Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You can see where this is going, can't you?

The other day, I received a copy of Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching by Heather Ross (Stewart Tabori & Chang 2009). Now I suppose if I had thought about it, I would have realized that just as there has been a renaissance in the knitting world since I was knitting with harvest-gold Wintuk yarn in the 1970s, so there has been a renaissance in the fabric world since my mother made me godawful harvest gold polyester clothes in the 1970s. However, I had no idea of all the gorgeous and fun fabrics that were out there. (Spool, here I come!) Weekend Sewing was a beautiful, packed-with-color reminder of all the lovely things that are going on in the fabric world, a veritable invitation to sew things other than Halloween costumes.

I hesitate to call this a "No-Bull Book Review," since my knowledge of the fabric world is far inferior to my knowledge of the knitting world, but let me tell you a little bit about the book. I trust that my faithful readers who know more about quilting and sewing than I do will chime in in the comments section to set me straight on anything I screw up.

Weekend Sewing was written by Heather Ross, a New York textile designer who teaches sewing at Purl Soho and who designs fabric and sleepwear. She blogs here. In the introduction to her book, Ross tells of a charming childhood spent in a one-room schoolhouse in the Vermont mountains where she and her twin sister learned to sew and knit at a young age, spending hours outdoors when the weather was good and hours inside executing craft projects to while away the long winters. Her aim in writing Weekend Sewing was to celebrate the times, mainly on weekends and holidays, when she is able to put aside deadlines and sew for pure pleasure, those times when she is "able to immerse [my]self fully in the joy of sewing [and] lose track of time and even myself, just like I did as a child."

Ross begins with a brief discussion of how to create a sewing space in your home. She includes storage ideas (must be the New Yorker in her, trying to make the most out of limited square footage), showing a clever sewing desk with storage for the machine inside an ottoman and a sewing cabinet that folds up all the supplies neatly inside. There's also a chapter at the end covering sewing basics, including how to choose a machine (with tips for buying new and used/vintage), explaining the parts of the sewing machine, how to choose fabric (good discussion of drape vs. body, fabric weight and stretch), how to "true" the fabric, layout and cutting of patterns, overview of tools, basic stitches, and how to do buttons and buttonholes. It's a pretty comprehensive section considering it's less than twenty pages long. It served as a good reminder for me of some sewing principles I'd forgotten -- and I learned a few new things, too.

Of course, the meat of the book are the patterns and the gorgeous photographs of them. Chapter 1 focuses on projects for the home and there are twelve, ranging from smaller items like a checkbook cover and napkins made of fat quarters, to a cute hostess apron (it cracks me up the way today's domestic divas are taking back the apron),

photographs by John Gruen

pillowcases and slippers for the guest room, and various totes and bags.

Chapter 2 features women's clothing, and I was surprised by how charming they were: a sundress, a button-front shirtwaist dress,

a wraparound skirt, pajama pants for everyone in the family, a halter and skirt combo,

and a few accessories like a headscarf and a tote.

The last project chapter has children's items, some for babies, like bloomers and an adorable kimono,

others for toddlers, including some cute sundresses

and even a boy's shirt (yay for boy patterns).

I've only dabbled in sewing, though I did take a quilting course years ago, and was forced to take a heinous sewing class as part of junior high "home economics" (the ninety-year-old instructor did little else but mutter dourly about how "you girls need to learn to pick up pins") but the directions seem clear and easy-to-follow. In the back of the book is a folded-up insert containing pattern pieces. I like that there are lots of little drawings to help illustrate the written directions, and I also appreciate that each pattern contains a paragraph which gives specific information about the type(s) of fabric that are appropriate for that pattern (i.e. whether the fabric should be woven or knit, light or heavyweight, and so on) -- very helpful for fabric newbies like me. Interspersed with the patterns and sewing instructions are insets containing recipes, tips for sewing with children or sewing on the go, suggested music to sew by, and so on.

So this knitter gives Weekend Sewing two thumbs-up for its attractive yet easy-enough-for-a-newbie projects, the gorgeous photography, the eye candy aspect of the fabrics, and the overall charm of its presentation.

Indeed, I was so charmed by the book that I found myself thinking of Miss Thang, who is seven and still young enough to wear stuff her mom makes. . . and before you know it, I found myself on the Glorious Color website (proprietor Liza is a pal) and then a day or two later, the postman delivered these, which I had liberated from Liza's on-line shop:

The trippy psychedelic deer/mushrooms and the bumblebees at the top are from the Jay McCarroll line (the Project Runway guy who grew up just a few miles from where I did in northeastern PA).

I need another hobby like I need a hole in the head. Yet circumstances are colluding to drag me, kicking and screaming (ha!), into playing with fabric.

Damn that Melanie Falick. Damn her and her gorgeous books, with their beautiful color photographs, luscious presentation, appealing projects, and clear directions. Melanie, the next time I hear my husband muttering about the "yarn museum" in the upstairs closet or the sewing machine on the dining room table, I'm sending him straight to you. It's all your fault, you know.

Two important notes:
  • You'll find an FAQ/errata page for the book here. Best to check here before you purchase fabric or other supplies for a project.
  • Heather Ross will be appearing at Spool in Philadelphia this very weekend. She's doing a booksigning this Friday evening, from 5 to 8 p.m. Details here. You can pop next door to see her while you're visiting Franklin Habit at Loop. If I can drag myself away from Dolores for a few minutes, I'm hoping to get her to sign my book.


Anonymous said...

Jeez, Carol, just when I was gettng really good at ignoring my sewing stash!

This morning my granddaughter decied she wanted to sew rather than knit, weave, embroider, etc. before the school bus, now this book.


Anonymous said...

rut row, dolores is coming...hide the booze, put blinders on the kidlets, and hide all the eligible sexy men in philly!

LOL :-)

Anonymous said...

I haven't sewn for years but your review of the book makes me wonder if I could find room for a sewing machine. I'm very afraid that I'd end up with a fabric stash to rival my yarn stash and would soon have no space in the house for me.

Anonymous said...

Oh heaven help me. Must. Resist. (a few weeks ago my daughter dug my sewing machine out of the basement and has it all set up in her room)

Carol said...

I wasn't going to get this book because I thought it was another 'basic' book like Bend the Rules Sewing but my mind is changed. Welcome to the fabric world Carol! (p.s. all your fabrics except the daisy are Jay's. The daisy one is Kaffe).

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed my foray into sewing...sewing a king-size quilt top using mostly Kaffe fabrics was incredible and even more challenging for me, sewing a man's shirt, were both enjoyable.

But neither of the projects made me constantly crave sewing like knitting did 23 years ago. I'm glad for that...this way, when I see a great book like this one, I can buy it without worrying that I'm crossing the line into another obsessive behavior.

Great fabrics BTW...I need to get invited to coffee at Liza's again soon so I can browse.

Anonymous said...

Thanks ever so for reminding me of junior high home economics. We had to make an apron. I sewed my apron to my shirt and missed half of my next class picking out those tiny machine stitches (which hold like glue when you don't want them.) I didn't touch a sewing machine for years. That said, I now own two of the abominable things and an appalling amount of fabric that I haven't really even looked at since I started knitting.

Anonymous said...

Got Sumatra in the pot. (rubbing hands together, snickering)

Kathleen Dames said...

I got a sewing machine for Christmas, as well as a couple of books. But I've been seeing this one all over the blogosphere, and you just convinced me that I need it. Thanks. Actually, thanks!

Jennifer said...

Oooh, thanks for the review, and the tip on where to buy Jay McCarroll fabric (there is an article about him in the new Quilting Arts, folks!).

Ali P said...

I swear Melanie Fralick is the Devil...I do not NEED to get into sewing....that book looks beautiful and inspiring,...can..not ..turn..away.....gaaaahhhk!

My word is "redne" the computer trying to call me a redneck??

Kate SJ said...

But I don't need another Sewing book!!! ( Well, maybe I do for the Kimono pattern.) My craft room is currently 50% yarn, 39% fabric, 1% cross stitch, and 10% beads which equals a huge mess. Thanks for the book review. Stay away from