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Sep 10, 2013

FABULOUS SEWING BOOK ALERT!



Friends, it has been a long time since I wrote about a sewing book (seven months) but don't think I haven't been accumulating sewing books -- I have; I just haven't gotten around to writing about them.  But I recently acquired a book, "Decorative Dressmaking" by Sue Thompson (Rodale Press, 1985), that I had to tell you about.

I first heard about this book on Carolyn's blog and I was immediately intrigued by her description of it (and the photos).

First things first: this is NOT one of those Eighties sewing books brimming with photos of women in oversized jewel-tone blazers and tunics, with shimmery eye shadow and moussed hair straight out of Dynasty.  There are some shots of Eighties fashion, but it's the best of the Eighties, much of it off the runway, like this gorgeous ruched Ungaro gown.  (Sorry, it's a jewel tone.)







"Decorative Dressmaking" focuses on ten specific sewing techniques: flounces, stripes, piping, topstitching, pintucks, applique, bands and binding, pleats and tucks, ruching, and faggoting -- how to master them and how to apply them, creatively, to your projects.

Here's the table of contents.



It is the depth with which each technique is explored, and the many illustrations drawn from fashions old and new, that inspire you to imagine possibilities for using these techniques in your projects.  If you only sew straight from your pattern instructions, this book may be overkill.

I love the somewhat busy layout.  A child of the Seventies, I have a soft spot for handwriting (as opposed to typeface), which reminds me of all those "granola" cookbooks, crunchy couples massage guides, and craft books of the period.  ("Moosewood Cookbook" anybody?)







"Decorative Dressmaking" also boasts tons of vintage photos from the 20's, 30's, 40's, and beyond -- something rare for an Eighties-era sewing techniques book.  Feast your eyes:











As if this book didn't offer enough, in the back are scaled pattern diagrams, one project for every chapter (i.e., a flounced dress, a striped dress, a piped trouser suit, etc.).



"Decorative Dressmaking" is a book to get lost in, full of fascinating information, vintage inspiration, the works.  Best of all, used copies can be found on Amazon for just a few dollars (some for even less), and there's both a hardcover and paperback edition available.

Obviously this book is focused on women's clothes, but techniques like topstitching, sewing with stripes, piping, and bindings can be applied to menswear too.

You can view a whole lot more photos from "Decorative Dressmaking" here

PS -- Needless to say, I have no financial stake in any sales of this nearly 30-year-old book.  I just think it's worth rediscovering.

Have a great day, everybody!  Anybody own this book already?

31 comments:

  1. Ooh, I loooove books like this. I have a whole bunch, gathered from various used book stores over the years. Probably worth digging up a copy of this one too!

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  2. yes I have this book. I bought it when it first came out. Other sewing books have come and gone but this one stood the test of time
    Linda

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  3. I just bought it Peter, the reviews are fantastic and I know it will be useful for me in the long run. This book is priced at the equivalent of $40 dollars or more in the UK on Amazon and ebay!!! (if you had a financial stake in it, that would certainly be interesting on the other side of the pond!). Luckily for me I managed to find a local seller pricing it at just under $5. Needless to say I jumped on the offer and bought it immediately!I can't wait to put my hands on it and feel very stupidly overexcited now.

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  4. I'm going to Amazon right now. I'm always looking for a new sewing book to discover. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  5. I have this book, which is truly amazing. I love the photos of real people wearing the outfits (old photos), sometimes with their names. I got it for $1. at a charity shop, hardcover. At this moment I am perusing another book, Wearable Quilts/Sewing Timeless Fashions Using Traditional Paterns, by Roselyn Gadia-Smitley. I am not about to quilt garments, But the basic patterns enclosed (to enlarge), the grading help, and the terrific options of how to modify the basic patterns, getting other stylish options, for vests and especially jackets, are wonderful. Cathie, recovering from will related trip to notary (sigh).

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  6. Of course I own it. It's one of those books that makes everything seem possible. Want a book full of ideas that will add a lot of interest to clothing patterns you currently own? This is the one. There's nothing new under the sun. Many of these techniques are also in books by Mary Books Picken, author of such treasure as Sewing Magic and Mending Magic.

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  7. thank you! I looked on Amazon, and there was a paperback copy for just 0.17c. Unfortunately, that particular shop doesn't ship internationally. The next cheapest paperback copy was $8.50, but I did find a cheap hardback copy at just $0.84 that could be shipped to me in Australia. Shipping was around $26, but I still think it's worth it, based on what you've said about the book!

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    1. what th--?!?!? I just got an email from the shop I bought my copy of the book from to say that my order has been cancelled because they're out of stock. How is that possible? I paid by Visa on the spot, so why did it go to someone else out there instead of me?

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  8. Just bought a copy on Amazon for $0.99. Free shipping. And yes, I love the Moosewood Cookbook, though just looking through the recipes now makes my arteries harden. Not the lightest of fare, that. Can't wait to enjoy Decorative Dressmaking; thanks for the tip!

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  9. I simply must see Cathy in that gorgeous stripy halter/pant suit in the 10th photo. It's perfect for her.

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  10. OK, you got me excited about this one so I just bought it. Cannot wait to get it, thanks for enabling...uh sharing your find.

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  11. I've had that book since it first came out. A great addition to my library

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  12. This is an awesome review of one of my favorite books! Glad you got a copy because the techniques the book covers is amazing!

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  13. I have that - and have had so since the 80's. I've never made anything out of it (yet!) but I recently rediscovered it among my books, and yes, it is possible to get lost in the detail. A wonderful book.

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  14. Oh, yet more enabling. Just bought it from Amazon, from my hospital bed!

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  15. I have this book. My aunt picked it up at a yard sale a few months ago and sent it to me with some other great sewing yard sale finds! I have yet to really explore it though.

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  16. I have this book. Bought a couple of months ago on Amazon uk for less thank a £. Bargain if you ask me. The book is really beautiful, and useful

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  17. Hopefully one is on the way,not a huge bargain but not more that a lunch somewhere so I'm ok with that. Yesteryear clothes were much prettier with dressmaker details and fit. I'm always ready for a new to me sewing book.

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  18. yes, I have it; found it used, and cheap at the library sale. It is wonderful! It will not languish on your shelf...

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  19. Thanks so much for this review. I had encountered this book recommendation before, but it was the detailed info you provided that really helped me make the decision to buy it. Actually, it was the vintage photos that pushed me over the edge! Thanks again.

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  20. Thanks for the review Peter. I bought the book from a charity shop several years. Had forgotten about it will have to go and get it out right now.
    Winsome

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  21. Thanks Peter, that looks very useful and worth buying.

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  22. Wow, i just discovered you and I'm now your newest follow!

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  23. Very interesting! I love that white linen appliqued dress. I too have some 80s sewing books and while the styles are certainly passe, they are still a goldmine of info.

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  24. You obviously caused a run on the books. I bought one early yesterday for .82 (plus shipping of course; don't know how one of your readers got it with free shipping!). There were plenty at the time. Now, the cheapest hardback is over $13. Amazing how you can affect costs, supply & demand! BTW, I bought the swimsuit book when you recommended it over a year ago.

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  25. Enabling is right. I just bought the paperback version from Alibris for $15 plus $3.99 shipping. I am hoping the binding is such that I can take it to Kinko's and have it spiral bound. Thanks to your wonderful endorsement, I am sure that Amazon will run out of these books in all but the super expensive price ranges. But I love the photos you shared and can't wait to get it. I guess I was spending more time quilting back then or I would already have it in my stash.

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    1. Oh, my goodness! I just got an email letting me know the supplier no longer has the $15 paperback version, but they'd like me to consider the other one they have available from a different seller for $85. Sorry, no can do. Disappointment.

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  26. I have this book and could not agree more. It is wonderful! Its surprisingly delightful and I also love the hand illustrations and type and its so in depth. Really really wonderful! Thanks for helping me to remember to pull it out. Yay!

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  27. I've had that book in the past! I now make sure my books fit on two shelves (no more) of our family bookshelves. The rest have to go elsewhere! (which could, at this point, mean my Mom's basement... I don't quite remember!)

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  28. Looks like a great book. It's not the jewel tones, it's the shoulder pads!

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  29. Once again you've made me wish I could sew more than a straight seam (if that), and moved "really learn to sew" up a notch on my "things to do before I die" list. x

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