Tag Archives: books

The Gentleman’s Wardrobe – Book Review

Sewing for my man isn’t something I’ve done a lot of in the past, although he’s not short of woolly socks! I’m hoping to do more for him in the future, but there is a dearth of good menswear patterns out there.

So it was with bated breath that I’ve been awaiting my copy of The Gentleman’s Wardrobe, Vintage-Style Projects to Make for the Modern Man by Vanessa Mooncie.

The book is beautiful to look at.  The styling is reminiscent of Japanese sewing books. Moody shots in a modern industrial setting.  Whilst the styling appeals to the “hipster” look my husband likes, the patterns are really quite classic.

The shirts, trousers and a jacket could all be made up in different fabrics to achieve different looks.  They are the kind of patterns that once you’ve got the fit nailed you’d have a set of basic styles that you could make over and over again for the man in your life.

There’s also a selection of useful accessories and nightwear.

It really does cover all the bases.  The only thing really missing would be an overcoat.  But that’s nit picking.

The book is, for a change, not aimed at the beginner sewist.  There are some basic techniques included, but this is not a “learn to sew’ book.

There are full sized pattern sheets included.  They do require tracing but are nowhere near as busy as a Burda pattern sheet so should pose no trouble.

As you can imagine I was really excited to look through this book and was, quite frankly, planning to make everything except the wallet and bow tie and short sleeved shirt for my mister.  The styles are that good and these are the only garments he wouldn’t wear.

And then I checked the size chart.

My man has a 19″ neck.  And his chest is definitely more than a 42! The grading to get these to size would be ridiculous.

And lets be honest.  As with us ladies, the 16″ neck market is widely served with both RTW and vintage patterns.  This was a great opportunity to hit an untapped and underserved market with cool patterns that a wide range of men would be glad to wear.

Sadly it’s an opportunity that once again has been missed.

Thankfully I’d ordered this from the library to “audition” it.  It’s not a book I’ll be buying.

I’m so disappointed!


Stylish party dresses – book review

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I am so late to the party with this review (see what I did there?).  But if you missed other folks thoughts on the matter, then stick with me, because I think this is a super book.

I have a really big soft spot for Japanese sewing books and have to contain myself and not buy all of them just because they are so pretty.  I do have a problem with them, namely  a) I have to grade every single pattern if I want to maintain the proportions, and b) oftentimes the shapes are designed to flatter a more boyish figure.  One thing I’ve never been accused of is having a boyish figure.

Stylish Party Dresses has some gorgeous patterns that not only do I want to make but which would fit my lifestyle and, I think, my figure.

So here are my best picks:

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This is my absolute favourite from this book.  I can see this in a navy silk, with matching cigarette pants and heels for a date night with hubby.  Gorgeous.  But it would also be lovely in linen over shorts for those hot summer days that we’re hoping to get.

A girl can hope, no?

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I don’t know where the urge to wear a jumpsuit is coming from.  I haven’t worn one of those since about 1994!  But this is lovely.  I’d make it in a plain solid with lace or sheer for the yoke/bow.  And, of course, several more inches on the trouser legs!

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This is just gorgeous.  Again I think the hem could drop a couple of inches, but other than that, everything is perfect.  Wouldn’t this be charming for warm summer evenings and dinner on the patio with friends?

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I love this dress for dinner dates with The Husband.  I’m not loving this colour, but change that and I think this has just the right mix of comfort, style and little details. I’m particularly fond of the shaped hem and the gorgeous sleeves.  You could, of course, give it a straight hem…that would then make it quite a timeless piece.

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Last, but by no means least, is this cute swing dress.  Whilst I wouldn’t really consider this a party dress, I’d love it in linen with flats for the summer. It would also be cute if you shortened it a bit and wore with leggings in colder weather.

The pattern sheets will be familiar to anyone who has ever traced a Burda pattern.

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When you consider the cost of a Vogue pattern, or some of the Indie offerings (£12.50 for an elastic waisted skirt!), this book is really quite modestly priced at £12 on Amazon UK.

Whilst I’m very much focussed on sewing basics for myself at the moment, I’m hoping to slip one or two of these into the mix too.

A girl can never have too many pretty dresses.  Wouldn’t you agree?

The disclaimer:

I received a free copy of this book from the kind folks at Tuttle Publishing in return for my review.  As always all thoughts are my own…and you know I call a spade a spade.  For what it’s worth I’d happily pay £12 for this book.  

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She wears the pants….winner!

She_wears_the_pants_1I’m pleased to announce the winner of this copy is Katy M!

Congratulations Katy.  Please drop me an email with your home address and I’ll pop this in the post to you.

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition and the debate.  I’ve really enjoyed the conversation.

 


She wears the pants – review and giveaway

Yay…giveaway time!  I lurve a good giveaway and this one’s no exception.

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The lovely peeps over at Tuttle shared this book with me for review, but you know, as always, all opinions are my own.

So, to the book.  Can we talk about the elephant in the room first?  “She wears the pants”. What were they thinking?  The original title of the book “She has a mannish style” is much more appropriate and really shows how easily things can get lost in translation, and why it’s so important to check cultural norms when carrying out any translation work.  To be honest, my preference would have been for them to include some of the strap-line and title the book “She has an urban style”, which would actually better encapsulate the contents of this book.

Like all Japanese sewing books this is very stylised.  Perhaps a little too much for my taste. Some of the photos are a somewhat too dark to properly see the garment, and you have to rely on the technical drawing. For me, this isn’t a book I’d make lots out of, but that’s because I’m not that hip! I don’t think it’s an age thing, more a personal style thing.

That said there are some garments that with a little tweak would fit perfectly in my wardrobe, you just have to restyle them in your head.

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I love this jacket and think it would be a great trans-season piece in a good weight of ponté jersey.

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This draped cardigan would look great with cigarette trousers and loafers.

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This is a very classic blouse that would work in just about anyone’s wardrobe.

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And with a bit of length added this blouse would work brilliantly with leggings or jeans.

As you’d expect the instructions are minimal but you do have some really clear drawings to help you out.

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And the pattern pieces included in the back don’t have seam allowances, so you’ll need to add them.

Finally, I have one final, but rather large caveat, and that’s the sizing.  Whilst I appreciate that the Japanese market for which this book was originally intended is markedly more petite than the western market this edition is designed for, I’m surprised and disappointed at the very small range of sizes included.

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Even taking the largest size I’d be having to grade that bust up by at least 30%. Which is a real shame because there’s a whole section of the sewing population that would love to dive into cool, Japanese sewing patterns and can’t because they either don’t have the skills or the inclination to carry out such a significant grading exercise.  I probably fall into the middle of both categories.

I really hope the publishers take this on board as more of these books become available in English and that they expand their size ranges accordingly.

However, let’s not detract from the fact that, quibbles aside, this is a great book that I’d definitely recommend if your style leans toward an urban look.

And I have a copy up for grabs!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Japanese patterns in general and sizing in particular, so leave me a comment below before Friday 22nd May and I’ll draw the winner at random.


Sewing for your girls….giveaway winners.

Sewing_for_your_girlsClassic Button…sassy as sassy can be!

But it’s time to pick the lucky winners of the Sewing for Your Girls giveaway.  I used Random.org to select them.

So, Birdie and Katie Sinclair you each get a copy of this adorable book.

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Ladies, please drop me an email with your postal address and I’ll get your copy out to you as quickly as I can.

Thank you to everyone who entered…I wish I had a copy for each of you.  But I’ve another giveaway coming soon.  This time it’s one for the grown ups, so do stay tuned.

 


Sewing for your girls – review and giveaway

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Thanks to the lovely guys over at Tuttle Publishing I received a copy of their new title “Sewing for your girls” by Yoshiko Tsukiori, which is available in the UK from Amazon on  the 15th April 2015.

I decided to road test this book and the blouse I’ve been teasing you with is Basic Pattern #7 (catchy, no?) made up in Liberty Tana Lawn purchased from Washable Fabrics on Preston Market for a tenner.

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This book is delightful.  There are 8 patterns in total, 7 of which has a basic and an applied version, which, as you’ve probably guessed, has a little more going on.   You’ll see from the photo above, which is the blouse I made, that using pattern #7 you can make an adorable blouse or a lovely summer dress.

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As well as the patterns the book also has a wealth of clearly photographed advice to give you the best chance of getting a great result.

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The patterns traced from printed pattern sheets that are stored in the back of the book.  A word to the wise….they don’t include seam allowances to do allow for that when tracing. Ask me how I know!!!

Given the chance I’d change a couple of things about this book, but they are only minor gripes.

So…to the blouse.  I really enjoyed sewing this one.  It’s beautifully drafted with facings to the front and armholes and bias binding to the back neckline.  The front ruffles and round collar add a sweet touch without being overly twee.  This is a good thing.  I’m not mad on ruffles but these hit the mark.

Button didn't want to do photos, so we decided that dancing was the only way forwards.

Button didn’t want to do photos, so we decided that dancing was the only way forwards.

I cut a size 120 for my 116cm tall 7 year old, based not only on height but chest measurements.

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I couldn’t be happier with the result.

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Button loves it too!

The details on this top are really quite lovely.

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sewing_for_your_girls_9Gorgeous, no?

Now, if you, like me, have a very pernickety small girl to sew for then I suspect that you’d like a copy of this book too.  Good job I’ve got a couple of copies to give away, then! 😉

Edited to remove Rafflecopter and say…leave me a comment below to be entered into the draw!


Sewing for kids…Japanese pattern books reviewed

I’d like to lay money on the fact that you’re far more organised than I am as we look down the barrel of Christmas.  Chez Stitches there is hardly a gift purchased, nor the handmade ones even started. Today the house lies under a layer of dust as the walls are chased out to fit the new patio door.  The decorator is coming on Sunday to finish the last room.

And, although I’m not a gambling woman, I’m sure its safe to say that you’ve already written to Santa, explaining that it really wasn’t your fault and that you should actually be safely ensconced on the “nice” list!

So, whilst sewing is likely the last thing on your mind at the moment, don’t forget that this will all be over in a couple of weeks and normal service will be resumed.  And with that in mind, if you’ve got small peeps in the household, drop everything, fire up the laptop, and send Santa photographic evidence of your innocence and ask, nay beg, him to pop a copy of any, or, indeed, all, of the following books into your Christmas stocking.  Because once the glitter dust of Christmas has settled, you’re going to want to make the wee ones All. Of. The. Things!

First up…Sew Chic Kids by Ruriko Yamada:

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Such cute, easy to sew casual clothes for boys and girls aged 2 to 8, with full sized pattern sheets in the back of the book.

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Clear diagrams walk you through the construction, with top tips to help you get a great result.

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Basically all the beautiful design and inspiration that we’ve come to expect from Japanese sewing books, but in English!  Soooooo cool!

Sew Sweet HandMade Clothes for Girls by Yuri Araki is chock full of adorable outfits for your favourite girl aged 1 – 8.

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This time the instructions have written sewing steps as well as detailed diagrams.

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There’s even a couple of photographic sewing lessons that walk you through the construction of a little sleeveless dress, but which also shows you techniques that are used in other garments in the book.  Genius!

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And last, but not least, is Girls Style book by Yoshiko Tsukiori and H.H.

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Aimed at little girls aged 4 – 10 the styling is a little more grown up but still very age appropriate.  And again there are written sewing steps to make the whole process even simpler.

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When Tuttle approached me to review Sew Sweet, I was really pleased to do so as I’d been contemplating purchasing my own copy of this having seen the beautiful clothes Sanae stitches for her daughter.  To receive all three books was an unexpected and delightful bonus.

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The patterns are all classic styles that can be sewn over and over again for your littlies without their wardrobes becoming tired or dull.  They have clean lines that showcase gorgeous fabrics, and simple closures to make them quick and easy to sew and for small folk to put on and off.

For me this is the hallmark of a great sewing book. Inspirational styling with practical wearability, clear instructions to help you get a beautiful result, and a range of sizes that ensures you’ll get great value for money (I checked the price of these on Amazon UK today and they’ll set you back about £12.  Less than the price of most indy sewing patterns and working out to as little as 50p per pattern dependent on the book!)

So…tell Santa to sort it!  Or treat yourself so that you’ve got something to look forward to in the grey and dismal days of January.  Either way…you’ll be glad you did!

Thanks to Tuttle Publishing for providing me with these books for review. (Guys…I’ve lost your emails in the transfer of laptops…apologies!)  And to Sewing Princess for pointing them in my direction.  As always all opinions are my own, but I can sleep easy knowing that if you’ve got small folk you’ll love these patterns.  And expect to see my little Miss and Mr popping up in makes from them next year


May Martin’s Sewing Bible – Review

Recently I have requested from the library a number of knitting reference books and over the next few weeks I hope to share my reviews of them with you. However, whilst in the library this week I noticed May Martin’s new book on the shelf and, obviously, swept it up in anticipation of an evening of delight spent increasing my sewing knowledge.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

I think my enthusiasm may have been premature.

Calling your book a “Sewing Bible” does somewhat set the expectations of the reader that this is going to be a reference tool of some depth and breadth.  Sadly this book falls short. It runs to 320 pages, yet only 100 of them are allocated to sewing techniques and information.  This results in each topic only being covered in summary fashion.

An example of this would be the section on “altering a pattern” which is covered in less than 1 page.  The same amount of space is given to discussing tailor’s dummies.

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Hardly “Sewing Bible” status.

The illustrations are also disappointing.  The book has many artful photographs sprinkled about the place, but illustrations are sparser and, I found, not always accurate.  Surely when stay-stitching a neckline you sew from the shoulder to the centre of the neckline on each side?

Not according to May.

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As for the “vintage” snippets of “sewing wisdom”…I’m frankly perplexed as to their function!

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So far, so not so good.

Surely the projects section, which is divided up into several topical sub-sections, and which occupies the bulk of the book, would be more inspiring?

First up…Crafts.  Table runner.  Napkins. Bunting. Christmas stocking.  Hasn’t every beginner’s sewing book for the last 5 years included a version of these.  It’s so unoriginal.  Even the slightly more imaginative projects such as the puppet theatre have been done many times before…as any 5 minute search on Pinterest will show you.

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The home furnishings section is so dull it should be prescribed as a solution for insomnia. Cushion covers, a roman blind, bag lined curtains.  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

And don’t get me started about the pleating on that curtain.  It’s just awful…not enough fabric has been used so the curtain is lacking in fullness.

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And if that didn’t work, you could always use the accessories section.

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But wait, what’s this?  Adult and children’s fashion sections!  Surely they will save the day?

Oh look…a cute shift dress. (I’m ignoring the drag lines at this point…!)

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Where’s the pattern pages?  What size does it go up to?

What?

May Martin's Sewing Bible

McCalls M6355!

You mean I have to go out and BUY THE PATTERN?

On top of the cost of the book?

And don’t sewing patterns ALREADY HAVE AN INSTRUCTION SHEET??

As Button is wont to say….What. The. What?

May Martin's Sewing Bible

I’m sorry…I just don’t think that’s good enough.

I know this post isn’t the usual upbeat review that I like to post, but this book clearly sets its stall out to be a “Sewing Bible” yet it’s very obviously a long way away from being such a thing.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

If you were a beginner sewist looking for a good sewing book to set you off on your newly discovered hobby, the title and the back cover, where May’s, not unimpressive, credentials are clearly set out, would probably be enough to persuade you to purchase this book. You’d not, of course, have enough experience to see the not inconsiderable gaps in the content. And, all mocking aside, this is my biggest gripe with this book and one which actually makes me quite cross.

At RRP £25.00 this isn’t a cheap buy. I personally think that even the Amazon discounted price of £12.50 is a bit much for a book which is, in my opinion, not much more than a triumph of style and marketing over substance. It feels very much like it’s been pulled together to take full advantage of the current upsurge in people learning to sew, and to ride on the coattails of the Sewing Bee. I’d have no qualms about this if I thought the content was fresh and inspiring and actually added something to the subject.   But I don’t feel that it does.  Add in the presumptuous title of “Sewing Bible” (there’s the sarcastic inverted commas again), and I find the whole project to be more than a little disingenuous.  Which is a real shame.

Needless to say this is one tome that won’t be making it’s way into my sewing library. Neither would I recommend it.  It’s not a patch on the good old Reader’s Digest sewing book that many of us learned to sew with, nor Tasia’s Sewtionary which has been much feted in the blogosphere over recent weeks, with very good reason.

Save your pennies, dear reader, by not buying this book.  I’d suggest that there are better ways to spend them.

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Ivy + Bean

When Button was in reception class she was, shall we say, a recalcitrant learner.  She suffers terribly from shiny squirrel syndrome…

a…b….see, there’s a squirrel in the playground

I’ve been fine with that.  She was 4 when she started school and, as she came home to us with significant global developmental delay, I was more than happy to let her set the pace.  Whilst I completely understand why some parents ensure their child starts school with some reading and writing skills, it was not something that concerned me.  I have friends who are teachers and they’ve always assured me that a) my kids were doing just fine thank you (and possibly a little too well on the verbal communication!) and b) it all levels out in the end.

This tactic paid off.  This year, she’s flying.  Reading, writing, maths.  She loves it all. Heavens, she quoted Neil Armstrong to me the other week. And often helps Boy with his letters.

I’m an incredibly proud mum!

With this in mind I’ve been trying very much to engage her in stories that I can read her at bed time, which are age appropriate, but also little more grown up than the books that we’ve always read and which are much loved (Julia Donaldson is, and always will be, a hero in this house.)

Enter my trusty local bookseller, who recommended a series called Ivy + Bean.

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One of the big problems of being a kid is that your parents often try to make you play with people you don’t really like…These kids were often weird. I didn’t want to play with them. It was a problem.

But sometimes opposites can become the best of friends because they’re opposites…For Ivy and Bean, their differences mean that they have more fun together than they could ever have separately…The Ivy and Bean books are about the adventures—and disasters—created by this unlikely team.

These delightful chapter books have completely entranced Button.  We read one chapter a night and she begs for more.

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Significantly, she retains the story, it’s so engaging.  I sat quietly earlier this week listening to her telling Nana all about how the protagonists tormented Bean’s elder sister with worms and ‘magic’.  Button roared with laughter as she recounted the tale.

I knew we were onto a winner!  In a world where girls are bombarded by Disney princesses (is it wrong that I’m  proud that Button can only name about 2 of them), Ivy + Bean are a charmingly mischievous antidote to saccharine sweetness, lounging around awaiting princely rescue, and princess dresses.

Today I picked up book 2.

book2It’s only been two nights since we finished book 1 and she’s been bereft. So when she discovered the book under her bed this evening she shrieked with joy and danced around the bedroom shouting “book, book, book”.

It’s joyous.  A whole world of knowledge and adventure awaits her, and she’s starting to venture into it.  Ivy + Bean are the new heroes of the hour.  And the reason why we must support our local bookstores.  You just don’t get that kind of service from Amazon!

So, if you’ve not already discovered Ivy + Bean for yourself and the small girl in your life, can I recommend that you do.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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The Couture Cardigan Jacket

I’m in the really rather fortunate position of only living about an hour from the legendary Linton Tweeds shop.

image courtesy of lintondirect.co.uk

Don’t hate me!

I have visited once before, when I bought the fabric for my Chanel style dress.

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I’m longing to make a classic Chanel style jacket, but am waiting until the CrossFit kicks in and I’m a bit slimmer before putting all that work into a garment.  To be fair I’m not planning much sewing for myself over the coming months.  Only garments that will be easy to alter.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to open my email inbox this morning to an email from Threads with details of a new book available for pre-order.

cardigan_jacketOh my!

Make this signature jacket for yourself. Coco Chanel’s designs have captivated the imaginations of fashion lovers for generations. Now, with The Couture Cardigan Jacket, home sewers can create their own high-fashion jackets with the impeccable look and fine detailing of the iconic original.

I am so excited by this book…I’ve already pre-ordered it.  It’s available on Amazon.co.uk for £15.19 with free delivery.  A bargain, no?

In The States you can order from Taunton press direct.

It looks like its going to be an amazing resource:

Learn the fine art of couture sewing. With The Couture Cardigan Jacket, you will be able to follow all the steps involved in replicating the characteristics of this signature jacket, including:

  • Cutting and shaping the jacket sections

  • Sewing princess seaming

  • Setting the sleeve

  • Adding the chain weight

  • Creating the double buttonhole

It should be with me early in November.

And who knows, maybe Father Christmas will bring me a voucher for Lintons…