Friday, 12 December 2014

My Sewing Library: Part 1


I don't have the biggest collection of sewing related books, compared to some people, but I was surprised to find that they do fit in a whole shelf of our book cases after a recent tidy-up. I thought it'd be fun to do a series of mini-reviews in three parts in case anyone was thinking of expanding their own collection and wanted some ideas. So, in absolutely no order at all...



SEW U: Home Stretch by Wendy Mullen and Eviana Hartman

What is it and who is it aimed at?

This book is an introduction to sewing with knit fabrics. It assumes you have a bit of sewing knowledge under your belt already (perhaps hoping you've used the first Sew U book, which I used to have and is excellent, but I've lost and therefore won't be reviewing here). 

It is a hard-back spiral bound book with wonderfully clear advice and illustrations. It holds your hand and guides you through everything you'll need to know to start sewing with all manner of different knits, whether you own a fancy overstitch machine, an overlocker/serger or just a regular good old sewing machine. 

Why have I got it?

I used to be a huge fan of the Built by Wendy clothing brand. Around the time I moved to Spain, Wendy Mullen's aesthetic really resonated with me and I found the BBW website very inspirational. I never owned any BBW garments, because by then I was more interested in making my own (and too skint) but I adored the pattern range she made with Simplicity. As I say, I used to own the first SEW U book and really liked the format. I can't remember exactly but I must have seen the knits version on a blog somewhere and bought it for myself. 


Does it include patterns?

Damn straight it does. I includes three multi-sized patterns and the book shows you how to make many more style variations by using them as a starting point and making tweaks. 

Have I used it and would I recommend it?

Yes, I used it soooo much when I got into sewing with knits. I think I bought it at exactly the right time for me: I'd already had a year or two of intense woven garment sewing under my belt, and really wanted to crack using knits as I longed to make a truly wearable day-to-day wardrobe. This book is about 7 years old now but the patterns included are such classic shapes that I can't imagine it feeling dated for many years yet. I would most definitely recommend it to anyone who is about to embark on sewing with knits, or has recently started using them but still has some questions. 




What is it and who is it aimed at?

This paper-back is a gentle introduction to pattern drafting from scratch for those who find most of the usual pattern drafting/cutting tomes a bit dry. The benefit of this book over those others is that the patterns you'll create are meant to look more like garments you'd like to wear than many of the more traditional styles the regular pattern books show. 

Why have I got it?

I bought it about five years ago but I can't remember why. I've never been massively into drafting patterns from scratch so I don't know why I chose this one. I think the clean lines of the cute garment styles appealed, as did they lovely photography. 


Does it include patterns?

No but it does include step by step instructions on how to make your own using your own specific body measurements. Theoretically, because they will be based on your own vital stats, the outcome should be better fitting straight off than a pre-made pattern based on 'standard' sizing. Once the basic patterns have been drafted, the book then goes into how you can make changes to them for a pretty wide variety of garment styles. 

Have I used it and would I recommend it?

No I haven't used it, although I did take inspiration from that cream blouse/jacket pictured below to form the basis of my Saint cardigan (RIP). I wouldn't say that there's anything wrong with this book at all, I just figured out pretty quickly that I prefer using ready made patterns, perhaps making tweaks or adapting them, but that I didn't have the patience to draft my own from scratch. 

As I haven't really used it I'm not sure I'd be able to recommend it or not. I guess it would be a good buy if the style of the garments in the book are similar to what you usually make/wear already. 



The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook by Nora Abousteit and Alison Kelly

What is it and who is it aimed at?

Designed very much in the image of the SEW U books, IMO, this hard-back spiral bound book is the first developed by the crew that brought us the BurdaStyle sewing community. It attempts to span all levels of sewing experience, at one end explaining how to thread a sewing machine, and at the other showing possible ideas on how to alter a coat pattern and then make it. I guess it's aimed at the vast number of members of the BurdaStyle sewing community, of which I used to be one. 

Why have I got it?

The best bit about this book, I feel, is that it taps into a vast array of home-sewer creative talent. When they were producing this book, they asked lots of members of BurdaStyle to design variations of the patterns, and then got them to make those variations which were pictured inside. I was asked to design a variation of the blouse, which is the pale pink one pictured in the centre right in the picture below (BTW, I did NOT choose the fabric or colour!). Everyone who took part got a copy of the book sent to them for free.  


Does it include patterns?

Indeed. There's a skirt, blouse, dress, coat and bag. The garment patterns are multi-sized. For each of the patterns there are instructions on how to make it straight-up, plus two other variations explained in detail, plus lots of little images of pattern-hack ideas (like mine). 

Have I used it and would I recommend it?

To be honest, no, I haven't used it aside from to flick through, I therefore can't comment on how the patterns come together or on the construction or pattern hacking directions. I will say that the reason I didn't use it is that none of the patterns appealed to me. I quite liked some of the variations of the original patterns as designed by the community members, but as you may have guessed by my previous comments, I'd rather be sewing than pattern cutting. Sewing patterns aren't a scarcity round my house, so I'm just not going to tackle a pattern that I don't really like if I've got to do anything to it. 




What is it and who is it aimed at?

This chunky hard-back spiral bound sewing book is definitely one for the vintage/retro lovers, and probably Gertie lovers, out there. It doesn't go into super-beginner stuff like how to thread a sewing machine, but it does give lots of info on stuff like fabric choice, pressing tools, buttonholes etc. Normally I'd ignore stuff like that and get straight to the pattern-joy, but this book goes into impressive detail so I think it'd still be very useful for more experienced sewers looking to expand their knowledge. 

Why have I got it?

I got a free copy to review, but I must admit that I never got round to it (naughty Zo). My intention was to make one of the garment patterns from the book and review it at the same time as commenting on my experience of sewing the pattern. Then within weeks of receiving my copy, I discovered I was preggers so with a body about to change in all sorts of ways, I held off and it just never happened. 


Does it include patterns?

I think I already spoilt the answer to this in my previous response. Yes! It has a pencil skirt, portrait blouse, sheath dress, scallop waist full skirt, bow-tie blouse, sweetheart sundress (my favourite), wiggle dress, shirtwaist dress, suit jacket and coat dress PLUS a few variation ideas you can make with each of the original patterns. PHEW! That lady must have been busy. 

Have I used it and would I recommend it?

I have used it in that I've enjoyed reading chunks of it. Gertie really has put soooo much effort into this book. There are heaps of sections on interesting topics that I haven't seen covered in other sewing books like what to look out for when using vintage sewing patterns, what under-garments help give a good retro silhouette and lots lots more. In fact it makes me wonder what she found to write about in her second book! I still haven't used any of the patterns yet so I can't comment on that part, but as a very interesting reference book, then yes I would definitely recommend it.


Ok so that was part one, watch out for parts two and three.... Or don't! I'm going to write them either way hahaha.

9 comments:

Mother of Reinvention said...

Sewing books are fab. I love to have a good read at them and buy LOADS especially vintage ones, but find that the level a lot of the recent releases are pitched at is pretty low/ complete beginner so haven't bothered buying any of those for a while. Gertie's book was a nice change but was not too advanced to be intimidating to novice sewers IMO. Haven't made anything out of it yet either. I have quite a few of the same books as you so I am looking forward to reading your take on them. x

BLD in MT said...

This was all very helpful, Zo. I am now kicking myself that when I was asked "What do you want for Christmas?" I didn't think of Gertie's book! I should go see what sort of sewing books I've acquired.

Frankie Carson said...

I'm so obsessed with sewing books! I've started properly dressmaking now (ie: pretty on the inside and actually able to wear ) and I'm currently working through Tilly's book! Loving every page so far ! X

Birgitte said...

I really enjoyed this! Great to have this in one place, looking forward to the next installments too!

Chuleenan said...

I really like sewing books, too. I buy new ones and used ones. I've got Gertie's book, too. I got it as a birthday present - and I was happy to get it but like you, I haven't made anything from it yet.

Shirley Ann said...

I have a couple of the ones you do! I love sewing books. Some I have gotten to, some I have not. Sometimes I just enjoy flipping through them on the couch with a cup of hot tea...like I was reading a good book!

Scruffybadger said...

Awesome, it's like reintroducing old friends! I've got all of these books and have had just about the same experience- sew u home stretch used hugely, and my knit bible, but nothing made from any of the others. I think I found cal patch's book incredibly helpful as it was my first introduction to pattern cutting and Id never had it explained before. And maybe I used principles for hacking....but the other books are def inspirational sewing flicks, with gertie's book one that I always 'intend' to make something wonderful from. nothing like a book though. I love my sewing bookshelf! Look forward to part two!

Grace Dressmaking said...

Thanks, think I might try the Bura book.

Jen said...

I have the Cal Patch book, too, and I can't really remember why I bought it, either. I love Gertie's books (I have the new one, too) though I haven't made anything from either yet. I'd had the sundress pattern traced and ready to cut out but didn't get to it before the weather got cool. I'm hoping I can get to making something from the new book soon - active babies don't make for a lot of time in the sewing room, as I'm sure you're aware. That and my oldest just moved up a level in some of her dances for Irish dance and now I've got a huge new project: make an Irish dance solo dress by the first weekend in March.

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