Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Review of Sewing Books, or how too much lace makes Kate a dull girl

It has arrived: my normal fall dose of startitis, that illness that sends countless knitters into fits of casting on countless projects the minute the temperature drops into the 50s in the daytime (that's in Fahrenheit by the way). However,  due to the excessive knitting required for the year-long Michigan blanket slog, startitis is not arriving in a form I was expecting. Yes, dear readers, my fingers have been itching to sew.

Or rather, "learn to sew" would probably be more accurate, as I currently own a sewing machine but lack the ability to sew a straight line with it. On the plus side, my mother tells me that part of my problem may be that, in the past, I have not chalked the straight line onto the fabric before sewing it. This finally gave me insight into why I needed to purchase fabric chalk, which I did years ago and for which I never found a use.

I have refrained from trying anything as of yet, because I'm still knitting away at that blanket. What have I done? Requested every how-to-sew book I could find from my local library. As they continue to come pouring in, I'm going through each one to decide which one will likely teach me anything in a useful, understandable way.

What I've found so far:
  • I wasn't a big fan of the projects in  Sew Liberated, Sweet & Simple Handmade, or 1, 2, 3 Sew, though of the three only 1, 2, 3 Sew is a beginner book. I liked Growing Up So Liberated but was let down by the fact that the children's projects included were mostly, in fact, for infants and toddlers (which sort of skips the child demographic I was after entirely).
  • I found both Sew U and Sew Everything Workshop helpful. Sew U  had better instruction and detailed ideas for how to personalize patterns after learning to sew them by rote. However, it has a limited list of projects available in it, restricted to three patterns, a skirt, pants, and a collared dress shirt. Sew Everything Workshop did not have instructions quite as detailed but had a wide variety of patterns at various experience levels. However, they are not listed by experience level, which can be confusing.
  • Likewise, I loved the patterns in Sew Serendipity but the explanations in The Collette Sewing Handbook. I will probably buy Sew Serendipity eventually, but I decided it is not a beginner book. The patterns and fabrics, though, are inspiring, as is the can-do attitude of the author. The Collette Sewing Handbook, however, has lack-luster projects that don't look very attractive on their respective models but very detailed instructions with play-by-play pictures. It would be a real contender for me if the projects wowed me at all.
  • I probably want to buy a copy of Simplicity's How to Use Your Sewing Machine. It doesn't include patterns or instructions for how to read them. It restricts its reach to making the reader more familiar with the parts and workings of a sewing machine, which I desperately need.
  • The best of the books I have gone through so far is Stitch by Stitch. This book starts out with simple projects that don't really make anything useful but teaches a necessary skill. Each succeeding project builds on the skills in the projects that come before it. A little over halfway through the book, re-useable patterns start to make an appearance. By the end, it takes a glance at advanced techniques. Best of all, it has large color pictures to show a step-by-step process that goes along with the written instructions. I got done skimming through this book and felt like I might actually be able to do this whole sewing thing, and that's saying something.
Will this amount to anything? We'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I have some more lace to knit.

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