Category Archives: Book Reviews

More One Yard Wonders

I’ll admit it, my favorite type of sewing books are the ones packed with projects. So it’s probably no surprise that Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders was high on my wishlist. Since Santa didn’t put this in my stocking this year, I wound up ordering it after Christmas (note to self, it takes forever for items to arrive around the holidays) and was floored at how huge it was when it arrived! This book has over 100 projects that uses all sorts of fabrics – wools, flannels, cottons, laminatesoilcloth, knits, fleece and more…. I think I may have picked a project from each category to try out! Some of my favorites include: The Organizer Wallet, Kid’s Comfy Chair (I am amazed that you can make a chair with one yard of fabric), umbrella redo (this can be seen on the cover of the book), and the Pig & Piglets (this is from the same pattern designer). Although there aren’t difficult ratings for these projects, I would say most are geared toward the beginner to intermediate sewers (even the umbrella seems pretty straightforward and easy to sew). There’s also a handy reference at the beginning of each section that gives tips and trick on how to cut, sew, and care for each fabric type.

Although this book seems ‘perfect’ there is one big drawback. There are lots of projects geared toward children. If you don’t have any young ones in your house (or intend on sewing for some), this greatly diminishes the useable number of items you can sew up in this book. This book is also heavy on bagstoteswalletsorganizers so if this isn’t something you care to sew up either, you may want to rethink this title.

The Bottom Line: A good title to have on your bookshelf especially if you have young children in the house. Perfect for beginner sewers who are looking to expand their project range to items that are not just made of cottonswovens.

A Few Book Reviews

I normally like to think of myself as being a pretty productive person when it comes to sewing. However, you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting quite as many finished products lately. I’ve been doing a lot of ‘behind the scene’ sewing an writing for a future Sew News article. Consequently, I’m way behind on stitching up anything ‘fun’ for myself or anyone else. Fortunately, I finished everything up last night and am boxing it up as we speak! While I haven’t done a lot of ‘me’ sewing, I have done a lot of reading and am way behind on posting some book reviews. Here’s brief review of some of my latest reads:

As soon as I saw that there was a book called Sewing for Boys: 24 Projects to Create a Handmade Wardrobe I immediately put it on my wishlist. While there are a plethora of books devoted to girls, there are none that are just for the boys. This title has 24 different projects and clothing items for ages ranging from newborn to 7 years. While not everything is something that I would put on Easton (I just can’t see him in the suit), there’s lots of variety and plenty of items that I can’t wait to make… especially those jackets! While I haven’t sewn anything yet, most of the projects look easy enough for the beginner, although there are a few that I would say lean toward ‘intermediate’ (for example the On the town Jacket has welt pockets, but with excellent instructions). If you have a little guy in your life this book is definitely a must have!

Liberty Book of Home Sewing was another title that I was very excited to receive. I figured that if I paired up this book with their (more easily accessible) fabrics, I could have a whole Liberty of London home! Unfortunately, after receiving the book, I realized that I didn’t need this book to do it. Even though this book contains 25 projects, I wouldn’t say that any of them (aside from the Peacock Pincushion) are very original. Most of the projects are for a variety of pillow styles, a half apron, quilt, and a few bag styles (all of which are tote like) and could easily be found on the web or in a different home book. Unless you are a die-hard Liberty of London fan, I think you can skip this title. If you’re looking for a great ‘home’ book I’d suggest Amy Butler’s In StitchesSewing Craft Books) instead.

Custom Couture + Giveaway

One thing I noticed about this season’s ready-to-wear garments is that everything is embellished. Simple shirts are dressed up with trims, dresses have large fabric flowers, and almost everything has a ruffle… or two! I was recently sent a copy of Custom Couture: 32 Easy Ways to Transform Your Wardrobe with Needle and Thread and think it’s on par with what’s trendy in today’s clothes.

The book itself is divided into 4 style sections: Boho, Jet Set, Retro and Diva. Each section has 8 different looks giving you a grand total of 32 different projects you can make. All the projects are designed for embellishing clothing already in your wardrobe (however it’s not to say that you can’t use these same techniques in your finished sewing projects) with a majority requiring hand sewing – although there are a few that you can stitch with a sewing machine. While not every design is something that I would wear myself, the different projects do get my creative juices flowing as to how I might incorporate some of these techniques to my clothing, just in a different way. With that said, there are a few things that I have to try out: “in the red” boundtrimmedembellished coat (I never thought to do this), the “Hong Kong girl” – transforming a sleeveless dress into a 3/4 top (with a bit of sparkle added, too), the “Montmarte tank” where additional, contrasting straps are added, and “Bead Bazarr” which repurposes a pullover top into a tank that is piped and hand beaded. But the real fan of this book? My 14 year old! She’s recently embraced the DIY movement and loves to alter ready-to-wear garments into something new and different.

Overall, Custom Couture: 32 Easy Ways to Transform Your Wardrobe with Needle and Thread is a great starting point to give your clothing new life. While the book is more on the youthful side, there are lots of fun ideas that can be incorporated into projects no matter what your age.

Now it’s time for a…. giveaway! One lucky reader will win a copy of Simplicity’s Fabric Guide (you can read the review here). Just leave a comment in this post by midnight, Saturday August 20th and I’ll randomly pick a winner on Sunday. Good luck!

Simplicity’s Fabric Guide: A Review

Using the wrong material can be devastating to a project – one of the key factors in making a garment look professional is the fabric that’s used and knowing how to work with it. So how can a home sewer learn this? Books like Simplicity Fabric Guide. This new title covers everything from how fabrics are woven and manufactured, how to burn test fabrics to find their content (10 different fabrics are listed and identified according to how they burn), listing a variety of underlings, interfacings and stabelizers, how to work with fabric (nap, determining and straightening grain, understanding repeats and plaids), and needle and thread selections that work best with your fabric choice. There’s also a handy measurement section of the book that not only has a fabric conversion chart, but how to measure for bed coverings, window treatments, and table cloths as well as a how to on taking body measurements.The bulk of the book, however, is devoted to the variety of fabric types out there – what they are, how they are use, and a few sewing tips on work with it. Believe it or not, there’s a lot more to this book, too – so the best way to describe it might be: Everything you wanted to know about fabric and more.

Overall, I found Simplicity Fabric Guide to be a good resource of information. Being a person who does a lot of shopping online, I find it helpful to have a quick reference as to what I may be purchasing and how I might use it. Once I have the material in my hands, this book can take the guesswork out of figuring out what needle and thread works best (and even a few good tips as to how to deal with the fabric). I also have to admit, I really love the burn test information, too – I can never remember what materials burnsmell like and am always trying to look this up on the internet. It’s great to have it handy on my bookshelf!

The Bottom Line: A great reference tool to have on your bookshelf, whether you’re a beginner or advanced sewer! (Now to go find some of my mystery fabrics to burn!).

My Favorite Felt Sweets

Hot off the heals of our Felt Friends from Japan giveaway is another fabulous Japanese craft book, My Favorite Felt Sweets. This title shows you how to create over 100 realistic felt treats including cakes, Petit Fours, candies, cookies, and doughnuts. The directions are easy enough for even a beginner to follow and best of all, all the patterns are full size – no copiers need to enlarge the designs (however, you will need some sort of tracing paper to copy the pattern pieces as they are ’embedded’ in the book and many overlap each other). Felt Friends from Japan giveaway is another fabulous Japanese craft book, My Favorite Felt Sweets is perfect for anyone looking to make play food for children (I would recommend this for older children as many of them contain small pieces such as beads and many of the desserts can be disassembled), beautiful pincushions, additions to dollsdoll houses, incredible looking displays, or if you’re just wanting to try your hand at making felt (food). Overall, this book is pure eye-candy, the attention to detail on these pieces is amazing, yet the author keeps it amazingly simple so that re-creating these treats is easy. I can’t wait to try a few of these myself – I’m thinking Easton will go nuts for his own play desserts he can ‘make’ himself.

Want to win this book? Just leave a comment in this thread bymidnight (CST) March 21 to be eligible for the draw. Earn extra entries for blogging about this contest or Tweet about it with a link back to this entry (you can use the handy “Share This Post” button at the bottom of the page) then come back here to leave additional comment(s) in this thread with a link to your post andor let me know about your tweets. Good luck!

Felt Friends from Japan + Giveaway

I’m not going to lie to you, I adore Japanese crafts. Consequently, I’m absolutely thrilled when a popular Japanese craft book is published in English – not only does it become more economical (many popular Japanese titles can cost as much as $30 or more, plus shipping from overseas, while the translated versions cost around $15 or less), the ‘fear’ of sewing in another language is also removed (measurements are also in inches instead of metric). The latest book to be translated? Naomi Tabatha’s Felt Friends from Japan. This title has over 80 projects inside: stuffed toys, coin purses, badges, flowers, quick tie bags, and even mascots (pocket sized animals) all made from felt and hand-stitched together in a cute, kawaii style.

The instructions for Felt Friends are exactly as you would see them in the Japanese version of the book (except translated to English, of course) – Each step is described and has an accompanying drawing to further clarify the directions. I always find these illustrations to be most helpful… it’s amazing how much information you can pack into a drawing (what areas to stitch, what stitch to use, where to place each piece, etc.)! There’s also a handy little section with all the stitches you’ll need to use, how to use the patterns, and how to stuff your little critters. Best of all, all the patterns are included in the book and almost all of them are full sized (I only noted that one needed to be enlarged on a copier).

Intrigued? The publisher has sent me a copy of Felt Friends from Japan to give away to one lucky winner. Just leave a comment by midnight (CST) March 13 to be eligible for the draw. Earn extra entries for blogging about this contest or Tweet about it with a link back to this entry (you can use the handy “Share This Post” button) then come back here to leave additional comment(s) in this thread with a link to your post andor let me know about your tweets.

Want even more chances to win Japanese books? Come back by later in the week for a peak at My Favorite Felt Sweets and a chance to win a copy for yourself!

Sewn With Love

I love sewing for kids. In fact, it was the idea of sewing clothing for my daughter that really got me interested in taking up the hobby in the first place. Now that she’s grown and I have a boy, I sometimes find it difficult to find kids projects. There’s been a lot books published as of late that focus in on the younger set. However, so many of them are designed for little girls, that it was nice to finally come across a few that had some great projects for boys. Fiona Bell, owner of the childrens boutique Their Nibs, penned Sewn With Love, a book that focuses in on ‘classic sewing techniques with contemporary results.’ I have to say, I love it. Not only are there beautiful dresses for little and big girls alike there are practical and cute items for boys as well (and by that I mean, clothing that you can put on your little boy that they won’t argue about wearing). To top it off, there are a number of unisex items included… a little something for everyone!
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Dolly Coordinate Recipe

I’m not going to lie, I had envisioned a much different post going up on the site today, but after pouring over my new book (and magazines, was anyone else underwhelmed by this month’s Burda?) last night, I thought I would share a brief book review while the thoughts were still fresh in my head. You may have caught the post earlier in the year that Bret is buying me a Blythe for Valentine’s day (hopefully she will be here within the next two weeks). Thanks to a Christmas giftcard, I was able to buy my first book devoted to sewing for these (among others) Japanese dolls, Dolly Coordinate Recipe Book #10.
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Simply Sublime Gifts

I’m always skeptical when it comes to titles that say “High Style, Low Sew”, because it’s been my experience that something generally ‘suffers’ (quality, style, etc.). However, it doesn’t stop me from checking a book out. Recently, I bought Simply Sublime Gifts and I have to say, it’s a book that lives up to it’s name. I can honestly say, I love this book as most of the projects look quick to whip up, are adorable (and some very clever), and would make perfect gifts. While some of the projects aren’t new (for example there are instructions on how to make a ‘box bag’), the take on them is cute and unique (making ‘his’ and ‘her’ versions). There are also some great recycling projects as well such as the Wonder Bread apron (as seen on the cover) and oven mitts made from moving blankets! All projects are marked as to how difficulthow much time it will take to create – making this a perfect book for all skill levels. Simply Sublime Gifts is a great title to own if you’re looking for quick-to-whip-up holiday gifts, swap items, or just wanting to make a few fun items for yourself.
FYI: I’ll be making a few projects from this book in the coming weeks as I wrap up some of my holiday sewing!

Simple Times

Amazon must be thrilled with me lately because I have been ordering lots of books. I have so many that I still haven’t reviewed that I had a hard time decided what to start off with first – so I did a random draw (eenie, meenie…) and came up with Amy Sedaris’ Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People. I loved her first book, I Like You (in fact, I started giving it as part of bridal shower gifts) that I thought her second one would be just as hilarious. Personally, I didn’t think this one was quite as funny even though it’s predominantly all ‘jokes’ (there were actual ‘usable’ recipes in I Like You), but if I didn’t have her previous works to compare with, I probably wouldn’t be making that statement. This book is very entertaining and laugh out loud funny (even Taylor enjoyed browsing through it), but don’t expect to find any ‘real’ crafting tips or projects unless a tuna can mobile for babies is your thing (I’ll keep my eye out for them on Craftastrophe and Regretsy) – it’s all parody. So, if you’re looking for a fun read based on ridiculous crafting I highly recommend Simple Times, otherwise, skip it… you won’t be missing anything.