November is book month at

Growing Up Sew Liberated: Making Handmade Clothes and Projects for Your Creative Child By Meg McElwee, Published by Interweave Press (June 14, 2011).

Meg McElwee is a teacher and parent, crafter and blogger and she sure knows her stuff. Her latest book is all about sewing for kids – the practical side and fun stuff too. It’s for parents sewing for babies and up to about size 7 – but the bags, toys and dress-ups are more flexible of course. If you know how to size up your own patterns then you can use some of the clothing patterns as a guide to making bigger sizes for your bigger kids. I am going to have to do that with the sleeping johns and crossover tee – I also really love the pants pattern that is included too.

The kids clothing section is minimal because this book is about sewing all the things that your kid will need – there are a few basic clothing items plus other things a cape for dress-ups, a steiner style doll and that fabulous teepee on the front cover! Also there is quite a few baby essentials – including a baby wearing sling, bigs and baby clothes and some sweet toddler alphabet letters. For older kids there is a marvelous nature explorer bag.

For me this book is a big inspiration to throw away (or donate to charity) all those store bought toys and clothes and get back to basics again.

Sewing for Boys: 24 Projects to Create a Handmade Wardrobe By Shelly Figueroa and Karen LePage, Published by Wiley; 1 edition (September 6, 2011).

I want my little boy to go back in time just a couple of years so I can make him some of these cutie pie duds. The clothing sizes range from babies up to age 7 – so if you have little boys in this age group then you are in very good luck – because these duds are super cute and practical too.

Because the patterns are written by the gals at Figgys – you are in good hands – these girls know how to sew and write a readable pattern. The patterns are not all aimed at the beginner sewist – there are some more difficult projects that require collars, pockets, buttons, interfacing, facing etc (The Henry shirt for example) – so there is plenty here to challenge and inspire the experienced sewist – while the beginner is not left out either. The lovely thing about making clothes for your little kids is that they appreciate it and wear it even if it’s not perfect – so the important thing is to give it a try even if you are unsure about whether your skills are up to the job – how else will you improve anyway.

Because I like my kids to have nice things to wear I don’t often indulge in special occasion sewing, but I love that there are some special occasion outfits for boys in here – lovely jackets and shirts with collars, a super cute pair of suspender shorts. But most of my sewing for kids involves quick, easy and practical sewing because I know they will be wearing them in the mud and climbing trees and playing soccer – and luckily this book has some of these sorts of things too – romper suits and raglan t-shirts and drawstring pants.

I did say earlier that the patterns only go up to size 7? You can always size up the patterns yourself – using your child’s current clothing as a guide. I think I might do that with the raglan t-shirt -and the linen shirt.

Project excerpt: Make the cute hat that appears on the cover.


November: Month of books at

Microcrafts: Tiny Treasures to Make and Share Margaret McGuire, Alicia Kachmar, Katie Hatz, Tamara Barker, Claudia Cormier, Elizabeth Duke, Sarah Goldschadt, Larissa Holland, Melissa Jacobson, Len and Melanie Kachmar, Holly Keller, Colleen Lemons, Mei Pak, Mel Sparkles, Jessica Trail, Hope Wattanaphand, Nadia Marks Wojcik. Published by Quirk Books (October 4, 2011).

Quirk books live up to their name and publish some really interesting and well … uhm … quirky books (they may be quirky but they are also pretty cool!)

Microcrafts is a collection of tiny contributor projects (none more than 2 inches high) – based around the concept of tiny handcrafted treasures and using up odd bits of craft supplies. From mini books to use as jewellery, bunting to decorate a cake, polymer clay candy charms and tiny sewn felt puppies – there might just be a project or two perfect to give at the holidays.

Happy Home Made Vol 1: Treasured Collection by Yoshiko Tsukiori has been republished by Penguin Australia into English with full-sized pull-out pattern sheets adapted for Western sizing (Aus6–16).

You might have come across the original Japanese version of this book – or others like it – if so you will already know that the styling is very oh so simple and relaxed and seemingly without fuss. The clothes are loose fitting but not frumpy – a little bit boho – a little bit hippy, but perhaps just Japanese effortless style is more to the point.

Shorts, smock dresses, pinafore dress, tunic top, crossover jacket and tiered skirt – is what you will find in this book – definitely a couple of items I will make to add to my weekend casual attire. So happy it’s in English – yay!

{ 1 comment }

November: Month of books at

1, 2, 3 Sew: Build Your Skills with 33 Simple Sewing Projects by Ellen Luckett Baker, published by Chronicle books.

When I say I love Chronicle books, it’s not because they are also the publishers of my two quilt books – its because they do quality, beautiful, practical books: pattern sleeve, spiral binding, lovely photos, pleasing design – and well edited too. Ellen Luckett Baker’s book is a Chronicle book and has all these great qualities, plus what she brings to the table – which is well made, well designed, thoughtful and lovely sewn projects.

In this book Ellen has gone back to basics to introduce the new to sewing crafter some basic skills which can then be built upon in a series of three projects gradually increasing in difficulty level – great concept and well achieved! For example – pillows – begin with a basic scrappy straight sewn design and learn about an overlapping pillow finish. Move on to blind hem applique and buttonholes and then learn about reverse applique and making a hook and loop fastener – all while making a series of three pillows. Tote bags are another great example – begin by learning about squared corners, then add in a divider and then learn about drawstring closures and French seams. Brilliant.

Project excerpt: You can make the mouse pincushion using this video tutorial.
Ps. Ellen is multi-talented and has just released a line of fabric with Moda. Congratulations Ellen!

Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design, and Inspiration By Malka Dubrawsky, published by Interweave Press (December 7, 2010).

Malka Dubrawsky and Interweave books – what an amazing combination – one of my favourite improv quilters and one of my favourite book publishers all rolled up together: Malka’s stunning colourful designs, combined with Interweave’s attention to detail – love it – and the book delivers!

Malka’s quilts and patchwork designs are all about colour and pattern. She dyes and over-dyes her own fabric and combines these in eclectic and clashing and fun ways that are part gypsy and part country but the final result is completely modern! Her stitching may be a bit wonky at times and her corners may not meet up perfectly – but for me that not only adds to the charm of these improv quilts but also the accessibility of her style – she all about fearless quilting and sewing – just getting in there and doing it. Her fearless style embraces flaws but also discovers new methods, exciting colour combinations and fantastic designs.

PS. You can purchase Malka’s beautiful creations in her Etsy shop.


November (and a little bit into December) is book month at

The Art-Full Tree; ornaments to make.  Jan Gilliam and Christina Westenberger.  The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2011.

If your thoughts are turning to decorating your tree this year, you might like to have a look at The Art-Full Tree, which is inspired by objects in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.

The book begins with a quick history of the museum, that was started by Abby Aldrich Rockerfeller who started collecting and exhibiting folk art in the 1920’s, at a time when common crafts and amateur arts were not highly valued.  She left her collection to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and this collection forms the core of the current Folk Art Museum in Willamsburg, Virginia.

The museum has had a long and treasured tradition of decorating a holiday tree every year with ornaments made by staff, volunteers and guests of the museum.  Some of these ornaments are inspired by items in the collection, and others are based on the skills of each contributor.

The Art-Full Tree presents 33 ornament projects that have been inspired by some of the most popular items in the museum collection.  The book is an interesting combination of museum catalogue, inspiration notebook, project instructions and stitch guide and template sections.

Each project features the original artwork, with a short history of the item and some information on the artist or style of art.  There is a very detailed materials list, and step by step instructions and photographs on making each ornament.

There is a wide range of crafting techniques used in the creation of the ornament projects, including needlepoint, paper craft, punch needle embroidery, foil work, metal punching, painting and collage.  My favourite ornaments are Recycled-Card star (inspired by a compass design quilt), Scherenscnitte Birds (inspired by a cutwork picture), and Aluminium Butterfly (inspired by a metal weathervane).

I really like the process of taking a formal artwork in a formal setting, that is meaningful to the people around it, and appropriating all or part of the work to inspire the creation of anther objet, in this case tree ornaments.  I feel that readers of The Art-Full Tree will be inspired to look around them, in their local museums, public spaces, or around their own treasured and meaningful objects, and to create ornaments for their own family trees that are small and perfect reminders of things that they love.

To win a copy of The Art-Full Tree, please leave a comment on this review.  The comments will be open for 72 hours, and a winner will be selected at random.  Good luck!  Congratulations to Becky!

About the reviewer: Kate is a busy mother of four with many craft projects on the go, including, but not limited to, crochet, knitting, sewing, dyeing, paper making, spinning, felting and bookbinding. Kate has challenges in the areas of finishing things, saying no and craft supplies storage. She also has a very very patient and tolerant husband.




November is book month at

I Am Cute Dresses: 25 Simple Designs to Sew. By Sato Watanabe, English version published by Interweave Press; Reprint edition (September 13, 2011).

I am happy that Japanese clothing designer Sato Watanabe’s book I Am Cute Dresses is now available in English. The 25 dresses in this book are indeed cute – with sweet names such as I Am Hello Halter, I Am Jumper for Joy, and I Am Shift into Tunic. They are all styled to be filmy, loose, romantic and drapey dresses with simple construction and a few interesting details – perfect for summer cottons and light weight linens.

The dresses are simple to make but not boringly so – practice your skills with the various techniques offered: make peak-a-boo or puff sleeves, stand-up or mandarin collar, shirred pleats on the sleeves or pintucks on the neckline, an asymmetrical tunic or a Kimono cut shift dress. The dresses are designed to be one-size-fits-all – which we know is never true, but with a little measuring you may be able to adjust the patterns to fit your body.

I am just a little bit addicted to this book and will be making a dress a bit later today!

You Sew Girl by Nicole Mallalieu, Published by ABC Books, 2011, is available from the ABC Shop.

Nicole Mallalieu is a beautiful seamstress and designer – she has an online shop where you can find patterns and tools to make her bags and purses – she also makes lovely hats and clothing too!

Her first book, You sew, girl is interesting and runs like a lesson plan. It begins with a detailed techniques and pattern section where Nicole does a great job of explaining her methods – she includes step-by-step photos going through the techniques she likes to employ (such as interfacing and bias binding). Her patterns tend to be quite precise and she shows us some very neat tricks and tools to get the same level of detail and precision which she achieves. The second main section includes both accessories and bags which all use patterns and interfacing and her precision methods – you will make use of buttons and zippers and all the other techniques you learned about in the previous chapter, you will learn how to really make your homemade bags and purses look super professional.

The third section and the final chapter is where its really at for me – this section completely disregards the previous sections and tells you leave your perfectionism at the door while you make pattern-free clothing – learn how to measure and fit your body and work with stretch fabrics to make some very flattering outfits.

I think this book is very nicely done – I was super impressed with the attention to detail, the lessons, and then the ability to throw all that away to work in a completely different style – I am really looking forward to seeing what Nicole does next!

{ 1 comment }