Book Review #2: How to sew…

Following on from my review of How to Sew: Basics, I have 3 more reviews for you of books in David & Charles’ “How to Sew” series. There are more titles than this in total, but the three I have are Patchwork, Machine Sewing and Applique. So I’m taking a swift break from crocheting as though my life depended on it (more on that soon…) to have a look at these.

Okay, I’ll admit it. They had me at the pig.

Having established my enthusiasm, I’ll start with How to Sew: Patchwork, since that was the one that made me squeak with excitement when I opened it. Actually, I loved the pigs when I saw them in the Basics book, and the instructions for them made this instantly my favourite of the four books. Shallow? Me? Um, actually, don’t answer that.

In all seriousness, what I really liked about this book was how it completely demystified patchwork for me. While I’d always been fairly confident that I coud put a dress together if necessary, patchwork is full of phrases like “piecing” and “quilting” and “seminole” and finished objects that are both deceptively simple and deceptively complicated. I really liked the techniques section at the beginning of this book, because it sets things out clearly and concisely. They’re definitely my kind of instructions, where they don’t assume you know anything, but they don’t treat you like an idiot either. The seminole instructions I found particularly good, and will be giving it a go as soon as I can.

The three projects in this book are also a good range, from the very simple quilt to the more complicated checker-board bag. As I said above, though, my heart belongs to the piggie, and I’m already looking through my scrap stash, looking for suitably-sized pieces. Some things just have to be done.

Let’s be honest here, the other two books have got a tough act to follow, but again, each of them have a “WANT” project in them.

Machine Sewing was probably the one I thought was going to skim, because after all, I can already use a sewing machine, can’t I? Well, yes, but again, the techniques section of the book was very helpful, and especially if I’d never used a machine before, there’s enough here to get me started and well on my way to making projects. Everyone’s different of course, but most people who take up a craft like sewing are fairly motivated in the first place, so they don’t necessarily need great swathes of text to encourage them, or too much information to begin with. What they need is something like this, a quick and easy way to just sit down and sew. We’re all so impatient at the beginning, wanting to see results right away, and the instructions here are more than enough for that. Because the books are little, you’re plunged right into making things, but with all the information you need to get it done. Simples!

My ‘take home’ project from this book is definitely the bag, and not just because I really liked the colour. Bag making has all the best aspects of sewing for me – once you understand the basic technique, as explained here, you can go on to make so many other things independently, so it suits the process person (like me, who likes to know *how* things are made) and the product person (who wants to make *this thing here*) I also thought the cushion was a nice variation on a theme again. Simple, but not dull, which is exactly what you want from a beginner’s sewing book.

Let’s face it, after all of the above, How to Sew: Applique had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, as with the other two, the projects really lift it from “helpful” to “WANT”. I don’t know when these books were planned, but I’m seeing bunting everywhere at the moment, so that project feels really up to date, and I like the quirkiness of the laundry bag.

For me, the real treasure in this book was the machine applique tips page, with all the little things that might trip you up when you first start applique. In principle, it’s actually quite a simple technique, but there are so many things that can (and do *embarrassed cough*) go wrong, that having a list of “watch out for”s is incredibly useful.

I think that actually sums up all three of these books for me. They’re not comprehensive guides, but they’re not trying to be. They’re handy little ebooks, much more approachable than the huge tomes that I have on my bookshelves. Sometimes, what you really need is a little something to get you started and hold your hand while you do so, and that’s exactly what these books give you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment with a pig.


2 thoughts on “Book Review #2: How to sew…

  1. Great review Laura! I have seen others about these ebooks but they didn’t really inspire me to make anything from them, let alone to buy them!
    I agree with you the pigs are just something else and I think my house NEEDS one now.
    It is good when books highlight things that can go wrong, specially if you are making something for the first time or if you have just learn that particular skills, lets be honest, when things go wrong it is very easy to drop it all together and never finish it or never try again.
    Thank you for a lovely and very well written review 🙂 Love it!


    1. Aw, thanks 🙂

      I know exactly what you mean about just dropping projects. I really liked how these books just sort of let you get into it, so you can make something quickly, with the tips at the front, without it being a big song and dance. And if it does go wrong, there’s enough information to get you going again.

      We’ll have to compare pigs when we’re done!


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