Sewing from books

27 Dec

Work on my homemade handbag continues rather laboriously.

I’m going slowly, because I want this one to end up really nice: something I can carry every day and appreciate, without being distracted by crooked seams or other details I wish, later, that I had done better.

Also, I’m going slowly, because I’m following a pattern from the Burda Style Sewing Handbook.

I may very well be the only person not head-over-heels in love with this book. Then again, I may also be the only one who’s actually using it to sew a project.

It seems disorganized, to me. I suspect that the publishing house saw it as so “on trend” and with such a huge internet following that they rushed the book to print before it could be carefully edited. I’m finding errors or shortcomings at almost every step of the way. For example, the yardage requirement for the project I selected was waaaay off. I thought  it sounded weird, when I read it (2 1/4 yards of main fabric, with 2 1/2 yards lining fabric?) but I’m used to trusting pattern directions, and so I trusted…and ended up with far too much lining. It’s okay, this time: I can always use extra lining fabric for something else. But still…editor, please.

The most annoying thing, however, is inconsistency between the main “inspiration” project and its multiple variations. The way the book is laid out there is one main project with a pattern for it, and then multiple variations on each pattern, with directions for each, adapted from the original paper pattern. This is great, for general inspiration. But I’m following one of the variations, and it’s never clear whether the next direction or material or step comes from the original, or from the secondary directions. For example, there’s a “materials list” for each variation. But it’s not complete: you will still need things from the “materials list” on the main pattern…but not all of those materials, but the book won’t tell you which they’ve superseded, and which to rely on, you’ll just have to figure it out along the way.

Same with the directions: some steps you will find under the variation, and sometimes it will refer you back to the original, but nowhere along the way did anyone think of doing that by numbers, the way most knitting patterns would, for example. “Follow steps 1-3 on pages xxx-yyy”. So it requires constant scanning of both sets of directions, flipping back and forth to make sure you’re not missing or overlapping anything.

Same with the pattern layouts themselves, in fact. I’m used to clearly marked patterns from Butterick, Vogue, McCalls, Simplicity, etc. They tell you right on the pattern paper “Cut 2, cut 2 of lining, cut 1 of interfacing.”  Here, to know if a pattern piece applies to your main material, your lining, or your interfacing (or none at all, for your particular version) you have to cross your fingers and just hope to find it, somewhere. (On the bag I’m making, the lining is cut from the same pattern piece as the body, but only to a specific line, which is one of three lines on the pattern piece, none of which are labeled, nor is it described in the cutting directions for the version I am making, but rather under the directions for a bag that I am not making. I found this out only after staring long and hard at a diagram that didn’t look anything like my work in progress, even though I thought I’d been following along just fine.)

And then, as if that is not all confusing enough, I’m reading along on the main pattern (the bag I am not making, just to cover all bases) and I find an additional set of directions that says, essentially, “Oh, yeah, for the bag shown in the photos, we did something entirely different, so if you want to make yours look like the photo, here’s another step, requiring another material, also not included on any of our multiple materials lists that you’ve been using.” Nothing like cruising along, sewing, and find oneself completely stalled and unable to proceed, because whoops, here’s a surprise. So…the project proceeds in fits and starts, stalling each time I discover I need some other thing, or waiting on hold while I stop and try to figure out what I’d like to do, next.

I’m going to try another pattern from this book once this bag is finished (the skirt, probably…and using just the basic pattern, creating my own variation) before I give up entirely…but for now I say use this book as design inspiration and eye candy, but sew with caution. And if you’re weighing this against other pattern choices for some specific garment, keep in mind most commercial patterns come with multiple variations, as well, and are just as easily adjusted as any in this book. Plus, you’ll probably get an accurate materials and notions list along with it, as well as directions that proceed in a numerical order directly from the first step to the last.

Onward, handbag!

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2 Responses to “Sewing from books”

  1. Another Vegan December 31, 2011 at 2:05 am #

    I have a few unfinished bags. They were so darn cute in the book, but just didn’t work in reality. Good luck and hope you finish and post.

  2. Treadmill Brands December 31, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Glad to visit this blog, keep it going.

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