sewing books

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!

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Welcome to my fave books of the year series of posts. Over the next week I will be showcasing my favourite books of the year, last week I discussed mine and my kids fave books, yesterday you met my favourite cooking and food books, and later in the week I will be discussing yarn and general craft books too.

Also I have a few books for whipup readers, so keep reading to find out which ones. Entries are open for 48 hours, winners will be chosen at random and will be notified via email. now closed winners will be contacted via email

Of course you all know I love to sew, I have been sewing since I was a kid and recently wrote a book on the subject. Sewing for me, and for many others, is an expression of creativity and love. And as I run a craft blog, write crafts books and am basically a craft-a-holic, I get sent a whole lot of craft books and then I buy even more. But this year there are a few standouts for me. My book Whip Up Mini Quiltsof course (not at all biased), but really if you don’t have it already then it is a must have addition to your craft library. [Chronicle is kindly offering a copy of my book Whip Up Mini Quilts to one lucky whipup reader, so please let us know what you like to sew]

A new book, just out, you may not have seen it yet, and I haven’t actually reviewed it on whipup yet, is Bill and Weeks Ringle’s new and eagerly awaited book Quilts Made Modern. And it does not disappoint. With an extensive section on design and colour, which is what they are renowned for, their designs follow on from their previous book, The Modern Quilt Workshop and I know they have another book in the works due out next year. I love that this book is written by a husband and wife team, who also run a business together, a perfect match. Another quilting book I loved was The Practical Guide to Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman. Elizabeth has a wonderful way of explaining things – plus her designs are fresh and simple too.

But sewing is not all about quilting and patchwork. Little Green Dresses by Tina Sparkles which I reviewed is full of fun fresh and flirty designs, plus it explains how to draft your own pattern. Seams to Me by Anna Maria Horner, has a whole range of different things to sew, from dresses, baby gear, house accessories and handbags, plus Anna-Maria is a genius with colour and explanations. I also loved The Feisty Stitcher by Susan Wasinger, with projects featuring hardy and alternative materials. [Lark crafts is offering a copy of The Feisty Stitcher to a whip up reader, and a copy of Craft Hope by Jade Sims + here is a project from Craft hope – fingerless gloves by Betsy Greer (pdf) – to get you started on your making for giving]

Another great sewing book, that centres on clothing, but does include household and personal accessories, is Alabama Studio Style by Natalie Chanin. All about eco style and fashion, with a lot of hand detailing – a beautiful book. Sew La Tea Do which I reviewed a few weeks ago, is a fun filled book full of quirky and vintage inspired sewing projects for the beginner. [Hardie Grant are kindly offering a copy of this book to a whipup reader, and it is not yet available outside of Australia, it might be your only chance to get your hands on a copy this year – so please let us know the quirkiest and most interesting thing you have sewn this year.]

Another book which I have loved but have not had a chance to mention on whipup is Hillary Lang’s Wee Wonderfuls. Gorgeous funny little dolls and critters, beautifully photographed and wonderfully presented. [+ STC Craft are generously offering a copy to a whipup reader – so again let us know what funny, little things you have made this year.]

Material Obsession Two by Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke is one of my fave quilting books, its in the pile there but I didn’t tell you about it – full of incredibly colourful quilting designs and great instructions by 2 fellow Australian quilting gals. [And I wanted to let you know that Sarah Fielke has arranged to give a copy to a whipup reader. So I am extending the time on this post for another 24 hours to give you a chance to win this book.]

Entries are open for 48 hours, winners will be chosen at random and will be notified via email.

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If you do a lot of sewing or only a little, the chances are that you will occasionally need to look up how to fix, use or adjust something on your sewing machine, or you might be looking for a new or old technique or maybe you have simply forgotten something really basic – whatever – while the internet is invaluable for many things – I really think that nothing beats having a really good reference guide by your side.

I have a couple of tried and tested over and over again favourite books that I couldn’t do without, The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff and the Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques by Nancy Bednar – and I think The Sewing Bible by Ruth Singer is also very good.

Recently though a few new sewing techniques books and how to use your sewing machine books have been added to my library and I think you might find them useful too.

Ready, Set, Serge by Georgie Melot Krause Publications (2009)

If you have a serger or overlocker sewing machine chances are you are not getting the maximum benefit out of it. I have one that my mother gave me and I have used it extensively for sewing clothes, but it is time consuming to thread, if something goes wrong I don’t really understand how to fix it. It has been put away for a while and even though I occasionally have an urge/need to use it – it feels just a bit too hard. I know many others feel the same way – its a complicated machine and seems a bit overwhelming sometimes. When I do get it out again I will be keeping this book close at hand at all times. An extensive how to get to know your machine, including what presser feet you might need and what they are used for, how to clean and look after and remember how to thread your machine. Plus all sorts of nifty tricks I never knew you could do – like piping, gathers, binding, zippers and elastic.

The Sewing Machine Attachment Handbook by Charlene Phillips. Krause Publications ( 2009)

If you own, use and love an older style sewing machine then this is a must have book, or if you happen to be a collector or just an admirer of vintage sewing machines and other gadgets then you will love this book too. There are a mind boggling array of presser feet and other gadgets for these older style machines, allowing you to get all sorts of different effects and do different styles of stitching all without a computerised sewing machine. The books starts out with a bit of history and then quickly moves into how to purchase a good quality second hand/vintage machine, how to determine the ‘shank type’ so you can go ahead and purchase presser feet that will fit your machine. And then there are the chapters on the different types of quirky and useful presser feet.

There is a bias cutting gauge and a really neat binder presser foot – which folds and holds the binding on each side at just the right spot while you sew – no need for pins! – the adjustable tape-stitching presser foot is available for new machines too – I think I might need one of those. There is a pin tucker foot, a ruffler (which looks crazy complicated but isn’t really). There is a set of hemming feet, an edge stitcher (which allows you to accurately attach lace or trim and hem at the same time). Gathering and shirring feet, zipper and cording feet, freemotion, quilting and walking feet, the buttonholer and quite a few more too.

Simplicity How to Use a Sewing Machine. Anova Books (2010)

Anatomy of a sewing machine is explained with clear diagrams in this book. With the first half of the book dedicated to getting to know your machine and how to thread, look after, adjust tension and fill the bobbins, you can be sure this will be a good reference for when you get stuck. The second half of the book goes on to explain a few basic sewing techniques – like hemming, zippers, attaching sleeves, buttonholes etc. If you only want one reference book, this book covers a broad range of skills required to get you started.

Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide (2nd edition). Krause Publications (2008)

Considered by many to be the essential book for those dealing with fabrics, and working in the sewing and fashion industries. Three quarters of this book explains in great depth how to handle and use different types of materials and fabrics, detailing how different fabrics behave, how to sew and cut and finish in the most appropriate way. I can’t tell you how meticulously detailed this book is – and thus why it is so huge. It begins with a basic introduction – although this basic intro is more than most sewing books include. Then the book is divided roughly into four main parts – 1. Fibre content (cotton, wool, linen etc) 2. Fabric structure –(twill, plain weave, denim, stretch, knits etc). 3. Fabric types – (sheer, mesh, lace, open weave, napped and piled fabrics etc). There is a section on interfacing, linings and battings before 4. sewing techniques – which should be a whole book on its own.

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Some craft books worth your while to check out.

Felted Jewelry: 20 Stylish Designs (Lark Jewelry Book) by Candie Cooper. Lark Books (April 6, 2010).

This book showcases a variety of felting techniques to make innovative and unique jewelry pieces. With so many styles and techniques at work here you are sure to find something to your taste. From felted flower hairpins to crochet and felt chokers, beaded felt balls and an exotic wild poppy necklace. As well as the projects there is an inspiring gallery section + a pretty good techniques section too.

The Feisty Stitcher: Sewing Projects with Attitude By Susan Wasinger

I really like this book – it combines sewing techniques with some more unusual and hard wearing materials. Its a sewing book for those who want to take their stitching to the next level and experiment with and incorporate materials that are traditionally thought to be a bit more difficult to work with. Such as leather and industrial felt. Make a leather storage box that snaps together, use jute upholstery webbing to make heavy duty floor cushions, sew on paper to create interesting designs for a lampshade, refashion t-shirts, felt and chop up sweaters, make your own original buttons, how about a faux fur lined trappers hat, and recycle those plastic bags into fabric to make a shopping tote. There are lots of great ideas in here, the patterns are written in an accessible easy to understand way, and they look good too.

Craft Challenge: Dozens of Ways to Repurpose a Tea Towel by Nathalie mornu

The second in Larks craft challenge series – the first being: Craft Challenge: Dozens of Ways to Repurpose a Pillowcase

Lovers and collectors of tea towels are sure to get inspired by this book (or they might be shocked at all those lovely tea-towels getting chopped up!). With projects from clever and easy to original and quirky there is something here for everyone. I was particularly inspired by the use of the beautiful tea-towels to make some very simple things – its amazing how the choice of materials used can really alter the finished item. From simple kids skirts, to house slippers, summer tops and aprons, to the more quirky kitsch kitchen clocks and puppy back pack to the picnic bag featured on the front cover. There is lots to love in this book.

Leather Jewelry: 30 Contemporary Projects (Lark Jewelry Book) By Nathalie Mornu. Lark Books (April 6, 2010)

From super stylish to chic to sweet to casual, there is a range of styles and difficulty levels of leather jewelry in this book. My taste is more at the simple end and there are a few projects perfect for me, for those who like a bit of fur and flash there is that too! Some really interesting and clever techniques are showcased many of which I am dying to try, and for someone who has never worked with leather before – I don’t feel daunted to give these a try.

[bonus projects from Lark books are available here]

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