Book Review: The Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques

The Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques
By Lynda Maynard, Published by Interweave Press

“Make professional-quality garments by using couture techniques and finishes. Fashion designer Lynda Maynard makes these techniques accessible to every sewer, explaining the seemingly difficult secrets of couture design and construction, from functional hems and waistbands to decorative ribbon-trimmed collars.”

What I just adore about this book (besides the fact that the spine of is a spiral binder so it lays flat – perfect for quick reference by the sewing machine) is that it’s all about the little touches that make a garment, well… special. You won’t find anything on how to sew garments together, but you will be inspired to include a few detailed flourishes when putting together your next showpiece.

It’s categorised by a technique selector, going through bindings and finishing’s…

…to the design details that are on show…

…and the design details that are secretly hidden away either underneath or inside your garment:

There’s some more unusual and infrequently used techniques laid out in this book that I’m dying to try – like horsehair braided hems, making your own shoulder pads, flange closures for buttons on sheer fabrics and enough different binding finishes to make your head spin.

Each technique has fairly detailed photographic descriptors, and I’d say that for at least half of those included (the simpler ones!) the text and visual images for the steps are well laid out and informative.

For the remaining half, I felt as though the more fiddly parts were glossed over – like there isn’t any mention of the use of interfacing your bound button holes, and no discussion is entered into over the width of the horsehair braid and how it would affect the outcome of your skirt or dress hem. So were you to follow the instructions given implicitly, your end result either wouldn’t be very long lasting, or would look closer to home-made rather than hand-made.

I’ll be referring to this book mainly as a source of inspiration and idea’s, rather than a definitive manual of ‘how to’ I think. That being said, there are a lot of techniques covered in a relatively short space of time, and like a bee to pollen I’m drawn to things that are beautifully packaged – and in that light this book doesn’t disappoint.


Book Review: A complete course on making a professional suit

Tailoring: A Complete Course on Making a Professional Suit
Edited by Peg Couch, Published by Fox Chapel Publishing.

“A classically tailored suit never goes out of style, nor do the skills and techniques used in crafting one. This step by step guide takes the reader through the entire process of making a suit, from selecting the fabric to the final fit. The book also includes over 200 colour coded diagrams that clearly depict the construction process. This complete course on tailoring is illustrated and annotated like no other book on the topic and will become a trusted reference in any sewing library.”

I’m slowly acquiring a small sewing library (I adore books) and this was one of the first books on tailoring I bought. It’s a good read, especially as it has sections specifically for men’s and women’s suits – I had no idea there was such a difference in construction techniques between the two.

Whilst it’s heavy on text however, the authors/editors/publishers seem to forget that a picture speaks a thousand words – and in a craft such as sewing, visuals are indespensible.

For instance, there is a section on the different types of fabrics – you would expect them to come with pictures, no? No. There’s just a block of text. And whilst the techniques are well detailed textually, there are only hand drawings of the garment and their tailoring steps, which can get a tad confusing when various layers and different materials are used.

My biggest gripe? One of the small number of pictures that actually has a garment and a hand in it at the same time has dirty fingernails. I mean, really?

This is not what I’d expect from a tailoring publication. Whilst I know I’m going to use this as a reference text as it really does have a large amount of useful descriptions in it, I just can’t get past the dirty fingernails. Ick.