Sunday, May 19, 2024

Weekend Review: Make It, Own It, Love It

Make It, Own It, Love It / Matt Chapple
London: Jacqui Small, c2016.
176 p.

There are a lot of books by former GBSB contestants, and with the new season coming up, I thought I'd read one that I haven't before! This is by the winner of Season 3, Matt Chapple. It is aimed at beginners and is quite light and approachable. 

The title covers everything in this book -- he talks about upcycling and refashioning first, to dip your toe in to the sewing world. Then he moves on to simple projects which are either self-drafted (scarves and tees, nothing complicated) or are downloadable free patterns, so no big cost investment for those just trying it out. He also covers repairs and wardrobe maintenance, even talking about laundry labels and care. I find this approach focuses on affordability and sustainability, and it's fun and encouraging at the same time. 

The book is laid out in seven sections, and includes many photos which are light and bright and cheerful. Many of them are 'lifestyle' type of photos, not all just illustrating the projects or instructions. The projects have a lot of text instruction, not heavily illustrated, but they are all pretty simple. 

The book covers: 

  • Tools
  • Fabrics
  • Stitching
  • Make It Your Own (refashioning/altering)
  • Make It From Scratch
  • Make It Wearable (mending - very basic needs, like re-sewing on buttons, fixing hems, pocket holes, seams etc.)
  • Make It Live Longer (maintenance, including shoes)

It's also a little different because it talks about sewing/altering men's clothing as well as women's, which isn't always the case with sewing books! And even in the sections on notions and tools, he is careful to note that you don't need everything at the start, some things are just "cool kit" in your tool kit, not essential. The tone of the book is encouraging and welcoming, emphasizing that starting out doesn't require a huge investment of time or money. I'd say it's a pretty good volume and worth checking out. 


Friday, May 17, 2024

Literary Sewing Circle: Finale & Project Link-Up!


Today is already our final day of the Literary Sewing Circle focusing on Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog!

I hope you've had the chance to read the book, and both the first and second inspiration posts, and are getting lots of ideas for a project of your own.

The project linkup will be added to the bottom of this post: as soon as you are done your project, just pop a link to your post into the linkup and we will all be able to visit your blog/instagram etc. and explore your creation -- remember, it can be sewn, or knitted, crocheted, embroidered... any textile art that you practice.

I've read To Say Nothing of the Dog a few times now, and have also read all of Willis' novels except for a couple of the earliest ones. I can say that her Christmas themed short stories are pretty delightful as well! 

I think this novel shows her style well -- lots of silliness, dialogue, science-y references, and history. Plus so many references to other works of literature. I find this is a frequent combination in her work, but in this particular novel it combines to a high degree of satisfaction! The characters here aren't quite as dithery as in some other books. Verity actually has common sense and takes action, while Ned is the most indecisive and clueless character. I find this balance entertaining, especially when Ned suffers time lag most intensively. 

Of course, the central role of cats to the story is always a pleasure, and the spiritualist scenes are highly amusing. I've just been rereading/rewatching some Lord Peter Wimsey stories so it was fun to have those references here as well. I also find the conversation about history, between the professors, and the concept of time travel and temporal contradictions, all so interesting. I studied history in undergrad so recognized some of the bits of the professorial arguments -- perhaps it didn't need to be covered so obviously, but thinking about time and history in a story like this is kind of integral to the subject matter. Also, when reading it this time, the mention of a receent Pandemic struck home in a different way than it did years ago. 

Putting aside all the thinking and the cerebral critique of this story, as a reader I find this great escapist fiction. It's fun, amusing, clever, and satisfying, which is why I reread it. I would love to be able to visit the Victorian era - dress in those outfits, have tea at a country house, visit a jumble sale - it would be a delight. This is as close as I can get :) I hope it was an enjoyable trip for you, also.

A real Victorian penwiper!

Questions for you: 

Did you enjoy the madcap style of this story? Have you read Three Men in a Boat to compare it? Did the humour work for you? Did you have a favourite character? A favourite time period in the story? Did you think the concept of time travel worked as it was created here? Did any particular elements of the story strike you? Where/When would you go if you had access to the Net?

Please share your thoughts on the book, its themes, characters, or anything you noted about it -- either in the comments here or on our first Book Talk post, or on your own blog with a link to your longer thoughts in the comments so we can find it. I love to talk about the experience of reading so feel free to comment no matter when you're reading this post; if you've read this I'd love to hear your thoughts.

What project have you made, inspired by your reading of To Say Nothing of the Dog? Share a link to your project on this post as soon as you're done! The linkup will be live until May 31 --  you have another 2 weeks of sewing time to finish and share. 

(If the linkup does not work for you please leave a comment with your project)

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Weekend Review: Miss Patch's Learn to Sew Book


Miss Patch's Learn to Sew Book / Carolyn Meyer
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, c1969.
90 p.

This was a cute reprint I found via my library -- it's a simple sewing book aimed at children, 8+ probably. It's quirky, with amusing illustrations and projects that are not too challenging but not too simple either. Note that it was first published in 1969, so there is the assumption that it is little girls reading this and wanting to sew cute things for others. And that those who will help them are mothers, older sisters and aunts. It is a bit noticeable reading it 54 years into the future. 

However, this was entertaining overall, and I found the nostalgic charm appealing -- this is a book I would have been reading in the 70s as a small child and I know I would have liked it then. The sewing information is surprisingly clear and no worries about younger sewists using needles and scissors and irons (although they do suggest adult help when ironing, at least). I think it would still be an easy way to learn some handsewing basics, but of course things have changed quite a bit in the sewing world in terms of easy to use machines etc. over the past 50 years!

It instructs readers on how to gather the needed sewing equipment, how to handsew a seam, with projects like pillows, bags, or some small patchwork and moves on to an apron and easy clothes. It follows the experiences of (slightly ditzy) Miss Patch and her dog Charlie, as Miss Patch learns to sew -- making being a beginner at any age quite normal! The narrative tone is definitely aimed at young girls, but it's not condescending. It sounds very much of its time, but much of it does hold up, and the humour of Miss Patch and Charlie learning and correcting mistakes and so forth makes it an accessible, non-intimidating book for beginners. A really charming visit back to the books of my youth ;) 

Friday, May 10, 2024

Literary Sewing Circle: Author Feature!


Today's the day to talk about the author of our pick for this round of the #LiterarySewingCircle! Connie Willis is a multiple award winning author of speculative fiction. She has won, among other awards, ten Hugo Awards and six Nebula Awards, including Hugos for every book in the Oxford Time Travel series. She was the 2011 recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).

She lives in Greeley, Colorado with her family.

By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0

Her interests in her fiction lie in exploring the unusual - from time travel to telepathy to alien visitations! There is also a strong element of humour, especially snappy dialogue and ridiculous mishaps, influenced by classic screwball comedies. 

To find out more about her influences, favourite reading and most recommended movies, you can read a recent interview with her by the LA Public Library. It focuses on her most recent book, The Road to Roswell (which features alien abductions and more) but ranges widely, and even gives a hint at another Time Travel book in the works. 

What is her connection with making and sewing? Well, for one thing her husband Courtney is an accomplished quilter, and Willis has written an account of their trip to Quilt Town, USA (aka Hamilton, Missouri) It's an entertaining story, especially her description of trying to explain the fact that it's her husband who's the quilter.  

Another aspect of her work that I find fascinating is how she uses clothing and fashion as a character building device. When our historians are going out to a new assignment, they look closely at the clothing and hairstyles and all important accessories that will make them fit in -- we notice people around us, and consider them part of our society, partly because of how they look and the small details of daily life that reveal someone who is the same as the rest of us. 

As Ned takes his first trip back to the Victorian era, he's carefully dressed in a striped blazer, flannels, and a boater. And of course appropriate facial hair. And Verity can't be sent too far out of bounds when she gets lost in translation, because of the Victorian gown she is wearing - the Net doesn't want her going too far afield, so as not to cause any disruptions to the space time continuum by appearing vastly out of place in her current garments. 

In Willis' most recent book, The Road to Roswell, the main character tries on a ghastly lime green bridesmaid dress early in the book which she has to wear for lengthy periods -- the alien in the story has a conniption when she changes into something else because it thinks her clothing is her actual self. Really interesting to think about how clothing "makes the man", so to speak. 

Although Willis doesn't speak much about making, sewing or fashion directly, I think her interest in it shows in many of her books, and enlarges our perceptions of her characters. Her vast mental library of references to other literature, to films and history, also includes the fashion of everyday life. I hope if you read more of her work after this book, you will find this as well! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Fresco Blouse in Cobalt Blue

I put the Fresco Blouse by Studio Calicot onto my MakeNine list in 2023 so it was time to finally make this pretty pattern! With the additional impetus of the #SewAprilBlouse24 challenge on Instagram, I got it finished just before the end of the April -- the evening of the 30th to be exact ;) 

I really like it -- I decided to use this cobalt rayon from my stash as it is very fl9uid. It was the perfect weight for this flowy pattern. This is quite an easy pattern, except for the fabric handling when you are using a slippery rayon challis. There is a front and back piece, a neckline tie, and a shoulder placket for buttons so you can get it over your head. It all went together very nicely; just remember to turn your necktie piece right side out before you sew it on...

It is a soft, roomy, and pretty top. I might shorten it a bit as I am pretty short and I'm not sure I like it ending at the widest part of my hip. However, I am going to try it tucked it with a couple of skirts and see if I like it that way. If not, I think I'll take another inch off the length. 

The shoulder button placket takes 2 small buttons, just enough to give you room to slip it over your head. The tie takes a little finagling to get right, as you want it to fall nicely. But it's a relatively quick make and certainly a comfortable wear. I like the 80s aesthetic of a lot of her designs and this one is easy and fun. Very pleased that I finally made a version of this! 

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Weekend Review: Sewing for the Soul

Sewing for the Soul / Jules Fallon
Tunbridge Wells, UK: Search Press, c2021.
128 p.

This is a lovely book; it's a sewing book but also a lifestyle book. It has a specific aesthetic, and includes interior design imagery and recipes too! 

It's organized around the seasons, with each section including two or three sewing projects, then a relevant recipe. Lots of lovely photos of projects and of the general domestic mood of the book. Most of the projects are garments but there are a few craft projects including like a stocking for Winter, or a patchwork blanket for autumn. There are also a couple of ideas that incorporate embroidery or upcycling -- my favourite is the embroided woven tee in Spring, which has a border of red flowers added to the rounded neckline. Very pretty. 

The clothes -- shirt dress, woven tee, winter coat, drawstring trousers, palazzos, just to name a few, are all fairly relaxed fit, loungey kind of clothing. Easier to fit but because it's also in line with the tone of the whole book - it's about relaxing, taking things easy while still having them beautiful. I haven't seen a sewing book like this before. It's the whole lifestyle, food included. And it's full of beautiful imagery while also having practical sewing illustrations and guidelines, and a list of sewing tools and materials to begin the book. There are 10 patterns included, up to a UK size 26/US size 22.

The author is the owner of Sew Me Something, and her experience in the sewing world shows. This is well put together, nicely thought out, and pleasant to read. She has captured the atmosphere of  "sewing for the spirit" that she used as the title -- it's enjoyable to look through but also has some nice basic pieces in it. If you read it online (as I did through my library) you can also go to the publisher's page and create a free account to get the extra materials (ie: templates & patterns). This is charming and I found it a gentle nighttime read. 


Friday, May 3, 2024

Literary Sewing Circle: More Inspiration!


This week our sewing inspiration is coming from some of themes and elements in our story, as well as some of the clothing described in the book. 

I'll start with the outfits that might inspire a copycat. 

Verity first appears in a body skimming green dress as she comes through the Net. Ned says, "she had on a long greenish gown that clung to her slim body as if it were wet...the whole effect was that of a Waterhouse nymph..."

It could have been that she was arriving from the Victorian era, wearing a tea gown, like this one by Laughing Moon Mercantile

You could update that with a modern maxi dress like this Cardigan Dress by PatternsForLess on Etsy - even more of a bodycon effect here! 

Ned himself appears in a straw boater, white flannels and blue and white striped blazer on his first trip back to the Victorian era, preparing to take a trip down the river. You could copy this look, minus the straw boater of course, with the following:

Maison Fauve Manhattan Blazer  has a similar shape and details as a classic men's rowing blazer. Make it in stripes, or not. 

And you could also copy the wider leg, pleated look of a classic men's pair of flannel trousers with the Protea Pants by Paradise Patterns. 

You could copy Tossie's signature Victorian frills in an updated way, using the TATB Marnie 

Or maybe you want a more contemporary look, copying a young Lizzie Bittner in the lab circa 2018, in her calf length white dress. You could choose the Mattea Dress by Tessuti for a casual but work ready look. 

Or you might simply be inspired by a vague reference to a time period, like WWII which opens the story. You could make a Sew Over It 1940s tea dress that you might wear to a day event, or a more workaday outfit like a uniform inspired Butterick 6282! Perhaps you'll go full workwear with a Siren Suit/Coverall, using the Phyllis pattern by Wearing History

SOI Tea Dress

Butterick 6282
Phyllis Air Raid Suit by Wearing History

Ned's brief stop in Blackwell's Bookshop with his sight of three gossiping ladies in fur collars, or Willis' many references to Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie, might put you onto the 30s. You could try out the Parisienne Coat by Decades of Style to mimic the bookstore ladies. Or just some general 30s looks with a Matinee Blouse also by Decades of Style, or a day frock from Eva Dress

Parisienne Coat

Matinee Blouse

Day Frock by Eva Dress

Or Ned's erroneous hop to 1395 Coventry Cathedral may inspire a medieval influenced dress like the Maxi Ruffle dress by SD Patterns on Etsy. It's not too costumey but has those 1400s vibes. 

Of course you also have the whole Victorian style catalogue to choose from also! From Verity's long white day dress or modest white nightgown, to the fancy dresses described by Tossie and the Chattisbourne sisters when they are discussing the fete, there are many Victorian clothing elements to pick from. 

You could probably find a pattern to suit any era in this book, somewhere like Folkwear Patterns

Or you might want to go more conceptual, and use some of the imagery or themes that run through the story. 

Whether Cyril or Montmorency, the title of this book places a lot of importance on dogs! You could sew up your own Bulldog plushie using this pattern by Funky Friends Factory

Or you could sew something FOR your dog, using any of these 10 free dog clothing patterns collected by Swoodson Says. 

You could also knit yourself a comfy pair of Cyril socks, like these ones by Danielle Jorge on Ravelry. 

In honour of Princess Arjumand, you could choose fabric with a cat print. You would have thousands to choose from! Maybe one like this Timeless Treasures pick, from The Quilt Store 

Or this multicolour cat print -- among the many, many options at!

You could go simple and just make yourself a Kitty Dress by Maven Patterns

Or you might think about the other cat in this story, the very (don't say it) pregnant Mrs. Marmalade -- and make a Marmalade jacket by Waffle Patterns. Maybe even in a cat print! 

There are also many fancy fish who play a role in this story. Any kind of fish print fabric could be a reference back to Colonel Mering's fishpond, or you could try out this Koi Drape Front Top by SewInLove Patterns. 

If you know how to knit, you might even want to make this adorable Fishpond Dress by The Sassy Skein. So cute! 

Perhaps it's just the boat that Ned and Terence rent to go down the river that speaks to you, and you'll make the classic Mandy Boat Tee, by Tessuti. 

Or you could try this Float on Top by Forest & Thread -- since Ned and Terence do at least *try* to float on top of the river, and make it most of their trip! 

You could add a bit of flair to your inspiration by thinking French, and making the Bateau Garden Dress by WinterWear Designs

Maybe you'll be inspired by The Net itself, that shimmering circle in the air, by using sheers, net or sparkles in your project. You could even try some netting yourself, making this sparkly crochet mini-dress from the 90s, thanks to the Little Chick pattern by MyCosyHouseFantasy. 

And perhaps like one of our readers so far, you'll inspired by the very idea of travel. A travelling suit from the Victorian era, or something more comfy for contemporary times?  You could make the Traveller's Tee or the Two for the Road outfit from Saf-T-Pockets for secure travelling. And what would a capsule wardrobe for time travel look like?

Whatever your inspiration, I hope you're enjoying the read and are getting some fun ideas by now! Next week we'll look at some author info, and then be ready for some final book talk the week after that. 

If you have ideas for your own outfit, feel free to share and give others some extra inspo!