Tag Archives: sewing books

I have two tailoring books…

Tailoring books

One is in print, bought from my local Chapters bookstore. I may even have had to have them order it in, but it seemed like the book to have. The other was picked up from the thrift store for a couple of bucks, and is part of the Singer Sewing Library.

Different title pages.

They have different publishing dates and different publishers. The ISBNs are different.

Hmm. Something strange.

I didn’t, in fact, get alarmed until I got to the cover page.

First page of content.

Wait, wait. This is the first page of text, of each book.

And this is the last.

Last page.

Yes, everything in between is also identical.

Did you know this? Is this something that’s obvious to everyone but me? Looking through the (very very) small print on the publisher page, the same editors etc. are mentioned as parts of the “creative team”. But they aren’t listed prominently like normal authors (as you can see from the covers).

I don’t think this is a copyright infringement—I’m sure the publishers of the modern version paid very well for the rights—but it does seem a bit sneaky from a consumer point of view, right?

Or am I on glue? Am I the only one who didn’t know these were the same book?



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Those who can’t sew…


Well, that’s part of the problem, anyway. I’d rather be sewing, but shopping is a quick fix.

So, in order from least guilty to most guilty:

Sewaholic Patterns:

Minoru Jacket & Renfrew top

Tasia is a sweetie at the best of times, and while I resisted all through the pre-sales of both these patterns, the deluge of awesome internet versions and her birthday sale totally put me over the edge. Plus, even though the shop was down when I tried to use it (overloaded by others drawn in by the sale), she replied to my plaintive email (delivered in obnoxious triplicate—OOPS! 😦 ) the very next day and was super-quick to put together an email invoice at the sale rate. And I had my patterns in only four days—hooray for in-Canada shipping! And supporting an independent small business, yadda yadda. So I am refusing to allow myself to feel guilty for this one.

Thrift store books

Circumstances conspired to have me at Value Village not one, not two, but three times this week, and different things appeared every time. I doubt you’re terribly interested in the shoes Tyo picked out for her Gr. 6 grad this spring, or the Pampered Chef stoneware, but two sewing books did throw themselves at me (I resisted another beginner-level one as I already have several of those and the only one you really need is Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing anyway 😉 )

Sandra Betzina's Fabric Savvy

Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina. I’ve heard good things about this one. And aside from a no-illustrations 70s paperback, I didn’t have any other books on different fabric types and how to work with them. So yeah, it was coming home. Although so much of what I sew with is bargain-store mystery (and even if it’s not, I’m abysmal at remembering what it is I’ve actually bought) I’m not sure how useful it’ll be. But it’s one of those resources you ought to have, right?

The page on denim.

I like the layout and illustrations—the front is a big alphabetical section on different fabric types and how to work with them, including laundering, needles, thread, sewing-machine feet, and seam-finishes. And it’s got the coil-binding so it lies flat open, which seems to be considered a bonus. I can’t say I’ve felt the need to have one of my reference books open on the table while sewing yet, but if I did, it would be great.

The techniques section

The back has quick overviews of the seam-finishes and other techniques referred to in the front. It’s a great idea and the drawings are lovely, although I’m not sure I’d be able to figure all the techniques out if I were a complete beginner.

Then there was this one:

Sewing Tops & T-Shirts by Marcy Tilton

The Easy Guide to Sewing Tops & T-Shirts, by Marcy Tilton (which I did a bang-up job photographing :P). I bought this more because I really like the other couple of books I have in this series than because I was sucked in by the cover or even content. But I do like how these books are set up—to help you take a basic pattern and adjust it and construct it just that bit above and beyond the basic standard instructions.

Cheater Full-Bust Adjustment

It has some interesting tips, including favouring stitching seams with a regular straight stitch (I’m guessing Marcy wears her knits looser than I often do) and the “cheater knit FBA” that I’ve read about online but never seen endorsed in an actual sewing book.

Thrift store fabric


I should’ve resisted, because the price, while low, was not great for the length available, which is less than half a metre. But It’s absolutely perfect to make a bunnyhug for Tyo. Except, of course, there wasn’t enough fleece, so I had to go back and hunt down an oversize men’s sweatshirt in black to fill in the other pieces. But I already have the pattern traced out (Jalie 2795), so assuming I get it sewn up with sufficient speed, I won’t feel too guilty for stash-building.

Expensive Book

Closet Monsters

And this would be the maximum-guilt item, because it didn’t come from the thrift store. Rather, we were at the book-store looking for a birthday present and I made the mistake of showing this book to Tyo. Tyo has a big black plastic bag of clothing sitting on her closet floor waiting to head to the thrift store, so she’s over the moon at the prospect of getting to turn it into monsters instead. And it’s a pretty cute book, with charming, wacky creatures. My only dislike is that there are no actual patterns—the book gives you detailed instructions for drawing out the pattern pieces (a lot of which are rectangles) on the clothes you’re de-constructing, but that’s not so helpful if you don’t have the exact same garment they’re deconstructing.

However, it shouldn’t be too hard to improvise—I’m just hoping Tyo can achieve some degree of independence on these projects, since my actual interest in making stuffed monsters is, um, fairly limited.

Ehm. So there it is, the whole shameful, consumeristic list. I did get a bit of pattern tracing done this week, so it’s conceivable that a finished item might make an appearance. I hope so. I’m getting tired of writing “look what I bought” posts, as I’m sure you’re getting bored of reading them.

And thanks, everyone, for your commiserating on my last post. Even if this one is basically an illustration of how I’m entirely my own problem. /sigh.


Filed under Sewing

More thrift-store fun

Thrift-Store Pattern Fun

I’ve had a little bit of luck at the thrift stores in the last little bit I thought I’d share, for lack of sewing since I currently have no kids at home to keep me from spending LONG days at the office.

While home last weekend I went shopping at Value Village with my Stylish Sister-in-Law. (I have two sisters-in-law, the stylish one and the crafty one. I have hopes of getting both of them sewing, although it’s a bit tricky at this remove.)

While Stylish scoped out the summery dresses, I did my requisite scope of the fabrics, but (fortunately) found little to tempt me. There was a piece of what I think must be someone’s home attempt at shibori. Sadly, though, it was very narrow and, frankly, looked kinda like what I think shibori would look like if I tried to do it at home in my kitchen—the basic technique was definitely there (the silk was still wrinkled where the threads had been releashed), but the overall pattern was uneven and generally meh. And it was expensive (by thrift store standards, not by shibori standards), so I left it. I also walked away from a fairly comprehensive-looking Simplicity sewing book, chanting to myself: “someone else needs it more… someone else needs it more.”

I did not fare quite so well in the old-patterns section. I walked away with the above bunch, probably none of which I really need. But they are so cute…

"New" desk for sewing machines.

On returning home and setting up my featherweight, I realized that the compromise of setting my machines on the end of the cutting table, which was barely adequate for two machines, was not going to be at all functional for three. So I had a mission. I needed a desk for my machies, preferably with plenty of drawers. I generally don’t like shopping at Value Village for furniture, as most of what they have in that department is pretty depressing, but for something that just needs to be functional and inexpensive, I figured it was a good place to start. After all, it’s going to be keeping company with my alley-salvage cutting table.

Happily, I found this blue desk. It’s real wood construction, quite sturdy, and has big drawers. It’s pretty nicked and beat-up, but I think it will serve its purpose nicely. Also all those drawers have considerably relieved the pressure on the stand of drawers holding my notions. I still need something more for the patterns, though.

While I was thrift-trawling, though, I couldn’t quite resist a couple more sewing books, one by Sandra Betzina, another by Marcy Tilton, whose name I think I’ve heard before.

No Time to Sew---Sandra Betzina

I have to admit, on closer inspection I’m not super thrilled with the Betzina book. It’s basically a wardrobe/style guide with sewing suggestions. There’s probably some good techniques and suggestions buried in there, but let’s just say that my idea of a stylish wardrobe and Sandra Betzina’s idea don’t have much in common beyond both being made of fabric. Exactly the wrong kind of dated.

Easy Guide to Sewing Skirts---Marcy Tilton

I’m much more excited by the Tilton book. It’s about making skirts. I know, you never would’ve guessed. There’s lots of detail, from beginner tips on fabric to a fairly comprehensive fitting section to some more couture finishes, and a lot of discussion of which techniques are suited to which fabric types, which I like. Not all the techniques are exactly what I would use, but then I don’t know everything so maybe I should give them a try. Lots of tips on the finer points of finishing waistbands and vents and things (although not on lining a vent!)

Oh, and the Featherweight is fixed. Or rather, I am even more astonishingly clueless than I thought I was. Oona nailed it—when I replaced the needle after the break, I put the flat side to the right instead of the left. Apparently, like threading from right to left, this is a Big Deal for Feather.


Well, colour me embarrassed. Especially since I had swapped in and out several needles BEFORE the one I broke, making sure the Singer ones were the same as my regular ones. Apparently all those times, I managed to put it back in properly by pure accident, while this time, when I was actually paying attention, I got it wrong. Five or six or ten times.

ANYWAY. She’s working happily again, albeit somewhat dripping in oil from all my attention. I’ll get her figured out yet…


Filed under Sewing

Oooh, a goodie!

Sew and Save by Madeleine Hunt "The Key Book to Professional and Home Sewing"

My mother, in her assiduous trawling of the charity shops in my home town, stumbled upon this gem of a book, published and distributed by a local sewing school in 1953! It appears to have been the textbook for their course, which was available at least in part by mail as there is a note concerning a charge of $.50 to $1.00 plus return postage for correcting each assignment.

Assignment one included making samplers of tucks, pin-tucks, lapped tucks, gathers, gathered darts, and corded shirring. Assignment two was samplers of a shirt-waist collar, a plain sleeve, a hem with seam-binding, and a zipper at the side of dress. Obviously the target audience was not the novice seamstress, but the home sewist with ambitions of improving her craft.

Topics include fabric and style info (including non-washing-machine methods for pre-shrinking fabrics… apparently only linens and white cottons should be boiled; other cottons should be soaked in warm water, not wrung out, and hung to dry still folded). There’s an extensive section on fit (actually, about four separate sections… the layout is a bit confusing), with a large emphasis on pattern measuring (sensible since muslin-making was impractical and frowned on); at least fifteen different kinds of seams. Also a (short) section on lingerie, and a much longer section on sewing for children, with such highlights as “How to Dress the Stout and Slender Child” and “Styles to Suit a Stout Little Girl”.

I’ll post more once I have more of a chance to go through it, but I couldn’t resist passing on this princess-seam FBA (also suitable for a rounded back), which is a bit more free-wheeling than the Palmer-Pletsch method I’ve usually seen (not that I’m any kind of expert).

FBA, c. 1953

And also, this full-bicep alteration, which I know for a fact I’ve seen out there somewhere, but can’t for the life of me recall where.

Full biceps adjustment

And it begins with this lovely admonishment:

You are judged by your Appearance!

Dontcha just love the fifties?

If I were ambitious and dedicated, I’d do like Gertie or Megan and take up the challenge to sew my way through the course. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Sorry. But I will pass on whatever gems I do find! 🙂


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My sewing library…

My first sewing text.

I’ve mentioned before I’m a self-taught sewist. For a long time I figured that anything I couldn’t sort out on my own, I’d ask my mom. This worked well when I lived in my home town, but started to become problematic when I moved out of province. Especially about a year ago, when I was starting to entertain notions of learning how to sew well. One thing I did was do some quick internet surveys of recommended texts on sewing. The idea of actually studying sewing had never occurred to me before, but since I’m a researcher by trade it really was a natural progression. And then, one day around last Christmas, I stumbled on a copy of the “Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing” at the thrift store.

This was on the short list of recommended texts. I snaffled it up, read through voraciously, and went on to make my daughters some coats. Then I discovered the world of sewing blogs, and the forums on PR, and Burdastyle.com, and, well, I was off.

Well, a few weeks ago, a number of volumes of the Singer Sewing Reference Library showed up at my local Value Village. And I resisted. Probably most of the information was already in my Complete Guide. Probably it was all super-dated, anyway.

And then Cidell went and reviewed one of the volumes. Interestingly, Carolyn also listed the series among her favourite sewing books, but none of the volumes she has are ones that were available to me. And there’s a whole one on tailoring, apparently. D’oh!

My new sewing reference library!

Anyway, yesterday I was feeling a little foolishly flush, and they were still there and, well, they’re only three bucks each, and it’s five for the price of four, and… well, I came home with five of the set.

I did not buy the home dec volumes. Sorry. Maybe I will be more interested in home-dec sewing when I a) don’t live in a bleak rental house decorated in a scintillating palate of cream, ivory, and ecru. And b) can afford to decorate with the kinds of sumptuous fabrics my imagination demands. In the meantime, home-dec sewing = meh (which hasn’t stopped me from sewing my own curtains, or curtains and bed-drapes for my kids, but I’m not going to spend money learning to do it.)

So… Cidell talked about the Activewear volume already. Sewing Essentials seems to cover the basics, which I think I mostly have down when push comes to shove but hey, pictures are always great. Sewing Specialty Fabrics has to be good to have on hand, and covers everything from silk to bouclé to gabardine to lace to fur (fun or otherwise). The Perfect Fit is considerably more detailed than the five or so pages on fit in the Complete Guide, and has a small bit on swayback alteration, although it’s in the pants section, which isn’t was usually gives me the most trouble. I was a bit concerned over Sewing for Style (which style? 80s?), but it’s got a large chunk on tailoring, so I decided to go for it (but see above about the actual tailoring volume). I’d still like to get a real tailoring book at some point, but every little bit helps.

And, there was about 2 yards (just shy of 2m) of this lovely wool tweed. Isn’t that a great heathery-grey-mauve colour? At least half the nice fabric I’ve ever found at Value Village has been lovely wools. I hypothesize that people buy them and then are too intimidated/lazy to actually make the coat, and they end up in the thrift store alongside the godawful polyester and that “what was I thinking?” print. I wish there was enough to make this my Lady Grey Fabric, but even if I used something else for the facings, collar, and belt, I think not. Maybe a nice little blazer instead.

Me and my fantasy blazers. /sigh.

Syo's Pillows

In other news, Syo has been working hard on her hand sewing. She has now learnt to cut her own thread, thread her own needle, and even carefully marks out her stitches on the fabric beforehand. She has been putting these skills to good use creating an assortment of little pillows for the toys of the house.

Her knots, however, leave a little to be desired, as you can see.

We also (sigh) bought Tyo a “play coat” at the thrift store. It’s big, poofy, ugly, water- and wind-resistant, and most importantly easy to move in. Well, easier. There’s always going to be a certain amount of restriction when you look like a marshmallow. Ah, well. At least this way the Princess coat won’t be coming home soaked with muddy slush when the chinooks hit.


Filed under Sewing