Monday, December 30, 2013

Sewing for Boys: Buckles and Bobbins

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My son (age 11 now) developed an interest in sewing a couple of years ago.  Unfortunately, he did not develop any patience to go along with it, so his sewing efforts have thus far been pitiful to say the least.  Sewing is not a speedy hobby, at least not in the beginning that is for sure.  He is a book learner to the core, so I started my hunt to find him some sewing books to aid my hands-on teaching.  Needless to say, the choices among books for teaching a boy to sew are few, or at least they were a couple of years ago.  [Anyone know of newer choices?]

We got a couple generic learn to sew books for kids to show how a machine worked, how to thread a needle, how to straight stitch and so forth (to reinforce the hands on componenent), and one complete with shapes to sew over to practice curves and basic manipulation of paper (leading to fabric manipulation while in the machine of course).  But then we had a lack of progress in terms of real projects beyond a pillowcase or other super simple things.  Most "first project" stuff really appeals more to girls (simple skirt and so forth).

Then I came across this book, geared for older boys.  It is a bit pricey honestly, but I have nothing but praise for the content.  It is a complete first sewing course with projects, and  not all of them are super super simple.  They truly put some thought into what would appeal to a boy, especially an older boy, and then taught them how to make it.  I think boys especially need a final product to be interested at all, and a pillowcase is not going to cut it.  Zach does not want to sit down and practice stitching with nothing at the end, or practice putting a button on nothing.  He needs a garment.  So boys will practice a zipper in an actual bag they want to use, or a cargo pocket on a fun pair of pants. 

This book has pull-out, full-size pattern sheets.  The kids will need to learn to trace off the size they need for the garments (size 8-16!!!!) on paper or whatever tracing medium you are using, then do the project.  The instructions for the projects are clear and concise, simple without being dumbed down.

We haven't made all the projects, but one we use repeatedly is the PJ pant/short pattern and simple V-neck, scrub-style PJ top with a simple facing.  Since his patience is low, I have taken over the sewing of these most of the time, but your child would have little to no trouble doing the pants on his own, slightly more with putting in the facing on the neckline of the top, but still very doable.  The pants have a modification from PJs to daywear with a pattern add-on of side pockets and/or leg cargo pockets. 

Again, I have nothing but praise for the very existence of this book to help boys, especially older boys, learn to sew with projects of interest to the age group.  The content is good, clear and simple without being overly simplistic.  They can create projects or gifts.  Fit on the garments for stated sizing may be a bit generous but not awful, and very compatible with other typical envelope patterns.  5 stars for this one!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review: Skirt-a-Day Sewing

I received a copy of this through Netgalley.

This book begins as if it is for the very very inexperienced seamstress, as if you will be sewing your first projects ever.  It describes basic sewing equipment, types of needles, types of threads, woven versus interlock materials, etc., in very great detail with clear and pretty pictures.  It explains seam allowances and several types of seams, several types of hems, inserting a zipper, etc.  The diagrams are clear, information adequate.

The reader than goes about creating a sloper from measurements.  This again is described to a novice.  You are recommended to create your muslin sloper, which will then be used for all the other skirts in the book.  The information is accurate, though I would have liked to see more actual fitting advice as this book is so much geared for the novice.  There are some common problems that may come up in fitting, where some diagrams could be helpful, such as sway back, body shape issues, adjusting for protruding tummies, etc.

Chapters thereafter describe changes to your sloper to create the various skirts in the book.  What I love is that there truly are several variations described that give quite different looks, and many of them simulate "ready to wear" styles with exposed zippers, interesting seaming, etc.  There is a whole lot more here than the basic pull-on versus zipper in the back versus A-line that so many skirt books have already done.  These truly area interesting variations for your basic sloper.  However, given the focus of the book towards the very novice seamstress, I'm a bit concerned that someone would be overwhelmed trying to create some of these variations as they involve at times a skilled hand at sewing, e.g. the one with the curved asymmetrical darts.  Even the example picture has some puckering at the darts, and a novice might end up frustrated with final his/her attempts at that.  It's a fine line between enough of a challenge and a completely frustrating learning experience in the beginning.

Some of the skirts also show some challenging fabrics, such as working with velvet or aligning stripes, and I feel not enough information is given to the reader to be able to handle the nap on the velvet or the alignment of the stripes confidently.  If this book were geared towards the moderate to advanced seamstress I would expect no extra help in that regard, but again the introduction and preliminary chapters make it clear this is geared towards the novice.  As such, some more information on the fabrics chosen would be helpful to give the reader the very best chance of duplicating the project.

So, I give this book 4 stars as a moderate seamstress, but I would not recommend it to my most novice friend as I think she would be frustrated at the turnout of the projects if using only this book as a guide.  I give it 4 stars because it is so very visually appealing (Storey publishing always has the most visually appealing books IMHO), and appeals to a modern woman (up to date styles).  I love that it does not require pattern sheets with the book but rather teaches you to draft your own sloper.  This gives you ultimately endless possibilities for variation (showing you several of course in the book).  I do highly recommend it for those with at least basic sewing experience as a fun book.