Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Simple sewing with a French twist
We crafters are an opinionated lot, aren't we? I've told you before how I couldn't live without my rotary cutter and cutting board, my seam ripper or my thimble. On the other hand, I rarely use pins, don't care for pinking shears, and keep a safe distance from time-saving, space-taking clever gizmos. Call me old-fashioned. Or just a typical opinionated sewer.
But since I'm constantly asked for suggestions about sewing books, I'm now on the hunt for books I can recommend, especially for beginning sewers. So for what it's worth, here's my opinion:
We all love Marie Claire Idees, right? (That is, when we can find it on the newsstand or via subscription.) So wouldn't it be nice to own a book filled with similar French flair, but with instructions and descriptions in English? Celine Dupuy lives in Paris (yup, she can shop at La Droguerie any time she wants, lucky woman!) and designs for magazines like Marie Claire. So she's got the French thing and the sewing thing and the flair thing. And now she's got the translated-into-English thing, too.
So here's my list of what I really like about the book:
*Lovely photos and styling
*Loaded with projects (more than 50!) at every level of complexity
*Terrific introduction to the tools you'll need (as well as other optional but helpful tools that may be useful)
*Nice thematic organization/grouping of projects
*Clear descriptions and photos demonstrating basic sewing techniques
*A beautifully assembled guide to selecting colors and fabrics, and a resource guide at the back of the book. Next time you're in Paris you can shop at all the insiders' favorite sources!
A few things I'm not so keen on:
*Project instructions and sketches seem rather vague at times. Some of the instructions may be challenging for a beginning sewer to interpret.
*All that fabulous French style is achievable, in some cases, only with the proper chair/robe/coat/etc. to begin with. But hey, you may just find that perfect salvagable item at a thrift shop if you keep your eyes open! Or you can reinterpret the ideas and instructions to fit your own chair/robe/coat/etc. as well.
*You may need to do a bit of construction or heavy-duty upholstery in order to achieve your goals with some projects. I would recommend trying one of the simpler projects before deciding to build your own folding screen, for example. The sewing of the fabric panels will be easy; it's the construction of the screen that worries me.
*A few of the recommended techniques are questionable: I would hesitate to cut open a buttonhole before stitching around it (too risky) or zigzag stitch seam allowances before sewing a seam (the zigzag will warp the edges, making it difficult to sew the seam in the proper place).
*Additional guidance could be offered in some areas. When sewing on oilcloth, it can help to cover the oilcloth with tissue paper or to use a Teflon foot so the oilcloth doesn't stick to your presser foot. The project, a zippered cosmetic case, may sound easy until you try to sew and break a needle or can't budge the presser foot.
Overall, if you have a little sewing experience you'll probably really enjoy this book. It's full of clever projects that you may be inspired to try, or it may also give you ideas for transforming your own projects.
If you've never sewn before, I still recommend the book but offer a bit of caution. The instructions may be a bit brief at times. Start with the Monet flower brooch or the Tasseled shoe tote and work your way toward the Saturday market caddy gradually. I'm sure you'll learn a lot on your way, and if you're willing to take a few risks (which is what crafting is all about, right?), you're guaranteed to create your own little bit of France along the way.