Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Couture Sewing: The Couture Cardigan Jacket by Claire B. Shaeffer

Couture Sewing: The Couture Cardigan Jacket: Sewing secrets from a Chanel colletorNetgalley kindly gave this for me to review, and I am pleased to say secrets are uncovered and mysteries unveiled. While I am not the type to actually wear a couture jacket (a Chanel jacket with jeans, say, is not my favorite combination) I do admit to admiring the luxury of the material and the exquisite craftsmanship of the creation.

There were a number of techniques discussed here that could be applied to effect on other projects one wanted to upgrade to the level of fine art. For instance, you may have wondered why certain items of clothing you have owed (or borrowed from a friend or relative) lasted so well, and could take the abuse of daily living without showing the effects. Perhaps sometime you admired the drape of a jacket fabric without knowing quite how they achieved that custom fit. Without taking the garment apart, you were never going to uncover the mystery.

Author Claudia Shaeffer does all that for us and more. She shows us the machine and hand sewing techniques for each stage of the jacket process. One part I found most interesting was the cutting and seam-marking. It may seem obvious to some, but thread-marking the seams rather than using some other marker is clearly superior to anything else I can think of when one is cutting from a large piece of fabric with an obvious graphic. (I am not talking about Chanel jackets here, but using unique fabrics for specialized projects).

Buttonholing, sleeve side vents, applying gimp trim and pockets are all discussed, and it should come as no surprise that good results comes from careful attention to detail and patient hand sewing techniques. These are projects in which one must revel in the process rather than simply the product. But with the right kind of desire, one can produce lovely, long-lasting and unique pieces of clothing art…and it doesn’t have to look like Chanel unless you want it to.

Shaeffer includes high-quality and useful close-up pictures in the book of the techniques she describes, and has many gorgeous photographs of Chanel jackets through the years. While I did not see the DVD included with the book, it must be an equally useful master course in couture fitting. For an aspiring tailor, clothing designer, or seamstress, to find a teacher for these techniques is as rare as hen’s teeth. Artisans that can do these things can rarely explain it. Shaeffer has done that AND produced a book with beautiful, clear photographs that you can reference again and again as you struggle to achieve something unique.

As I went to post this review, I discovered that Claire B. Shaeffer has an entire line of books and DVD sets on couture sewing techniques. Her line is wonderfully priced by the indispensable craft publisher Taunton Press. Creating works of art by hand makes better people of us—those who appreciate the time and effort involved in success and failure and beauty. We begin to understand talent, patience, perseverance…those things that will make a difference to us in our lives and loves. If you know an aspiring fabric-ator, the name Claire B. Shaeffer is a useful name to know.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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