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Bishop Method teachings

DONNAKAYE | Posted in General Discussion on

Several members have emailed me privately and asked that I start a thread on Bishop Method teachings. Although I will be the first to tell you that I am no expert in Bishop Method, I do think I can provide just enough information to be dangerous! Mother was the expert, not me. But I did sit at her knee from childhood up until her death in ’96, and she taught me a lot of things I know for certain I never would have gotten anywhere else. Back in “the day,” a lot of home sewers had this information widely available to them because Bishop Method classes were filled to overflowing. (Nowadays I doubt I could get five people to sign up, sad to say.) Unfortunately, my generation is approaching the half-century mark (if we’re not already over it!), and the information has tended to become obscured if not completely unavailable. Of course, some Bishop Method techniques have made their way into the mainstream literature of home sewing, so some of them may already be familiar to you. I should mention that there is a Bishop teacher with whom I correspond who was mother’s contemporary that can fill us in on some details that may otherwise be lacking, if that’s any comfort. I plan to ask her permission to give credit where credit is due. (She’s a very busy lady and involved in the sewing industry.) Hopefully, she’ll allow us to appreciate her efforts.

With all the fitting threads currently on the forum, I thought a good place to start might be the features of a good basic pattern, and which features will instantly alert you to a generally poorly fitted garment. The logical place to begin, at least in my way of thinking, would be the skirt, because it has the fewest number of pieces and of all garments is the easiest to fit. Then I think we can move from there to the bodice and the sleeve, neckline and front facings, front and back closures, collars and cuffs, including some discussions about blouses and shirts generally, then dressmaking. Following that, a discussion about tailoring and advanced sportswear techniques, including coats, both fast tailoring and traditional tailoring techniques. Oh, and, of course, no thread would be complete without a discussion of pants fitting.

Now, I’m going to need all the help I can get from everybody out there to make this thread a success. So that the threads don’t get too long and unwieldy, I’ll post each topic under “Bishop: Bodices,” “Bishop: Sleeves,” etc., to kick the discussions off the ground. So the first thread will be under “Bishop: Skirts.” It’s going to take me a day or two to assemble my notes, so please be patient. And have fun with the Bishop Method!


  1. GailAnn | | #1

    Thank you.  Thank you.  I've really enjoyed your posts in the 2 or so weeks that I've been looking in on gatherings.  So much wonderful information.

    I'd like to take a refresser sewing/tailoring class.  But, like you say, I'd be hard put to find one.  So this will be great.  It would be so sad for the Bishop Method to be lost to history.

    Skirts would be most useful.  I'll be following along.  Gail

    1. DONNAKAYE | | #4

      Gail, you just MADE MY DAY!  Thanks!

  2. Alipye | | #2

    You are an amazing lady, to take the time with a full time job, to explain and help all of us is truly generous of you.  Please, for those of us who do not know the Bishop Method, could you do a little explanation about the "method" and how it cam to be called so.  When was it taught and what is the process based on, flat pattern drafting?, sewing techniques etc.  Forgive my ignorance, but for those of us who don't know it would be a good start.  Thanks again for sharing!


    1. DONNAKAYE | | #3

      Certainly, but to do it right, I'll need to go pull it out of my notes.  Will post that for you soon.  Good question.  No, great question....D.

    2. DONNAKAYE | | #5

      This introduction is taken directly from the materials provided by the Bishop Method of Clothing Construction Council (dissolved in 2005).

      What is the Bishop Method?

      The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction, developed by Edna Bryte Bishop, is essentially the application to home sewing of some of the techniques used in the garment industry.  From her rich background and experience in education, factories and custom establishments, Mrs. Bishop developed clothing construction procedures which enable women who sew to make garments in much less time and eliminate the "fireside" look which is characteristic of homemade garments.

      From beginner to expert, the sequence of learnings in the Bishop Method teaches what to do, when to do it, and how it should it be done.  Without exception it is based on the following fundamental principles of clothing construction: grain perfection and accuracy in preparation; cutting and marking the fabric; cutting to fit the individual figure; perfection in stitching; and using the proper pressing techniques.  With these skills and right trimming detail, garments can have that much desired 'quality look.'

      Actually there is nothing revolutionary about the Bishop Method, but certain basic principles are essential to the success of this technique.  The pattern and fabric are chosen to complement the skill and interest of the student.  Mrs. Bishop stressed, "Do not teach too much too soon."  Maximum use of the sewing machine with minimum hand sewing contributes to the speed with which garments can be completed.  Restricted pattern selection for class use permits more thorough learning, while individuality of each garment is achieved by varying colors, fabrics and trimming details.  Through greater understanding of fabrics, more skill is developed in their handling.

      From the first lesson, pupils learn that grain perfection and accuracy in all phases of garment construction are essential.  Tedious and unnecessary steps in construction are eliminated.  Improvised seam guides, machine basting, machine knotting, stay-stitching and other techniques help the woman who sews construct garments with more professional results.

      Unit construction, which is simply the completing and pressing of all possible steps on each part of the garment before joining to another part, contributes to efficient use of time and fabric freshness.  It reduces problems arising from having parts of the garment getting in the way and creating bulk when trying to stitch precise construction details.  Progressive learning, as demonstrated by the selection of garments to be made, is a sound principle of education which the Bishop Method of Clothing Construction exemplifies.

      I hope this introduction sheds some light on the very thorough nature of Mrs. Bishop's teachings.  Mrs. Bishop was a visitor to my home as a young girl.  She personally taught me a number of techniques and helped me sew my Barbie wardrobe, even cutting some of the patterns out with her own hands.  I still have these precious little garments.  They are treasures never to be forgotten.


      Edited 9/8/2007 8:38 pm ET by DonnaKaye

      1. GailAnn | | #6

        I'm so excited! 

        I was able to find the 1959 and 1966 editions of The Bishop Method on Amazon. 

        Couldn't find the collection, you mentioned.

        I'll be eagerly looking forward to following along.  Gail 

        1. DONNAKAYE | | #7

          I am so very pleased to hear you've found the books.  You will get so much out of them, I can assure you.....Can't wait to begin either!....D.

          1. Josefly | | #8

            I, too am looking forward to following your offering. What a generous thing for you to do!

      2. solosmocker | | #9

        This is so generous and wonderful of you Donna. Thank you so so much.

      3. Alipye | | #10

        WoW!! What a great way to got about learning and perfecting sewing.  Donna you are one of a kind to take the time to share with all of us.  I know I keep saying this, but believe me, we are so grateful to have you in our group.  I am looking forward to reading every word you share with us.  Thanks again


        1. DONNAKAYE | | #11

          You are most welcome.  I hope these learnings can be of some lasting value to the group.  As mentioned, many of these learnings will die out with my generation.  I'd like to see them carried on long after we're gone....Many elements of Bishop Method have made their way into the mainstream, as I mentioned, but it's the entirety of the educational program that Mrs. Bishop developed that's missing, the sequence of learnings....d.

  3. GailAnn | | #12

    Haven't heard from you in ages!!!   Miss your posts. 

    I've been home this past week or so, and have been reviewing my Bishop Methond books.  Still fabulous after all these years!

    What are you sewing this Summer?  Gail

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #13

      Ok, Where do I sign up? will be an eager student as well. Thank you for your generosity, Seems to me I have one of those books here somewhere too, going to go look right now.... Cathy

    2. DONNAKAYE | | #14

      GailAnn, your inquiry really lifted my spirits!  I've had some rather complex health issues arise since last fall, but I am so ready to dwell on sewing again!

      I'm just getting back in the sewing room.  My first tasks were to alter some ready-to-wear.  My plan for the immediate present is to whip up some jersey pants and tunic tops.  I made this little cream white jersey tunic top and pants set and trimmed the tunic with some silk ribbon, and every time I wear this outfit to a job I get compliments on it.  It never ceases to amaze me that the simplest garments garner the most compliments.

      Also want to complete some skirts, pants and vests in gabardine just to get my basic wardrobe back in shape.  These can be mixed and matched in so many ways, and it's all machine washable.

      Pray tell me everything that all of you have been working on!

      1. GailAnn | | #15

        Miss DonnaKaye welcome home!!!! 

        We have all missed you and your insiteful contributions.  Blessings  Gail

      2. User avater
        VKStitcher | | #16

        "It never ceases to amaze me that the simplest garments garner the most compliments."

        Probably because your "simple" garments fit you perfectly and are exquisitely made.  This makes all the difference!

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