Friday, August 1, 2008


I do not do a lot of sewing anymore. The children are grownup and gone and I really don't need any more clothes. "Need." of course, rarely factors in the purchase of either fabric or clothes. But on the few occasions when I want to make something special, usually a jacket these days, I have two books on couture sewing which I refer to.

  • Claire B. Shaeffer, Couture Sewing Techniques (published by Taunton Press). It is available here.
  • Roberta Carr, Couture: The Art of Fine Sewing (published by Palmer&Pletsch). It is available here.

I like the Shaeffer book the most. The book is in two parts. In the first part she explains basic techniques, beginning with hand sewing (whether temporary or permanent) and ending with closures. In the second part she discusses garments -- skirts, pants, blouses, dresses, jackets and evening wear -- and parts of garments -- sleeves, pockets. I personally have found her extensive explanations of setting in sleeves and sleeve heads one of the most valuable parts of the book. I also have used her information on making patch pockets and set-in pockets. I avoid all other kinds of pockets. I have made welt pockets but making them was so agonizing, I did it only once. And I always go through her chapter on jackets and coats before I make a jacket. Invariably I find something I missed before or something I have forgotten.

Carr's book is much more user-friendly than Shaeffer's but it does not have the depth. It consists primarily of relatively short "tips." Many of them I have liked but I much prefer the in-depth approach of Shaeffer's book.

Also invaluable is my subscription to Threads Magazine (published by Taunton Press). Before we moved to South Carolina I owned all the issues published to that date. In the effort to cut down on what we had to move, I went through them all and cut out only those articles I thought I might have a use for. A part of me still wishes I hadn't done that. Go here to get more information about the magazine.

A book which I have not seen is Bridal Couture: Fine Sewing Techniques for Wedding Gowns and Evening Wear by Susan Khalje. It is available here. The book has received excellent reviews. I was also very impressed by Susan when when she was interviewed on the Sew Forth Now podcast. Go here to listen.

Related Post: Weaving and Couture Sewing

© 2008


deborahbee said...

Hi Peg,
Although at the moment I am up to my ears in setting up my loom I realised when I read all your blog that I have several of the dressmaking books which you mention. I am not a a brilliant maker of clothes but I enjoy sewing and admire the art of the couture dressmaker. When my son got married 5 years ago his girlfriend asked me to make her wedding dress. Of course if it simple I said. She came up with a boned bodice and a skirt with a train. I had to go to a workshop to learn but we were both delighted with the eventual dress.
I also went to a workshop on making a Chanel jacket. One of my projects if a ever actually weave!!!! is a Chanel type textured tweed in rich colours which I could make into a jacket.

Jane said...

Peg, I loved this post. While I rarely sew these days, I used to spend hours at my machine.

Mrs. Martinez was a lovely teacher who taught us young girls as we were learning to sew that we always wanted someone to oooh and ahhh and exclaim, "Is that handmade?" Rather than looking with a bit of scorn and asking, "Is that homemade?" She taught us that the inside of a garment should look every bit as nicely done as the outside. Her own clothes were so elegant and beautifully tailored that she inspired us all. We were a bunch of little country bumpkin cowgirls so you can only imagine how patient she had to be!

Because of the influence of Mrs. Martinez on me, when my son was little he learned early on the difference between something that was "handmade," and something that was "homemade." (Homemade is for cookies and bread.)

It tickled me pink when my son's kindergarten teacher complimented him on a down-filled vest I had made for him, complete with appliqued mountain scene (we were in Wyoming, afterall), and he said with a huge smile, "Thank you. It's handmade!"

I wouldn't put myself in the league of a couture dressmaker, but do confess to being a very finicky seamstress and I envy your talent and book collection.

You truly are an excellent example of a fiber artisan whose skills allow her to go not just fleece to shawl, but fleece to finished garment.

Have you ever thought of giving an extended workshop or hosting a study group for that very topic? (OK maybe skipping the fleece part). Spinning, dyeing, planning, designing, weaving, and then sewing a final garment?

Oh -- and that would be in your spare time!! *chuckle*

Jane said...

Sheesh, Peg -- didn't meand to blog on your blog!! My apologies for the overly lengthy response! I just always feel as if I'm sitting down having a chat with you over morning coffee. :)

sampling said...

Hi Peg, thanks for all the lovely comments on my blog. I love my Threads magazines and they have been invaluable in my sewing education. Their website is very good too.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Deborahbee, my nightmare is that when our daughter marries, she will want me to make her wedding dress! A Chanel jacket is perfect for handwovens, since that was the kind of fabric she used. And, as you probably know, she often made the trims with yarns pulled out of the fabric.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Well, Jane, I thought my worst nightmare would be making my daughter's wedding dress... You've given me a competitive nightmare with your workshop/course idea! By the way, I am definitely not a couture dressmaker! I just try to use some of their techniques where I can to improve the looks of the garments I do sew.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Sampling, you are very welcome. Yes, their web site is good. And everything that Taunton publishes if first class.