Book Reviews Project Archive
This page contains the entries from the Book Reviews category. For categories with more than 50 entries, please use the search form to locate older entries.
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 difficult\how 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!
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.
Let me start off by saying, there are no pictures of today's project..... yet. Bret is in the process of building a new computer so our 'main' computer that houses a bulk of my photos is currently out of commission. Once it's up and running, I'll be sure to post it because the end results are pretty cute. What am I talking about? Why another item for my Christmas Stocking partner!
One thing I really wanted to make was a 'Pin-up Bag' - a fun little purse\tote using Alexander Henry pinup fabric (I thought it matched the burlesque them I have going on) that my partner could use to carry around all her new goodies. These prints run pretty large so finding a bag design that wouldn't cut off a head mid-design was fairly difficult. After browsing my patterns and books I decided to try One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Fabric Projects Scrunchie Bag. What drew me to this particular design besides the overall shape and size was the hardware and the use of ribbon and webbing for the strap.
I did make a few changes to the bag: Instead of using all the same material for the exterior and lining, I used a coordinating print for the inside. I also skipped adding a bit of elastic on the bottom of the bag. While I think it would look cuter gathered a bit at the bottom, I just didn't like the idea of having visible stitches on the outside of the bag and didn't think that I could match the lining and exterior fabric seams enough for it not to get the bag wonky and distorted. Overall, it's a fun bag - I hope my partner likes it and doesn't feel that it's too 'loud' to carry around. I completed this look by making a matching key fob..... I have definitely got to buy more hardware for these - they are so easy and fun to make!
The Cuter Book & Giveaway
When most people think of Japanese craft books, one of the first names that comes to mind is Aranzi Aronzo. This duo creates some of the most sought after, distinctive plush styles.... and they have a new book showing you how to create some of them! The Cuter Book has English instructions, lots of illustrations, and all the patterns needed for creating over 40 felt mascots (think palm size stuffies) and includes a pint sized English alphabet. Best of all, since all the projects in this book require hand stitching (no sewing machine required) The Cuter Book is perfect for the beginner or even young sewer.
Want to check out The Cuter Book for yourself? I've giving away a copy to one lucky reader - just leave a comment in this thread by midnight (CST), October 10, 2010 for your chance to win!
Make Your Own Toys
If you've recently been out shopping for a child, you've noticed a new trend - nostalgic toys. Toys that are not only made to look like the ones we grew up with, but those with a handmade touch. Take the sock monkey, for around $20 you can take this soft little critter home. But why buy him, when you can create you own plush at home? Make Your Own Toys teaches you how to make you own animals with details such as patchwork and button 'joints' - all with small bits of material and reclaimed fabric to make it all the more special.
Never made a stuffie? This book gives you tips and tricks on how to make your own (including the stitches needed to secure and attach limbs) and includes step-by-step instructions and drawings for each animal. All the patterns necessary to create each creature (22 in all including monkeys, bears, dogs, fish, and bunnies) are included, but require enlarging in order to achieve the appropriate dimensions. My personal favorites? The Hot Dog (a patchwork wiener dog), the Spaceman (because there is something about the faceless, little round head that makes me want to sew him up first), and the Squirrel (not just because he's made of tweed, but because I have a fondness for him since it's my sorority's mascot) - they all make me want to dig through some of Easton's old clothes to make a one-of-a-kind creation. Stay tuned, I definitely see me making one of these sometime in the near future... between Easton constantly taking this book off my bookshelf (I think he's partial to the monkey on the cover) and the number of crafty swaps I've joined, I think I'll have a good excuse to make one.
For anyone who regularly reads this site, it comes as no surprise when I admit that I am a huge Amy Butler fan. Recently Amy came out with a new book, Amy Butler's Style Stitches: 12 Easy Ways to 26 Wonderful Bags, and it might very well be my favorite so far.
This title is packed with 12 different bags ranging from cute little clutches to large hobos. Included within the instructions are ways to modify each bag (largely strap sizes) to give you a total of 26 different looks. The best part is, no matter what your skill level, there's at least one bag that you'll be able to make. The instructions are clear and have drawings to help further clarify any steps and there's a handy glossary and techniques section to assist with unfamiliar terms, skills, and tools as well as how to use specific interfacings listed in the book.
So, what about the bags? I can easily say that I want to make everything. The Origami Bag set for my makeup, the Beautiful Balance Checkbook cover for my checkbook (even though I don't carry it around), the Reversible Everyday Shopper to tote supplies, and the Blossom Handbag for 'everyday'. Every bag is different from each other - making it difficult to pick which one to start with first! Consequently, let's do a sew along and share our creations with each other. I've gotten ambitious and decided to try one of the more difficult bags first, the Blossom Handbag. What's your pick?
Kay Whitt has a certain style that makes her patterns so distinctive. I've long admired some of her bags and dresses, so when I saw she was writing a book, I put it on my Amazon wishlist. I've had several weeks to thumb through Sew Serendipity: Fresh and Pretty Designs to Make and Wear
and I have to say, I'm not disappointed.
The thing that impressed me most about this title is that there is an entire section devoted to "Custom Fitting". While this area isn't extensive, there are tips on how to do some basic adjustments (length of skirts, jackets, sleeves, bodice, as well as adjusting the neckline and shoulders and hip\waist) - something that seems to be missing from most books with similar projects. I think that this is an important section for books that deal with creating your own clothing, especially if the recipient is someone with limited experience in garment making. I will also add, there is a great, illustrated, step-by-step guide on installing invisible zippers which I found very helpful - I always seem to have a problem setting them in correctly.
The patterns themselves are adorable. Although I've got to admit, not all of them are quite my style - as much as I like the shabby chic look, I just don't pull it off well. That's not to say that I didn't find several patterns that I intend on sewing up for myself (or maybe even Taylor): The Geometric Tunic Dress, Damask Tunic, the Classic Tailored Jacket, and yes, even the Multi-Fabric Skirt (as seen on the front cover of the book). All the patterns are neatly stored in a envelope in the back of the book and are all full size (I find this a very important feature as I absolutely despise having to enlarge my patterns), best of all, the book is spiral bound - so there's no wrangling with the pages (or cracking the spine of the book, something that is a 'no-no' in our house) while you're sewing! I'm looking forward to sewing one of these patterns up in the near future, but if you've already had a chance to do this, I'd love to hear about your experience with it!
The Bottom Line: Not only is Sew Serendipity a pretty book to look at, but it has great patterns and information included as well. A good book for beginner and advanced sewers alike that are looking for a title where they can create cute dresses, tunics, and jackets.
Small Stash Sewing
I went through a phase where I bought LOTS of fat quarters - I thought it was a great way to own a little bit of fabric from some of my favorite designers. The problem was, since I didn't turn them into a quilt, I didn't always have smaller projects in mind to use them with. So, when I saw that there was a book coming out devoted to Small Stash Sewing, I immediately put it on my wish list. My book arrived in the mail a few weeks ago - giving me enough time to pour over some of the projects inside. While there was some cute ideas (like the Fancy Fabric Liner, Jester Crown and Cuffs\YoYo Tiara, Sassy Shoelaces, Lovely Ladybug) and projects that I would have never thought could have been made with fat quarters (like who would have ever guessed you could make a full size apron from just 3 fat quarters?) I was disappointed that there were so many embellished and\or 'crafty' (i.e. low\no sewing) projects included as well. While the book doesn't say that it's entirely devoted to sewing projects, I think I had just assumed that most of them would be.
Don't get me wrong, Small Stash Sewing is worth a look - it has project ideas that I never would have thought making of and several definitely worth sewing, but quite honestly, I could have done without the embellishing (not only had I already come up with several ways to embellish items with my stash already, there is no way that I'll ever get Bret to wear a Band Tee). I think for now, I'll just put this title aside - no doubt I'll be referring back to it when I start up some Craftster swaps this fall.
Since the last few weeks of school, Taylor and her friends have been into make bracelets. Consequently, I thought that she would love Klutz's Glossy Bands book for her birthday. This 'kit' comes with everything you need to make 'stretchy bracelets' - 4 colors of 'gel', plastic sheets to put your bracelets on, 'swirling sticks' (a.k.a. toothpicks), and templates with instructions on how to make your bracelets.
So how did it go over? In just 2 days,1/2 the gel bottles are empty, numerous bracelets have been made, and Taylor is asking for us to order more gel bottles! I can say, it's a hit. Best of all, Taylor got results that looked like the ones in the book! Glossy Bands is designed for ages 8 and up - an age that I totally agree with. I think younger children might have difficulty controlling the amount of color beads that come out of the bottle.... not to mention waiting 24 hours for the bracelet (or ring) to dry. There are also several 'wear and care' rules (like wearing only one band at a time, taking it off before bed) that small children may not want to follow.
The Bottom Line: A "kid tested, mother approved" book that will keep your child busy for hours...... and maybe, if you're lucky, your little girl will let you try one out for yourself!
Even though I have no intentions of expanding our family, I couldn't help but pick up Anna Maria Horner's latest release, Handmade Beginnings: 24 Sewing Projects to Welcome Baby. Not only do I love her style, but with several friends expecting soon, I figured I could make several projects to welcome their new little one. I never expected that I would find some projects that I would want to make for myself.
Aside from a simple introduction (personally, I was happy that there wasn't a section devoted to 'how to sew'), the book is divided into 4 sections: For mom (which include projects such as slippers, bag, thank you notebook, and a wonderfully creative blouse that allows you to easily nurse), for baby (cutie projects include an adorable hoodie, booties, and even a sleep sack), for the family (high on my list is the 'dad bag' - I'm thinking I may need this before Bret), and nest sewing (lincluding a mobile and lampshade, several quilts, and an adorable chicken stuffie complete with baby chicks). With over 20 projects in Handmade Beginnings there's lots of variety in this book - in fact you don't even need a baby to make some of them!
Now time to find some Anna Maria fabrics to recreate some of these projects..... I see a new bag in my future!
My Amazon order arrived the other day and I was very excited to check out my latest books. Knowing some of the projects already inside Handmade Beginnings, I opted to check out Upcycled Accessories: 25 Projects Using Repurposed Plastic first. Overall, I have to say the book is cleaver - other than making a tote or wallet, I never would have thought to repurpose a plastic bag into so many different items (hats, shower slippers and caddies, lunch sacks, and even plush toys). With that said, a majority of the items in the books still look like you're wearing a Target checkout bag. Not that I have a problem looking a bit 'kitch' at times, but honestly, some of the projects looks as if you're a hobo and you've made some makeshift shoes out of the plastic bags you found in a dumpster. In many cases, embellishment does not detract from the fact that your sewing material was once a carryout bag.
Now I'm not giving this book a thumbs down entirely. Even though a majority of the projects look 'meh', I think the look of your finished projects are dependent on several factors: 1) what project you choose - some of them are cute (like the shower caddy - I would have never known that this was made from plastic bags while the shower shoes are probably the ugliest things I have ever seen) and\or have 'possibilities' (like the bags inside the book), 2) the plastic bags you have available (if you have a store that has interesting logos, unique colors, etc. you could definitely make something that isn't as distinctive as the Target circles), 3) how you choose (or not to) embellish the end project. It might also be worth a look if your organization, school, etc. is participating in some sort of Earth Day style activities, you're looking for some original ideas to take to craft shows (because let's face it, these would at least grab your attention if you saw them), or just wanting to do something original to do with your (older) kids. However, if you're really looking for some cute projects that go beyond the plastic bags, I still recommend Betz White's Sewing Green -I wonder if she'll write another like this?
Design It Yourself Clothes
One thing I've always wanted to be able to do is to design my own clothing - without a pattern (what can I say, I like a challenge). I know that there are several of books on the market that discuss how to do this, but honestly, I don't want to read anything that looks like a text book. While placing my last Amazon order, I stumbled across Design-It-Yourself Clothes and decided to take the plunge and buy it. Although the the designs are 'simple' (basic skirt, tee, button up shirt, dress, and pants), Cal discusses ways that your can change the overall look to give some variety to your design. Speaking of the projects in the book, I did find that most of them have quite a bit of ease (as you can see from the front cover). If you go in expecting to come out with a pair of fitted pants, this book isn't for you - it's just a very basic introduction to pattern drafting. There is some information on how to fit, however, it's not in depth and honestly with some of these styles, isn't really needed (for example, I saw a lot of people on Amazon saying that there wasn't any information on full bust adjustments and bust darts, but I just don't see how bust darts would work with these designs). With that said I did find Design It Yourself Clothes to be a wealth of information and I do intend on making my own project (based on MY measurements and not a pattern company) sometime in the near future. I'm really hoping that Cal decides to write more of these books (perhaps a bit more in depth and with fitted designs) in the near future because I found this to be a fun, easy to read instruction book on how to draft your own clothing patterns.
The Bottom Line: A great beginner's book for pattern drafting, especially if you're looking for an easy read with lots of illustrations. However, you may be disappointed in the styles if a fitted looks is what you're after.
Ever since U-Handbag did a review of Cath Kidston's sew! I've wanted to check it out for myself. Unfortunately, in the US, the only book available by her was Make!: Over 40 Fantastic Projects with 16 Exclusive Designs
After receiving some reviews from you (thank you all) and finally having the opportunity to check it out for myself, I realized make!, was mostly about embellishing and had very little to do with projects themselves - nothing like like sew! I finally decided to look for a retailer who had sew! in stock and so far I haven't been disappointed.
This shabby chic style book has over 40 projects inside for creating adorable little items for your home, as gifts, and to tote around your belongings. It even comes with the materials needed to make your own bag that appears on the front cover! Some of my favorite projects in the book include the jewelery roll, coat hangers (I think a set of these would make a nice gift), the bath hat (even though I don't wear one, it sure looks cute), and shoulder bag (which appears on the front cover). While most of the projects are fairly simple and some are not anything new, I think that the book itself is pure eye candy and has enough projects inside to make it worth the cost of the book (this time I paid full price, a little over $20 - don't be scammed by the retailers selling this volume for $60+, it's not worth that much!).
The Bottom Line If you're a fan of shabby chic, love books with plenty of eye candy, or just looking for a grouping of some fun, easy to sew projects, sew! is for you. This book is difficult to get a hold of in the states so be sure to check ebay or Amazon retailers to find this title.
Built By Wendy Dresses
Because I had company over the weekend, I really didn't have much time to spend with all my new books, but I did cuddle up with one last night - Built by Wendy Dresses: The Sew U Guide to Making a Girl's Best Frock. I have to say, I think this is her best book yet. While I don't wear many dresses, I really feel motivated to make a few after looking at her book. Why? I love how she takes 3 basic designs (the sheath, the shift, and the dirndl) and turns them into completely different looks (25) and makes it look so easy! Wendy also covers some of the basics: body types, pattern alterations (be sure to add seam allowances to your traced patterns as well), adding collars and sleeve options, seam finishing, facings\linings, and basic pockets. The information is great, but keep in mind many of these options (like collars and some of the sleeves) are not included in the book so the designer (you) is left to draft your own.
Overall this is a fantastic book for those who love to sew dresses and are looking for a bit more of a challenge in drafting some of your own styles, but I wouldn't recommend it for beginners (maybe one of her other titles might be a better place to start) given that there a lot of steps (and not a lot of hand holding) in this books to create your finished project.
One Yard Wonders
You know you have it, that one yard of fabric in your stash that you're not quite sure what to do with. After all, it is a yard, what could you possibly make? One-Yard Wonders takes that question and turns it into 101 projects! These projects range from home decor, pet and children's items, stuffies, bags, and simple tops and dresses. Yes, some of them are nothing new, after all, we've seen tons of apron patterns and tutorials on the internet, but there's plenty of clever, novel items that should pique your interest - the 'Good Hat Day' hat, 'Summer Nightie', and 'Mitered Square Blankie' just to name a few! Most of the projects in the book are quick to whip up (most can easily be made in an afternoon) with many having full size patterns. Even though the items contained in One Yard Wonders have different authors, the book is very cohesive (same format and tone) and has great photography.
The Bottom Line: One-Yard Wonders is a great title for beginners or anyone looking for lots of quick and simple projects that can be easily sewn in a day or less. However, if you're looking for new, novel ideas or detailed projects, you'll be sorely disappointed in this book.
I Love Patchwork And Sew Liberated
Interweave Press was fantastic enough to send me two books to preview - I Love Patchwork: 21 Irresistible Zakka Projects to Sew and Sew Liberated: 20 Stylish Projects for the Modern Sewist - two books that I've been anxious for their release. I Love Patchwork was written by i heart linen blogger, Rashida Coleman-Hale, and is devoted to the art of zakka - Japanese goods that are designed for your home. Typically these styles are simple and clean and generally have some sort of natural linen fabric incorporated into the project. This book not only perfectly captures the zakka spirit (in fact, I had to double check to make sure that this book wasn't translated from an original Japanese version!), but dresses it up by adding a patchwork element. I found myself bookmarking projects for future reference - the patchwork ball, cosmetics pouch, pencil case, the little lamb sofeit, and fabric covered box (you can catch a sneak peak at some of these projects here). Even if you've never worked with linen or patchwork, there's a good section of the book to guide you through the selection, care, and sewing process.
The Bottom Line: If you're a fan of Japanese craft books, love to create for your home, or just love working with patchwork, I Love Patchwork: 21 Irresistible Zakka Projects to Sew is a definite 'must have' for your bookshelf.
Most people know Meg McElwee as the voice behind Sew Liberated and the creator of popular sewing patterns such as the Emmeline Apron (you can see my version here). Now we can add author to her list of activies as she recently penned Sew Liberated: 20 Stylish Projects for the Modern Sewist! So, what's this book all about? Applique! All the projects in this book, which vary in time commitment and sewing difficulty, have some sort of applique element added to them. Even if you haven't used this technique before, there's a large section devoted to the subject to help you complete the projects - from preparing the applique, finishing the edges, stitching, and techniques (which I found very helpful as I rarely use applique to embellish items). The best part, of course, are the projects inside. My favorite, the bags. I realize that I am a total bag junkie, but I have fallen completely in love with the "Capture The Moment Camera Bag". Other projects include a gorgeous floor pillow, baby carrier, apron, duvet cover, and sleep mask. Patterns are included in a handy little pouch in the back of the book.
If you looked up the definition of absolutely adorable, more than likely you'll find Cute Dogs: Craft your own Pooches. This is another much sought after Japanese sewing book that's been recently translated into English and is designed to teach you how to create over 15 different breeds of miniature dogs. Unlike most books devoted to crafting animals (most of which are either felted or animaguri (crochet), all the animals in Cute Dogs are sewn!
So how small are we talking? Think palm sized. Consequently, all stitches are sewn by hand (seam allowances are 1/16") and require small scraps of of fur and suede to create a miniature, life-like versions of some of your favorite dogs. All pattern pieces are included as well as tips on basic sewing, tools needed, and suggestions on how to shape your animal parts. I'm thinking these would make the most adorable Christmas ornaments for the dog lover in your life!
If you enjoy this title, a second book is being released, Cute Pups, in November that not only includes more patterns for dog breeds, but accessories for them too!
Bend The Rules With Fabric
I think I've been procrastinating writing a review of Bend the Rules with Fabric because not only am I going against the grain and saying that I didn't like it, but I've been spending this time trying to find reasons that I should. After all, I really LOVED Bend-the-Rules Sewing (in fact both Taylor and I made projects from the book) and I adore Amy Karol's website....
So, what didn't I like? It's not so much that I didn't like it, it's that there wasn't really any new information to be learned. There are 4 basic methods to creating your own fabric (aside from designing your own on Spoonflower): painting it (including stamping, freezer paper stenciling, and coloring with pens and brushes), using your computer (iron on transfers and printing on fabric sheets), dying it (removing dyes with a bleach pen, fabric resists, etc.), and applique\'drawing with thread and I believe I've done them all except using PhotoEZ. Many, if not all, of these methods and tutorials can be found somewhere on the web or the instructions that come with the product.
So, what about the projects in Bend the Rules With Fabric? I think I wouldn't mind the fact that I was familiar with the techniques if the projects in the book were amazing. The fact is, there aren't that many that I want to make. I understand that this book is not designed for sewing so many of the projects are made with pre-purchased materials, but the end result of some of them look very 'homemade'. Don't get me wrong, I love handmade items, but I like the finished product to look a bit more 'polished'. I really don't see myself wanting to wear a stamped belt (made with canvas strapping), lace necklace, or a 'threadpainted' shirt\dress made from a design Easton or Taylor made. However, I do think that the fabric sheet dolls, 'band' shirts and the lunch bag are simply adorable.
The bottom line: I really wanted to like this book, but after spending a week with it, I just can't get into it. If you're wanting to create your own fabric, spend some time on the web and research what methods you'd like to try or better yet, go to a craft and hobby store and browse the isle - there's a treasure trove of cool gadgets, tools, notions, and paint to be discovered to create your own one-of-a-kind projects. If you're wanting to learn more about this book, hop over to The Storque who has one of my favorite projects from the book up to make.
It seems to me as if there is a lull in sewing book releases lately. Since I can't seem to get my 'fix' of new material, I decided to turn to the internet to start making a wish list of new material. Here's some of my upcoming favorites:
I've always been a fan of Wenlan Chia's knitting - her style is cute and trendy, but my skills with the sticks were lacking so I was never able to knit any of her designs up for myself. Which is why I got so excited to see Twinkle Sews is coming out this September! The book promises 25 full size designs on CD for you to print at home - let's just hope that this book's first release doesn't have as many errors as what her knitting book did.
If you're a longtime reader of this site, then you know that I'm a complete bag junkie. So when Christopher Nejman started posting videos of his upcoming book on CD, Celebrity Bags, I immediately knew I needed this 'book'! Unfortunately, I have to wait until January of 2010 for this one to arrive. By the way, he's publishing this one himself, so for the time being pre-orders can only be placed through is website.
Besides leaving college with a degree, I also collected an abundance of sweatshirts. While I still wear some of them during the winter, I would love to have a way to recycle some of the 'lesser loved' sweatshirts into something fabulous. Chic Sweats looks like it might give me some great ideas with inspiring 22 projects from sweatpants to skirts. Plus it's from my favorite T-Shirt Makeover authors, Sistahs of Harlem, so it's bound to be good!
Alright, so it's not a book, but I am definitely picking up the Sewing: 2010 Day-to-Day Calendar. I'm always seeing knitting, scrapbooking, and even cooking themes in this line of calendars and for once, I'm not going to be short changed!
I'm totally addicted to Victoria Secret - heck, I even took out a VS credit card this year! While I love their lingerie, I can't stand their prices - especially because I know that most of their merchandise can be made for under $15. I thought a book like Sweet Nothings inspire me do so more 'unmentionable' sewing of my own.
Bend the Rules with Fabric comes out next month, but I'm sorry to say, it's not one that I'm super excited about. As much as I loved (and sewed up several projects from) Bend-the-Rules Sewing, I'm not thinking that I'll be using this title as much. However, I will probably break down and buy it anyway - I'm a sucker for fun looking books (and it definitely has a fun cover)!
One yard of fabric with over 101 projects to transform it into - that's One-Yard Wonders! I've been excited about this title ever since the authors did a call for submissions last year (maybe later?) and in just a few short months (October), I'll be able to see what fun projects made it in!
I don't generally have a lot of lonly socks to play with, but I live the ideas behind Stray Sock Sewing, Too. I'm also super pumped that more popular Japanese titles are being translated into English. I probably won't immediately be picking this book up when its released, but I'm keeping it on my wishlist for when I need a 'softie' sewing fix.
What are some of your favorite upcoming sewing titles?
Generation T: Beyond Fashion
How do you get a tween interested in sewing? Buy them a trendy, low-sew book and let them have at their discarded t-shirts! I was very excited when I saw that Megan Nicolay was coming out with a follow up to Generation T. So, as soon as it hit the bookshelves, I bought one. This time around Megan's created 120 home decor, baby, pet, and of course, fabulous shirt projects! Most are easy to create, require minimal or no sew techniques, and include a number of fun embellishment options. Taylor had no problem finding projects that she wanted to try - now if we only had enough t-shirts for her to cut up to make them all!
The Bottom Line: New sewers, teens and tweens, die-hard DIYers, and t-shirt refashioners will love Generation T: Beyond Fashion for it's fun, easy-to-sew, green and trendy projects. However, advanced sewers may find most of the ideas a bit too simple - although who said that we couldn't throw our own Tee Party just for fun (Megan gives tips on how to throw one)?
Amy Butler Softwares
I've spent the better part of my evening this week playing around with
my new toy Amy Butler Softwares. This is my first experience with sewing patterns on CD and I can honestly say, I have not been disappointed. This is a stand alone software (although it is compatible with Electric Quilt 6) for your PC or Mac systems that run Windows (with Virtual PC) and contains 22 unique home decor projects (8 quilts, 3 table runners, 7 pillows, 1 floor cushion and 3 bags). Also included are 9 'bonus' projects which are a variety of tutorials that have appeared on Amy's site.
The design of the CD is easy to navigate and is extremely user friendly - it allows you to start 'playing' immediately without spending time reading a manual. However, if you're interested in some of the more complex aspects of the software such as customizing quilt patterns, all the instructions are available right on the CD. That's right, you can take existing project patterns and make them 'your own' by erasing, flipping, rotating blocks, adding boarders, altering layouts, and changing fabrics! No matter what you chose, either the project as it's written or complete customization, all sewing instructions are provided as well as fabric requirements (even if you alter the pattern!).
Also included in the CD is a sewing glossary, tips, and technique section, resource guide, list of available fabrics by Amy, and loads of inspiration projects and photos.
The Bottom Line: I can sum up this software in one word, Wow! Between the projects included on the CD and the customization features, I have a strong desire to sew up a quilt (and the floor cushions and a bag or two), stat! If you're looking for something new, like to quilt, or in need of some new home decor projects, you'll definitely want to give Amy Butler's Electric Quilt Softwares a try!
I'm so happy to see that more publishers are translating popular Japanese craft books into English. One of the latest? Patchwork Style: 35 Simple Projects for a Cozy and Colorful Life. This was one of the first books that ever piqued my interest in foreign sewing books, but at the time I was too nervous about sewing in any other language so I never purchased it. So, when it became available in English a few weeks ago, I snatched it up - and it was definitely worth the wait! Not only are the pictures gorgeous (I'm in love with the fabrics), but the projects are adorable. Included in this book are instructions for 34 projects including tissue pouches, quilts, pillows, handbags, and cozies all created in a patchwork style. The instructions are easy to follow as all of the steps are illustrated and the measurements have been converted to inches. Now I can finally sew up the little mini handbag that I've been eying for years!
If you're interested in another Japanese release, Linen, Wool, Cotton: 25 Simple Projects to Sew with Natural Fabrics has also been put out by the same publisher. However, I didn't pick this one up since I haven't ever seen this title before. Anyone have any experience with this one?
Book Reviews And A GiveAway!
Interweave recently sent me a couple of books to review and while I was taking a respite from my sewing room, I spent time reading over them - pure eye candy! The first, Inspired to Quilt discusses a variety of techniques such as fabric printing, fabric manipulation, stamping, resits, stitching, applique, beading, and collage to achieve some very impressive looking art quilts. While this book is geared toward quilters I think that the methods discussed would work very well for other outlets - in fact, I would love to make a dress using a freezer paper resist (with lots of practice before I try the 'real deal').
The Bottom Line: Inspired To Quilt is a gorgeous book to look at and is a definite inspiration to quilters and anyone interested in creating their own textiles. Although the techniques are broken down step-by-step, I would recommend this book to someone with some sort of fabric paint\resist\embellishment experience as I found the methods were well above my trial and errors with fabric paint.
All I can say about Freestyle Machine Embroidery is WOW, it's amazing what you can do with a sewing machine besides quilting or sewing garments! This book gives you the basics on how to get started creating you own fiber art - from supplies, thread tension, fabric distortion, and thread direction, but the rest is up to you. The artwork is absolutely amazing, inspirational, and I am convinced that Carol Shinn is the sewing machine equivalent to Jenny Hart.
The Bottom Line:If you've been itching to try something drastically new with your sewing machine, I definitely recommend giving Freestyle Machine Embroidery a look. I think you'll find this a good springing off point to creating works of art on fabric.
And now, about that giveaway! Quite a ways back I wrote a review of Fabricate: 17 Innovative Sewing Projects that Make Fabric the Star (you can read more about it here) - well, Interweave sent me a copy and since I already own it, I thought I should share the book love! Just leave a comment in this post by midnight Monday May 4 and I'll pull a name on Tuesday (May 5) morning! Good Luck!
Many, Mini Reviews
While I was out yesterday (fabric shopping, of course), I stopped by Barnes and Nobel to check out some of the latest books. I've found that Border's craft section doesn't carry a wide variety of titles and NEVER carries the new releases. Consequently, I spent a great deal of time sifting through a few sewing books, here's my thoughts:
As much as I love Betz White (and her previous book Warm Fuzzies
), I was really on the fence about her latest book, Sewing Green - I'm an occasional repurposer (resizing a tee here and there, taking old jeans and making bags, felting sweaters and making pincushions, etc.) and I just didn't think that there would be anything left to make. I had a chance to glance over this title yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to see that there were a lot of fun projects inside! Water bottle cozies, lunch bags, capri sun pouches that are sewn into a car shade.... very cute (not to mention creative) stuff! While I don't see myself making a lot from this book, there was enough inside that I would make to justify purchasing it.
Given the name of this book, I probably wouldn't have given this title a second look if it wasn't for the very cool Faux Buck that Chronicle Books posted back in February to promote Dorm Decor - I mean it's been ages since I've had to shove all my belongings into a tiny room with another person I hardly know. However, since the bookstore carried this book, I had to check it out - and boy was I surprised! Although it's geared toward a younger crowd, I loved some of the fun projects inside - floor pillows, messenger bags, message boards, monogram pillows.... not only could I see me making a few of these projects for myself, but Taylor would be all over it as well. Of all the books I read while I was at B&N, this by far, was my favorite.
I had originally seen Sweater Surgery
mentioned on Vickie Howell's blog several weeks ago. I love the idea of taking discarded sweaters and turning them into something new and this book doesn't let you down - old clothing gets turned into everything from purses and skirts to toys and pillows... my favorite? Socks! As much as I loved the items in the book, I'll probably never get this one as I can NEVER find great clothing items to upcycle.
When I placed my last Amazon order (you can read about Fashion Geek here), I also put in Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing - I had seen several positive reviews about this book and the sugar skull purse was too interesting to pass up. While this book is gorgeous to look at, I have to say, most of the projects are not my style. I just can't seem to pull off the eclectic look (e.g. mismatched fabrics, lots of embellishments, etc.). There are lots of interesting projects that are quick to whip up (all are either low or no sew) so I'm sure that at some point I'll refer to this book - especially when I'm looking for something unique for a swap. However, if I was looking for a book to reference solely for myself, I'd probably purchase something else.
Sometimes, there's so much hype about a book, I'm willing to buy it - sight unseen. Most of the time, I haven't been disappointed. However, every once in awhile, I wonder what all the fuss is about. Such is the case of Fashion Geek - a book that promised to give me light up shoes and more failed to deliver projects that made me go 'wow'. Seriously, who is going to dress up like a lightening bug except for a 4 year old little girl? Come on, Diana, you were a contestant on Project Runway for goodness sake! I will give Diana credit - all the projects are very 'do-able', especially since I have no electronics experience, but I was disappointed there was very little (if any) sewing involved.
The bottom line: While there are cleaver ideas included in the book, there are some already out there that do it better. If you looking for some geeky electronic sewing, be sure to check out Switch Craft: Battery-Powered Crafts to Make and Sew instead. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
After reading some mixed reviews about Weekend Sewing I was a bit hesitant on buying this book sight unseen. So, one late night, I headed to the bookstore and went to check it out in person... and I could have kicked myself for not picking it up sooner!
From the moment I opened this book, I fell in love. I'm thrilled with the variety of projects included in Weekend Sewing - there's a little something for everyone (even kids) and for every sewing skill level. Plus there's full size patterns! I've picked out several items I want to make including the everything tote, guest-room slippers, town bag, Saturday-night silk jersey set, and Kai's shirt. I can't wait to get started!
The Bottom Line: My favorite types of books are those that include a variety of projects and beautiful photography. Needless to say, this book fits the bill, perfectly. I can see myself getting a lot of use out of Weekend Sewing.
If the cover alone doesn't grab your attention the information inside certainly will. Fabricate: 17 Innovative Sewing Projects that Make Fabric the Star shows you a variety of techniques that teach you how to create how to create one-of a kind, custom fabrics plus the projects that will show them off!
I've been reading this book for over a week now and have enjoyed learning some new techniques - some of my favorites? Stitchless Embroidery - I love how the author made simple bits of fabric and string look so elegant on a shirt.... plus it's easy to boot! Puffed Tufts - I've seen this technique on bridal\evening gowns and have always wondered how this look was achieved (now I can give it a try for myself). Fused Plastic - because I love the idea of recycling all those bags I get from the store. Applied Felt - The "Dots Bag" included in the book was one of my favorite designs.... keep an eye out for this one as I think it would make a perfect swap item!
The Bottom Line: If you have trouble finding the perfect fabric and are tapped out on embellishing techniques, then Fabricate is the book for you.
Sew What! Bags
I know, I know, I need another bag book like I need a hole in the head, but as soon as I learned that there was going to be a Sew What! Bags, I immediately pre-ordered it from Amazon. After all, I thought Sew What! Skirts was great, so this one should be too. I anxiously awaited for my book to arrive and I have to say, I've not been disappointed! What's so special about this bag book?
For starters, it has variety. Most of the bag books that I currently own typically focus on handbags with a tote thrown in here and there. Sew What! Bags has a little bit of everything for all sewing skill levels including eyeglass cases, tissue pouches, backpacks (drawstring bag worn on your back), messenger bags, and tool aprons. Yes, there's tote bags included as well. In addition to these projects there's also inspiration photos of how you can take the knowledge you've learned and turn them into something different (for example changing up an eyeglass pouch and making it a phone cozy).
Secondly, the photos of the finished projects make me want to sew up everything up. I know it sounds silly, but the fabrics Lexie Barnes' uses for her bags are gorgeous. I even went on an online search for the Japanese Map print she used for the DJ Bag so that I could re-create the same adorable messenger.
The bottom line: I realize that most of the patterns in this book are not 'Earth shatteringly' different from what's currently available in a variety of other books, commercial patterns, or even online tutorials. However, it does take some great patterns (not to mention display beautiful finished bags) and lump them into one place for easy access and instant inspiration. For $11.50 you can't beat that in my book!
Aranzi Aronzo Baby Stuff
If you've ever gone on a search for Japanese craft books you know that not only are some titles difficult to find, but also come with a hefty price tag.... and they're not even printed in English! That is until Vertical Publishing took some of the most popular titles (including the popular Aranzi Aronzo line) and reprinted them in English - not only making them more accessible to the public, but making them more affordable too, most under $15! Their latest title, Baby Stuff takes this duo's whimsical sense of style and turns them into adorable baby items. While this book is not heavy on the nuigurumi (stuffed doll) as their other titles, it does contain lots of other projects including embellished bibs, finger puppets, bottle holders, an appliqued duvet, and growth chart. Each project contains all the materials need and step by step illustrations so making a project for a little one is easy! In fact, most items in the book look like they can be made in an afternoon! You can definitely count on me to make a few projects from this book soon.
Dressmaker's Technique Bible
For the past week and a half, I've been spending some of my free time reading my latest book, The Dressmaker's Technique Bible. Not only does this book help you select styles that will flatter your shape, but also illustrates various techniques that will help you accomplish your look.
Like most sewing books, the "Getting Started" section of the book covers the basics needed before you start sewing - tools, a variety of scissors (and their uses), the styles of pins and thread (how and went to use both), and notions. The author also covers how to understand pattern markings, a brief introduction to adapting a pattern, and pattern selection. The best part of this book is the Body Shapes Guide which helps you identify your figure and suggests styles that will flatter your shape.
The rest of the book is devoted to garment construction and embellishment. Various techniques are discussed - everything from seam styles, darts, and tucks, to gathering sleeves, inserting different styles of zippers, and buttonholes. Each technique has numerous illustrations and\or photographs of how to achieve the desired result as well as a brief description of the tools and materials needed.
So, what's the bottom line? I really liked it. I thought it was a good reference tool that brought together a lot of techniques and good ideas. Although this is a book that beginners will find the most helpful, I'm keeping my close by my sewing table because the illustrations are so through you never know when you need to learn a new technique or bone up on a rusty one!
The Basics of Corset Building
I've long admired corsets. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they look fabulous on everyone who wears them. However, corsetry is one thing I have never tried. I recently received The Basics of Corset Building: A Handbook for Beginners and have spent the past week and a half pouring over it.
Linda Sparks, owner of Farthingales L.A., penned The Basics of Corset Building so that it covers everything a beginner would need in order to make their first corset. Her book discusses the tools and materials you need before you begin (everything from selecting your fabric to learning about types of steel), how to properly fit and alter your pattern (Linda recommends Laughing Moon's Dore and Simplicity 9769), and how to construct and build your waist cincher (how to set grommets, how to work with boning, making a muslin). With a little knowledge behind me, I'm feeling more confident about making my own.
Looking for some celebrity's who have been recently spotted wearing their corset? Just check out this article I wrote recently at Threadbanger.
Stitch Magazine Review
When I first saw an advertisement for Stitch in Quilting Arts' Gifts, I was immediately intrigued. I have a great love for magazines (I don't always have time to read books and I find it's a great way to learn a few techniques, find out about new products and\or websites, and have several sewing projects at my fingertips - especially when a last minute gift is called for) and just by reading the cover shot, I knew that the premiere issue was going to be great. After all, it had full sized patterns inside! I received this issue in the mail early this week and I've been spending my free time reading it from cover to cover..... and I LOVE IT!
Let me say, if you've visited the website for Stitch, it really doesn't do this magazine justice. At the moment, there are only a few projects (and free patterns) listed and these are not (IMHO) some of the most impressive items included in the premiere issue. When I read this magazine I fell in love with the "Well-Suited Messenger Bag" (cleverly made from wool suiting and cotton shirting fabric), the "Techno Travel Roll" (a great way to store those cords when you're on the go), the "Baby Wrap Jacket" (I may just fall in love with fleece again), the Chakala Quilt, the "Take-Along Tote", not to mention the full size skirt patterns. However none of them appear on the site (but I hope to make a few of these items and show you my finished projects soon!). In addition to the 25 projects included in the magazine, there are also sections devoted to new tools,books, and websites, and general articles (this issue discussed 'green sewing' and included an interview with Natalie Channin), but this is only a small portion of the issue (about 1/3). I really hope that Stitch continues to concentrate on the great projects and not so much on the tips and techniques as I think that several other magazines have that part covered.
The bottom line: Stitch is an absolutely great first issue from Quilting Arts that makes you wish it was more than just a special publication (there are 3 more issues plan for next year Spring, Summer and Fall 2009). With all the failed magazines lately, I'm really hoping that Stitch is here to stay.
Holiday Magazine Round Up
I made a promise to myself that this year I was going to make more Christmas gifts. In an effort to stick to that promise, I managed to purchase several holiday magazine issues. Here's my analysis of the one's I've bought. For the last 7 or so years I've purchased the special Sew News publication. Recently they shifted from a strictly Christmas issue to including other fall holidays as well (Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, etc.). I think is a great idea, especially since this one comes out sometime in August - plenty of time to craft for other events. Of course, I'm biased about this issue because I have two holiday card holder tutorials that appear in this issue!
Craftstylish also came out with a Gifts to Make issue again this year. This special magazine includes 25 super quick presents such as a socktopus, photo pillow, and button rings as well as 10 one hour projects like soothing eye pillows. Not only did the Craft Stylish name draw me into buying this issue (after all, I've loved most of their other magazines), but the fact that it had "plush toys" and "chic totes". Little did I know that the toys and totes were just multiples of the same pattern. Drat! Overall, a good read, but I'm not sure how many items I'll be sewing up from it.
The biggest disappointment of my holiday reading had to be Better Homes and Garden's Holiday Crafts. Betz White had put up a post that she had some adorable cupcake ornaments that appeared in this issue - they were so cute that I knew I had to make them. I figured the content would be worthwhile since Betz had included a project and a cute Santa pillow graced the cover, but I found most of the content to be very 'folksy' in appearance and many items required very little sewing (or if it did, it was hand sewing, not with a machine). I think if I was looking to do some holiday projects with children that this would be something that I might come back to, but I didn't really see anything that I would be willing to make and give as a Christmas gift.
One of my favorite (and most expensive) magazines that I purchased, was Quilting Arts Magazine Gifts. What sold me on this issue was the amazing stockings that were on the inside - I am determined to make at least one of these for Christmas. I found that there was lots of variety in the projects inside, grocery totes, wreaths, ornaments, totes, etc. although all of them are mixed media, quilted (hence the name), or a combination of the two. I found that there were several other projects that I wouldn't mind attempting, although I'll probably skip the fabric piecing and just use the directions for the overall design.
Lastly, there's Sew Hip! This isn't a holiday issue but the premiere sewing magazine from the UK. I had ordered this issue quite awhile ago and it arrived on my doorstep in early October. Overall, the magazine has thick glossy pages with lots of photographs, a variety of projects for all sewing levels, and some great interviews (Amy Butler, Prints Charming). If you spend a lot of time on the internet, some of the content (i.e. projects, products, and book reviews) isn't particularly new, but I'm attributing that to the fact that it is a foreign magazine and book releases do tend to come out later than what we have in the US. Overall, it's not a bad issue and I'm holding off too many opinions until I see another magazine from them.
Christmas Stockings E-Book
With more companies turning to printable patterns, it only makes sense that e-books would soon follow. My first experience with an e-book came the other day when I received Christmas Stockings: 7 Classic Holiday Treasures to Knit. Talk about instant gratification - you can shop for a book and have it immediately without ever having to leave your house (and just in time for my Christmas stocking swap, too)!
Seven of the most popular stocking patterns from Christmas Stockings: Holiday Treasures to Knit">Elaine Lipson's Holiday Treasures to Knit (now OOP) are now available to download in a convenient PDF format. Included in this book are The Chubby Sock (as seen on the front cover), Village of Kirbla Estonian Stocking, Sock Monkey Stocking, Counterpane and Lace Stocking, Hugs and Kisses Aran Stocking, Celtic Christmas Fair Isle Stocking, and the Austrian Alpine Treasure. Additionally, there is a brief 'how to' section of the book (such as how to use double pointed needles and picking up heal and gusset stitches) as well as a handy knitting abbreviation chart. Now, I'm hoping to put this book to good use and maybe whip up a little something for my swap partner!
Sew Pretty Christmas Homestyle
Several weeks ago, Bret made an Amazon order and asked me to pick something out (for free shipping). I debated what to get, but kept coming back to Sew Pretty Christmas Homestyle even though the country style isn't generally something I go for. I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised at this book! The book itself is eye candy - there are tons of images and they are beautifully photographed... they so inspiring, they make you want to create the projects inside. As for the projects themselves, there's a little something for everyone: hats and mittens, quilts, pincushions, hobby horses, babushka dolls, angel wings, and even ideas for Christmas and place cards.
Now for the downside. I've become a bit spoiled with some of my recent sewing and craft book purchases - most of them are spiral bound which makes it easier to read the directions when sewing. Unfortunately, this book isn't one of them. My second complaint is that there is a lack of finished sizes for each project as well as fabric requirements. I always like to know how much material I need to shop for. Lastly, although patterns are included in the book, you'll need to trace off the appropriate pieces and add seam allowances.
Although there are a few problems with this book, don't let it stop you from checking it out. I've really enjoyed looking through it and look forward to making a few items from it.... I definitely see lots of potential for Christmas gifts!
By the way, if anyone knows what fabric line she used for Sew Pretty Christmas Homestyle, I would love to know!
Check Out My Bootie(s)
Bret and Taylor had a great time at their tournament yesterday - they braved 100+ temperatures and took home second place! I kept busy while they were gone - when Easton napped, I worked on a project from Little Stitches...baby booties. Fortunately, I didn't have to head out for supplies since earlier in the week I had anticipated sewing this up and purchased the fusible fleece that the pattern calls for and had decided to use the fat quarters that I recently won from Rockin Smockin's contest so I was able to take full advantage of my time.
The pattern itself is multi-sized (0-3 mo, 3-6 mo, 6-9 mo, 9-12 mo) and only has 2 pieces. I've never worked with a shoe pattern before so I found myself reading the directions over several times before I finally figured out what I was going to be doing I have to admit, the first shoe took twice as long as the second and now that I've constructed it twice, I think I could crank out several pairs in no time! The only modification that I made to the design was omitting the sew in velcro and replaced it with an iron on version (I highly recommend this product it's easy and the Velcro strengthens with washing!). Of course there's the real test - having Easton try them on:
As you can tell from the photo on the left he looked at them at first and thought "What the heck did you put on my feet?" Of course, after he figured it out, he loved them. So far, so does everyone else - they are going to be perfect for keeping his feet warm and they stay on his feet even after lots of kicking!
Amy Butler's Little Stitches For Little Ones
Let me start off by saying, when I found out that Amy Butler was writing a sewing for babies book, I was beyond excited. I had recently found out that I was pregnant and was envisioning all sorts of fabulous styles that I would be able to create for my newborn. So, when I saw that her website was selling the book (autographed) well before the anticipated release date (Little Stitches For Little Ones will be available at all retail locations in September, although it can be purchased at Amazon and in Amy's shop now), I couldn't help but buy one- immediately! My summary? In a nutshell, if I didn't have a baby of my own right now, I'd have to borrow one (or encourage friends and family to expand their families) just so I could make some of the fabulous items out of Amy Butler's latest book, Little Stitches.
Just as in her previous book, In Stitches, Little Stitches is spiral bound and contains sturdy paper patterns that are securely attached by an envelope in the front of the book. Additionally, there is a brief section on selecting fabrics for infants (which is important for comfort as well as style), how to take a baby's measurements, and a glossary and techniques section which further illustrates methods used in the book (such as making and applying bias binding) . The rest of the book is devoted to the projects themselves.
Inside Little Stitches is 20 projects that are geared toward all levels of sewists - each project is labeled with a difficulty rating ranging from easiest (Brag Book,) to hardest (Quick Change Tabletop Set)... so there's a little something for everyone inside. Most projects, however, are in the 2-4 difficulty range. These include some of my favorites: Kimono-Style PJs, Military Style Hat, The Everything Bag, Cheeky Monkey Laundry Bag, and Building Blocks with Take-Along Bag. Just as in her previous book and patterns, Amy's instructions are written so that anyone can follow them - no technical language or jargon. They're accompanied by lots of illustrations to help clarify steps and all patterns have a large photograph depicting the final product (so there's lots of eye candy!).
Little Stitches is a beautiful book that encourages the sewer to create keepsake treasures for little ones - whether it be your own child or for someone else's...making what Amy call's 'modern heirlooms'. I can't wait to get started sewing up a few for my own children. Now if they would only nap so I could get some sewing done!
Easy Friendship Ring Quilt
I wish I could take credit for this fabulous quilt, but I can't. It's made by Wendy Hill author of Easy Bias-Covered Curves: Create Quilts with WOW Appeal. This is a unique project that uses the techniques from her book. Continue reading this entry for all your supply information.
23- Fat (or regular) QTRS (prints - 1930's fabrics or other scheme)
6 1/2 yards- background fabric (or a scrappy mix of neutrals to equal this amount)
3 yards- border fabric (same as background or not)
Quarter-circle template (purchase or make)
1/2" bias maker gadget (with plastic center)
9 yards- backing fabric (cut into 3- 3 yard pieces)
Binding- 1 yd or assorted scraps equal to this amount
Batting- king-size or larger than 88" by 99"
Rotary cutter/mat/grid ruler
Basic sewing supplies
Making Your Own Fabric
Occasionally, I'll request a review copy of an upcoming book or sewing video. Recently, I contacted C&T Publishing about two upcoming products, a book, Create Your Own Hand-Printed Cloth: Stamp, Screen, and Stencil with Everyday Objects (due out August 5), and DVD, Lynn Koolish Teaches You Printing on Fabric (available now at Amazon). Both deal with creating your own fabric and both are very inspirational.
Create Your Own Hand-Printed Cloth is a 95 page book that deals with all sorts of techniques ranging from stamping, stenciling, and screenprinting to discharge printing, rubbings and creating batiks. The instructions are written in a way that anyone, even a novice (such as myself), can make their own designs without difficulty. Best of all, every section of the book is loaded with photographs - not just to help you understand the technique, but also motivate the reader to try these methods as well.
The second product I reviewed was a 60 minute DVD, Lynn Koolish Teaches You Printing on Fabric. Even though I've used my computer and printer to create my own fabric, what I've tried is nothing in comparison to what this instructional video teaches you. The instructor discusses everything you need to know to create your own material from printers and inks (I had no idea that different companies had their own type of printer ink that could affect how you treat your new fabric), types of materials that can be used (and how inks react with them), and different programs available to create unique effects and images and how to use them. I actually learned quite a bit from watching this video and now finding myself wanting a scanner\copier\printer now more than ever.
Both products deal with vastly different techniques, but complement each other quite well. Even though both are geared toward quilters, especially art quilts, all of the techniques could easily be applied to clothing - in fact my mind is racing with ideas! I highly recommend Create Your Own Hand-Printed Cloth and Printing on Fabric especially if you're looking to make your own material from home.
Sew & Stow
For the last week, while Taylor has been at swimming, I've been toting one of my latest books, Sew & Stow to her class. Even after spending this much time with the book, I'm still not sure what I think of it. While I really like the section of the book that deals with discussing fabric types (useful information on how particular fabrics are made,how they are used, etc. ) as well as a number of projects that are included in it (I really see myself making the jewelry tote and possibly the cook's helper apron), I felt a little cheated. Why? While I think some of the items in the book are very useful and would make a great addition to home organization or a great gift, I thought some of the projects where just thrown in as 'filler'. Four of the projects that bother me the most - the handle pad (a square of padded fabric that wraps around a wire handle), jelly belly bag (designed to let fruit juice drip into a bowl), shoulder relief strap (very similar to the handle pad, except this one is for your purse), and the veggie bag (which in my humble opinion is a simple cloth sack). I'm not sure that any of these need a tutorial - I felt like even the novice sewer could figure these out for themselves. Speaking of the directions - although I haven't sewn any of the projects yet, from what I've skimmed over, the instructions seem straight forward. I do think that the author assumes the reader has some sewing experience because the directions are not overly detailed and there are few illustrations, if any, on a given project. So if you're looking to give this book as a gift to a new sewer, you might want to re think your purchase and go for something more like Amy Butler's In Stitches. Otherwise, the book has some good overall basic projects, with just a few disappointments inside.
Sew U Home Stretch: The Review & Giveaway
One of my favorite books that is on my sewing bookshelf is Sew U" (you can read my review of Sew U here). Not only did I find it jam packed with lots of great information, but it was very inspiring as well - especially when it came to taking a basic pattern and altering it into something that looks completely different than the original design. So when I got my hands on Wendy's newest book, Sew U Home Stretch: The Built by Wendy Guide to Sewing Knit Fabrics, I had HUGE expectations - and I wasn't disappointed.
Once again, Wendy seems to understand what the novice seamstress needs to know about working with knits and writes in a way that anyone can understand. She devotes much of the book to the basics - what supplies you'll need (by the way, a serger is recommended by not necessary for the projects in the book), identifying and selecting stretch fabrics, how to work with the patterns in the book (selecting the right size, pattern making basics), tips and tricks for knits, how to prepare your pattern and fabric for cutting (with important information like matching plaids and stripes, how to find the right side of the fabric, how to make and work with several styles of binding), and even a section on recycling your old tees. And no matter what your sewing level is, from beginner to advanced, you'll find that there are instructions tailored to your skills - for example a beginner may opt to make a tee with a rolled hem while someone who has a bit more experience may try their hand at a shirt with a coverstitched hem.
Of course, my favorite part of this book are the designs. Included in Sew U Home Stretch are 3 full size patterns - a crewneck, raglan sleeved shirt, and a dress\skirt. Each pattern has a section of the book with details how it can be morphed into 6 different looks. For example, the Crewneck can be changed into garments such as a tank, v-neck, boatneck, and even a dress; the Raglan into a hoodie, halter, or even a beach cover up; while the dress can be made into cute halter or even a pretty baby-doll. Now my biggest decision is what to make first!
In my opinion, Sew U Home Stretch is another 'must have' on your book shelf... and here's your chance to put one on yours. I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader - just post a comment in this thread by midnight on Sunday. I'll select a winner by random number generator on Monday morning and Wendy Mullin's latest book will be all yours!
Before refashioning clothing ever became popular, quilt shops and independent fabric stores across the country taught sewers how to transform an ordinary sweatshirt into a jacket. From what I remember, most of those designs were simple and included lots of applique embellishments. Numerous years have passed and now that transforming clothing into something new has become wildly popular, the trend of making sweatshirts to jackets has resurfaced. However, this time they are far more stylish! I recently read Sweatshirts 15+ Stylish Designs To Sew And Wear, published by Krause Publications, and have to say that I am astounded that some of the photos in the book started as a comfy sweatshirt. Not only are the author's designs more fashionable that those that appeared in quilt shops 10+ years ago, but she also takes the time to point out what styles look best on three main body types (apple, pear, petite).
Included in this book are tips and tricks on selecting fabrics and embellishments to best match your sweatshirt, tutorials on making collars and cuffs, and all the patterns needed to complete the 19 projects in the book. As for the designs themselves, they range from trendy (like the jacket that appears on the front cover) to more 'traditional' and 'artistic' styles (those that incorporate beading, buttons, embroidery, appliques, and unique embellishments) - a little something for everyone. If you've been wanting to try your hand at refashioning, but never knew what to start with - you may want to try your hand at Debra Quartermain's latest, Sweatshirts!
Sew Everything Workshop
I'll admit, I read a lot of sewing books. Not only do I find it a good way to entertain myself in the evenings, but also a great learning tool. Consequently, I write a lot of reviews for books - many are positive since I wouldn't buy the book in the first place if it wasn't something that I was already interested in, but very rarely do I GUSH. I recently purchased Sew Everything Workshop, mostly because I love the idea of an 'all inclusive book' - tips, patterns, instructions all in one place. Little did I know how wowed I would be when I opened it up.
Even though this book is designed for beginners, I found myself reading it from cover to cover (alright, I did skip the section on selecting a sewing machine.... it's too late for that!). Diana Rupp writes in such a fun and friendly manner I couldn't help it! Besides, skipping over these sections would mean that you would miss interesting sidebars (like movies that revolve around sewing), great tips, and 'small' projects not included in the table of contents (who wouldn't want a WWMD? (What Would Martha Do?) inspiration banner hanging in their sewing room?).
I found that beginner guide was very well written and covers all the basics. The book is broken down into several sections, "Gearing Up" (setting up your space, selecting a machine), "Ready, Set, Sew" (basically, getting to know your machine and it's stitches as well as how to practice sewing), "Material Matters" (a good, quick section on types of fabrics and their uses, drape, and coordinating colors), "Layout and Cutting" (everything you need to know before cutting into that fabric, from measuring yourself to learning how to read the back of the envelope), "The Sewing Playbook" (how and why to press, making beautiful seams, shaping, interfacing, zippers, buttonholes). The final section of the book "Hand-Sewing 101" discusses how to thread and knot the needle, basic stitches,how to sew a button, and mending by hand.
The fun part of the book, of course, is putting all that knowledge into good use by making one of Diann's projects! There are 25 projects included, 10 with paper patterns that are neatly tucked away inside it's own little pouch inside the book. Some of my favorites include the Cuddle Up Cardigan, Tender is the Nightie, the Flouncy Tank Tip - and those are just the clothes! Also included in the book are instructions for several bags, a man's tie, a sewing machine cover, an apron, and even a quilt.
If you're shopping for a beginner sewer or happen to be a novice yourself, the Sew Everything Workshop should definitely be somewhere on your reading list. If you're a more advanced seamstress, this book is worth the read as well - not just as a 'refresher', but because the projects are just so attractive! I'm hoping that Diana Rupp will have more in store for us in the future, possibly a book with more advanced techniques - in the mean time, I'll have to get to work on some of her fun designs!
49 Sensational Skirts
According to Style.com, 2008 is the year to create. Want a way to bring in this idea to your wardrobe? Look no further than 49 Sensational Skirts: Creative Embellishment Ideas for One-of-a-kind Designs!
What's nice about this book is that it covers all the bases - from deconstruction of materials to add to your original designs to a brief discussion on how to alter the pattern provided in the back of the book. Yes, that's right you don't need to search for the perfect skirt pattern - one is provided for you! However, the real 'meat' of the book is on creating fresh, one of a kind, contemporary styles. While the construction of skirts are relatively simple, the embellishments provided are extraordinary works of art. Techniques include fabric folding, embroidery work, silkscreen, stencils, and embellishing with buttons, beads and found objects.
If you love to wear skirts, but are tired of the same styles and designs, be sure to give 49 Sensational Skirts a look. You'll definitely be have people stopping you asking where you found your outfit!
If you search on eBay or Etsy, read a number of sewing blogs or hang out at sites such as Craftster, or even shop at some online fabric stores you'll see that there's a new interest when it comes to sewing - Japanese craft books (and magazines). The Japanese style definitely has it's own look that, so far, hasn't been recreated by American writers. Until now, that meant, if you had an interest in trying out some of these cute projects for yourself, you not only had to track down someone who was selling these international books (and they can get quite pricey), but you also had to figure out a way to overcome the language barrier once you received your book. Thankfully, both of these dilemmas are now solved because Vertical publishing has taken some of the most sought after Japanese craft books (IMHO) and translated them into English and made them available through American booksellers!
The newest release (available in March 2008) is Aranzi Aranzo's Cute Stuff - a book filled with 17 different projects for accessories, bags, and things to wear. Keep in mind that this book is for accessories only - if you're looking to make nuigurumi, or stuffed dolls, that you won't find them in this book (Vertical has published two other works by Aranzi Aranzo, Cute Dolls (Let's Make Cute Stuff) and Fun Dolls (Let's Make Cute Stuff) which cover this topic. You can read my brief review on them here). In addition to all the adorable projects included in the book (some of my favorites include the fun tissue cases, Mr. Sweaty bottle holders, and long doll scarves), it also covers the 'basics' - what sorts of materials you may need, how to make a pattern, and a quick 'how to' on sewing. There are just a few brief directions for each project, but tons of illustrations to help you through each step - be sure to pull out the metric side of your ruler though, inches won't be listed in this book (yardage requirements are also not listed, however, most items look to be made with small enough pieces you may have some in your 'scrap' pile)! I found that all the items in the book look simple enough to create in just a few hours or an afternoon project for a child to complete with just a bit of guidance.
So, if you've been dying to try out a Japanese book, but have stayed away because of the language barrier - you don't have to wait any longer! Not only can you make those cute dolls, but the accessories that have their image too!
8 days - that's all we have until we FINALLY close on our house. After 6 months of construction, living out of boxes, and life in a rental we are just about ready to have our new home! Yesterday's walk through pinpointed numerous items that still needed to be finished, so hopefully all the work will be completed in time. But enough about that (although be prepared for numerous photos once we take possession) and onto sewing!
First off my Amazon order arrived with the Aranzi Aronzo books Fun Dolls and Cute Dolls. Both books come with full size patterns, lots of illustrations on how to complete each project, as well as some basic sewing instructions and tips. If you've been thinking of trying out a Japanese sewing book, but have been turned off because of the language barrier - be sure to check these books out, since they are translated in English you can get the same adorable Japanese style but with easy to read instructions!
Today, I start my second project using this yummy brown Chenille from Fabric.com. As horrible as this sounds, my goal is to have this finished up before the move so I don't have to deal with fluffy bits of chenille all over the new house. Now enough of my babbling and onto cutting!
The last of my Stocking Swap projects is complete! For this one, I made the Charming Handbag and Zippered Pouch from Amy Karol's Bend-the-Rules Sewing:
I'm absolutely in love with the way this purse tuned out. The fabric was a bit of a menace to work with (it was a very thin weave and was slightly off grain), but the design came together without a hitch. The zippered pouch was also easy to put together, but I'll admit that I really didn't read over the directions on this one, I just used the dimensions to create the 'right size'. To finish this gift off, I stuffed the zippered pouch with some purse necessities - tissues, some pretty smelling (mini) lotion, and Altoids.
If you're wanting to read more about this bag, you can check out my 'official' review here.
On A Leash
For my latest swap, I've been referring a lot to Amy Karol's book, Bend-the-Rules Sewing. My latest creation.... Dog Collars!
First off, let me say, I thought making collars would be so much more difficult than what it was. This particular project whipped together much faster than what I had expected and was easy enough that even a beginner sewer could complete it without difficulty. I chose to make my partner a set of 3 collars for her dog - One in a novelty dog bone fabric, another that will match her Charming Handbag (which is the project I'll be working on today), and the last, a simple black collar embellished with rhinestones (because every dog deserves some bling). If you have a dog of your own or plan on giving a dog lover some gifts this holiday season, I definitely recommend whipping one or two of these up - you won't be disappointed!
The one thing I wish I had done is used a higher loft batting for these - or at least doubled up what I already had, they need a bit more poof to them, IMHO. Otherwise, these cuties were pretty quick to put together, although I did have some difficulty stuffing the batting inside the coaster pockets. I've bundled them together and topped it off with a holiday mug and a package of hot chocolate. I may keep this gift in mind for teacher gifts - Taylor has enough of them this year!
Patchwork & Quilted Gifts
It's been awhile since I've gushed over a book. Oh sure, I've found lots that are fun, give inspiration, have some good projects, etc. but it's been a long time since I've found one that I can't wait to make everything in the book. After reading several reviews of Joelle Hoverson's latest, Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts I finally broke down and purchased the book - and let me say I was not disappointed.
Included in this book are 30 adorable projects ranging from completion times of under 2 to about 12 hours and can be made for all sorts of occasions. Have a housewarming party? Whip up a batch of coasters. Baby shower? There's a set of flannel blankets or a Wee Elephant (created by Wee Wonderful's Hillary Lang) to be made. In need of a last minute Christmas gift? Then whip up a bird ornament or Color-Wheel Quilt!
In addition to the beautifully photographed projects, there are well laid out instructions to complete them (however, there are no illustrations), full-size templates (yay, no resizing needed), and chapters devoted to exploring color, patchwork, and quilting basics. If you're looking to make gifts this holiday season or just wanting to make a few quick items for yourself, it's worth looking into this book!
So, what's the first project that I've made? These adorable bird ornaments:
I plan on stuffing one inside my partner's Pringle's can (it just barely fits) - I'm just about done!