It’s been a while since I’ve done a good old fashioned book review. Oddly, while my energy for actual sewing projects has been quite low lately, my desire to read about sewing has been surprisingly high. It’s maybe not the same as working on an actual project, but it still feels productive, so I’ll take it. I’m actually somewhat inspired to get back in the sewing room so I can try out some of the tips, techniques, and suggestions in these books. So, without further ado, on to the reviews!
When Barbara Emodi’s first book came out a few years ago, I excitedly bought it, read it, and reviewed it. At the time, I said that her first book was the one I wish I’d had when I started, but that I was “holding out for a full book of tutorials, tips, and tricks from Barbara, because I think she has a lot of wisdom to share.” I’m happy to say that Stress-Free Sewing Solutions is exactly the book I had been hoping for when I had written my original review.
Of course, I was super excited when I heard this book was coming out, and I pre-ordered it immediately. I think this book is decidedly aimed toward a different segment of the sewing book market than her first book. While Sew… The Garment Making Book of Knowledge is a great resource for someone who is new to sewing and should help set them up for sewing success, Stress-Free Sewing Solutions is absolutely the perfect book for someone who is more of an intermediate with their sewing skills. The best way I can describe it is like a condensed version of the Singer Reference sewing book series, except with the intentions of providing instructions that will help to alleviate the most common F.A.I.L.s (Followed-All-Instructions-Letdowns) in modern home sewing.
What I love about the book is that it is clearly organized, and very thoughtfully covers the most common issues in garment sewing. I’m pretty sure that I’ve sewn something that looks exactly like each one of the F.A.I.L.s in the book at one point or another, so the selection of the techniques the book covers was also very well thought out. The chapters include:
- neckbands and bindings
- collars and lapels
- plackets, tabs, yokes, and v-necks
- sleeves and cuffs
- buttonholes and buttons
- 50 ways to reduce stress in sewing
- a reference section of common stitches and vocabulary
Some of the techniques in the book I have found in other places and used before, and other are new to me (and I’m very excited to try them). One thing that gives me a lot of confidence is that many of the techniques recommended by the book are my preferred methods for doing some of these skills (fly fronts, invisible zips, and welt pockets come to mind), but with tips that will make them even better. I know it might be hard to justify the brilliance of these techniques when I haven’t tried most of them yet, but I also think that when you have had enough frustrating sewing project moments where there are those important details don’t turn out just right, you can also immediately recognize why following the tips in the book actually will fix those problems in future projects.
I have to admit that I’m particularly excited to try the tips for traditional shirt collars, alternative types of welt pockets, and bound buttonholes. Many of these are skills I’ve tried in the past with varying success, and I can already tell that some of the tips in this book should fix a lot of the problems I’ve encountered following pattern instructions. I’m also going to say that the instructions for the fly front zip, invisible zip, and some of the hem techniques basically mirror my own preferences for what I have found works well for me, so that’s also giving me a bit of skills confidence. I also like that the book makes some consideration for fabric choice and how that might change a preferred technique. It’s true that different fabrics behave very differently, so of course some of the techniques (like binding and hemming) should be adjusted to accomodate the fabric. Of course, this isn’t the sort of thing that is often discussed in the pattern, but makes a lot of sense after you’ve worked with a lot of fabrics.
One minor criticism I have is that there aren’t quite as many illustrative photos as I think some sewists would like. Now, as someone who comes from the Burda school of “WTF… I’ll just make it up on my own,” I must admit that long sections of text instructions don’t phase me, especially when they are clearly written. But if you really need a visual to understand what is happening, this book may be slightly too advanced and you may need supplemental resources to fully comprehend the techniques. I will say that most of the techniques have multiple photos to illustrate the most important steps, and if you have ever attempted some of these techniques before it will be more than enough to get you going down the right track. However, if you are attempting something for the first time or are still at a stage of needing step-by-step illustrations, this book might have a few techniques that might be a bit confusing.
I also really appreciate the reference section of hand stitches in the back of the book. I know I have other books that list hand stitches, but I like that here Barbara has pointed out the best places to use them and why those are good places to use them. I have been more interested in improving my finishes with hand-sewing, so this felt like a great bonus section to add to the book. Finally, I have to give a special shout out to the “50 Ways to Reduce Stress” chapter. It’s like a curated version of one of Barbara’s Flypaper Thoughts blog posts, which is to say that it’s poignant, thought provoking, and hilarious. I found myself reading some of the better tips aloud to my sister (who is learning to sew), and she and I both had moments of deep appreciation for the wisdom contained therein.
Overall, Stress-Free Sewing Solutions is a really great book and one I am so excited to have added to my library. It presents clever techniques to deal with common issues, and should hopefully lead to less stressful and more successful sewing projects in the future. I love that the book emphasizes that there is never just one way to do things, and that other techniques or adaptations of the techniques presented could result in even better results for some sewists. It really is a great book for an intermediate sewist looking to up their skills and improve their results, and it’s definitely something I felt I have been missing from my sewing library. I’m excited to put the tips from this book into practice very soon!
Love Your Creative Space: A Visual Guide to Creating an Inspiring & Organized Studio Without Breaking the Bank
Love Your Creative Space is a book I started reading in the middle of the pandemic, while I was starting to re-organize my sewing space.
This book has a lot of ideas surrounding organization of a crafting space. One of the upsides is that it is very generalized, but by that same token, one of the downsides is that it is very generalized. There are some clever ideas and lots of inspirational sewing-room images, but I don’t know that I got a lot out of this book that I wasn’t able to find on Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, or the internet. Bowman often refers to the spaces of specific people she interviewed to write this book, which was a little bit jarring to me as I read through the text. Maybe it’s just me, but I think I would have preferred a footnote or reference section rather than the continual name dropping in the middle of the text descriptions and suggestions. I also wish that there were even more complete sewing room photos. I think that the photography is very well done, but sometimes I felt that the images provided didn’t really match with the aspects of the text that I was curious to learn more about.
Another thing I would add is that while many of the general considerations are helpful (like, lighting, storage, etc.), a lot of the suggestions are pre-supposing that you own your space and can make more permanent modifications to it. While I’m sure that skylights and expensive lighting solutions must be fabulous to work with, they aren’t practical for a lot of people and a lot of spaces. Of course, the book does offer a range of suggestions for every space, but I honestly think that I find more cleaver and less expensive suggestions from several of the accounts I follow on YouTube and Instagram.
One thing I do have to admit is that I read this book in Kindle format on my iPad. Somehow I get the sense that while the content would have been the same, this might be a book that is better experienced as a physical copy. I’m pretty sure there is an aesthetic to the publication that I was missing in the digital format, which may have made it more enjoyable in a paper edition. As someone trying to best utilize precious sewing room space though, I felt that the digital copy would serve me better, but if you are interested I might recommend the physical copy for a more complete viewing experience. On the other hand, I don’t think this is a book I would have kept around after reading if it needed to occupy physical space, so maybe the digital format is a better option, even if the overall experience doesn’t feel as immersive. Perhaps this has an even deeper digital vs. paper debate component to it, so the decision is probably something that should be left to the discretion of the reader.
Overall it was an ok book and it did have some interesting suggestions, lots of inspirational pictures, and a thoughtfulness towards the space needs of many different types of hand crafts (though with a slight bias towards quilting). Personally, I’m not sure that there are a lot of things I can implement in my current space, but I definitely have a “wish list” of things to be able to add to any future sewing spaces. I’m not sure that I would say this book is a must-buy, but if you are looking to do a major sewing space renovation overhaul, I do think there are some good suggestions in here, especially if you are primarily a quilter.