For those of you in a hurry skip to paragraph seven for my review.
I learnt to sew through necessity. Television did not exist in my childhood world and when it finally came along I was in my early teens. We found other ways to entertain ourselves. I learnt to knit, crochet and sew. The ability to create was surreptitiously instilled in us from an early age. I married young; handicapped by a mortgage I sewed clothes once again through necessity. It became part of who I am, part of my culture. Some of my efforts were successful others a dismal failures. I like to think I learnt from my mistakes.
I briefly dabbled in pattern cutting courses, two semesters of study, I failed to complete the course but boy did I learn a lot during those evening classes. My mother, who I inherited much of my talent from, proudly presented me with Volume 1 and 2 of The Modern Tailor Outfitter and Clothier (1950), they have pride of place in my library and I have drafted patterns from them.
Over the last two decades I have continued to sew intermittently. Other things have taken priority, raising children, surviving the bumpy road called life. Four years at university and I became a teacher, my trusty sewing machine sat on its antique table waiting for me to return.
With sewing on the back burner, teaching consumed me in a good and bad way. My passion for writing reignited, out of both necessity and a desire to have a creative outlet. Writing with my classes during our weekly Juicy Writing sessions allowed me to dwell on and write about, all manner of things, even sewing.
One such writing lesson inspired by Colin Thompson’s, How To Live Forever, transported us into a world of ‘book houses’. A fantastical library which came to life at night. Doors and windows appeared on the library books, trees grew, staircases meandered and chimneys billowed smoke. We invited ourselves into that world and imagined what it would be like to live there. What would you see when you entered your book house?
Naturally, following my passion I chose a sewing theme.
MY BOOK HOUSE
As the front door swings open, the burble of a well-oiled Bernina resonates off the cluttered walls. Bolts of delicate silk, flimsy organza, luscious velvet and tweed sit, stacked in a far corner. Like soldiers standing to attention, row after row of pattern blocks hang, waiting expectantly, in an antique wardrobe. Cluttered mahogany shelves line the left hand wall. Jar after jar of buttons, lovingly sorted, classified by colour, a kaleidoscope, competing for shelf space. Reel after reel of cotton, carefully stacked and sorted in tiers. A leather grandfather chair sits by a large bay window, basking in the late afternoon sun. Needlework, intricately embellished, lies expectantly by the chair, waiting for a spare moment. Half finished, incomplete garments tease, torment, titillate and tentatively beg for a final stitch, a carefully executed buttonhole or a flourish of lace and ribbon. While in the corner, hangs a testament to the seamstresses’ skills, an exquisite heavily embroidered crimson velvet coat.
Which makes it all the more poignant that I am now here, back doing what I love sewing, and writing about it. Here is my review of The Tunic Bible by Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr. On-line reviews played a part in the purchase of this book. It’s a beautifully presented book, one pattern and you have endless possibilities. Over the last few months I’ve mulled over what I would make first. With summer in mind I threw ‘wobbly upper arm syndrome’ out the door and decided to focus on a couple of sleeveless tunics.
I’d have to admit that I was a little over whelmed by the prospect of using this book. When I finally threw care to the wind and started reading, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to use. Patterns were traced, muslin sewn, those dam darts had to be lowered, with perfect results.
My first choice was the Inside-Facing Wide Split Placket with angled collar. Using a floral cotton I had purchased in Samoa. The comprehensive instructions made construction of the tunic seamless. The most complex part was sewing the trim on accurately.
I have to admit that interfacing and I are not good friends. I’ve had some disasters in the past and I now often stiffen collars and facings with another layer of fabric rather than interfacing, which I did here. This tunic is a loose fit, no back darts.
Buoyed on by the success of my first tunic I was torn. Should I make a sleeveless tunic with a ruffled neckline or an Outside-Facing V-Neck Placket? I chose the latter. I had an unusual piece of fabric which I had picked up in Japan and a small piece of silk my sister had given me from India. Lots of colour happening here, I’ve always been a risk taker when it comes to colour. Any problems I had with this little number were of my own making. The silk facing took on a life of its own and I’ve stupidly decided to use the same silk to finish off the armholes. Probably not a smart move, watch this space! Adding the contoured back darts made a huge difference.
These photos aren’t the greatest, my photographer is at work, it’s a very grey afternoon with a foul thunderstorm raging outside. Not the best lighting for good pictures. As you can see this is still a work in progress. I’ll update the post with a completed picture asap.
The Tunic Bible is something I will continue to use. The possibilities are endless. Happy sewing.
Ka kite ano.