The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction has been a valuable friend, although I tremble that the ghost of Edna Bishop may suddenly appear and rap my knuckles with a french curve if I sew a seam in the wrong direction.
Participating in Peter’s shirt sew-along, and the impending wedding have moved me out of my “outerwear mode”. To prepare for my new projects I picked up both Shirtmaking by David Coffin and Classic Tailoring Techniques by Roberto Cabrera. Both books have the reputation as being the authority on their subjects.
I’ll start with shirtmaking and hope that David Page Coffin NEVER reads this blog. Readers, do you have any slightly OCD habits that you’d like to keep hidden from the world. Do you have trouble sleeping knowing that there are dirty dishes in the dishwasher? Can’t leave the house if the bed isn’t made? Maybe you have to set two alarms in case one fails? Trust me, you will feel completely normal after you delve into DPC’s world of obsessive shirtmaking. To be fair, there is some great information here. There are templates for shirt plackets, cuffs, collars and stands. Gotta love that. There’s also a great design ideas chapter to help create your own unique shirts. Much of the book, however, involves overly complicated construction techniques that will have you wanting to mix a pitcher of martinis before noon. He will convince you that a decent shirt can’t possibly be sewn without a felling foot and a hem roller. I think the MPB sew-along proved this false about 100 times. You will also end up pulling, stretching, trimming and swearing for results, that in the long run, really aren’t worth it. Personally, I’ve never been bothered by the amount of fabric in the seam where my shirt cuffs meet the placket. If you have, then by all means pick up this book.
You will read plenty of glowing reviews on Amazon for Classic Tailoring Techniques by Roberto Cabrera. There is nothing flashy about this book. There are very few photos. The model appears to be a fifteen year old prep school student from the ’70’s. Bizarre. There are, however, page after page of clear line drawings moving step by step through the construction process. This makes tackling something new much easier for me. No getting around it, there is a lot of very technical information here. But it seems to lack the fanatical tone of the Shirtmaking book. My experience with the shirt process has altered my approach to the jacket. There are just some features / techniques that really don’t matter to me. For example I don’t intend to handstitch the front facing with barely visible stitches done in silk finishing thread. This is $8.50 / yd linen, not $250 / yard imported Italian cashmere. Do I need to drive myself crazy making a Barcelona inside chest pocket, or will a simple welt pocket a la Edna Bishop do the job?
Books are a great resource, but following them slavishly has proven to take much of the joy out of my projects. I’m sure I’m not alone on this one.