Book report

Neat freak or good enough. I get both kinds of sewing. Sometimes it only seems right if the finish is as good as its possible to be, sometimes it only needs to pass muster. What I don’t get though, is making something in highly labour intensive way, but badly constructed.

Help me out here. Why would anyone sew cotton jersey with seams in hand worked running stitch, which doesn’t stretch  with the fabric?

Is this some kind of a penance? You are to spend several hours jabbing through your jersey with a large enough eyed needle to take doubled buttonhole twist,  forever after having to furiously adjust your skirt when you sit down so as not to have your strong thread rip holes in the gaping fabric as your glutes struggle for space.

Oh, but its couture! I know a little about couture hand sewing. My teacher was from one of the couture houses. I did not appreciate, at sixteen, being made to hand sew a precise sixteen stitches to the inch seam. I remember it was sixteen to the inch because I had to unpick mine, which slapdashedly fell into fifteen somewhere in the middle. Unpick by unpicking the thread stitch by stitch with a needle that is. Dear lady, she would be turning in her grave  reading that handsewing should be secured by a great big clumsy knot so it doesn’t unravel. Neat backstitch anyone? She’d have had a fit too at ‘loving’ your thread by running your fingers over it a few times so that the grease from your hand tamed it. Couture sewists try to avoid getting the fabric and threads mucky.

OK, the first half of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin didn’t rock my socks. I don’t do penance now I’m a grown up. But I really fell out with it when I looked closely at the beautifully photographed clothes.


If you’re going to hand appliqué a large design over the front of a dress, why in the name of all that is design, would you appliqué the fabric before cutting out the pieces,  ending up with your design sliced up  on a centre front seam? Wouldn’t you construct the dress first, and have the design flow across the front uninterrupted?

For more inspiration on decorative work see Colette Wolff and Jennie Rayment.

For a peek at how a designer who starts with a fabric design works it into a garment see   Zandra Rhodes video , number 7.

Today’s dress for the me made may melée.DSC_1077

I made this a few years ago, from my own draft. I haven’t worn it much recently, because it had bad associations. Anyone else go off clothes they wore to places they’d rather not be? But it really deserves to get back in circulation, as one of the easiest to wear/easiest to pack hot weather numbers. There are a few changes I might make now its had a second glance. The tie belt isn’t wonderful, it could be sliced off and a belt made or purchased instead. The trim at the end of the short kimono cut sleeves is a bit narrow to make the point, the wrap over neckline needs a concealed fastening to stop it gaping when I lean forward. The skirt is the greatest! Just enough swish without taking off in a high wind. And pockets!


About jay

I design and draft patterns
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8 Responses to Book report

  1. carmencitabs says:

    I agree with you on that. Why take all this time to hand sew something and then cut it off?


  2. mrsmole says:

    It is interesting how one develops and eye for balance and symmetry and what passes for good stitching over the years. That beige dress was certainly no great example of what to do with a nice motif…cut down the middle…who does that? As far as Zandra Rhodes, I met her once in Calif when she was having a private showing to her high end clients. I went as a mature Fashion Design student (40) to just see the clothes on the racks but was ushered into one of the 10 seats in a private studio like the rich ladies by a salesgirl who thought I had an invitation. What a treat to see things modeled and to meet her. I just happened to have a copy of Threads magazine with her dresses featured inside, early 1990’s and had her sign the cover. I can’t imagine all the designs she has in her head!!!! While your charcoal dress could use the changes you have mentioned, no one would criticize it as the motifs and wrap front are still in fashion and looks comfortable. Sometimes we don’t wear clothes or jewelry if we think they have picked up bad karma but forcing ourselves to wear them, freshen them up and create new memories is the best way to deal with them. Thanks for such a great post!


  3. Pella says:

    OOH! I’m so green with envy that you saw the ZR clothes close up! What a piece of luck.


  4. hahahaha saying it like it is, no holds barred. Love it. I searched everywhere for proper (i.e. by people who actually sew not people who’ve been paid to put pics of the book on their site/blogs to ‘generate interest’) reviews of this book before buying it but there was nothing that really went through it like this. I bought it anyway (I can’t imagine hand sewing jersey with a regular needle, that must really mess with the integrity of the knit, wonder how long lasting these things are, given the price) but am planning to stabilize and machine sew. I’ll see how I go.. Oh and MMM Melee-best description ever.


    • Pella says:

      Well, on the plus side, there are some appliqué designs to use or adapt, and as you are slim, the garment patterns would probably work without too many adjustments. I would definitely machine a knit, probably with a stretch stitch or an overlocker.


      • Same. I was thinking to get some wash away stabiliser (can’t seem to find the iron on variety) and just embroider/applique with my sewing machine. That way I can use knit needles and not have to tit about with manual labour. XD I don’t have a hoop but lack of equipment is never an issue XD


  5. Pella says:

    It should work. I don’t use a hoop for embroidery, you just have to keep concentrating so as not to stitch through your finger when holding the fabric down close to the needle. Maybe use a narrow zigzag so the stitched areas can stretch like the rest of it?


  6. I have to say I couldn’t stop looking at the awful CF seam with its mis-matched / chopped up appliques. Lordy. Wouldn’t wear it. Wouldn’t. Couldn’t!


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