Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time Hardcover-spiral – Aug 25 2010
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Readers who know utterly nothing about the subject can tell whether a How-To book makes sense, and whether the directions work as promised. Readers who know everything about the subject can tell whether the facts are believed by experts in the field, and how well the writing is organized by the prevailing standards of exposition. Other readers don't know enough to criticize a book, except by comparison.
I am not qualified to judge the value of STITCH-by-STITCH for stitchers because I am not learning how to sew. I have purchased 18 books from AMAZON, about the various branches of the clothing industry, to soak in the ambience of a protagonist of a novel I am writing. Therefore, my opinion is not likely to have relevance for a practising student of the craft.
To begin with, I was so seriously misled by the covers and blurbs of the first three books that I vowed to buy no more books on the i-NET. Then, I found that AMAZON provides extensive previews, even entire texts, of some titles. Once I could browse books thoroughly, my purchases were satisfactory --- and many. Publishers take notice! It does not matter whether browsers buy, even after reading the entire book, because satisfied readers are the best sellers; the very worst advertising are purchasers who feel the promise of the cover is not delivered. In this wise, the best advice I can give readers is to browse thoroughly before buying.
In the matter of STITCH-by-STITCH, Ms. Moebe states explicitely in her Introduction that she intends to make it easy for utterly clueless readers to find their way to sew with satisfaction. Mirabile dictu! That is exactly what she does. For me, at least. Nobody comes with fewer clues than me.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Another great feature: the book is spiral bound and lays flat on the table while I work, and allowed me to reference the instructions and step-by-step photos at a glance.
- Pre-project fundamentals of sewing were clear and concise
- Instructions were well written
- Lots of step-by-step photos
- Lots of projects (and project variations)
- Spiral bound book lays flat for easy reference
- Nothing! The patterns all come on a CD so you can print them out over and over again.
I think what really helps with this book is that the author doesn't attempt to intimidate you and gives you thorough instructions. I was more than happy that she gave a detailed list of necessary accessories and how to use them. I also appreciated her humor throughout the book (especially her little tangent about fabric).
Another important part of this book is that sewing is part craft and part art. It does take practice to build up skill in order to do all the stitches correctly, but that's the great part about learning! I purchased several yards of muslin just to practice all of the stitching, and the more I practice, the better I get. Hopefully within the new few months, I can start taking patterns and using them. And finally, I hope to take those patterns and modify them to fit a body perfectly. This is just the first building block in order to learn. Each project teaches you a new skill, and I find myself going back a few each time, so I can test myself.
I have to admit that I found the projects to be a little funny. I have no wish to make an eye mask, and the hipster belt looks a little strange. But the importance of these things is learning the skills required to make them and to move on and make your own items. So for now, I happily make the eye mask, because I know getting these skills will help me in the future.
Although there is a long list of things that you should consider getting before continuing the projects, I would recommend like crazy a pair of dressmaker's shears. We own about four scissors in our apartment, and none of them handled the fabric well enough. I am now investing in a pair of scissors. An iron is incredibly important as well. Of course, this is stated in the book, but I didn't realize how important they would be until I actually started doing the projects.
Overall, a fantastic book. I know I will be keeping this as a reference book in the future. It would be impossible for me to let this go.
Halfway through the book, things changed. It seems like there was a rush to get this book to the publisher. There are spelling errors ("peak" instead of "peek" and "too" instead of "to"). One of the patterns is supposed to have notches and dots, but it doesn't. The pattern sizing is WAY off. There are picture errors--where there is supposed to be a picture of sewing on buttons, there is a copy of a picture from the previous page of creating a small pleat on one of the ties. Where the writer is supposed to be explaining how to make a buttonhole for the tie to go through (for the carport skirt), she starts talking about making it for a button (the buttons on this skirt have loops, not holes). Some steps seem out of order and create HUGE headaches (like when you get to mitering the hem on the carport skirt).
After reading some of these reviews, I'm starting to think I purchased the one and only draft of the book that somehow made it on the shelves of Joann Fabrics.
I have learned quite a bit about sewing from this book. Unfortunately, I've also had to learn how to figure things out on my own. But, hey, isn't that the best way to become a better sewer?
The book is spiral bound and starts off with materials that you'd need to start sewing, a section on choosing a machine, and a section on fabric.
The projects are:
- Fancy Napkin
- Picnic Place Mat
- Reversible Tote Bag
- Relaxing Eye Mask
- Hipster Belt
- Piped Throw Pillow
- Patchwork Cafe Curtains
- Girl's Charm Pack Skirt
- A Wrap Skirt
- A Line Skirt
- Cap Sleeved Blouse
It also has a section on how to use commercial patterns.
It is supposed to be for the rank beginner, but while the tone is comforting and encouraging, it'd be more helpful to have more direct advice sometimes and better pictures that correspond to the trickiest steps in a project. (We nearly-rank beginners need these things.)
To wit: the eye mask is in the book to teach about sewing curves, and while she shows you how nasty it looks when curves are poorly sewn, the author doesn't give many clues about how to do better on curves, other than to watch the seam-line on the machine. The photo shows a straight edge on the machine throatplate, not a curved edge.
Also on the eye mask: The pattern is supposed to have notches/marks about where to put the strap edges. None print on the patterns.
Another reviewer has pointed out errors and typos. I'll forgive typos: errors in a book for beginners is a bigger issue. Pages 114-116 discuss making handles for the tote bag, and there are at least two errors. On page 114, #1, it says handle pieces should be 3 inches wide, double the width of the finished handle. Then it says use .5 inch seam allowance on long edges on each side of handle. If you subtract .5 + .5 from 3 inches you get 2 inches...so the original 3 inch-strips are not double the width of the finished handle.
On page 116, #1, the author says to cut 1.5 inch strips of fabric, two for each handle (the reversible one). Well, if you do that, then use the .5 inch seam allowance called for, you are going to get .75 finished handles. The handles in the photos are clearly wider. So she probably means cut 3 inch strips of fabric, use the .5 seam allowance, and get a 2 inch finished handle size.
The bags turn out very cute--but again, watch that final assembly. Make sure the handles are sandwiched *between* the inner layer and the outer one!
Finally, I tried to make the A-Line skirt. Thank goodness I used muslin. First issue is that the pics for this item, from a rank beginner's view, aren't very helpful. Attaching the waistband to the skirt body was completely counter-intuitive, and the photos don't help at all. Also, there are no notches on the patterns, though the instructions refer to matching them.
Bigger issue: sizing is completely wonky. I have a size 38ish hip, so I printed the size 10, per the author's sizing chart. The result was a HUGE skirt. I've since printed the size 6, and size 8 patterns. I've pulled an A-line skirt from my closet that fits beautifully to compare to the muslin and patterns. All the patterns still look huge (there's very little size difference between the 10 and the 6). And there's no information about how to adjust the sizing (Internet searches indicate that's not really a beginner's activity anyway).
Soooo...I did buy the book in part because it included patterns for classic projects, and patterns are expensive. But at least one pattern is turning out to be not at all useful. (Remember, the book is targeted at beginners, not experienced sewers who know in a beat how to adjust a pattern.)
That said, I did need the author's instructions for putting in a zipper in the middle of a pillow (though most pillows call for side zips) and those instructions were clear and correct.
Publishers don't want to pay copy editors these days and there probably wasn't time to test the projects out on beginners the way test kitchens check recipes. The book would've benefited from those steps. I recommend really reading through all the instructions, checking the indicated measurements and cuts against the descriptive language and double-checking if something seems illogical. And use cheap fabric the first time through...