Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing: Acronyms and a Few Self-Imposed Rules

So I'm cutting out the portrait neckline blouse featured in Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing today. The book has lots of guidelines on exactly how to make each project, some of which seem like reasonable methods for advanced sewing (basted fittings, tailor's tacks, etc), and some of which seem dated and like they could use a little 2009 update. I realized I needed a few rules for myself on which ones I would follow, and which ones I would politely ignore. Here's what I came up with.

1. I can ignore an instruction and use a different method, if I'm doing so because the alternate method is better. Not because I'm lazy. For instance, I will probably finish my raw edges by serging rather than pinking or overcasting them by hand. (I know hand overcasting is a hallmark of fine couture garments,but I'm making stuff that I actually want to wear on a regular basis, so durability is an issue for me.)

2. Take fabric suggestions seriously. I usually take the suggested fabrics on a pattern as just that: suggestions. Sometimes I really throw caution to the wind (wheeee!) and use a dramatically different fabric for dramatic results. But here, I want to have as much of the home sewing experience of the 50's as possible, and I want to achieve similar results to what's in the book.

3. Try to achieve the original look of the pattern as much as possible, but alterations can be made for contemporary wearability. For instance, there's no skirt length I despise as much as that dowdy mid-calf length of straight skirts on 50's patterns. I will definitely be shortening them to knee-length.
That's it for now! I'm sure I'll come up with more as I go along.

Oh! Commenter Meg helped me come up with a much better acronym for Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing. Henceforth, I declare that the volume shall be referred to as VoNBSS. (Pronounced VOWN-biss). Now, isn't that more manageable than VNBFBS?


  1. Golly, that woman must have a 22" waist. So if you're seam finishing with a serger (with which I totally agree), are you not restricting yourself to a straight stitch machine? Not sure when the first household zig zags were introduced. I learned to sew..ahem...in the 60's (I was just a tot :-), and our peers had a zig-zag. We did not.

    But seriously, this is very entertaining and I'm enjoying your "travels" along with you.

  2. So agree on the mid-calf skirt length. In fact, I was just discussing my hatred for it with someone over lunch an hour ago! So stubby-making.

  3. Yes, I just don't understand that woman's waist. Like, where does she keep her internal organs? Is she missing a few ribs? I'm trying not to dwell on it. :)

    I've decided that I can use all the modern equipment available to me. As I'm making the blouse, I think the most important thing is that I learn a new technique with each project. That's enough to ask of myself, right?

  4. I was wondering if you could scan in the patterns required for that book? Also, have you already tracked them all down and how was that like (price, availability, time)?

    Actually, could I email you these and some other questions and interview you on MY blog, As I Said...?

  5. lsaspacey, I sent you an e-mail via your blog! I would love to do an interview with you. I'm going to be scanning all the VoNBSS projects tonight, so keep your eye out for a post with all of them soon.

    I'm still seeking out a bunch of the patterns. I might have to find alternatives if it doesn't work out. Luckily, Vogue published so many patterns a year at that time that there are many similar ones to choose from.

  6. I've been sewing on knits a lot lately and I have found that tailor's tacks are quicker than trying to mark with chalk or a pen on the wiggly, stretchy knit. I learned how to do them from my favorite reference book "The New Vogue Sewing Book" and I really like them AND they don't rub off.

  7. The woman's waist is small, but not quite as tiny as it appears in the photo. There is side-lighting hitting directly on the sides of her belt (which appears to be shiny, perhaps patent leather?). The side-lighting casts highlights and creates an affect that dissolves the edges of her waist. (Or any object photographed with side lighting).

    Yes, she's tiny. But not quite as bad as the recent Ralph Lauren photos.

    PS- just found your blog thanks to burdastyle. really enjoying it and your work.

  8. I'm more freaked out by her Barbie-long neck than her corseted waist (make no mistake, she's got a serious foundation garment under there). I wonder if she got hypertension from holding up her head on such a long, slender neck?

  9. If it were a modern picture..I'd think that image had been photoshopped.
    My grandma got her first sewing machine in the 50's and apparently the first thing she made was a green velvet dress. I'll have ot ask how she finished her seams.
    My ultimate goal now is to get good enough to sew one. :)


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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