Today I thought I'd recommend this fantastic book which I discovered quite by chance in the library of the college where I have been doing my pattern cutting course. There was a really good selection of sewing related books but this one stood out for me A) because of the word easy and B) because of the subtitle 'Time-saving techniques, shortcuts, tips and tricks for today's busy sewers'. I don't get a lot of time to sew and I'm very impatient. When I do have some free time the only thing that puts me off getting cracking is the fact that (especially as I'm still very much a novice) it can be such a long time before you get a result. Certain aspects of the process take me far longer than I think they should, or at least than I'd like them to so any time saving tips are very welcome around here! And full of said tips this book is indeed!
The book was written in 1987 and yes the beautiful images in the centre of the book certainly reinforce this point! Just check out this happy looking ladies summer to autumn wardrobe!
However, dated as the artwork may be the advice is not. Yes perhaps the tips on equipment may not be the best resource nowadays as many advances in fabric technology and notions have advanced but for advice on how to finish seams, deal with collars, cuffs and hems you just can't beat it. Everything is explained clearly in basic terms, step by step with matching diagrams. Sometimes descriptions of a sewing technique can leave me thinking 'huh?' but every guide in this book gave me a clear picture in my head on how to do it.
The book takes the novice dressmaker through the entire garment making process. Right from which equipment to buy first, through looking after your sewing machine, fabric choices to laying out and cutting the pattern, assembly and finally finishings. One of the most useful pages I found was about how to read a vintage pattern envelope. Not only did it guide you through all the complicated information in tiny writing on the back and what are the most important bits there but it also suggested what to look for in the line drawings and illustrations/photographs on the front when purchasing a pattern. Not just things like the style and shape for your body, but aspects of the pattern which may make the sewing process more complicated or lengthy, the number of pattern pieces, the fabric suggestions and how challenging they may be to sew with; all really useful advice when considering the important factor of time.
Because of this holding your hand throughout the entire process layout this is actually the first sewing book I have sat down and read cover to cover. However the book has been SO useful to dip in and out of as I've been sewing and reached a point where I'm not quite sure of the best way to proceed. The second and largest part of the book breaks down the various parts and features of the construction of a garment. For example cuffs, seams, buttonholes, inserting zips, elastic casing...all the bits and pieces of which one is bound to be any given sewers biggest fear. Each section includes a number of variations on how to achieve the best results for that aspect, how to achieve different styles and recommendations on when to use which technique and which are quicker/easier. Literally everything you could need to know is in here; well I'm yet to find anything it hasn't been able to help me with!
If you can manage to get your hands on a copy (I've spied a few used versions on Amazon) I'd highly recommend this as a dressmaking 'how to' A-Z. I've been renewing it since the first day of my course nine weeks ago and think it might be about time I purchased my own!