Thursday, August 30, 2012

Off the Shelf: The Art of Manipulating Fabric

I was going to write a more in depth review of this mind-blowing book by Collette Wolff, but after hopping over to Amazon to grab a link and photo, I saw a great review that really says it all. Thank you, Allison Taylor, for saving me a lot of time!


In the author's words, "this is a book of ideas about sewing cloth" but what it really is, is an awesome collection of information from a thousand different sources on the techniques sewers have used since fabric was invented, to change the surface of an initially flat textile. Wolff brings little techniques of fabric manipulation from the background to the spotlight by isolating each technique, cataloging its unique features, separating the technique from end product associations, and exploring the sculptural possibilities without regard to where application will be. For any home or professional sewers who currently (or hypothetically) maintain folders of "pleating ideas," "interesting darts," or "photos of ruffles" get this book, and fast. Save yourself the chore of assimilating all the diagrams and photos and captions because Wolff has done it so thoroughly you will find yourself engrossed just reading about the humble little fabric tuck. Granted, no technique by itself makes wearable art or couture clothing, but these are the manipulations that make up the experimental stuff on the runways and in the exclusive boutiques. Learn what they do to a plain textile and you're primed to exploit fabric, for whatever purposes your little heart desires. Wolff's chapters cover: controlled crushing (gathering, shirring), supplementary fullness (making ruffles, making flounces, making godets), systematic folding (pleating, smocking, tucking), filled reliefs (cording, quilting, stuffing), structured surfaces (darts), and mixed manipulations (combinations). If you're a collector of books on dyeing or embroidery or exquisite cut, you really owe it to yourself to add this viewpoint to your library. Until the magical moment when I picked up this volume at a fabric trade show, I had no idea someone had catalogued so fanatically the world of playing with fabric. Thank goodness she has, or I might have attempted it. And as if a jam-packed reference guide isn't cause enough for celebration among fabric junkies, she's included a modest glossary, for clarity, a very helpful bibliography of books and articles, and a really thorough index that makes textbooks look carelessly written. This isn't just for garment-makers either; I can easily see applications in quilting, weaving, home decorating, wearable art, and costuming. Sewing machine recommended for most of these techniques but they could all be done by hand-sewers. I think it would most benefit the home sewer looking to spice up their wardrobe with more sophistication and interest in the fabric handling, but could also be very useful to the professional, especially in the design fields. After each time I pick up this book I find ideas bubbling to the surface on how to make my next fabric creation really pop. It's inspired several experiments and I see no end in sight.

I purchased The Art of Manipulating Fabric over a year ago as a gift. Following a quick perusal, I realized that it was worth its weight in gold as a reference for fabric techniques and I had to have my own. I am so glad I have it, and I would definitely recommend it as an inspiring and educational buy or interlibrary loan. Amazing. In case you need a little Fall inspiration!! It makes me want to sew a puff quilt, to start, like this lovely number from Honeybear Lane:

What’s your favorite fabric manipulation method? Mine appears to be gathering right now, but I think pintucks and couching are next on my “skills to master” list.

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