Category Archives: Book Reviews

Fashion Sewing Workshop

joi_fashion_bookGenerally, my favorite types of sewing books are those that have lots of patterns inside. However, all week I’ve found myself pouring over a book that tackles pattern making, draping, fitting, and fashion design – it’s like a sewing retreat that’s held in the comfort of your own home… and I love it!

Designer Joi’s Fashion Sewing Workshop is the latest title from Joi Mahon (you might recognize the name from her popular Craftsy classes and the designer behind several McCall patterns) that tackles a bevy of topics that are essential in designing your own garments from start to finish. Not only will you learn how to illustrate you design, buy you’ll learn how to create a pattern, drape, and adjust your garment ideas for ‘real bodies’ (I really liked the section on ‘fitting the aging body’ because, boy is that true!).  Best of all,  after each section\topic there is a ‘challenge’ that helps practice the skills you just learned.

Even if you’re not wanting to make your own designs, there’s lots of fantastic information that can be applied to commercial patterns – from adjusting the design to fit your measurements, learning how to rotate and combine darts, and changing the bust curve, to altering clothing for children. There is also a nice section on using slopers (with samples in the back) as well as a great design inspiration section full of bodice, skirt, yoke ideas and more that will help get your creative juices flowing. One thing I should point out is that while there is some discussion of skirts mentioned in this book, there are no pants. I imagine that this is a topic that could take an entire book on how to create, sew, and adjust the fit which is why I figured it isn’t touched on in the Fashion Sewing Workshop…. maybe the next book!

Overall, I loved this book – I thought it had a lot of useful topics that I can refer to when drafting my own patterns or modifying existing ones. While I didn’t try out any of the design challenges, I’m anxious to give them a whirl this weekend. If you’re interested in looking more into Designer Joi’s Fashion Sewing Workshop, you can get a preview of some of the chapters over at Amazon.

Gertie’s New Book

When Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing first came out, I was on the fence about buying it – mostly because my style is far from ‘vintage’. However, after reading a few reviews and seeing several garments made from the book, I decided to add it to my ‘wishlist’… Thankfully, Santa delivered!

The first portion of the book is well written, gives good advice on fitting and tailoring, and discusses ‘essential techniques’ (a variety of hand stitches, buttonholes, zippers, and seam finishes), but I found that this book is not quite as ‘couture’ as stated in the title. Yes, there are elements that are considered couture that you may incorporate into your finished garment, but I wouldn’t necessarily compare it to a Chanel jacket. What I liked best about this section of the book (aside from the information) is the relaxed tone of the writing – I feel like I’m in a class versus reading a technical manual… you get the same great information without having to decipher technical lingo.

The best part of these types of books are the patterns inside. Gertie’s book contains 10 different designs, some with variations to each style to create a different look. Although the patterns are considered ‘vintage’, they have a modern feel that I’m even attracted to. I can’t speak as to how they sew up yet, but from glancing at some of the directions, many of the designs should be easy to stitch up. Be prepared, however, the patterns overlap some when tracing -although not as badly as what you might find in a Burda or Ottobre magazine. There are also no line drawings included, just the finished garment on the model, so be prepared to examine each design closely if you rely on the technical drawings to determine if you’re likely to sew something up.

The Bottom Line: A good book to have on the bookshelf, good information and cute patterns, just don’t expect your garment to be ‘true’ couture.

Return of the Stupid Sock Creatures

Finally, 5 years after reviewing Stupid Sock Creatures, there is a follow up book! That’s right it’s Return of the Stupid Sock Creatures! Just like the original title, this book is packed with lots of information on selecting your materials, how to sew and stuff your creature, adding dimension to their features (such as stuffed lips, ping-pong eyes, and protruding teeth). However, the best part of this book is the projects… their weirder, stranger, and definitely more awesome than the original! What sets these 19 creatures apart from those that appear in the first book? Details. Although this book could be geared toward any level of sewist, the techniques are definitely a step above the first book – for example the addition of bubbly, painted ping pong eyes, club-like feet (as opposed to tube style legs seen in sock monkeys), and hands with chubby little fingers. If you love to make plush or just have a child who likes one-of-a-kind creatures, then this book is definitely a title you’ll want to have on your bookshelf. As for me – I’m thinking a Snarfle (a ‘dust bunny’ with ping pong style eyes) or Rainbow Dribble (a colorful ‘giant’ with lots of arms and legs) will be in order very soon!

Killer Slippers

Every few months I’ll spend an evening looking through Amazon’s listing of upcoming books. One that had really intrigued me was a title called Killer Slippers: And How to Make Them – I mean, just check out those awesome tugboats on the cover! Since the author doesn’t have more information about them on Amazon, I did a bit of a Google search and discovered that Killer Slippers is, in fact, a reprint….. and there were several reasonable copies on eBay! I didn’t have to wait until December’s release for my copy! Since my book has arrived and I’ve had a chance to read it, I thought I would give everyone a bit of a review!

First, if you’re shying a way from getting this book because of the thought of having to make your own shoes, relax. Killer Slippers is about recovering purchased slippers not starting from scratch. The beginning section of the book discusses how to make a pattern piece for each style of slipper you may need plus information on how to recover them when the time comes. The rest of the book is devoted to making 15 unique and fun slipper designs: koi fish, circus elephants, giant flies, swans, and cute little cars are just a few of the ways you can keep your feet cozy this winter. The instructions seem pretty straight-forward and the patterns you need to complete the look are included (full size) inside the book. Now I can’t wait to get my hands on some slippers this fall and try my hand at making my own fun looks – now which one should I go for first?

Mod Podge Rocks

While sewing projects are constantly on my mind, other crafty pursuits are sometimes more difficult to come up with. Even though I browse local craft stores for new products, I’m not always sure what to do with them. Consequently, when I saw that a new book was out called Mod Podge Rocks!: Decoupage Your World, I knew that I had to check it out. I was lucky enough to not just win a copy of the book from Crafty Modern, but lots of extras too – I honestly didn’t know they made so many types of Mod Podge these days! Overall, I found the book to be helpful in knowing what products to use, when. I also liked that there were numerous tips given throughout the projects that help you achieve more professional looking results. However, I think that a lot of the projects fall flat of ‘impressive’. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen similar items on Pinterest, blogs, etc. for so long that a lot of them didn’t seem novel (my only exception is the jewelry made from Dimensional Magic – a product that seems to produce a resin like finish). That’s not to say I won’t give any of them a whirl – in fact I’m definitely going to try my hand a a few of them and get my feet wet in the world of Mod Podge, but I’m more likely to try out my new found knowledge in recreating some of the inspired projects in the gallery section of the book now that I know what I’m doing!

Sew Iconic

It seems as if reproducing famous garments is a ‘hot topic’ this year. Not only have we see Famous Frocks, but now we have Sew Iconic. I bought this book recently and was very excited to see what was inside because let’s face it, we all want to be Audrey Hepburn or Marylin Monroe sometime in our lives! Inside are 10 “Iconic Dresses” including Marilyn’s “Seven Year Itch” dress, Audrey Hepburn’s “Breakfast at Tiffanys” feathered frock, Grace Kelly’s goddess gown, and even the famous “Titanic” dress. While the book does a better job representing the final version of the costume than what Famous Frocks did (they were more of a modern take on the dress), it still falls flat when it comes to making it look exactly like the original…. and I’m not being picky when I say that. A great example is Grace Kelly’s dress from “To Catch a Thief”, while it is a great representation of the dress, it lacks the fitting and beautiful draping or the original (the same really goes for the ‘green “Atonement” dress’ – that gaping under the arm just makes me cringe). That is not to say there aren’t some very close knock-offs – I especially liked the Marilyn, Rita Hayworth, Julia Roberts (in “Pretty Woman”), and the Titanic dress (if it was in a different fabric).

As for the patterns, everything is included in the book – full-full sized, even! The only drawback is that they are laid out like a Burda magazine so it looks like a road map when you open it up to trace them. The instructions seem to be well written and laid out so that even a beginner can follow them (although I would suggest starting with some of the less complicated designs first). My favorite part?: I love that there is background information included with each dress and a ‘how to work it’ section once your dress is completed.

The Bottom Line: If you are not looking for an exact replica of your favorite Iconic Dresses and you are willing to make a muslin to properly fit your look, then I highly recommend this book. It has some great looks, perfect for a costume or theme party – and everyone will definitely know who you are even if it’s not totally like the original.

A Bag For All Reasons

I was a huge fan of Lisa Lam’s The Bag Making Bible – I truly thought it was the best bag making books on the market. So when I heard that she had a second book in the works, I immediately put it on my wish list. A Bag for All Reasons
finally arrived and I couldn’t be more excited! Once again the bags inside the cover are all fabulous – definitely something that I can’t wait to make. New to bag making and missed her first book? That’s ok too! There’s a section of a book that will help get you started (fabric prep, equipment, etc.) as well as techniques described (with lots of photos) to help you along the way. The best part, of course, are the 12 projects. All have full-sized patterns inside the spiral bound book and are so diverse there’s definitely ‘something for everyone’: iPad Cases, toddler backpacks, baby bags, school bags, laundry and bike bags, wallets and vanity cases just to name a few. Even though I haven’t made a project yet, from what I’ve read the instructions are clear and have lots of illustrations (and in come cases photos) to help you through the steps so no matter what your skill level, you should come out with a fabulous looking project in the end.

The Bottom Line: Another fabulous bag making book that is a must have for your book shelf. With two successful books under her belt, I’m hoping that Lisa puts out a third – because one can never have too many purses in their possession!

Happy Home

I’m torn. I really want to like Happy Home: Twenty Sewing and Craft Projects to Pretty Up Your Home – it’s beautiful to look at, the fabrics are vibrant and are beautifully photographed, but once I looked past all this, I realized, a majority of the projects in this book really aren’t my style. While I love decorations, I can never see myself making giant Pom Pom Party Poofs & Garland, vintage banners, baskets covered in faux flowers, or hanging a canopy over my bed. The rest of the projects may be something I might contemplate making as a gift, but a bulk of them are not so unusual that you couldn’t find a free tutorial somewhere on the internet.

With that said, I think I’m ‘shelving’ this one. I may pull it out in a pinch, but I can’t see myself using this as a ‘go-to’ book for future projects. I’m not giving up on Jennifer Paganelli – I love her patterns (in fact, I’m seriously considering making the Lucy Halter), but I think I’ll hold out on a book just for women (dresses, bags, etc.).

Famous Frocks

I’ve had my eye on Famous Frocks: Patterns and Instructions for Recreating Fabulous Iconic Dresses–10 Patterns for 20 Dresses in All! for quite some time, but never wound up buying it because of some mixed reviews it received when it was first released. While out shopping this weekend, I stumbled across this book, thumbed through it and immediately decided to buy it (with a coupon, of course) – how’s that for impulse shopping? I can understand reviewers had some negative things to say about this title, but overall, I have to say, I like the book. The first thing I should point out is that the title is very misleading. In general, you will not be recreating iconic dresses, but rather, you’re creating garments that are inspired by iconic dresses. This has to be very disappointing for someone buying this book (especially sight unseen) who is thinking that they’ll finally have the perfect Breakfast at Tiffany’s style dress by the end of the week. Secondly, there really aren’t 20 different styles in this book, more like 10 with a variation of each design (I found that a majority of them had minor changes so they really didn’t look that much different from the original drawing). Lastly, there is the sizing – it appears to run very small (the largest size is a 37-30.5-40.5) which means that if you’re plus size or very busty you’ll need to make a lot of modifications to make these patterns work.

Even with all the negatives, why do I still like this book? There are some really cute designs in between it’s pages – I’m not one for vintage sewing so these modern takes on an icon dress is right up my alley. And while these dresses aren’t a replica of what the stars are known for, I can definitely see what the frock was inspired by. Still looking for a replica dress book? Another title coming out this summer called Sew Iconic promises to deliver dress designs worn by Marylin Monroe, Grace Kelly, Kate Winslet and more.

A Fitting End

It’s Friday and what a better way to start the weekend than by announcing the Amy Butler fabric giveaway. Congratulations to comment #3, Robin! Even if you didn’t win this week, the Blog-o-versary celebration continues… up for grabs this week: A Fitting End: A Magical Dressmaking Mystery (A Dressmaker’s Mystery) To be eligible for this week’s contest, you’ll need to leave a comment in this post. Earn a second entry by tweeting a link to this post and leaving a second comment here about your tweet. Comments will be closed midnight (CST) Thursday, February 23 and a winner will be drawn by random number generator and announced on Friday, February 24.

Those of you frequent the blog, you may remember awhile back I was reading Pleating for Mercy (Magical Dressmaking Mystery, Book 1)– this was a fun to read title that was not just a supernatural mystery, but involved my favorite topic… sewing. A Fitting End is the second book of the series and is every bit as fun and suspenseful as the first. This time the dressmaker with the ‘magical’ touch, Harlow, is preparing to make a gown for the Moffette Lea Pageant and Ball when she is suspected of murdering the local golf pro with a pair of dressmaking shears. Of course, it’s up to Harlow to solve the mystery and clear her name before she’s making her own prison jumpsuit! Not only does A Fitting End have a great story line, it delves more into her family’s magical history and introduces new (family) characters. I can definitely see lots of potential for future titles in this series! To find out more about these book and the author herself, be sure to drop by Melissa Bourbon Ramirez’s website and her Facebook page (by the way, like her Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a Kindle or Nook as well as copies of her books!)