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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:


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.



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


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.



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



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!


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


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.


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.


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.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

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.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

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

May Martin's Sewing Bible

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.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

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.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

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

May Martin's Sewing Bible

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…!)

May Martin's Sewing Bible

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

tweed dress

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…

Dressmaking at home

I recently won this book in a giveaway generously hosted by Inna.  It arrived last week and I’ve been remiss in sharing this with you and letting Inna know it’s here safely.

dress at home coverAren’t sewing folk generous?  Thank you so very much Inna.

I love the cover dress and this one too. img904

Isn’t that fabric just divine.  The folklore embroidery is to die for.

I’m really thrilled with this as I do love Japanese sewing books…even if I’ve been terribly intimidated by them!

My problem has always been that I don’t have a well fitting block and I’m a bigger size than the patterns supplied in the books.  Which makes my upcoming adventures with Sew the Perfect Fit even more timely.

stpfThe style of the pattern will, as well as a great fitting dress pattern for the lovely fabrics winking at me in the sewing loft, effectively give me a bodice, sleeve and skirt block.  Which means I’ll be able to finally get to grips with this book and the once kindly gifted to me by the lovely Himmelbjerget aeons ago, and which she’s probably given up all hope of me sewing something from!

Very exciting.

I’m hoping to get to this course in the next couple of weeks.  And I will, of course, review the course and post my progress to the perfect dress.

In the meantime I’ve got to get the camera out and some photos taken and I’ll have projects to share with you.  And once the stuff on the sewing table is finished I’ll be cracking on with STPF.  Yay!

Book Review – Sewing Machine Secrets

I don’t know about you but I use my local village library a lot.   As well as a great resource for novels so that avoid adding to our already overcrowded book shelves, I use the online ordering service to get my mitts on books that I’d like to take a look at before deciding whether or not to buy.  These are usually sewing, knitting or cooking related.

Big surprise there!

The latest book to come my way is Sewing Machine Secrets by Nicole Vasbinder.

IMG_7959_edited-1I’m always pretty dubious about new sewing books as I often find they tend towards a younger, less experienced seamstress. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for anything that encourages new sewists, but they don’t really have much to offer me.

This one, however took me, quite nicely, by surprise.

It’s broken down into two main sections. Section 1 is  “Choosing Machines and Accessories”.  I found the chapter about sewing machine needles to be really informative and useful.


I didn’t know, for example, that there are specific needles for machine quilting. As I’m about to embark on the quilting of the Gardener’s Journal quilt ( *cough* finally *cough*), this was a timely piece of information!

But, for me, it’s in Section 2 that this book really shines. “Sewing Machine Feet and How to Use Them”.  


I love this section!  It’s eminently practical without being too basic.  Perfect for newbies as well as gals like myself who’ve sewn a stitch or two but still have much to learn.


Each chapter covers a particular type of foot in detail giving:

  • clear photos or illustrations of different foot designs in each category, for example, zipper feet,
  • a brief description of the foot and what you will use it for,
  • step by step instructions of how to use the foot,
  • a great photo of the finished product,
  • and extra tidbits of information in “insider secrets” such as:

You can use the rolled hem foot as a guide for sewing on narrow trims…slip the trim through the scroll…it will feed through…making it easy for you to stitch it on straight

And whilst it covers all the basics, such as zipper feet and buttonhole feet, it also looks at some of the more unusual ones too.


Circle attachment anyone?

Who knew?

I am seriously covetous of this little beauty.

But not entirely convinced I can justify it!

Especially when I fess up a little guilty secret!

You see, my current sewing machine and overlocker were replacements for my original machines which were lost when my house flooded years and years ago. They came with several boxes of feet and attachments that have been tucked away in the sewing loft for forever without being used.  Every now and again I’ll think something along the lines of “I could really use a 1/4″ foot”, which will lead me to rummage though the boxes to see if I have said 1/4″ foot or if I need to buy one.

It’s a ridiculous waste of specialist feet and accessories  so yesterday, armed with this book, I pulled them all out.



Good grief!

Half of them are overlocker accessories, which aren’t covered by this book, but the other half are sewing machine feet and ALL of them I could use on a regular basis.

Sadly there isn’t a circle attachment hiding amongst them.  But they are all nice and tidy now and ready to play with.  I think there is a side project of trying out all the overlocker feet, too, and finding out exactly what each of them do.

But in the meantime, I can heartily recommend Sewing Machine Secrets.  I certainly learned something new from it…I suspect you might too!



Whilst my mojo may have deserted me, my brain is working overtime on new ideas.  As I’ve mentioned previously, for the past 10 weeks I’ve been attending a patternmaking class at a local college.  Now that I’ve got my basic blocks fitted and ready to use, I need to start working on developing my skills.  So Mr Stitches purchased the above book for me.  (Thanks, honey.)
It’s a hefty tome, but just so inspiring.  Whilst the Winifred Aldrich book (which was the recommended text for the course)

gives you good basic instructions for a variety of garments, the illustrations themselves are a bit dated for my taste.  Helen Joseph Armstrong’s book is the opposite.  It illustrates a basic concept and then a number of variations.  It even has instructions for all the elements that I’m considering for my wedding dress, which is rather exciting.
So, when I do finally find my mojo, I’m going to have a go at drafting something a little more challenging than a skirt.  This could be the start of something good (and a whole lot cheaper and satisfying that patterns from the Big 4).  Watch this space.
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