Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Bag heaven

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I was very happy when I found out that Lisa Lam was writing a book, I am an avid reader of her blog and I just knew her book was going to be great!  When the publishers David & Charles asked me to review it I said “yes” before they finished the sentence; but I never thought how difficult it was going to be to review this book.  If you have already looked through the pages of The Bag Making Bible, you’re probably thinking that I am not making sense because it is such a cool book that it must be so easy to give it 5 stars.

It is true that the book is a wonderful compilation of all you need to know about how to make a bag, including what tools you do need, the techniques to master, the materials to use, everything.  So why it was so difficult for me to write a review?  Well, I have already read lots of reviews, spoken to people that already own the book including sewing tutors, who all say the book is fantastic, even Amy Butler has said wonders about it, that quite honestly I am struggling to find something new to say about it.

Perhaps if I tell you about my relationship with bags and the effect that The Bag Making Bible has had on me, you will get a bit of a different perspective of how good this book is.  I LOVE bags, this is not the typical girly thing about having lots of bags; I truly have this thing (you can call it an obsession) with bags.  Apart from the simple tote bag, I much prefer buying bags than making them (yeap I said it).  Don’t ask me why but I do. Or I did until I read Lisa’s book.

The BMB (as I call it, fingers getting tired) offers you endless possibilities of how to make your ideal bag.  It teaches you the skills to construct each part of a bag, plus it also has a few patterns that apply the techniques that are shown in clear, step-by-step instructions with useful images (not only those pretty and artistic photos that are not very helpful when you have a question midway through your project), and best of all there are tiny little tips throughout the book, a sort of post-it notes that the author has left to guide you on your way.

So my perfect bag is a real possibility, I can now modify bag patterns to make it 100% suitable for what I need and want.  Enough pockets to keep my stuff in place, but not too many that I spend hours looking for keys; a lining that is not too dark that camouflages my mobile phone; long enough handles that it can be used as a shoulder bag, but not so short that is just a handbag; nice edges to make it look professional, and well, the fabric that suits my mood!

The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam is published by David and Charles click here to buy it.

Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts and….

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Almost everybody that knows me will know that I am a huge fan of Martha Stewart, so when this book arrived a few days ago I knew I was on a good start.

If you are familiar with Martha Stewart’s books, The Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts follows the same great formula.  This book has been well thought out and all of the information is very well organised and structured; so well in fact that this might be one of the best sewing reference books that you will find.  For me, what makes a good reference book is not just the photos, but how easy you can find what you are looking for, this book has both, lots of cool pictures and easy to follow layout.

The book is aimed at both the newcomer and seasoned crafter alike, starting from explaining the different types of fabrics, and moving on to tips on setting up a sewing area, through to basic techniques, including hand sewing, appliqué, different types of embroidery (yes, it also includes sashiko too!), quilting, patchwork, dyeing fabric, and even printing.  It comes with a CD that includes all the patterns and templates needed for the projects in the book.  So there is no need for guessing shapes, sizes or risk of damaging the book trying to get a photocopy of a pattern!

The projects are many and varied and to be honest quite a few of them you will find on Martha Stewart’s website; but if you are a little bit like me, I much prefer having all of those instructions, tips and photos in a beautiful hard cover book.

The projects are very creative and inspiring.  Reading through the book over last few evenings I found myself saying several times in my most affirmative and almost imperative tone “yes, I am going to make this bag, after this patchwork cushion cover, and these felt book cover are just perfect Christmas presents, but first I must make this pincushion too, I need it for all this sewing (by this moment my tone has changed and I sound a bit more like I am reading a letter to Santa), and our bathroom towels would definitely look nicer if I add this little touch…OMG Japanese sashiko patterns, I have always wanted to learn…”

Of the long list of pretty things that I want to make from this book, I might only get around to making a few, but I know that time and time again I will look to this book for some inspiration and a bit of guidance too.

Well I close for now, I must get started with one of those pincushions.

Lizzet xx

Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts is published by David and Charles click here to buy it.

I see it. I like it. I make it.

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

I am seriously thinking about making those three statements my mantra, maybe having them in big letters in my studio, or maybe in my purse so everytime I am about to buy something that I can make myself I will put it back on the rack and head back home with a quick stop at the DIY store…. yes, DIY store.  No, I am not going to start  capentry or plumbing now, but I have just read Erica Domesek’s latest book, P.S. – I made this, and came across her blog and I have realised that to be fashionable we don’t need to spend lots on money on that clutch bag, neither do we need to have many sophisticated machines or tools to make a necklace or a striped t-shirt.  We just need a to be a bit creative, check what we’ve got in our wardrobe and a pair of scissors!

Her book might not be for everybody.  Her style is trendy and very very funky, but I love it!  And what I love most of all is that she is not afraid of turning a normal, basic, everyday bag into something that looks very similar to the ones you see in the latest fashion magazines.

Fashion and craft go hand in hand in this book

Whilst one or two of the ideas and projects in the book might be a bit too funky for me (let’s face it, you will never see me riding my Pashley bicycle in Oxford town centre with sparkly high heels!),  there are lots of things that I could easily modify to suit my own style.  My personal favourites are the ruffle tank (the ruffles are made with coffee filters!), a cowl neck vest that you can make in no time and a stud cuff.

Erica’s instructions in this book are presented as  ideas, guidelines, quick and easy directions to create something modern and inexpensive, do not expect to see exact measurements and patterns to follow.

Perhaps one of the most important things from this book and from Erica’s work as a whole, is her call to be creative, to think outside the box, and reuse things to make something unique and personal which still follows fashion and trends, and above all, to be proud to say “I made this!”.

P.S. – I made this… by Erica Domesek is published by Abrams, £11.99 (ISBN 978-0-8109-9603-8)

Reviewing: Little “Wrap” Skirt

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

As you might already know I have added to our stock Patterns by Wink Designs.  They are pretty designs for girls and what’s great is, the patterns are downloadable, so you get them straight away.  As well being very pretty they are also very easy to make.  Originally, I wanted someonelse to review them and let you know that they are what the label says.  Unfortunately it was not possible and I almost gave up until my always supportive husband asked me “why don’t you make it yourself?”.  Firstly I didn’t want to do it, because I thought my review might sound a bit too much like an advert rather that that of a non-bias critic, but I guess I will leave it for you to judge.  So please have a read, even if you are not interested in children’s patterns you are welcome to join me in my sewing projects.

Wrap skirt made using Memento and Sun Spots from Amy Butler's Love Collection

Where were we? Ah yes, Wink’s patterns.  I decided to go for the Wrap Skirt for two main reasons: 1) it says it is an easy and quick project, 2) I personally love the design.

Choosing the fabrics was an easy task, not only because I have them in my own house, but because I wanted to make something with Memento in Midnight and Suns Spots in Mint they almost jumped off the shelves.   The skirt is more of a mock wrap-skirt, so even if your child is jumping up and down the skirt won’t fall down.

After printing the instructions, I put together the pattern.  There are 2 main pieces, each one of them is made up by putting together 4 A4 sheets of paper together (this would had been much easier if I had closed the windows, I hope nobody saw me chasing the pattern around the room each time a gust of wind blew through! but nothing to blame the designer for).  Cutting the fabric would had been easier had I not been on the phone with my nan, which resulted in cutting the piece of fabric that wraps the skirt the wrong way (again, no one to blame just my lack of multitasking skills).  Instead of cutting more fabric, I decided to use what I had already cut and make a few changes, so the skirt now mirrors the original design (instead of having to tie it to your left, this one ties to the right, no big deal right?).  Which I could say shows how forgiving the pattern is should a mistake be made by the not so experienced or, as in my case, distracted maker.

Before we pass on to the sewing part I want to clarify that I have not sewn any kind of garment for 3 years; ever since I have been moving my sewing machine from one part of  the house to another but not doing anything with it.  I would also say that I am a beginner with some rough sewing skills.  Having clarified that, I feel now more comfortable  saying that it was very easy to put the skirt together.

Back of the skirt but still so not less pretty than the front.

As always, it does help if you press the fabric to get a neat finish and use the right colour of thread.  I used two because I didn’t like the navy blue thread on the mint fabric.  More importantly, reading the instructions from start to end before you start it is always a must (OK I confess, I only read them after I cut everything, but didn’t go any further until I read all the remaining steps).  Reading the instructions will not only give you a better understanding of what are you going to do, but also the way Marina (the designer) has written them, it makes you feel like she is talking to you, something that you don’t often find with many commercial patterns.

Would I recommend this pattern?  Absolutely Yes!  It took me one afternoon to make it, if I hadn’t been on the phone (or chasing the pattern around the room!) I could have done it a bit quicker.  This is the first time I print and assemble a pattern, but because the skirt is made of simple lines and it is a small garment it is much easier than you think.  I didn’t put the pocket on because I love so much the Memento fabric that I didn’t want to put anything on top.  I also used the main fabric for the ties for the same reason.  The final result was a skirt that suits a little lady but the fun contrasting spotty fabric remind us that she is still a little child, don’t you think?

I must admit that making this skirt has filled me with confidence to try sewing other things, so if you don’t have a little girl to make it for, try it anyway, the satisfaction that comes from making something like this can’t be beaten!

Simple is better

Friday, August 13th, 2010

A few days ago I received one of the latest craft books published by David and Charles, Simple Sewn Gifts by needlecraft expert Helen Philips.  As I was looking at the 25 projects the only thing I could think of was of all those vintage little treasures that from time to time we come across in a bazaar or at many of the vintage shops at Etsy.

The projects in this book are, as the title suggests, simple but they are also full of charm.  It is a perfect book for a beginner, but also a more experience crafter can benefit from the lovely ideas in this book.

Vintage style pincushion, scissor fob & needlebook

The book is divided in to 3 chapters, At home, Loved Ones and Get Festive.  Basically you can make gifts for any occasion all year around.

One of my favourite projects is the Dolly’s Cosy Quilt, which reminds me of some of the quilts that were on display as part of the past Quilts exhibition at the V&A, perhaps a bit more simple but very charming indeed.  It is a lovely quilt that is embellished with buttons, yo-yos made of contrasting fabric and cross-stitched daisy flowers and elephants.

Dolly's Cosy Quilt

There is also a lovely rabbit that I am sure it could become a little someone’s best friend.  You will find great things for the house too and even a little gift for your pet.  After all they are our unconditional friends.

All of these projects, as well as the book itself, would make lovely presents that will be treasured for years to come.  If you are as nostalgic as I am, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of this book and tell me what are of the most unforgettable presents that you have ever received.

Bunny Cuddles

The winner will be chosen at random Thursday 19th August and published on this blog on 20th August.

Simple Sewn Gifts by Helen Philipps is publish by David and Charles, click here to buy it.