Claire B. Shaeffer
(c) 2011 by Claire B. Shaeffer
A great many of us are self-taught seamstresses. We come equipped with a suite of sewing techniques taught to use by commercial patterns, friends, and, for historical costumers, books like "Costume Close-Up " and "The Tudor Tailor ."
There comes a point when it's time to take it to the next level. Perhaps you've already started sewing more pieces by hand, or have learned a neckline facing trick, or a hem method that gives a perfect finish. When you're ready to really "kick it up a notch," though, it's time to get "Couture Sewing Techniques ," by Claire B. Shaeffer.
|The Met: Chanel, 1929|
The whole book.
No, really. It's a gold mine of information, a little history, and sewing reference. The book starts out with a definition of "couture," and "haute couture," and how it differs from luxury ready-to-wear. The author also states that she doesn't "dumb down" these techniques for home sewers, but shows the full, sometimes complicated, process to achieve the same results used on incredible gowns of both past and present.
"Couture Sewing Techniques " is not only a "how-to" guide, complete with easy-to-follow instructions and diagrams, but it is also full of professional color photographs of historic couture garments, from Worth, Mainbocher, Chanel, YSL, and many more. Seeing the diagram of the technique, reading the description of how it is done, and then seeing an example of it used on a stunning garment...well, that's worth a thousand words.
I have only had this book about a week, but I can't seem to put it down, and already I have used techniques I read about just days ago to correct the neckline on my 1912 Titanic Ballgown, and even to buck up and apply some sequins and beads. "Couture Sewing Techniques" makes you want to hand sew your historical costumes by giving ample good reasons to do so. The book explains the "why" as well as the "how."
|Dress by House of Worth, 1875-76 Paris, the Met Museum. Detail of frill at hem.|
"Couture Sewing Techniques " covers all kinds of techniques for everything from buttonholes, to hems, to necklines, basic tailoring, even correct basting. What it doesn't spend time on is pattern fitting, so I recommend purchasing one of several books on fit or pattern alterations, to work in conjunction with this book. If you are an ace at patterning already, then you're good to go.
I've bought a lot of costume books, many of which are amazing, some of which are "meh," but I truly believe that this book, "Couture Sewing Techniques " is the first that will improve my crafting ten-fold. For those of you who acquire this bible of technique, it *will* take patience and practice to learn all these tricks, and to apply them to your projects, but you will be happy, happy, happy you did. I cannot recommend a book any more highly than I recommend this one.