I will readily admit that sewing knit fabrics is not my strongest skill set. I understand some fundamentals, I understand the zig zag stitch versus straight stitch. I know that knits are typically serged when not sewn with zig zag stitch on a standard machine. I do know that any fiber can be knit, including silk. And that taps me out. So before I really did anything with knitted fabric (cotton to start, sorry), I reached for Sew Knits with Confidence by Nancy Zieman.
Of course, generations of seamstresses grew up watching Sewing with Nancy, but what really brought the book to mind was the sad announcement of Nancy’s passing on November 14, 2017. After taking a moment to say a quick prayer for Nancy and her family, I realized I had never actually picked up this book which I purchased to learn how to sew with knits. It is a very quick read, at 127 pages long. Half of those pages are easily projects, which of course makes sense. Once the know how has been described, giving you projects to work on so you can immediately apply that knowledge is just good sense.
And of course it was well written, easy to understand, with clear guidelines of the different supplies that make sewing with knits easy. Nancy clearly explains what the different knits are, how to identify them, and which projects you would use each knit type for. Nancy explains how to use either a sewing machine or a serger, which pins to use, double needle use on a standard machine, and how to achieve certain effects with a serger. A lot of it is common sense stuff, once you understand the basic differences between knit and woven fabrics. Mostly, reading Sew Knits With Confidence carried with it all the nostalgia of watching Nancy on television.
So it’s been awhile since I posted anything. Not to say I’ve given up on blogging (no…no such luck. Sorry folks!). But I did have to figure out where I wanted to go with this blog. And since it’s a blog attached to a site which sells silk fabric, sewing seemed like a logical step. And while there are tons of sewing blogs out there, none of them have my voice, just like I don’t have their voice and perspective. It is unquestionably one of the beautiful things about blogging, that ability to share your unique perspective on a subject. So I decided to start my sewing blogging with new measurements.
This is a pretty good beginner’s guide to working with commercial patterns. It is put out by Barron’s, which is known to produce educational books, and is a pretty simple, straight forward read. It does include a basic measurement chart, which is the one I used to get my new measurements. There was one confusing paragraph regarding ease which I read four times before going to a Facebook sewing group for clarification. The ladies of Facebooklandia were able to explain my confusion to my satisfaction; however, in the end it turns out I was grossly overthinking the point.
Additionally, the graphic for the measurement table was a little misleading, as the line drawing has the model wearing high heels while getting measured. Which makes no earthly sense, as you don’t need to know the length of your leg PLUS heel height. Leg to floor then you can adjust individual patterns to allow for heel height if you wish. Which could cause confusion to someone brand new to sewing who might then put on heels prior to taking measurements. But the rest of the directions for measurements were solid: wear comfortable clothes but not denim, snug shirt for close fit, fullest part of the body measurements, etc.
Overall, a good guide to get started with. The line drawings were clear and directions were well illustrated. It is an easy read and a quick reference for general pattern adjustments. And if you want to follow along at home, here is video of the measuring process (barefooted, thank you!)
Time is so accelerated today. Technology advances practically at the speed of light. Micro-chips double in capacity year over year. The camera on your phone is as good as if not better than the camera’s you buy as separate items. With the information of the world literally at your fingertips, it’s hard to put in perspective just how advanced silk weaving was for it’s day. Silk has been found in Henan province dating to 8500 years ago. And we know clothing for the elite in China has been made of silk for at least 5000 years.
Several weeks ago, I mentioned the impulse buy of 5000 Years of Chinese Costumes. Which book came in while I was at Hot Raqs. Then I had to prep to vend at Miss Fisher Con. So I didn’t really get to sit down and look at until last night. Now, I am a fairly quick reader, but I have not yet had a chance to actually read the book. However, I quick glance through shows a wealth of pictures. Photographs of extant garments. Line drawings of what garments are believed to look like, based on bronze statues found in tombs or left as relics or family artifacts.
And it is fascinating! The line drawings almost always have a picture of the statue it was based off of. And from that one can see the Chinese were exceptionally skilled weavers. We may have been introduced to Damask by way of Syria, but there is little doubt the Chinese did it first. They were brocading silks, as early as the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581-618 CE). Satin is known as such because this weaving technique originated in Quanzhou, and was introduced to the West by way of the Silk Road, and Arab traders who called Quanzhou by the Arabic word, Zayton.
But the most exciting picture I found was on page 120, where there was a photograph of an extant garment. Labeled as being from Huang Shen’s tomb of Southern Song in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, the garment is an Over-dress made from crepe fabric. Now, in my post on Crepe de Chine, I had said the earliest reference I was able to find to Crepe de Chine was from the 19th century in France.
I should have waited to write the Crepe de Chine post. The Song Dynasty was from 960 to 1279 CE. So my guess was off by an alarming 600 years. Which is good news for anyone who likes Song Dynasty costuming. Not so good news for the egg on my face…
I have not yet had time to fully read this book, at this point I am giving it enthusiastic endorsement. 5000 Years of Chinese Costume is an excellent reference and I am excited to see what else I can learn from this beautiful book.
So….very….close! One post a day from March 16 to April 21. It is April 19. Three more posts. It has been a LONG five weeks. So, what have I learned. I learned that inspiration can come from unexpected places <ahem, Facebook>. I learned that my best time to write is between 7:30pm and 9pm. I learned that somedays, you just have to plug along <almost every weave post I did. I get that it’s highly relevant to my blog, but man I hate writing them.>
I learned that when I really decide to do something <write a blog post a day> then I am damn well capable of pulling it off. This bodes well for my pattern making and digitizing desires. I also learned that I work best when I focus on one project at a time. So I can blog….or I can pattern….or I can digitize. But trying to do all three at the same time is crazy making.
I learned, in my small chunks of downtime, that I sort of enjoy Anime. And exercise. That last one shocked the hell out of me, but I kind of like weight lifting. It feels like I’ve accomplished something when I actually complete a trip to the gym, a little promise to myself kept. And I’ve learned. I may not have enjoyed writing every single post, but I learned something from each one written. Whether it was my new speculations on Cartridge Pleating, or what exactly made Organza different from Chiffon.
And while I may not enjoy writing (I hate writing…I’m pretty damn good at it, but I hate it), I do love learning. And I learned that I have mad respect for people who make their living writing. How the hell is anyone able to write, day after day after day, and keep the energy and quality high? And as a life long bibliophile, I am eternally grateful to those who do make their living from the written word. Not sure I’m ready to be one of them, but maybe someday. In the mean time, I am going to ponder my last two posts of this sojourn, and a new writing schedule. While I don’t intend to write every day, I do want a regular posting schedule. After all, I’m not done learning yet!
So this is a brief review of Make Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele P. Margolis. I honestly don’t even remember how this book came on to my radar to begin with. It’s not new. It was published with copyrights in 1985. Even so it is solidly written. It covers basic geometric shapes, darting, shaping, slopers, and style techniques.
And one might look at this book and assume it is dated, but the pattern blocks are solid and the instructions are clearly written and detailed. And the designs don’t LOOK dated. They look timeless and elegant, with design details that have periodically cycled through stylish and in to classic, and back in to haute couture.
The book flows logically from one concept to the next, covering how to add or remove fullness, and how to design necklines. Button placement, collars and closures, cowling and yokes. Margolis even covers how to make uneven opening, plackets, and tabs. Everything is truly covered in an easy to read and digest format.
I’m sort of loving this book and can see why, even with a copyright of 1985, this book is still being printed and sold for the home sewer. This is a strongly recommend, even if you don’t intend to make your own pattern line for sale. If you only need a book to help with minor adjustments, even just drafting a different collar for a commercial pattern–I would recommend this book for your collection.