Take Your Sewing to the Next Level

Where do you go once you’ve mastered sewing basic items of clothing and are ready to branch out into more challenging fashions?  

Step one is to make sure you are getting the best out of your sewing machine.  The Sewing Machine Classroom is more than just information about your machineIn the first chapters, Charlene Phillips talks in-depth about needles and thread. Think of it this way -- you can have the best car (sewing machine), but if you use the wrong tires (needles and thread), then the only thing between your car and the road (fabric) won't perform well. And may crash--badly.

Picking out a more advanced pattern can be intimidating, but the website PatternReview.com helps you get the scoop on which patterns work and which don’t. The site is a little clunky and cluttered, but there is a wealth of information there. You can create a free profile to access sewing pattern reviews, get reviews of sewing machines, visit forums, find tips and techniques, register for classes and the list goes on. If you need help with anything to do with sewing clothing, you can probably get your answers here.

You might be intimidated by trying a more complicated garment because you are worried it might not fit and you will have spent all that time creating something unwearable.  Check out Fitting & Pattern Alteration by Elizabeth G. Liechty. I’ve found fitting solutions in here I’ve never seen anywhere else.

So now you’ve got it to fit, how do you give your garments that extra special touch?  Try some couture techniques.  Claire Shaeffer has really studied couture garments in depth and has stellar techniques in her book Couture Sewing Techniques, as well as interesting histories of some garments from couture designers. Made a v-neck top that gaps? She’ll tell you how to fix that.  Know all about closures? This will tell you even more.  Claire is also featured on the Couture Allure Vintage Fashion Blog.

If you are making a shirt, take a look at David Page Coffin’s book, Shirtmaking:  Developing Skills for Fine Sewing, and companion DVD, Shirtmaking Techniques, in order to get seriously professional results:  well-turned collars, perfect plackets, and impeccable hems.  I would recommend these techniques even if you aren’t sewing a shirt. They can be applied in other areas of other kinds of garments. For example, I use his instructions for attaching a sleeve cuff to attach waistbands to pants as a way to avoid bumpy corners.

If you’ve gotten to this point, you’re probably ready to try some tailoring. Tailoring, a volume from the Singer Reference Library, goes over classic tailoring techniques, but gives you the option of shortcuts with modern fusible stabilizers, too, making the process a little less daunting. 

Maybe you’re still not sure what you want to sew next. Look for some inspiration in the form of online blogs.  Two standout blogs I regularly visit are Gretchen Hirsch’s blog, Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing and Peter Lappin's Male Pattern Boldness. Gertie sews her own clothes with a vintage flair, and has transformed that into a successful teaching business, a book, and even her own line of patterns.  For every creation, Gerie provides tutorials or photographs of the process.  Peter makes dresses and suits and everything in between.  He also takes photos of his sewing process which are really helpful, and his writing style is a joy to read, even if you don’t sew.

And, lastly, if you’re feeling really adventurous, check out this drool-worthy blog of period costumes at Before the Automobile. Wow!

Rebecca is a library clerk at Belmont who has been sewing since a very young age, but recently realized she was resting on her laurels and needed more of a challenge.


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