Last week I shared some of my favorite smocking resources and so today I am back to share some of my favorite heirloom sewing resources. First up, what exactly is Heirloom Sewing? According to wikipedia, "Heirloom sewing is characterized by fine, often sheer, usually white cotton or linen fabrics trimmed with an assortment of lace, insertions, tucks, narrow ribbon, and smocking, imitating such hand-work techniques as whitework embroidery, Broderie Anglaise, and hemstitching." I must admit that I am taking some liberty and using the term a little bit broader in this post. Basically when I say heirloom sewing I am referring to sewing that incorporates fine details and couture methods from the past, although the look may be entirely modern. Those details may include lace, but just as easily, include tucks or fagotting on a modern print. That is something a love about sewing - taking those fine techniques that add that couture touch, and interpreting them for today's look and lifestyle!
So now that we are hopefully on the same page, here are my recommendations! Bar none, the resource that is constantly by my side is Precise and Professional by Lyn Weeks. In the introduction Lyn explains that she intended the book as a workbook, and that is exactly what it is! She covers the various heirloom techniques of attaching lace but goes on to cover using the bias, seams and seam finishes, and plackets and closures.
Now for the bad news - this book is out of print, and as of the date of this blog post I found it on amazon for $150! So, yes this is one of those books that you should grab when and if you ever come across it! Lyn also wrote the book Tantalizing Tucks pictured in the photo at the top of this post, and although not as comprehensive as Precise and Professional, it is also worthwhile to own.
Not is all lost however. Many of the techniques that Lyn covers are also covered in Fine Machine Sewing by Carol Ahles. This book was originally published in the '90s and then updated and revised in 2003. You can pick it up for $20-25 - a much more reasonable investment!
For general help on sewing a garment with smocking, I recommend the A to Z of Sewing for Smockers. This one is still being published and will help with attaching the smocking to the rest of the garment, and making a classic yoke dress.
Of course for a complete video course on how to do exactly that, see my video sewing series, Make Your Daughter a Dress!
For help with revising a pattern, making needed adjustments, or just adding your own special details, I recommend the Building Block Dress Book by Oliver + S.
Finally, just for overall inspiration, I recommend SAGANews, the membership magazine of the Smocking Arts Guild of America. The magazine always includes articles, tips and techniques on fine machine sewing, embroidery and smocking. I hope this resource list is helpful. Happy Sewing!