Kate's Book Reviews


PLEASE don't try to order books from me!  Like the rest of the site, this page is for information only - I do not sell books!


(This page is still being updated.)


All the books on this page are books I own and have used, and I describe them as I find them.  I am not paid to make my comments.  Some editorial comments on the historical section are taken from the publishers, with an additional comment by me if I have something to add.  This is to give a better summary of the contents than I have had time to prepare.  I'm adding to my sewing library all the time, but the historic section seems to be growing the fastest!  I wonder why...


General sewing books:


Reader's Digest Complete Book of Sewing

ISBN 0-88850-247-8, $30 (£18 from Amazon)

This is about the best general sewing manual I've seen. It covers all the basics, from the equipment you need to reading and completing a pattern. It also covers some household and tailoring techniques. All the explanations and text are easy to follow. This is the new updated version of an old favorite, and contains some information on sergers not included before. Put it in your birthday or Christmas wish list!


Sewing for Dummies by Jan Saunders

ISBN 0 7645 5137 X (Dummies Press, 1999) $19.95 (USA), $27.99 (Canada), £18.99 UK

This is sewing with the scary bits amputated!  Very good for first time sewers who don't want to be put off by a lot of technical jargon and pictures of perfect garments that are too good to be real!  I've been meaning to buy it for a long time, and now I have I'm quite impressed!  It tells total innocents things like why you only get half a pattern in the envelope, what the right and wrong sides of the fabric are, and where to find the selvages, along with the right type of seam for the project and how to finish it off.  Not cheap, but well worth it for the beginner or the teacher of beginners.


I'll Teach Myself Sewing machine Fun  

ISBN 1 880972 04 2

I'll Teach Myself More Sewing machine Fun  

ISBN 1 880 972 05 0 (Possibilities).

These are a couple of good books worth investing in.  They are lots of fun, and a good place to start before kids get to a garment. They are aimed at the 7 - 11 age group, and have activities to follow and pages to fill in.  Access to a scanner and printer or photocopying is useful for some of the pre-printed exercises, so you don't spoil the books.  I like them because they're fun, and the cherub likes the dire and awful jokes!



More advanced sewing:


Vogue & Butterick Designer Sewing Techniques

ISBN 0-801908620-6 $17/£12.99

This is another old favourite! It shows all those techniques for getting your dressmaking to look like the professionals! Very useful for bridal stuff. There is a video to go with it, which is also good.


Couture Sewing Techniques

Claire B Shaeffer.  ISBN 1-56158-497-5  (The Taunton Press, 2001), us$21.95/can$34.00

Just what the sewing physicians ordered when you wanted to up the skills level!  Here are all those secrets that make the difference between knowing what you are doing and an inspired finish.  The ideas are often sneaky and simple, if labour intensive.  This is where having good hand work skills really pays off!  Yes, you CAN get a good professional finish on a machine, but if you want the thing to look like it was made by waving a magic wand, look no further!


Bridal Gowns: How to Make the Wedding Dress of Your dreams

Susan E Andriks.  ISBN 0-935278-51-6 (Palmer/Pletsch 2000), US$19.95

Despite it's rather naÔf Mills & Boon romantic novel cover, this is an excellent book, full of great ideas and techniques, and excellent style advice for different figures.  One of the brides illustrated is very large, and manages to look truly wonderful in the finished gown.  I find this very encouraging.  There are also ideas for veils and decorations, and the book finishes with hanging instructions for afterwards!


Shirtmaking: Developing skills for fine sewing

David Page Coffin.  ISBN 1-56158-264-6 (The Taunton Press, 1998), £11.24/US$19.95

I have wanted this for a couple of years, but could only find it in expensive hard back!  Now I've found a paper cover copy, it will be my shirt bible forever!  This is a book that is just as wonderful as everyone said it would be.  The joy of it is that although David started as an amateur, he has the artisan's eye for good technique and good quality, and it shows.  I love the way it is written for ordinary people who DON'T know the vocabulary and techniques, and explains them!  OK, I may be a professional seamster these days, but I'm not afraid to learn from an expert!


Fine Machine Sewing

Carol Laflin Ahles, ISBN 1 56158 153 4 (Taunton Press 1966), $24.95 (USA).

Another gem from Taunton!  This one came to me courtesy of Joy on the news group, and is already a treasure.  It takes the scary stuff out of using some of those arcane gadgets we buy or are gifted with that fit the sewing machine but we just aren't quite sure how to use or what to use them on...  There's a whole chapter on narrow hemming, for example, and lots of ideas for decorating and finishing things so they look really good.  Now I'm just dying to try some out on a fine linen Christening gown or something similar!

(Isn't it scary how Taunton never seem to produce a duff book!  There must be a wizard in the works...  )


Sewing Outdoor Gear: easy Techniques for Outerwear That Works

Rochelle Harper. ISBN 1-56158-283-2 (Taunton Press 2001), $24.95 US, $39.95 Canada, (£15.62 from Amazon)

This one arrived one morning and I had my nose in it most of the rest of the week! It is full of excellent technical advice, very clear instructions, wonderful examples, and the pictures are very good. This is NOT one for the beginner: you don't necessarily need a lot of experience with outdoor fabrics or fleece, but a little helps. This book is aimed at the experienced sewing person with a real need for proper outdoor clothing for mountaineering, skiing, and similar activities. It contains some of the design features you find on the most expensive shop bought equipment. I shall be keeping it close to hand as I complete the DH's Windbloc jacket, and a few others I have to do! Well worth the money!



Specific Techniques:


Just Pockets

Patricia Moyes, ISBN 1-56158-170-4 (Taunton, 1997) $19.95

This is exactly what it says on the cover! All the pockets you could ever need, how to sew them, how to embellish them, and how to get that professional finish! Clear explanations, good illustrations, and some charming photos of the finished item!


Easy Guide to Sewing Linings

Connie Long (Taunton, 1998) $19.95

Another deceptively simple book. Takes all the terror out of lining things! Has some good ideas about using things other than "lining fabric"! Covers everything from tailored garments to knitted jackets and lace.


Easy, Easier, Easiest Tailoring

Pati Palmer & Susan Pletsch. ISBN 0-935278-09-5 (Portland, Palmer/Pletsch 1996) $8.95/£7.95

Traditional and speed tailoring explained. Very easy to follow these techniques. This little book shows you how and where to make the short cuts without compromising on quality. I wish Iíd owned it when I made the DH's suit! I shall be using the speed tailoring methods soon, and will keep you posted on how it goes.


The Stretch & Sew Guide To Sewing On Knits

Anne Person. ISBN 0-8019-8593-5 (Chiltern Book Company 1994) $19.95

Another excellent book, this one teaches the basics of sewing knit fabrics without talking down to the reader. Good clear instructions and neat drawings. All the patterns used in the book can be bought from Stretch & sew, but the techniques are usable with any stretch or knit fabric. Thereís no need to own a serger, though these are included, as these techniques can be done with an ordinary machine. A good book for a beginner, or for one who wants to brush up their techniques. I have it marked as present material, come Christmas!





Sewing With Sergers

Gail Brown and Pati Palmer. ISBN 0-935278-25-7 (Portland, Palmer/Pletsch 1991) $8.95/£7.95

The best basic serger book I can find for the price! Takes the mystery and terror out of basic serging, and starts you on the way to fancier stuff! Shows you how to get the best out of your new toy.


The Serger Idea Book

Anne Hesse Price. ISBN 0-935278-18-4 (Portland, Palmer/Pletsch 1989) $19.95/£14.95

This one takes you beyond the basics and shows both how to do some nifty techniques and where to use them. It neatly removes all need to be scared of playing with the tension dials! It also shows what can be done by experimenting with different threads, and gives some ideas about what to try. It even has some ideas for Heirloom serging!!


Creative Serging For the Home

Lynette Ranney Black and Linda Wisner. ISBN 0-935278-27-34 (Portland, Palmer/Pletsch 1991) $28.95/£14.95

This nifty tome takes off with the home furnishings, and away from dressmaking. There are the usual neat illustrations, and some excellent photos to give you some ideas, as well as some rooms that have been Laura Ashley'd to death! At times you get the feeling that they are hunting round for ever more outlandish things to do just to show itís possible. One or two things in this book might actually be easier done with a basic sewing machine, but then how would we justify the expense of a serger too!



Patterns, fitting, and fabric:


Fitting Solutions: Pattern Altering Tips for Garments That Fit.

ISBN 1-56158-110-0 (The Taunton Press, 1996) £11.95

This is a compilation of tips from many editions of 'Threads' magazine. It covers all the problems you are likely to encounter and a few less usual ones, by area of body. Very easy to follow, with clear pictures, though some are a little small. This is the essential guide to how to make commercial patterns fit non commercial bodies (i.e. everyone we know!) Though a tad expensive for the size of the book, itís well worth the cash. A handy one to cart around to sewing classes and to keep by the cutting table.


Fast Fit: Easy Pattern Alterations for Every Figure

Sandra Betzina.  ISBN 1-56158-494-0 (The Taunton Press, 2001), £13.97

This spiral bound volume speaks volumes!  It's full of good tips and ideas for making commercial patterns fit ordinary lumpy people rather than fashion model stick insects!  I really like the clear text and the photo illustrations...  But I see I will have to tidy up my pattern additions!  Sandra's look so much neater than mine!


Pattern Cutting Made Easy, a Step by Step Introduction

Gillian Holman. ISBN 0-7134-8093-9 (London, Batsford Books, 1997)

Takes all the mystery out of an arcane art! Very good for both students and advanced dressmakers looking for a way of getting a better fit. It shows you how to make a basic block and how to manipulate it for style. Handy both for starting from scratch, and to dip into for a quick refresher!


Fabric Savvy

Sandra Betzina.  ISBN 1 56158 573 4  (Taunton 2002), cover price: $17.95 (USA), $28.95 (Canada)

This woman is so knowledgeable she frightens me!  This book is a must for dressmakers of every skill level, from beginners to professionals.  It tells you what you need to know about all the fabrics we use, from care advice and fiber content to advice on which needles to use!  The only thing to watch is the pre-shrink advice: most fabrics in the UK are sold 'needle ready', which means this is unnecessary.  If in doubt, or you want to wash rather than dry-clean a dry-clean only fabric, then follow her recommendations.  Some fabrics will change their appearance and handling characteristics when you do this.  An expensive book, but worth the cash in saved projects!  In the back are some useful hints about hems, details, and sewing techniques mentioned in the text.





Tailoring: A Step-by-step Guide to Creating Beautiful Customised Garments
Creative Publ Intl ISBN-10: 1845430573    ISBN-13: 9781845430573 (Apple Press, 2005)

A re-issue of the Singer guide, slightly updated.  A useful guide to getting a better finish from commercial patterns.


Tailoring: Traditional and Contemporary Techniques
N. Marie Ledbetter  ISBN-10: 0835975347    ISBN-13: 9780835975346 (Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference, March 1998)

Good technical textbook on ladies tailoring techniques.  It has a small section on the differences between men's wear and ladies' tailoring.  Excellent for both the tailoring student and the home sewist wanting to expand their sewing range.  Assumes use of a pattern rather than drafting one from scratch.


Classic Tailoring Techniques: A Construction Guide for Men's Wear
Roberto Cabrera  ISBN-10: 0870054317    ISBN-13: 9780870054310 (Fairchild Books, March 1983)

A very useful textbook on the cutting, fitting and construction of a traditionally tailored men's suit.  Strong on construction techniques, but assumes you already have a pattern.  Used in conjunction with pattern drafting, this will get you a long way, if you are patient and prepared for lots of handwork. 



Curtains and household sewing:


The Complete Book of Curtains and Drapes

Lady Caroline Wrey, ISBN 0-7126-4697-3. (London, Ebury Press, 1991. 

Cover price was £16.99 when it was given to my friend next door!)

Very clear explanations and drawings: the book for making your own posh curtains. It shows you all the classic hand finishing techniques, and explains why they work better than machine sewing. It also has some excellent photos to inspire you! If you have a junior stately home, this is the book you need to show you how to make the best of it! I shall be following its instructions when sewing my sister's velvet curtains this week!  (I did - they turned out very well!  I have more to do, so will be back at the book for more ideas!)


Covers for Sofas and Chairs: professional Skills Made Easy

ISBN 0-600-60232-X (Hamlyn 2001) £5.99/US$9.95/CAN$14.95

This is a neat little handy reference with some excellent ideas for making things look better by covering them up!  I have an old tatty sofa I need to get to work on, and this has some great illustrations to give me ideas as well as the basics for construction and fitting.  Hm...  Fitting a chair might be as complicated as fitting a people, but I won't have to worry about sticking pins in them and wriggling! 


The Practical Encyclopedia of Soft Furnishings: the complete guide to making cushions, loose covers, curtains, blinds, table linen and bed linen.

Dorothy Wood.  ISBN 1-84309-455-X (Hermes House, 2002) no cover price.

The title put me off a bit - so unwieldy, and why do people publish books with spelling errors in the titles?  What's so difficult about spelling 'encylopoedia' correctly?  HUMPH!  However, once I bought it (£4.95 from a remainders shop!), I did find it quite comprehensive and less stuffy than most others on the subject.  The techniques are well photographed, if a little small, and the main pictures of finished things look excellent. The step-by-step instructions are clear and easy to follow.



Historic Costume: Construction, History, Archaeology...

The books in this section are in no particular order, either historically or alphabetically...  They are just as I pull them off the shelves!


Dress in Anglo-Saxon England
Gale R. Owen-Crocker ISBN-10: 1843830817    ISBN-13: 9781843830818 (Boydell Press, November 2004)

From the dust jacket: This is an encyclopaedic study of English dress from the fifth to the eleventh centuries, drawing evidence from archaeology, text and art, and taking account of re-enactors' experience. It examines archaeological textiles, cloth production and the significance of imported cloth and foreign fashions. Dress is discussed as a marker of gender, ethnicity, status and social role, and its contemporary significance in terms of symbolism and stylistic messaging is examined - whether Anglo-Saxons were dressing a corpse for its (pagan) grave, condemning frivolous dress among persons in holy orders, bequeathing their own clothes or commissioning them for a king. The book discusses what modern observers can and cannot deduce from medieval representations of clothing, questioning stereotypes. Generously illustrated with 25 plates (12 colour) and 140 drawings, it demonstrates clothing in contemporary art (manuscripts, ivories, metalwork, stone sculpture, mosaics), and focuses! on surviving dress fasteners and accessories, explaining types and geographical/chronological distribution. There are colour reconstructions of early Anglo-Saxon dress and a cutting pattern for a gown from the Bayeux tapestry (by Robin Netherton). Old English garment names are discussed throughout and a glossary is appended. It updates and develops the author's groundbreaking Dress in Anglo-Saxon England in 1986, adding many new illustrations.

For more about the author: Gale Owen-Crocker


Medieval Costume in England and France: The 13th, 14th, and 15th Centuries
by Mary G. Houston 
ISBN-10: 0486290603    ISBN-13: 9780486290607 (Dover Publications, April 1996)

From the book jacket: Carefully researched, meticulously detailed account of the style and construction of period costumes. Includes descriptions and illustrations of royal apparel, elaborate ecclesiastical dress and vestments, academic and legal garments and civilian dress of all classes. Also discusses jewellery, armour, textiles, embroidery and hairdressing.


The Medieval Tailor's Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200-1500
Sarah Thursfield  ISBN-10: 0903585324    ISBN-13: 9780903585323 (Ruth Bean Publishers, October 2001)

A comprehensive guide to making period clothes for living history, re-enactment, plays and pageants.

The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing 16th-Century Dress
Ninya Mikhaila
ISBN-10: 0713489855    ISBN-13: 9780713489859 ( B.T. Batsford, January 2006)

Editorial review: A valuable sourcebook for costume designers, dressmakers and those involved in historical re-enactments, this book contains all the information you need to create authentic clothes from the Tudor period. Computer-generated, historically accurate patterns enable you to make a wide range of garments, such as doublets, hose, bodices, skirts, hats and headdresses - even underwear. There are also plenty of ideas for decoration and embellishment such as ruffs, cuffs, collars, embroidery and other surface decoration. The full range of Tudor society is represented, including lower- and middle-class clothing as well as the more sumptuous costumes from the courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. In addition to the patterns, there are detailed drawings of each costume and information about historical context, including original paintings and source material.


18th Century Costume in the National Museums and Galleries of Mersyside (National Museums Galleries)
Pauline Rushton
ISBN-10: 1902700015    ISBN-13: 9781902700014 ( National Museums & Galleries on Merseyside, August 1999)

A slim and elegant volume: easy to read, fantastic photos of extant garments.


Dressed to Kill: British Naval Uniform, Masculinity and Contemporary Fashions, 1748-1857
Amy Miller  ISBN-10: 0948065745    ISBN-13: 9780948065743 (National Maritime Museum, July 2007)

Editorial Review: Coinciding with the "Sailor Chic" exhibition at the National Maritime Museum (NMM), this book explores naval identity, contemporary fashion, and masculinity in three essays and features newly commissioned art that fully illustrates the NMM's uniform collection. Personal papers, diaries, fiction and other period artifacts combine with the images to demonstrate the significance of male fashion and uniform in forging a national, hierarchical, gendered identity in the 18th and 19th centuries.

My comment: A glorious feast for the costumer, coupled with serious historical reseach.


400 Years of Fashion
Natalie Rothstein  ISBN-10: 1851773010    ISBN-13: 9781851773015 (Abrams,Harry N Inc - January 1999)(My edition says V&A Publications)

This history of fashion reflects the popularity of the V&A Museum's world famous dress collection. It tells the story of men's and women's fashionable dress through the ages, covering clothes for all occasions and including a wide range of accessories such as shoes, fans and hats.


The Cutting Edge: 50 Years of British Fashion, 1947-97
Claudia Schnurmann ISBN-10: 1851771999    ISBN-13: 9781851771998 (V & A Publications September 1996)

Edfitorial comment: Spanning 50 years of innovation, classic creativity and exuberant style in British fashion, this book goes from the tailoring of Savile Row and the opulence of 1950s evening gowns, to the inventive use of historical styles by contemporary designers.

I went to the exhibitionin June 1997: it was fantastic!  I bought the book as a souvenir, and refer to it frequently.  It has one of my favourite gowns of all time on the front, Vivienne Westwood's Watteau evening dress.


Costume in Details: Women's Dress, 1730-1930
By: Nancy Bradfield
ISBN-10: 1858820383    ISBN-13: 9781858820385 (Eric Dobby Publishing Ltd, 1995)

Drawings, descriptions, construction notes.  No patterns...  A useful addition to the costume library.  One to use to add correct period details to commercially available historic patterns.


A Pictorial History of Costume From Ancient Times to the Nineteenth Century
Max Tilke  ISBN-10: 0486435423    ISBN-13: 9780486435428 Publisher: Dover Publications - April 2004

Editorial review: Invaluable pictorial history takes readers on a grand tour of the world, starting in ancient Egypt and culminating in Paris in the late 19th century. More than 1,900 items of clothing are shown in beautiful, accurately rendered illustrations ? from furs, veils, ruffs, and pointed bodices, to cloaks, leggings, waistcoats, and breeches. Color and black-and-white.

My comment: Not as useful as that would imply...


The Evolution of Fashion
By: Peter Arthur Bucknell Margot Hamilton Hill

ISBN-10: 0713458186    ISBN-13: 9780713458183 Batsford Ltd - 1987)

OK as a starting point, but not to be relied upon for accurate patterns or period details.


Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd
Janet Arnold  ISBN-10: 0901286206    ISBN-13: 9780901286208 (W. S. Maney and Son Ltd. - April 1998)

Editorial review: The vast wardrobe of Queen Elizabeth I is legendary: in her own time some of the richly embroidered gowns were displayed with other treasures to dazzle the eyes of foreign visitors to the Tower of London. The quantity of clothes recorded in the inventories taken in 1600 would seem to suggest sheer vanity, but a survey of work carried out in the Wardrobe of Robes throughout the reign reveals a different picture. It is one of careful organization and economy. This work on the wardrobe of Queen Elizabeth I is illustrated with photographs of portraits, minatures, tomb sculptures, engravings, woven textiles and embroiders. Two indexes are provided: the first of paintings, persons, places and events; the second offering information on fashionable dress and accessories.

My comment: A treasure trove of details...  Easy to get lost in this vast tome!


Three more slim volumes from Janet Arnold:

Patterns of Fashion 1
Janet Arnold ISBN-10: 0333136063    ISBN-13: 9780333136065 (Macmillan - 1972)

Patterns of Fashion 2
Janet Arnold  ISBN-10: 0333136071    ISBN-13: 9780333136072 (Quite Specific Media Group, Limited, December 1982) (Mine says Macmillan!)

Patterns of Fashion 1560-1620: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women C1560-1620

J. Arnold  ISBN-10: 0333382846    ISBN-13: 9780333382844 (Pan Macmillan, May 2001)

No costumer should be without these seminal works.  They do not provide easy step-by-step instructions for making costumes, but do provide accurate historical construction and extrapolated graph patterns that the experiences pattern drafter can use to draw up good working patterns for accurate reconstruction.


Vintage Fashion
Emma Baxter-Wright Harriet Quick
ISBN-10: 1844422682    ISBN-13: 9781844422685 (Carlton Books Ltd, 2006)

Editorial review: A visual journey through the decades, "Vintage Fashion" is a book for those interested in collecting and acquiring vintage but it also caters for the woman who is looking at past influences for inspiration when developing her individual look. Featuring the work of 80 years of couture designers, it is of interest to fashion students, designers and any fashionista. The book provides an awareness of the fashion skills and techniques of the past, as well as pointers on what to look for when sourcing original vintage pieces, allowing the reader to understand and develop their own intrinsic tastes and fashion sensibilities.

My comment: A visual feast of the 20th century in fashion.  Everything from the 'Why did they bother?' to the 'I want one of those - in each colour!'


Modern Fashion in Detail
Claire Wilcox  ISBN-10: 1851770321    ISBN-13: 9781851770328 (Gardners Books - April 1997) (Mine says V&A)

Editorial comment: This volume explores the creative genius of couturiers, from Balenciaga and Balmain to Vivienne Westwood and Yuki through the details of their work. There are over 80 entries arranged in seven sections: seams; gathers; tucks and pleats; collars, cuffs and pockets; buttons; bows; beads and sequins and applied decoration. Each contains a close-up photograph, a line drawing and a commentary.

My comment: Serious attention to detail, with the usual V&A close up photography that allows you to see how those details can be achieved.


Historical Fashion in Detail: The 17th and 18th Centuries
By: Avril Hart Susan North Victoria and Albert Museum (Other Contributor) ISBN-10: 1851772588    ISBN-13: 9781851772582 (V & A Publications - 1998)

Editorial Comment: This volume offers the opportunity to see fragile clothes in detail. Perfection is in the detail: decorative seams, exquisite stitching, knife sharp pleats and voluptuous drapery feature alongside more usual techniques such as stamping, pinking and slashing. Many of the skills displayed have been lost to the modern world: such labour-intensive handwork is no longer done and these effects cannot be replicated by machine. Yet many fashion designers take their inspiration from the past, adapting ideas to a more contemporary idiom. Containing a gallery of photographs, accompanied by line drawings showing the construction of the complete garment, this book should appeal to anyone interested in historical costume and textile history, from cut and construction to fabrics and trimmings.

My comment: A companion book for the one above.  This is another superb feast for the eyes. I have found it a very useful resource for historical details not seen so clearly elsewhere.  The next best thing to white gloves and hands on.


Dress in Detail from around the World
Rosemary Crill Jennifer Wearden Verity Wilson   ISBN-10: 1851773789    ISBN-13: 9781851773787 (V & A Publications, September 2004)

Editorial Comment: This lavishly illustrated book celebrates the Victoria and Albert Museum's magnificent collection of dress from around the world. A source of inspiration to many of today's top designers, these colorful items of clothing, seen here in glorious close-up, will delight all lovers of fashion. The detailed line drawings are of special interest to professionals in any aspect of the fashion field. AUTHOR BIO: Rosemary Crill is a curator in the department of Asian art at the V&A. Jennifer Wearden is a curator in the department of furniture, textiles, and dress at the V&A. Verity Wilson is a curator in the department of Asian art at the V&A.

My comment: Another feast for the jaded palette in fashion.  This takes the hippy aspect out of ethnic dress and shows the treasure of artistry and craftmanship many an individual garment displays.  There are surprises in some: almost stage pieces, designed to bee seen as static ornaments, with the unseen edges crudely finished!


The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957
Claire Wilcox  ISBN-10: 1851775218    ISBN-13: 9781851775217 (V & A Publications, May 28, 2009) (Mine says 2007!)

In 1947, Christian Dior's New Look was greeted with both shock and delight, making headlines around the world. Accompanying the exhibition opening at the Victoria and Albert Museum in September 2007, this lavish book focuses on Parisian and British couture between 1947 and 1957, the decade Dior hailed as fashion's 'golden age.'
The New Look symbolized a new femininity. The full skirts and hourglass silhouettes were considered highly decadent, synonymous with luxury and prosperity, in marked contrast to the austerity of the WWII years. Nevertheless, the New Look caught the public imagination and ushered in a period of remarkable creativity. The Golden Age of Couture features stunning gowns and exquisite tailoring from Dior as well as from such designers as Balenciaga, Balmain, and Givenchy, along with evocative photographs by the likes of Richard Avedon and Cecil Beaton.
This beautifully designed book reveals the skill and craftsmanship of haute couture along with the inner workings of the exclusive design houses, and the inspiration behind some of the most famous styles of all time.

My comment: It really does!  This was a fantastic exhibition, adding all sorts of intimate details about how the New Look and others were achieved, and the differences between Paris and London , particularly in the field of ladies' tailoring.  As usual with the V&A, the book is full of superb images taken of garments from the collection, along with contemporary photographs, drawings, sketches and notes by some of the designers.  One of my favourite bits of both the book and the exhibition are sections that detail Miss Lavinia Lachasse - the only doll I've ever really wanted to own!


I seem to have accumulated quite a few of these large V&A tomes...  They really do touch all the bases!  It is especially good to be within day-trip distance of the V&A, and to have a like-minded sister to share the experiences with.



Quilty books!


Patchwork for Beginners

Pauline Brown. ISBN 1-86108-174-X (Guild of Master craftsman Publications, 2000) £14.99

This covers the first stages, from choosing equipment, and the reasons for using some items, through colour combinations, to sample blocks and quilts to start on. There are some fun ideas in here as well as clear explanations of what to do with what, and the techniques for a number of classic blocks.


Start Quilting

Alex Anderson. ISBN 1-57120-029-0 (C&T Publishing, 1997), £8.95

A very slim book, but it covers the essentials adequately if not in too much depth. Ideal for those who are just testing the waters. There are some nice sample quits in this book. Some of them are quick projects that the beginner can complete before getting bogged down and put off!


The Weekend Quilter

edited by Rosemary Wilkinson. ISBN 1-85368-930-0 (New Holland, 1997), sorry, no price on this one.

This is an excellent book, full of quick projects that even I can do before I get bored! Some of them are really superb, and each chapter is by a different contributor. One quilt uses tailors fabric samples: I shall be visiting the local tailor to do this one! Another has a lovely design in the shape of a Kimono on it. Thereís a section at the beginning on quick quilting techniques: a sort of 'speed quilting' if you like! Some of the more experienced quilters will no doubt recognize the contributors; as far as I can see, there isn't a duff one here! One of the few books I'm allowed to have in hardback!


Mandala Quilt Designs

Katie Pasquini.  ISBN 0 486 28491 3  (Dover Books 1983), cover price $9.95 (USA)

Though this one has been around a while, it still has a lot to offer, and shows wonderful imagination and use of colour.  These are not traditional quilts in any way - not rectangular, come in several sections, and use odd shaped blocks and none at all!  They are vibrant and lively, and I love them!  The instructions and illustrations are clear, but not for beginners!  I'm working my way up to these, and in the meantime, pinching some of the colour ideas!


Show Me How To Paper Piece

Carol Doak.  ISBN 1 56477 204 7  (That Patchwork Place, 1997)  Cover price $7.95 (USA), $12.99 (Canada), £4.96 (UK: Amazon)

This very slim volume looks expensive until you open it!  Then you realize what a treasure you have...  This has started me on the slippery slope to paper piecing!  I have a 'me' day booked, and I shall spend it with this book, making lots of paper pieced hearts!  The center of the book has pages of nice thin pre-printed heart blocks to use, and there's one to copy thereafter in the front.  Rather than the lovely co-coordinated quilt Carol made in the book, mine will be a scrappy one!  OOOOHH!  Fun!


Easy Machine Paper Piecing

Carol Doak.  ISBN 1 56477 038 9 (That Patchwork Place, 1994) Cover price $21.95 (USA), $34.99 (Canada), £12.91 (UK: Amazon)

This one contains the detailed instructions for a whole 65 quilt blocks for foundation paper piecing, in Carol's wonderfully clear manner.  No way to go wrong!  There are foundation blocks to copy, colour photos of finished blocks and quilts, and lots more.  This is one of those books you can dip into now and again for inspiration, or quilt from end to end with equal pleasure and success.  I'm just trying some ideas in my head for future quilts, so forgive me if I seem a tad distracted for a year or two...  


Happy Endings

Mimi Dietrich.  ISBN 0 943574 44 7 (That Patchwork Place, 1987) Cover price $12.95 (USA), $19.99 (Canada), £7.27 (UK: Amazon)

This is another older one that has lost none of it's impact - a real classic!  There are some beautiful ideas here, and never again will I just bind the edges of a quilt!  It may get a plain binding, but only because that's what it wants, not because that's all I thought of!  There are simple explanations of different types and methods of finishing a quilt, and none of them is boring!  I particularly liked the piped edges, the Prairie Pints edge, and the scalloped one!  Now I shall be impatient to finish a quilt so I can play with the edges!



Private Reading!


People have asked me what I read in my 'spare time'.  I don't have 'spare time'!  Reading time is an essential part of every day, and sometimes takes precedence over sleeping.  Like cooking and sewing, it is an essential of life!  Just for the curious, here is a list of some of my favoured authors, in the order in which I think of them!


Diana Wynne Jones (Children's and young adults writer, and author of the books I wrote my MA thesis about.  Great reading for the fantasy and magic fans.)


Dick Francis


Mary Stewart


Mary Wesley (Funny and very keen observer of human nature)


Mary Selby (VERY funny!  Who else could make conception on a motor mower sound perfectly sensible!)


Mary Gentle ('Grunts' looks at all those epic fantasy wars from the point of view of the compulsorily drafted orc!)


(Do you think if I change my name to 'Mary' I'd get a book published?  It might even be good...  )


Barbara Hambly


Phillip Pullman (Brilliant!)


Barbara Erskine (Ghosts and haunting of the weird kind...)


Analog monthly SF magazine


Ellis Peters


Shakespeare (very funny on Scots history...  )


Gene Kemp (Tyke Tyler is just SO real!)


David Eddings (& Leigh!  Mustn't forget her!)


Larry Niven


TS Elliot


Sir Walter Scott


Terry Pratchett


Susan Cooper


Rosemary Sutcliffe


Catherine Aird (amusing murder mysteries of the typically English sort... )



Oh, and hosts of others!  You can't have 120 feet of EMPTY bookshelves in a house!  As you can see, I like fantasy and magic, real history (especially of clothes and people), but will read almost anything so long as it's good!  Never mind anything else, I like reading the dictionary!  Oh, and bus tickets...


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