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February 2013 book reviews


Recycled Chic upcycling projects and upcycling ideas

Recycled Chic by Amanda McKittrick

This book is full of upcycling ideas for clothing.  The book starts off by introducing you to the tools you will need and the basic techniques you can use to give clothing a new life.  The next section tackles one garment at a time, showing you what you can make with it.  There is a full project with step by step photos and instructions for each transformation.   There are some great ideas for several different types of garments from shirts and t-shirts to dresses and skirts. Recycled Chic upcycling projects and upcycling ideas

The latter part of the book focuses on accessories and embellishments and has projects like a lace belt, a scarf, headbands, fabric covered buttons, a fabric rosette and shoe clips as well as a few different bags too.  At the very back of the book is a guide to different fabric types and how to care for them. 

There are plenty of tips throughout the book on how to decide what to do with a garment, where to find good second hand or vintage clothing plus accessorising and embellishing tips.  There’s also handy notes pages scattered through the book so you can make notes on how you will upcycle your clothes.

I think this book is great value for money and full of good ideas, plus it has plenty of easy to follow projects too.

This book is published by Murdoch Books

Haynes Sewing Manual by Laura StruttThe Haynes Sewing Manual by Laura Strutt

This sewing manual is written by the former editor of Sew Magazine, she was known as Laura Cruickshank then.  It is a brilliant reference guide for beginners.  The book covers the tools you will need, how to use and look after your sewing machine and techniques such as seams, tucks and pleats and corners, trims and edges.

Learn to quilt using the Haynes Sewing ManualIt is then broken down into 3 areas of sewing: Dressmaking, Home furnishing (including quilting) and embellishing & customising covering several different techniques within each of those sections.  It then finishes with 8 projects incorporating skills from all 3 sewing areas covered in the book.  The projects are rated by simplicity and give the time needed to complete the project too.  You will also find a useful trouble shooting section addressing common problems at the back of the book.

The book is really easy to follow; it is very photo heavy which I love as I am very much a visual learner.  I think it’s much easier to understand when you can see things rather than having to try and figure it out from just text.   There are also some very useful tips scattered throughout the book too.

I think this book will prove an invaluable guide for beginner-intermediate sewists.

The book is published by Haynes 

The Vintage Pattern Selector - guide to choosing and using vintage sewing patterns

The Vintage Pattern Selector by Jo Barnfield

This book aims to help the reader learn about vintage styles and how they can bring them into the modern day.  It is split down by garment type and at the start of each chapter covers the main styles for those garments in each decade from 1920s or 1930s through to the 1960s or 1970s.  It tells you how the particular style came about, who used to wear it, what fabrics were used for making the garments and how it was accessorised.  It also shows you some modern versions of those styles.

There is a cd in the back of the book with 15 sewing patterns and the latter part of each chapter shows you how to make up the patterns relevant to that chapter.   These instruction sections give you the measurements of the various sizes, colour diagrams for the pattern construction and written instructions.   I think these patterns would be best for an intermediate to experienced dressmaker. 

Vintage coat sewing pattern from The Vintage Pattern SelectorThere’s a section at the front covering how to use digital patterns and 2 in depth chapters at the back on dressmaking basics – altering the patterns, doing seams, darts, gathers, scallops, zips, pockets etc.

The patterns on the disk include a 1920’s drop waisted dress, a 1950’s circle skirt, 60s/70’s wide leg trousers, 1960s box jacket, 1920s slip and French knickers and a 1960’s pillbox hat.   The patterns on the disk are pdfs and are named by the page number you find the instructions on in the book.  I have to say that the big downside is that most patterns are 40-70 pages which would put me off printing them!   However that said if there was only one pattern you wanted it wouldn’t be too bad considering you get the book and all the patterns for under £15.

If you love vintage this is the book for you, it’s full of information and inspiring patterns.

This book is published by Bloomsbury 

 Simply Serging book review How to use an overlocker

Simply Serging by Charlene Phillips

If you have just got a serger (or overlocker as we call them in the UK) then this book would be great to get you going.  It starts off by explaining what an overlocker is, what you can use it for, the most common stitches and gives you a guide to the accessories, feet and threads.   It also tackles the dreaded threading process, giving a link to some useful videos you can watch online too (here), and tells you how to use the machine.

All of this instruction is accompanied by large colour photos which make it very clear what you should be doing.   The author also shares many questions that she has been asked through her site and gives her response – to help address common queries.

How to use an overlocker bookOnce you’ve got the hang of using your overlocker you then turn to the second half of the book: the projects.  There are 25 different projects including a few different bags, pyjama trousers, a pillow case,  baby bib, little girl’s top and an apron.  There are useful tips scattered through out the projects as well as step by step photos and instructions. 

At the very back of the book there is a guide to maintaining your overlocker.   This book is an easy to follow guide to using overlockers which would be ideal for beginners.

This book is published by Krause Publications