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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and I write a monthly humour/sewing column for the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazonhttps://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=barbara+emodi&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Abarbara+emodi

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Friday, May 20, 2016

New sewers

The past ten days have been a blur, and a blur that has not included blog posts. 

I am sorry about that, and just as sorry you can't read all the posts I have written in my head while I have been painting the B and B my youngest son just bought, getting my summer classes ready, or walking the woods with Miss Daisy in Cheticamp Cape Breton where my husband currently has a project. 

More on all of that later.

One of the things that has been on my mind though has been young sewers.

Just before I left for Cape Breton Miss Scarlett, my six-year-old granddaughter and my heir apparent as the family seamstress, and I looked through the latest Marfy patterns.

I was impressed with her eye and for her definite opinions on fashion at such a young age.

This seems to me to be one of the big differences between new and us older sewers.

We were brought up by mothers and grandmothers who emphasized making the inside look as good as the outside (something I still try to do and don't regret) and following instructions exactly, sometimes even when they didn't make much sense.

Many sewers of my generation for example will try their little hearts out to grade the second seam allowance (more on grading and trimming in another post) precisely 1/8" lower than the first trim. I have even seen women try to measure this.

Of course with this sort of stress about detail the big picture, which might include fit and decisions about what really you want to sew rather than should sew, can lead to what I call paint-by-numbers sewing (and you have to be old enough to know what that is) that can sap the creativity and independent mindedness out of sewing.

On the other side, and possibly a reaction to this approach or a product of a generation who did not have home ec classes or family members who themselves knew how to sew, there are the bloggers/designers who are churning out tutorials, patterns, and books that in many cases are steering the readers as wrong as some of the old dumb head pattern instructions used to.

You know what I mean. 

Those "I just learned to sew last year and now let me teach you" sewing experts. I commend the enthusiasm, but not the instant commercialization and perhaps not the the lack of depth of knowledge that really can be useful if you want your garments turn out as well as they should. I am also getting a little bit weary with patterns described as "essential" and "iconic" that really are two or three pattern pieces, as if these shapes have never been presented before.

There is something for knowing what you don't know.

So all this said I am fairly cautious when I read about a new sewing book. I am on kind of a mission to help new sewers get enough of the right information for their first projects to turn out.

I also recognize that new and the newest sewers need accessible information.

In addition to my own experience with Miss Scarlett I have been contacted several times in the last year by non-sewing mothers who wanted advice on how to help their daughters who were desperate to get sewing. Sometimes this has involved me giving basic machine advice and offering to help teach, but really I wanted to offer them a good book too.

I had a fair idea my 1970 Vogue Book of Sewing was not going to do the job.

I was looking for a book with solid basics, covering all the things I think are important, but also that recognizing that newest sewers want to experiment and customize their clothing immediately, not wait for post graduate design courses like we might have felt we should.

I also should tell you that I have been sent a number of sewing books over the years to review on this blog. There maybe is one for advanced sewers I intend to get to, but most of them I have given a pass.

If I don't think it is useful I am not going to tell anyone else it is.

I am about to make an exception.

I have recently read this book by teenage blogger Angela Lan and I love it:


Lan wrote this book between the ages of 11-14 and is clearly some sort of sewing savant. 

She gets all the basics right -  grainline, sewing machine needles and how to read a pattern and gives sensible basic instruction on techniques like setting in sleeves, sewing a knit neckline, and inserting zippers. She also includes some of her own opinions and experiences, for example why quilting cotton is not suitable for clothing.

In addition, like all sewers of her generation, she goes right to basic garments (hence the dream wardrobe reference) and to how to begin to generate your own designs. The book also includes six basic pull out traceable patterns and clear instructions on how these can be expanded or adapted, the high-waisted shorts into pants for example.

To me this is a gift book, perfect for a young girl who yearns to sew or for a mother who doesn't sew at all herself and wishes she could help her daughter start.

On that note the publisher has offered to send a free copy to one of my blog readers.

If you know someone young who could use this book please leave a comment and tell me who your young sewer is. I will make a random draw of the names next week and notify you by email (pm me your email address so I can do this).

The more new sewers the better.