Today, I want to bring your attention to the Bishop Method of Clothing Construction. I’ve become the owner of three books about it, published by J. B. Lippincott Company, not in operation today.
Back in the day, your grandma or your mom or you (if you’re approaching the golden years) may have learned to sew with the Bishop Method.
This movement was launched in the 50s when Edna Bryte Bishop of McDonald, Pennsylvania developed a set of home sewing procedures based on industrial methods, which resulted in a more professional look for home sewn clothes. The goal was to make the home seamstress’ project look as if it was sewn in a factory, and not have the “fireside” look (The term “fireside” is a quote from the book). Yes, I am calling it a movement after reading about how it was such an influencer in the field of home sewing, and sewing education at that time.
The very basic premise of the Bishop Method is the “Unit Method” of clothing construction. It means that you must complete one part of a garment as much as possible before attaching it to the other complete part. For example, the sleeves, collar and bodice “units” of a shirt or blouse should be completed before being attached to each other. Facings, if present in the design, are also considered a “unit”. Once the facing is attached to the neckline, it becomes part of the bodice unit.
With the Unit Method, Mrs. Bishop developed sewing process priorities which were deemed crucial to a well-made garment:
Fabric Grain Perfection: According to the Bishop Method your sewing project needs to be perfectly on grain, otherwise it will not hang correctly. This is the most important concept taught therein. So much importance is attached to the perfection of fabric grain that the book lists “torn” projects as first sewing projects for beginners. This means that no scissors are applied to the fabric so the student can learn the importance of fabric grain. The pieces of the project are straight (no curves) and can be torn, making sure that they are grain perfect. Of course, it also means that you have to begin by making sure that the fabric is perfectly on grain.
Also included is perfection in fitting, cutting, marking and in sewing and pressing; and the Bishop method shows you how. I would like to substitute the word “perfection” with “accuracy”. There are sewing tools commonly used today which are said to have been approved by Edna Bishop. I have used the EZ Hem gauge for years without realizing that it was created by Mrs Bishop.
The first book, co-authored by Edna Bishop and Marjorie Arch was published in 1959 and revised in 1966. I own the 1966 version but have not been able to get the original 1959 publication. Then two more books found themselves in my possession. See pictures above. My thanks to Katy Budget Books (used bookseller in my area).
Imagine my surprise when I found out that there’s an association that exists today to keep the Bishop Method alive. It has chapters, but most of the activity seems to be in Michigan. Check out their website and their quiet Facebook page. (In all honesty, there are a couple of things mentioned in the promo information on the website which are the direct opposite of information in the book.)
I find that most of the procedures and methods of sewing in the Bishop Method are intuitive to me, but I will be delving deeper into it. Just for fun, look at this project in the book “Fashion Sewing by the Bishop Method”, circa 1962 (second book above). What the cutting edge 2013 fashion world is calling a “crop top” today, was called a “topette” in this book :). Love it.
So tell me what you think. Have you ever heard of the Bishop Method of Clothing Construction? Or did you learn to sew with this method? Say so in the comments section!
Thank you for reading!