Sunday, July 13, 2014

Remembering the Elders or the Sewists who've gone before...

Lately, I've been having conversations with my sewing friends and acquaintances about "Remembering The Elders."  Sometimes I think we get so caught up in the here and now, and don't realize that people have been sewing since we human beings donned clothing.

Yes, technology has changed the machinery and fabrics have been updated too but the basics of sewing remains the same...needle and thread is used to take a flat piece of fabric to make it fit our bodies. So sporadically during the next couple of months I'm going to highlight some of those whom I believe are Significant Elders.

The first person I'd like to highlight is Edna Bryte Bishop, who authored several books ~





What is the Bishop Method?
The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction was developed by Edna Bryte Bishop as a sequential, progressive method of teaching sewing based upon fabric grain line, unit construction and short cut industrial sewing techniques. She emphasized grain perfection, accuracy in preparing, cutting and marking fabric, cutting to fit, perfection in stitching, perfection in pressing, attaining a quality look with the right trimming/detail.  Edna said that, "Achieving these principles would enable you to make quality-looking clothes and eliminate "the fireside touch" home sewing has so frequently demonstrated in the past."

Who was Edna Bryte Bishop?
She was born in 1886 in Pennsylvania, and learned to sew as a young girl. She became a teacher who originated the method of sewing using the grainline method.  She taught in schools in Massachusetts and later in New Jersey.  Her method of sewing was promoted by both JC Penneys and the Advance Pattern Company.  They were so popular that she authored the two books, The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction in 1959 and Fashion Sewing by the Bishop Method in 1966.

Now most of this information was gathered from the foreword of her books and/or the website, The Bishop Method of Construction

I own both of the books listed above and consider them important parts of my sewing library.  I found the first book (The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction) at a library sale and a friend gave me the second one.  

Here is what I was attracted to...

Love the embellishments to add to your garments

Collar, lapel and button front trimmings

The pictures above are from
The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction


These chapter pages are from
Fashion Sewing by the Bishop Method

Now, if you want to own a great vintage sewing book or two, I've provided Amazon links.  Although I'm sure other vintage booksellers might be able to find you a copy. And if you only need an internet reference, the website link above will give you a great overview of the Bishop Method, as well as, the ability to join a Bishop Chapter.

Madalynne, also wrote an excellent blog post on The Bishop Method in February of this year. It's how I learned about the Bishop website.  I really think it's important that we continue to honor the legacy of great sewists that have gone before, yet have left such awesome information that can assist us in becoming better sewists today.

...as always more later!







32 comments:

  1. Oh Carolyn how I loved this post. I agree so much. In fact, with all these new books being released on sewing I still refer most often to my vintage sewing books inherited from those who passed on the legacy of sewing to me. There is so much wisdom there and it is lovely to stop and reflect on those who have gone before us. I honor my grandmother and great aunt's memory with every stitch I sew and feel so privileged to be the only person in the family who has continued the sewing tradition.

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  2. I really do wonder what newer sewing books can offer when there are gems of information like these already out there, since all the principles are still so relevant. I guess maybe the young and/or new sewists today want more pictures and less complicated information?

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  3. Thank you so much! One of our neighbors growing up taught the Bishop Method at sewing classes, at JC Penney's I believe. My mother didn't care for her, and neighborhood biases being what they were, the Bishop Method was out as well. I feel a little sneaky when I'm reading up on it, but there are so many copies of those books, I would be a fool not to read them.

    The one thing I always do in another town is check out any used bookstores and beeline for the sewing books. I always learn something new, or am reminded of the 'proper' method. Mostly, I am inspired to avoid that fireside touch. And those those embellishments must have a home on something I'm thinking about...or they will soon.

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  4. One more thing: I make sure I review every sewing book I read from the library on the library website, and often on Amazon, at least to itemize what information there is and a little about the author. It seems a little presumptuous sometimes, but I've read so many and often multiple titles by the same author, as long as I keep it fair-minded, I'm doing the other sewists a favor. It's mainly the older books in the stacks I'm concerned with. The newer ones seem to take care of themselves (splashy photos on the covers vs the library binding of the older ones). And as you've mentioned, there's a wealth of information there.

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    1. You can also review on Goodreads, a site for books similar to Pattern Review in format. Lots of great reviews there.

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    2. Hear, hear! Love this series!

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  5. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of the Bishop Method book a few years ago on a trip to the US. I think that it is one of the better sewing books that I have. One of the ladies I have been helping with sewing just bought one too after reading mine. I love vintage sewing books as they include so much detail about fit and finish that is lacking in some of the modern books. Edna rocks!

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  6. i had one "method of sewing construction" in my hot little hands, and lost it during one of our LA moves before i could even crack it open.. mine was a big paperback printing with a red and white cover...sigh. great idea carolyn!

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    1. I have that one! Lots of great info in it. I was taught by a Bishop Method teacher who emphasized grain and unit construction. I learned a lot from her.

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  7. Thanks for info on website. I have one of the Bishop books myself. Did not know about the website. Nice post.

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  8. Great post and Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading this; I'm absolutely going to enjoy this series. What a great idea.

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  10. Carolyn I love my sewing library. I own the entire Singer Sewing library which are my go-to references but the Revised Bishop Method is also a valuable reference as well. The copyright is 1966, 1959. It is an excellent reference as well. Other than serger, coverstitch techniques and color photos, the older books are just as relevant as newer publications. I am not tied to the internet when it comes to learning new or updated techniques. Although the internet references are excellent, I think it has taken away a lot of our creativity because we are often too quick to use somebody else's ideas rather than our own. I'd still much rather figure it out for myself and know that it will work. When I was trying to convert a one piece sleeve into two, I watched a Youtube video that had obviously left out an important step. I just couldn't get it work. When I consulted an article from a Threads magazine...it worked instantly. Yeah, I'd rather my reference be in print. Old habits die hard.

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    1. Rachelle - hey you know I love my sewing library but I like your take on creativity!

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  11. Great post!! I always get so annoyed when I read statements like "Not your grandma's sewing, crafting, quilting, etc"

    YES IT IS!! Your grandma wasn't always a grandma. She was a young women who liked to (and sometimes HAD TO) make things, too.

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  12. I love that you will be doing this... I plan to check out my library's bookstore in search of vintage copies.

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  13. I have these books as well, passed on to me by friends in the early 70's. I am very lucky to have lived in a university town with two former women's colleges as well as a state university, all with fashion departments (or textile & apparel, as they wish to be called now). A lot of wonderful vintage books on fashion and sewing are coming into the market right now as folks reach their 70's and want to down-size.

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  14. I think it's interesting that you say as people come into their 70's...cause my children will be clawing all of my sewing things from my cold dead hands! *LOL* However, I'm glad there are more opportunities to get some of these vintage books!

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  15. I love the idea of honoring great seamstresses from before our time! I have never seen any of the books you have mentioned in this post, in my library or otherwise. I have read a lot of current sewing books, but never thought to venture into vintage books. Thank you for the start of a great series, and piquing my interest into something I had not considered before.

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  16. Thank you for this thread! I also have the Bishop Method books. They are still relevant today, especially for beginners. And relevant to sewing technique in general. Unit construction is still how we sew garments today... and that is all thanks to Edna Bishop!
    I don't know how garments were sewn before, unit construction is all I've ever known. Bishop also had a huge impact on Advance Patterns in the fifties and sixties, and if you've ever sewn an Advance vintage pattern, you know they are way ahead of the game in comparison to other patterns of that era.

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  17. Being a beginner re-entering as a beginner, it wasn't until earlier this year I stumbled upon the Bishop Method and was impressed of the reviews. I found two copies via one of the websites that sells older books (ebay can be kinda ridiculous @ times). :-). I'm so glad b/c as I'm learning/ re-learning, I want to do things the right way. The Bishop Method isn't in my local libraries (and I'm a regular of the library even as as old as I am)! You have to go to sites that sell vintage and/or used books. It's worth it! :-). As always great post!

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  18. Thanks for this post. Sometimes I think we water down our craft in comparison to the way my mother sewed. This is a great reminder to honor the legacy of making quality clothing.

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  19. Yet now, when I put in a welt pocket, I pull out my book on the Bishop Method. She must have been an amazing woman - and for sure, she wrote very clear directions.

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  20. Carolyn - You will never know how much I appreciate your sharing this information about the Bishop Method. I actually took a class that emphasized the Bishop Method in the mid 1960s, but they never took the time to teach us the history of how all this came into being. Thank you... Thank you... Thank you... for filling us in on the history of this very significant part of sewing history.

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  21. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Yes, looking back at where we came from is so important! It is easy to think that the elders ways have gone the way of the way dodo bird, but that just isn't the truth at all. There is so much wisdom in their methods, and sometimes our quicker ways are better - and sometimes not. I just got a copy of the Bishop Method of Clothing Construction book, but I haven't had a chance to really delve into as much as I would love to!

    About the two books shown in the first photo - are they pretty much the same inside? Or is the information different and worth it to get both books? I have just the one, and haven't been able to decide if the books all tell pretty much the same thing.

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    1. Just to clarify - yes, I saw the photos of pages from the two books. I just wasn't sure if the Fashion book was discussing what the well-dressed woman wore as the focus of the book vs HOW to make the clothes the well-dressed woman wore. Hope that clarified my question.

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  22. Take a look at your Dritz EZY-HEM- it was Designed by Edna Bryte Bishop, Originator of the Bishop Method of Clothing Construction! I have 2 Bishop Method books- the one with the amazing gold mini dress form on the front and red and white striped fabric, and the updated one from the late 60's-early 70's. I'm with you on old school focus on technique over quick and easy.

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  23. I too have a Bishop method book in my wonderful home library. I find reading vintage sewing books a wonderful comfort and as you noted, a creative treasure lode . When I am self-critical I note that all of these techniques took time and practice to master and I am more patient with myself and grateful for their assistance.

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  24. Thanks for sharing this! So interesting!

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  25. My mother learned to sew with those books, and she taught me. (in 1963 she won a Singer sewing machine in a sewing contest. I learned to sew on it in the 80's) Now I own those two books too, paperback versions and the covers are quite faded. Whenever I´m stuck in a pattern I look up what The Bishop method has to say about it. I love the embellishment ideas too, and the tips on the right accesories and fabric. Some things are dated, but most still are very true.

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