The  Bishop Method of Clothing Construction is one of those library books I always rushed past on the way to sassier, sexier books about sewing. I wanted to be a Vogue sewing gal, full of breathless fashion commentary. Or maybe Sandra Betzina, with all her breezy tone and quirky style. I wanted to sew to be fabulous, not to make stuff like this:


Try not to get too excited about Torn Project #1


But then I started reading Bishop. Good gravy, here was a guide to correctly doing all those things I was loosy-goosying and half-assing! I never have been too sure I was really really laying things out on grain, and my tailor’s tacks usually fall out and, well, it is shameful to say but I really don’t think I use my scissors the way you are supposed to.

So yes I have made dozens of garments, and I wear them often and proudly, but most of them look like they were made by a crazy person.

Compare that to the stolid wisdom of The Bishop Method:

The Bishop method embraces the following fundamental principles:

Grain perfection

Accuracy in preparing, cutting, and marking fabric

Cutting to fit

Perfection in stitching

Perfection in pressing

This is a statement of principles and a commitment to perfection, all in the guise of a sewing manual! So instead of moving on to the Vogue Book of Difficult Glamor I took home Bishop and made this:



That's right, baby, Torn Project #1


And an idea was born: I am going to work my way through The Bishop Method from torn projects to tailoring a suit, and then maybe I won’t feel like such a buffoon when I move on to trying those adorable fashionable clothes I would rather be wearing! Sort of like Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing if only I were stylish, witty, gorgeous, and a gifted writer.

What’s a torn project? In Bishop we start without patterns, learning all about grain and the machine. Fabric is made up of wefts and woofs  running vertically and horizontally and will tear along those lines so the first set of projects are all about tearing fabric along the lines. It will tear straight and teach you to recognize when fabric is off grain (that is, the lines get screwed up either in production or  from you handling it). If it is messed up in production — kiss it goodbye! But if you pulled it off grain, you force it back into submission using your trusty iron.


I have decided it is time to consider this important


The apron project is followed by a poncho, which I really could not imagine making/wearing:


Transform yourself into a human picnic blanket with torn project #2


but I knuckled down with my new-found sense of purpose and cut into the shockingly fancy Parisian mohair check I got at an estate sale for next to nothing, and whipped up this little number


Ta-da! (I just noticed it is backwards, but what's the diff?)


It is just two pieces of fabric, overlapped and joined with a straight stitch, except for the fringe, which was fun! You run a row of stitches at the point where you want the fringe to stop, then pull out the horizontal threads


On the fringe


And to be perfectly honest I love wearing it.

Next I had a choice of either a blouse that looks astonishingly like a pillowcase, or a useful bag for hair rollers. I chose the latter


Clorox bottle used for shaping, because we are working with a fusty aesthetic here.


…only I skipped the Clorox bottle for shaping and used a gold picture cord instead of the recommended shoelaces (I mean seriously, Edna, live a little!)


Lingerie bag


(I’m using mine as a fancy laundry bag, where I’m shoving tights that I don’t want to accidentally put in the regular wash, so I didn’t pull the ties tight like in the original illustration. It does also work as a drawstring bag.)

((Are you wondering if I plan to write such epic posts every week? The answer is no, I just have a lot of sewing to document. It will slow down when I graduate to patterns, I swear))

And finally, the project that Edna warns is not to be undertaken until the second or third torn project. Yippee! I have made it into the advanced remedial sewing class!


Daytime or Evening Purse (ADVANCED!)


…which I made up in a quilted home-decorator fabric


My purse


Complete with cute pale pink zipper, because I am making all of this with stuff I already had in my house and I didn’t have a blue 7-inch zipper.


Zipper, not too badly screwed up


And that brings me to today. I went through all the projects in the book and found comparable current patterns. While I wait for them to arrive from Club BMV, I might make one more torn project.

Stay tuned!