Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sewing How To Books: Three short reviews

I'm a reader.  That's just who I am.  The day after Christmas I jumped on Amazon and started going through the sewing how to books to choose a couple.  These are the three I bought, in order of most helpful to a true beginner like me:

Sew Everything Workshop: The Complete Step-by-Step Beginner's Guide
This book is great.  Truly.  The first section, before you get to the projects, is a beginner's goldmine.  There were step by step instructions with color photos of how to wind the bobbin, how to thread the needle, the names of all the parts of the machine, common items you should have on hand, how to pin so it's easy to pull them out as you sew, as well as more advanced stuff I haven't even gotten to yet like how to read a commerical pattern, how to alter store bought clothes, etc.  She names names and by that I mean brand names which as a consumer I appreciate.  If Gutterman is a quality thread brand, tell me!  I need to know so I don't buy something lame that will make my projects harder then they need to be. 

Her advice is practical, like: buy a flat seam ripper because 1) you will need it and 2) if it's round it'll roll off the table.  Her tone is light which makes sewing seem fun and exciting and not a serious and difficult skill you will never master.  She preaches against perfectionism but encourages good preparation and concientious habits by invoking Martha Stewart which I find highly amusing as does she, apparently.   I highly recommed this book even without the projects and patterns that are included.  Bonus!  It is spiral bound so it lies flat if you are following directions word for word.

I took a lot of the advice in this book to heart.  My first shopping trip to the sewing store included a list made from her section on essential tools and so far I've used every single one of them. 

The New Handmade:  Simple Sewing for Contemporary Style
This is also a great book and I think it is a good compliment to the "Sew Everything Workshop".  Her intro to sewing is a lot shorter and doesn't include the same step by step instuctions or instuctional photographs, but her tone is brisk and she too will name names.  The photos of the finished projects in this book are inspiring for someone like me who really isn't into folksy country crap and who isn't looking to make heirloom quilts for the county fair homemakers' pavillion, although she does have a quilt project in there.  Her fabric choices are modern and fun.  She isn't afraid of pattern or color. 

I really like the way the projects are laid out as far as materials needed and the explanation of pre-sewing tasks which I've learned take up the majority of the time: cutting, pinning, measuring, etc. are all much more consuming then actually sitting at the machine.  The best thing about "The New Handmade" is that each project is rated for difficulty so I know as cute as the book cover organizer thing looks I'm not ready to try it quite yet.  That said, I'm the kind of person who likes to jump in and see how things go so my first project wasn't a simple pillow cover or a pot holder but a lined tote bag from this book.

Sew & Stow: 31 Fun Sewing Projects to Carry, Hold, and Organize Your Stuff, Your Home, and Yourself!
I like buckets.  I like storage.  A lot.  If it is cute and promises to make me more efficent I'm probably going to buy it. The Container Store makes me want to lose myself in its plastic, organized utopia forever.  This book played right into that. 

It is not for beginners.  Some of the reviews on Amazon say it is, but no.  At least not if you are like me and don't have someone in the next room you can call for help.  If you are a teenager living at home and your mom has been sewing for 30 years, okay...  this book could work for you.  Nearly none of these projects seem geared toward someone who can barely sew straight like me, let's put it that way.  They look challenging.  There's a lot of materials like cardboard and foam and things that I'd have to search out to find and I imagine might not be cheap. That said the projects do look fun and flipping through it I hope that one day I can make awesome things like... fabric boxes?  I'm not sure what I'll make from this book.  But it is pretty.  The number one drawback is probably not the fault of the author, but the publisher.  All the cool, inspiring color photos of the projects are all stacked together at the beginning of the book which I know is probably due to cost, but who wants to flip back and forth like that?

"Sew & Stow" is going to go to be filed under "aspirational sewing" until later.  Probably much later.

Verdict:  These three books cost me about $46 total.  No shipping or tax because Amazon loves me. The first two were totally worth it and the third, well, I learned what to look for in the future, i.e. projects I can actually make at my current skill level and not just dream about making and a good layout inside.

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