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Feb 8, 2013

Fabulous Vintage Sewing Book ALERT!



Are you a dyed-in-the-wool-crepe vintage lover?

Do terms like "make do and mend" and "afternoon dress" give you a thrill?

Do you worry about matching your gloves to your peplum?

If so, you will love The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot.  Originally written in 1943, this book exists in many editions, and can be found on Amazon for less (often much less) than $10.  (Apparently Talbot was for many years the editor of Butterick Fashions and worked at Simplicity Patterns too.)



The Complete Book of Sewing has a little of everything: dressmaking, accessories (including how to craft a turban and other simple hats), tips on mending, a month-by-month seasonal fashion guide, home dec, even a chapter devoted to teaching your daughter to sew!  (Sorry, boys.)









Veterans of vintage pattern instructions will be familiar with the sewing and tailoring techniques outlined here and their presentation.  There's not a whole lot of hand-holding so the beginner might feel a bit overwhelmed, but it's a fun book to read and full of lovely illustrations and photos too.  I love all the practical tips most, like the suggestion of turning an old bedspread into a housecoat (or curtains into a button-front jumper)!







The section on making coats and jackets is especially good and really, how much has changed in the tailoring department?   (Don't expect any references to sergers, fusible interfacing, or polyester, however.)





Is some of the information here outdated?  Youbetcha and we wouldn't want it any other way.  If you're just looking for sewing techniques, there's the Reader's Digest guides.  This book is for lovers of a) Forties fashion, b) the history of home sewing, and c) WWII-era home economics. 





You can read more about The Complete Book of Sewing here, and see more photos from the book in my Picasa file here.

In these budget-conscious days, this book is relevant (the mindset, if not all the fashion).  The fact that a used copy is actually affordable makes it even better!

Anybody know/own The Complete Book of Sewing already?  How do you like it?

Happy Friday, everybody!

24 comments:

  1. Oh yes! I own this book and it's my go to book for vintage sewing and inspiration! Worth way more than 10 dollars! What a steal!

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  2. I have this book and I love it! I got it from my grandmother along with a few other books but this one I keep going back to.

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  3. I have this book as well! Found it in a used book store for $8 - mine came with the slip cover laminated and it is in great condition. Not to mention that the book itself is full of great pictures and great sewing advice. Haven't had time to sit down and "read" it yet (ummm, yeah, haven't even looked at the how to teach people to sew section) but I do enjoy having this book in my sewing library.

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  4. Actually, I somehow have two of this book! It's every bit as awsesome as you say.

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  5. Must be a lot of these out there--I've got one too, a 1949 edition that is very similar to yours. I've had it a long time and don't remember where I got it. Truthfully, I've never given it a thorough going-over. Maybe I'll read it more carefully now!

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  6. Peter, I love this book so much that I have two copies. I love the wardrobing ideas and the monthly accessory/wardrobe update ideas.

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  7. I love the graphics in the book. Do you think Cathy could use a housecoat made from an old bedspread?

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  8. What a great book to curl up with on a snowy weekend. I may have to get this.

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  9. I bought this book on ebay several years ago along with a group of books by Simplicity etc from the 60's and 70's. I must admit I don't refer to them because techniques have improved since then for what I like to do.

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  10. I have the Talbot book. Edition probably published in late 1940s or early 1950s--it belonged to my mother. I'm not home, so I can't verify it. It's a good resource for home sewing techniques

    I also have the Reader's Digest book--courtesy of my mother. She bought it for me when I left home for university, since she wasn't readily available to answer questions! LOL!

    Taja

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  11. Thanks for the hot tip...I've never seen or heard of this before. It looks great and reminds me of my mother's old Girls Own Annual from the war years. It had a pattern for making a dressing gown out of an old blanket. I begged my aunt to craft one for me and she kindly obliged, bless her...twas a bit scratchy, I will confess.

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  12. I don't have this one (yet), but I do have Sewing Made Easy by Mary Lynch from 1950. It is very similar, in fact some of the illustrations almost look like they could be the same as the Talbot book!
    It is amazing how much information they could squeeze into one small volume. Not just designing, sewing, cleaning, and remaking clothes, but all the esoteric bits as well: girdle repairs! leg makeup! maternity hats!
    And the lovely drawings of dresses and suits are worth every penny of the price of these old books.

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  13. I bought a 1943 edition at the local library booksale for a dollar. The housedress made of scraps (pg 231) is a little strange, tho. There's even a pattern for a dog coat in the "Gifts" section.

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  14. Without RTFA or the book, I'd say this book is something to include in a seamstress' library. Like vintage engineering books that lack latest tech but are able to clearly explain principles (which never change) direct from writer's mind without lots of copy-and-paste info from various webpages or going wild with MS Word. Note that back then writers had to use typewriters and carbon paper (and correcting typos was excruitatingly difficult), diagrams had to be handdrawn... so they put much thought into what they write. A 200 page manuscript is much easier than a 300 page manuscript. And sewing back then was done my handcranked machines, and it was uphill both ways in the snow including summers.

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    1. "by handcranked machines"
      like 'puters these days, I don't review before pressing 'send'

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  15. I have the 1943 edition of that book too. I bought it in an antique shop a few years back. I also have 'Sewing Made Easy' by Mary Lynch, 'Make and Mend for Victory' by the Spool Cotton Company (1942), a singer sewing book from 1959 and 'Vogues Book of Smart Dressmaking' (with included blouse pattern) from 1938. I love paging thru these books. They're so much fun and lots of great information.

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  16. Will keep my eyes peeled for this book! I adore the Mary Lynch book, especially on creating different styles from a basic pattern! Have you seen anthing from Mary Brooks Picken? I have 2 of her books, one from 20's, that we downloaded, the other a Singer book. I LOVE her attitude. I think she also worked in Met, with costumes, and was very interesting! To-day is very snowy, and I have been organizing my vintage patterns, more to do tomorrow. have some Retro from Butterick, earliest is 1933. Cathie, in Quebec.

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  17. I have it and love it! Any vintage sewing book catches my eye, so I picked this one up for practically nothing at an antique store. Not until I got it home did I find out what a classic it is. The illustrations are absolutely charming! The 1940s are my favorite, so it's a treasure to me.

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  18. I have this book in my collection. It's a gem. Mine has the original dust cover that shows Constance fitting a red striped dress on a glamourous lady and it's inscribed "To Hilda, Christmas 1944".

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  19. My grandma-in-law gave her 1943 edition to me on her 94th birthday. Her older sister gave it to her as a birthday gift in 1944. Its a bit battered and well worn, but I love that she used fabric scraps as page markers. She also gave my husband the mantle clock she was given as a wedding gift. I was just getting into sewing and she loved hearing me talk about outfits I was trying to make and new techniques learned. She ended up moving up north to live with her son, and I would write letters to her every few weeks. I've never mailed letters before, but it was very easy to write to her on a regular basis.
    She passed away last summer and I still miss her very much. I'm very glad to have the book as a reminder of her.

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  20. Fantastic! It is now in my cart at Amazon.

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  21. That one I've never seen before. The one I've had for years (with the exact cover shown in the link) is "Sewing Made Easy" by Lynch & Sara. The contents are similar to "The Complete Book of Sewing" and the illustrations are nearly the same vintage. I found this book at a thrift store as a teenager (there are still many copies floating around) and have kept it for over 30 years.

    http://reviews.ebay.ca/Sewing-Made-Easy-Mary-Lynch-amp-Dorothy-Sara-1950s-1960?ugid=10000000012478316

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  22. I also have this book, and I adore it. Mine's the 1943 edition. I scooped it from an antiques store for $9.50. It's missing the dust jacket, but is otherwise in great shape.

    I find that I reach for The Complete Book Of Sewing as often as I do my copies of Fit For Real People or The Vogue Sewing Book. Finishing techniques are a really important part of the sewing process for me and, with contemporary pattern companies cutting more and more corners for the sake of being able to splash "One Hour!!!" across the envelope, this book is an invaluable resource.

    I also appreciate the wartime frugality of it. It's got some terrific mending techniques (a rarity in this day of throw-away clothing) and the Restyling-Remodeling-Remaking chapter has a bunch of fun ideas.

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  23. What year is this edition?

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