Book Review: Illustrated Guide to Sewing: Couture Techniques: The Home Sewer’s Guide to Creating Designer Looks

couture techniques 

I’ve been given the opportunity to review a few books in this line, and I chose Couture Techniques first because I knew I didn’t have the slightest clue about what constitutes couture. And I was right!

I thought couture was just a fancy schmancy term for “expensive clothing made by famous designers.” But really, these garments are set apart for a reason. So much thought and care goes into how these pieces are created, resulting in well-fitting, long-lasting, beautiful clothing.

This book was surprisingly easy to understand. I wondered if I’d just be wading through fashion-industry-gibberish accented by pretty pictures of clothing. Instead I found user-friendly charts and lots of great diagrams that teach you how to do everything, from choosing the right fabrics for your purpose to trouble-shooting common problems in clothing design.

You won’t learn how to draft patterns here, but you will learn a lot about fitting existing paper patterns to your measurements. It has never been quite clear to me how to execute those changes, and I’m certain this will be a valuable resource next time I’m working on my pieces.

The only thing I actually missed were more pictures of the final products. Partially so I’d have a better idea of whether or not I’d like to attempt some of the techniques (a tie collar?? I’ve got to see someone looking cute in that before I’ll attempt it!), but mostly because I like to look at pretty pictures 🙂

I’d be surprised if any intermediate seamstress was disappointed in this book. It might be overwhelming for newbies, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check it out. I could have benefitted from some of these tips long ago!

*Note: When looking for this book, I’ve seen the title listed 2 different ways. On the cover it says “Home Sewer’s Guide”, but it is listed everywhere as “Home Sewing Guide”. I don’t know how important this distinction is, but I thought I should point it out. I went with what was on the cover!


So I didn’t quite make last year’s goals. But I still think I did great!

1. Lose 20 lbs: I lost 6.8. I am not mad about this! I lost almost 7 lbs, that’s awesome!

2. Read 52 books: I read 26, unless I forgot to write any down. I intentionally let myself slide on this because I realized early on that sometimes reading that much caused me to ignore other things. So I feel really good about the choice to ease up.

3. Make a dress or shirt for each woman in my family: I knew this was a big one, and I actually did not make a single garment for any of them. But I did manage to make several things for myself and Dexter, do those count???

Other things I accomplished this year:

I made TONS of crafts. TONS. I wanted to do a special photo post where I showed off everything I made. However, that turned out to be a nearly impossible task. You will not be seeing that post.

My sister and I participated in Santa’s Workshop. That was such a great experience! We got to share our crafts with the public, we bonded over common interests, and we got paid to do it. Sweet!

We moved to a new city. This is not my favorite accomplishment of 2010, and I’m still adjusting, but it was great that my husband found a new job after being laid-off.

2011 goals:

1. Lose 15 lbs.

If I make this goal, I will have completed the 20 I wanted to lose. But even if I only lose 5 by the end of the year, I’m going to be pumped! I am actively working toward this goal already, so I have a bit of a head start.

2. Work out at least 10 min everyday (except if I’m sick).

I’ve already been doing this for over 2 weeks! I actually started the day of my 30th birthday, and I’m trying to keep up that commitment. I know 10 min sounds really wimpy, but it means I don’t cut myself any slack. I *can* move with purpose for 10 minutes. Most days it’s 20 or 30 min of activity.

3. Read 24 books.

I’m certain I can match 2010’s progress. 2 books a month isn’t unreasonable, and if I really want to read more I can!

4. Commit to 2 weeks of my Secret 2011 Goal:

I’ll blog about this attempt later. It’s one of those things that I will not talk about until I either do it and succeed or fail and try to be the first to make fun of myself.

5. Unofficial Goal: Blog more frequently.

I’m not going to set a timeline, but I do want to blog more. It was hard this winter because I was too busy to really document everything.

I don’t plan to make any crafty goals this year. I already have a backlog of orders I’m trying to get through, so there is no way I intend to put more things on my plate. I’m really pleased with my progress last year, so I’m basically just going to try to keep up that pace!

McKay’s Finds (Board Books!)

I love McKay’s! I love getting to trade in my old books for new-old books! But I’m especially excited about today’s haul… I finally found board books! I’d looked before, but I guess I gave up too quickly. But there were tons of them, and I’m glad I took the time to check them out. I didn’t even get through half and I found 6 books for Dexter!


Now, I’m will admit that even though I love used books, I’m a little freaked out by potential germs. I figure there’s a good chance that some little kid has slobbered on these books, and I’m thankful that board books are able to withstand a good alcohol wipe-down. All the books were fine afterward, with the exception of one having a chalky residue which I wiped off with a dry paper towel.

I’ve been searching high and low for Bible stories, but I’m also picky about them. I found 4 I was happy with!


This David and Goliath book was the oldest and worst-looking of the set, but I liked the artwork. Very rich colors!



This little guy was labeled “Adam”. But after a dab of alcohol, little Adam will have a hard time proving it! This is the story of Moses.





This version of The Good Samaritan was an awesome find. The book has cut-outs that make it a little different that his other books.


I have to admit that the next 2 are my favorites. I LOVE the David books because of the incredible artwork. I had no idea there were board books available! When I saw those I grabbed them as fast as I could, like people were lined up to snag them from me 🙂


David Smells! is great! It’s about the 5 senses. (Click here to get this book on Amazon!) And thank goodness I disinfected the books because…


…every time Dexter gets to this page, he licks that disgusting sucker!!! 🙂


Oops! is about David’s first words. And as naughty as David is, that last page just tugs at my heart strings! (Click here to get this book on Amazon!)


Now for the really good part: I paid a grand total of (drumroll…) $3.95 before tax! Run, don’t walk, to your nearest McKay’s and dig through their board books! And then you, too, can see a version this:





Normally I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. However, 2010 seems like a year to start fresh. I will not call them resolutions… I will call them goals.

Goal 1: Read 52 books this year.

I’ve amassed quite a collection of books, at last count I had over 60 on my to-read shelf. And then for Christmas and my birthday I was given 10 more AND a Kindle. (B to the dizzub, I LOVE my Kindle!) So, in an effort to clear out that list, I will attempt to read 1 book per week. I’ve already finished 1!

Goal 2: Lose 20 lbs.

Yikes. Should I really put that up here? I think this is the area where I’m most afraid of failing. I hope that adding it to my public goals will make me more willing to stick to it. I’ve already lost 3!

Goal 3: Make a dress or a shirt for each woman in my family.

This is my let-slide goal. By that I mean I’m going to strive to achieve this, but if things are too busy, this will be the thing I don’t do. The reason I want to do this is to become better at garment construction and reading patterns. When I make things for myself I have too much trouble with measuring and I give up too easily. Making them to give away to people I love should (hopefully) encourage me to finish. I have 2 great books I’ll be referencing (Sew U and Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified), along with tons of patterns from my collection. There are 5 women in my family. I have not started making anything, but I have started gathering ideas from the girls about what they’d like. 

So, I’ll check back in from time to time to let you all know how things are going! Other non-pressing things on my agenda for the year include restoring an old quilt, putting up a tutorial for a stuffed dog toy, and making a 1st year quilt for Dexter. Amongst other things. It’s going to be a crazy year!