques, and give them the confidence to start to tackle things with help. I say with help because, to take the zip example, there is simply not enough information to achieve a decent finish without it. I can easily imagine two scenarios. Firstly, giving this book to a 10 or 12 year old who is starting to sew with their mum or aunt or whoever, and secondly someone trying to sew in an invisible zip (yes, the zip example again), failing totally and feeling utterly dejected and put off.
Admittedly I've had this book less than 12 hours, but that's what First Impressions is trying to be all about. Would I recommend this book? My current feeling is no. If you're learning to sew on your own, it doesn't provide enough technical information, and if you're learning to sew with someone more experienced, chances are they know a good chunk of what is covered by this book anyway.
So my quest to find a good source of technical information continues, and creating the perfect tunic (which is where all this started) will have to wait. Meanwhile, I still have a Burda dress to cut out...