Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What I'm Reading: Sewing Secrets from the Fashion Industry

Sometimes I get annoyed with home sewing. The first commercial pattern I ever used was a simple draped front knit tank top. In my beginner's brain, I thought it would be two pieces, a front and back; and four seams, shoulders and sides. When I carefully studied the directions, insanely nervous about messing up, I noticed something I didn't understand. A facing. I had no clue what it was, but from the directions, it appeared to be half the length of the back of the tank top, and was attached to the inside back neckline. Why? I didn't get it. I pulled out all my RTW tank tops and searched for something similar. Some way to understand. Nada. So I made the tank top without the facing. I sewed a narrow hem to finish the neckline.

What I learned, later (from a better pattern company...) was that facings neatly finish edges. Okay, fine. Lesson learned. I even found one, eventually, in one of my RTW tops. Let me repeat that. ONE of my RTW tops.

That's why I enjoyed the book Sewing Secrets from the Fashion Industry. This book had no problem thumbing its nose a bit at traditional home sewing techniques. It explained how clothes are made "in the industry". Sure, some of these tips are meant to save time, money, and fabric, but in the end won't we all be happier if we can do the same?

The book opens with a general section on tools, slopers, alterations, and fabric. Nothing too earth-shattering. Then it is organized with an alphabetical section on anything from awls to zippers and how industry garment sewers use these tools/techniques. The last section covers different garment types, giving tips on sleeves, pants, skirts, etc. and their specific quirks.

Throughout the book are scattered small sidebars with tricks from the authors, things they've picked up in their years of sewing. For example, one mentions that she never uses a press cloth, that whatever piece of paper is lying around will work just fine! I appreciated the laid-back tone. Especially for a beginner, it can be intimidating to learn allllllll the bits and pieces about sewing "right". So much so that I imagine it turns away many would-be sewists.

Copying RTW isn't always a bad thing. Of course we are limited in certain areas (I can't make a coverstitch, for example, on my home sewing machine) but if at all possible, I feel myself trying to reproduce RTW more often these days. There has been great discussion over on the Cake patterns blog about this very topic, as she recently went over using a back yoke on a skirt instead of darts. And I mean, really, check your casual jeans and skirts. Do you see darts?? There's also an awesome resource about deconstructing a RTW jeans waistband and how differently it's made than how patterns tell us to sew.

If you're like me and looking to streamline your sewing and learn more RTW techniques, then you'll like this book. And if I'm way off-base, tell me! Is there something I'm missing about home sewing vs. RTW? Is there an advantage to always following a pattern when other ways work?

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