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Martha Stewarts encyclopedia of sewing and fabric crafts
As a child, I was fascinated with sewing. Mother always sewed—her own clothes, the clothes for her three daughters, Halloween costumes for all six of her children, and random gifts and objects for family and friends. She had an old Singer machine in a wooden carrying case given to her by her mother, but that was put away when she bought a new White machine.The White, in its maple wood cabinet table, occupied one wall of our large eat-in kitchen. It was always open, with a project or two neatly folded on the worktable or on the ironing board next to it.
It was inevitable that I, my sister Kathy, and the youngest sibling, Laura, would all become proficient seamstresses. Buying fabrics in specialty stores Mother discovered in Passaic, Rutherford, and Belleville, New Jersey, and later in the myriad fabric shops on West 39th Street in New York City, was another favorite pastime. I learned all about weaves, textures, fibers, and which fabrics and threads were best for which projects and for specific patterns. The pattern books by Vogue and Butterick and Simplicity were like great art books to all of us, and we pored over them for hours, dreaming up lavish costumes that of course we could not afford but desired to wear. We all made small projects like aprons, scarves, and some decorative household objects, but we were primarily interested in the creation of clothing for every day as well as special occasions. I took sewing courses in the Nutley public schools and learned to make a blouse with set-in sleeves and yoke and collar, a circle skirt, a simple jacket, and a pair of cuffed shorts with zippered-fly front. Mother taught me all the rest of what I know—tailoring, interfacing, bias cutting, bound buttonholes, handmade buttonholes—and she instilled in me the basic good habits that make one a good sewer for life.
I can remember so many of the projects we made together: the white Swiss organdy First Communion dress with wide tucks and short puffy sleeves, my first “formal” of blue silk Shantung with pale pink tulle overskirt, my graduation dress with pale blue embroidered flowers on imported white cotton, my prom dress of sophisticated dark brown voile with a sweetheart neckline, and of course, my wedding dress, of embroidered Swiss organdy, with a peau de soie lining and cotton voile interfacing.
Throughout college, I continued to sew, and all of my fancy clothes were made from designer patterns from my friend Ann Boswell’s aunt, who owned a couture shop called Chez Ninon. I wore Balenciaga and Dior and Givenchy to class and fell in love with great couture. When I married, my first sewing machine was a Singer, with the most advanced technology and features of the 1960s models. I learned a lot on that machine, and I sewed with it for many years, experimenting with construction and design. Even today, with construction so much more relaxed, I still examine seams and fabrics and the way things are made, and I still sew all the time.
This book is meant to be both a primer for new sewers and a refresher for those of us who know how to sew and want to get some new ideas and projects. Sewing is, of course, not just fashion.
It incorporates appliquéing, embroidery, quilting, and fabric crafts, such as dyeing and printing, as well as many other things. We at Martha Stewart Living hope this volume fills voids in your knowledge and inspires you to try new things. Enjoy!