Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques: Book Reviews, Sewing and Non-sewing Related

I'm doing an invisible happy dance this morning since my McCalls sheath alterations have turned out quite nicely and muslin 2 is worthy of being completed as an actual dress.  So no clothing pictures yet but I've pulled out my latest sewing book to use for the neckline and armhole binding on this dress.

I'm a sucker for a new sewing book although in recent years I've been able to refrain from purchasing many any.  I'm not into aprons or children's fashions or remaking thrift store items into trendy outfits....which would only look bizarre on me.  But I thought the price and content of Lynda Maynard's was a very worthwhile purchase.  I have the Clare Schaeffer  and Roberta Carr detailed couture books but I like the pictures and easy to use spiral binding of this latest one.  I'm also visually drawn to the fashion pictures which are more current than in those other books.

The pictorial index in the front of the book Couture Technique Selector seems like a useful idea as well.  Sometimes I just want a visual reminder of how to do a particular binding or hem and this is a good quick reference.  Many of the techniques can be found in my other sewing books but there are some here that I had not seen illustrated before :  ex. boned cuff....something I'd like to try on one of my JAM jackets this year.   I think this one will be at my right hand side as I decide what details to add to a garment to make it more personalized or special and yes, maybe even more "couture."

I've been reading up a storm in the last month so here are fiction titles that may interest some of you.

I took two paperbacks on our New Zealand trip, intending to drop them off along the way after I had finished reading them.  Well, the trip and our companions were all so enjoyable that I did far less reading than I had imagined so they both came home with me.

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos was an enjoyable, beach type read.  Interesting developments among several women friends, perhaps improbable but still a fun read.  I do like books written from the point of view of different characters.  This one is told from the POV of a new arrival, Cornelia, who has a hard time fitting in with her new suburban acquaintances,  from Lake, the new friend who seems to be holding back some her life story and from Piper the seemingly perfect, brittle leader of the neighborhood.  Good chick lit.

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny was something I picked up at our church book sale and has been a fortunate discovery.  Louise Penny lives in a small village outside of Montreal, Canada and this is part of a mystery series starring Chief Inspector Gamache.  This book, with its slow methodical investigation and domestic undertones reminded me of a more serious version of the PBS Mystery series that Mr. Lucky and I enjoy, Midsomer Mysteries.  Small village life, people's lives intertwined, unspoken pettiness, jealousies and greed abounding.  I'm going to look up the first novel in this series and start from the beginning.

Sometimes you just need a light, happy read and for those days I've always enjoyed the latest Jan Karon Father Tim books.  Again, they remind me reading my beloved British Miss Read... books of a few decades ago.  The latest one leaves North Carolina and the small town of Mitford and sends Father Tim and his artist wife to Ireland for vacation.  Now, my mother's family is as Irish as they come but personally I'm not that sentimental about my Irish roots.  Maybe what I mean is that I'm not so nationalistic about my Irish roots.  The Irish English conflict looks like another tribal war to me.  Yes, I know about the oppression and horrors but I imagine that some of my Irish ancestors would have been just as happy if the shoe (or money and power) were on the other foot.   Which partially explains the Irish neutrality and cozying up to Fascists during WWII, in my opinion.  So this might explain why this book didn't particularly speak to me.  No it didn't dwell on any of that history but I do find that overly romanticizing your Irish ancestry is something that can grate on my nerves.  So while I usually enjoy these simple stories of redemption and hope for all of us, this one was not my cup of tea.

I've definitely saved the most intriguing and most powerful one for last.  I wasn't one of those raving about The Corrections when it was published nine years ago.  But I am thoroughly enjoying reading Franz's latest novel Freedom.  It's certainly long and certainly preachy in parts but he's a master at spotting the contradictions and hypocrisies in the lives of upper middle class families.   It's reminding me of Tom Wolfe nailing the 1980s in Bonfire of the Vanities.   I'm only 1/3 of the way through but am enjoying (maybe appreciating is better word) his take on these characters and their self-justifying motivations.  Sometimes a little too close to home but isn't that what makes for a good novelist?  Is it the great American novel?  No, I don't think the characters are real enough to be that long lived.  They feel more like composites of the issues that bother him in our American society today, which is what I thought Tom Wolfe was doing as well.  Fine with me.  I think our lack of humility about our inherent contradictions and self-justification is what leads to problems and conflict, in families and in politics.  So I'm enjoying this one and curious as to where it is headed.


  1. That's good new about your sheath! Dance all the way to the finish!! I like Lynda Maynard's book. To me, it is more good sewing than couture but I have found it helpful. Thanks for the book reading list. I have read "Freedom" - an excellent read.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Dressmaker's handbook of Coutour. I enjoyed the transformation of your tote bag from the last post.

  3. I love the Couture book. It's a happy addition to my good-sized sewing library. I read "Freedom" and enjoyed it.

  4. Thanks for the book reviews. Gives me some direction when I head for the library. Usually I just walk up and down the rows of shelves and hope that something interesting will jump out at me. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't.

  5. Jane, because of your review, I ordered the book from Amazon. I have tons of sewing books but haven 't bought a new one in ages, so excited to get it. Looking forward to you coming back here in a few weeks. Tina


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