12 February 2013

Review: Get Started Sewing

My mom was an incredibly talented person--whatever she did she was good at. One of the things she was especially good at was sewing. In fact, she was a seamstress most of her life. She made everything from casual clothes to my sister's wedding gown. She could even look at a picture and recreate an outfit without a pattern.

Growing up around this kind of talent and creativity (not only my mom, but also my dad, who could build just about anything and was king of the vegetable garden), I appreciated the value of craftiness and general DIY. Seeing what my mom could do, I dreamed of sewing myself an awesome wardrobe. The problem? Every time I started sewing something my mom would offer to do it for me instead. How could I say no? She could make anything better and quicker--and it made her happy to do it for me. My nascent sewing skills atrophied and I was left with an overwhelming sense of guilt whenever I looked at my mostly unused sewing machine. Worse still, now that my mom is gone I'm helpless in the face of even relatively minor repairs.

Which is why a book like Get Started Sewing is perfect for me. It's basically a detailed guidebook on everything to do with sewing. If you want to learn how to sew on a button, it's in here. If your skills are more advanced and you want to try your hand at, say, making a pair of shorts with pockets and an elasticized waistband--it's here too. The book even makes a point of helping you avoid common mistakes--a much appreciated feature (and one that more books could use).

The Essential Equipment section impressed me, not only with the amount of information offered, but with how much I didn't know. Were you aware that there's a special thread for using with sergers? Or that there are both "household" pins and dressmaker's pins (the latter are "slightly longer"). I sure didn't.

The section on fabrics, on the other hand, is pretty basic. If you want a really in-depth guide to that topic you'll need to look elsewhere. Luckily, the more you sew the more you'll learn about fabrics through experience, so detailed information isn't absolutely necessary up front. As far as flaws go this one falls into the category of minor.

The projects in the book are divided by skill level. For beginners there are simple things to make, such as a ladybug pin cushion and felt flower brooches. Once you're ready for something a little more complex you'll find instructions ranging from how to apply fusible interfacing, to upcycling clothing, and (my personal favourite) making bunting. And for those who want a real challenge there a projects such as adding zippers, applying bias binding, and making a patchwork quilt. Theoretically if you start at the beginning of the book and work your way through, you'll be able to sew anything by the time you're done. This is my kind of book.

If you want to give sewing a try (or want to improve your skills) I highly recommend Get Started Sewing. The instructions and photos are clear and detailed and the projects are inspiring. Just reading through it leaves me feeling like I know what I'm doing and that I'm capable of doing even more. I'm happy to say I've been inspired to set up my sewing machine and return to a craft I'd nearly given up on. Maybe I'll make my awesome wardrobe, after all. But in the meantime I'm starting with dish cloths and bunting. I have to say, 2013 has been a great year for creativity and trying new things, and a big part of the credit goes to DK and their Start Something New theme. (In spring I'll be trying something else new too, as I review DK's Get Started Preserving.) I hope you've been having a similarly inspiring and productive year so far. If not, it's never too late to start...

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