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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon

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Friday, May 20, 2016

New sewers

The past ten days have been a blur, and a blur that has not included blog posts. 

I am sorry about that, and just as sorry you can't read all the posts I have written in my head while I have been painting the B and B my youngest son just bought, getting my summer classes ready, or walking the woods with Miss Daisy in Cheticamp Cape Breton where my husband currently has a project. 

More on all of that later.

One of the things that has been on my mind though has been young sewers.

Just before I left for Cape Breton Miss Scarlett, my six-year-old granddaughter and my heir apparent as the family seamstress, and I looked through the latest Marfy patterns.

I was impressed with her eye and for her definite opinions on fashion at such a young age.

This seems to me to be one of the big differences between new and us older sewers.

We were brought up by mothers and grandmothers who emphasized making the inside look as good as the outside (something I still try to do and don't regret) and following instructions exactly, sometimes even when they didn't make much sense.

Many sewers of my generation for example will try their little hearts out to grade the second seam allowance (more on grading and trimming in another post) precisely 1/8" lower than the first trim. I have even seen women try to measure this.

Of course with this sort of stress about detail the big picture, which might include fit and decisions about what really you want to sew rather than should sew, can lead to what I call paint-by-numbers sewing (and you have to be old enough to know what that is) that can sap the creativity and independent mindedness out of sewing.

On the other side, and possibly a reaction to this approach or a product of a generation who did not have home ec classes or family members who themselves knew how to sew, there are the bloggers/designers who are churning out tutorials, patterns, and books that in many cases are steering the readers as wrong as some of the old dumb head pattern instructions used to.

You know what I mean. 

Those "I just learned to sew last year and now let me teach you" sewing experts. I commend the enthusiasm, but not the instant commercialization and perhaps not the the lack of depth of knowledge that really can be useful if you want your garments turn out as well as they should. I am also getting a little bit weary with patterns described as "essential" and "iconic" that really are two or three pattern pieces, as if these shapes have never been presented before.

There is something for knowing what you don't know.

So all this said I am fairly cautious when I read about a new sewing book. I am on kind of a mission to help new sewers get enough of the right information for their first projects to turn out.

I also recognize that new and the newest sewers need accessible information.

In addition to my own experience with Miss Scarlett I have been contacted several times in the last year by non-sewing mothers who wanted advice on how to help their daughters who were desperate to get sewing. Sometimes this has involved me giving basic machine advice and offering to help teach, but really I wanted to offer them a good book too.

I had a fair idea my 1970 Vogue Book of Sewing was not going to do the job.

I was looking for a book with solid basics, covering all the things I think are important, but also that recognizing that newest sewers want to experiment and customize their clothing immediately, not wait for post graduate design courses like we might have felt we should.

I also should tell you that I have been sent a number of sewing books over the years to review on this blog. There maybe is one for advanced sewers I intend to get to, but most of them I have given a pass.

If I don't think it is useful I am not going to tell anyone else it is.

I am about to make an exception.

I have recently read this book by teenage blogger Angela Lan and I love it:

Lan wrote this book between the ages of 11-14 and is clearly some sort of sewing savant. 

She gets all the basics right -  grainline, sewing machine needles and how to read a pattern and gives sensible basic instruction on techniques like setting in sleeves, sewing a knit neckline, and inserting zippers. She also includes some of her own opinions and experiences, for example why quilting cotton is not suitable for clothing.

In addition, like all sewers of her generation, she goes right to basic garments (hence the dream wardrobe reference) and to how to begin to generate your own designs. The book also includes six basic pull out traceable patterns and clear instructions on how these can be expanded or adapted, the high-waisted shorts into pants for example.

To me this is a gift book, perfect for a young girl who yearns to sew or for a mother who doesn't sew at all herself and wishes she could help her daughter start.

On that note the publisher has offered to send a free copy to one of my blog readers.

If you know someone young who could use this book please leave a comment and tell me who your young sewer is. I will make a random draw of the names next week and notify you by email (pm me your email address so I can do this).

The more new sewers the better.


Dixie said...

Love your last line "The more new sewers the better". Thanks for letting us know of this book. I will have hopes that soon my granddaughters will want to learn.

Meg said...

2 of my granddaughters would love this book. She has just started to get interested in seeing and fashion design. I have a feeling that I will be buying 2 copies very soon. Thanks for bringing it to our attinition.

Sox said...

That sounds like a wonderful book. And written by someone young enough for 'kids' to relate too.
My office partner has three daughters, 16 and 12 year old twins, and they love making and taking things apart to make into something else. I found a basic sewing machine for them a couple of years ago and they have been having a grand time with it.
thank you for such a useful giveaway! (Should I be fortunate enough to win, my email is under my blog profile.)

bbarna said...

I also have a granddaughter who has shown interest in sewing. Last summer when she was 4 she assisted while I made matching eye spy quilts for her twin cousins. She has shown great interest in the outfits I have made her and in using the sewing machine. My plan is to introduce her to the machine when she is 6 or 7. I was mainly self taught, but had a grandmother who was a great seamstress (and whose own mother was a dressmaker by trade). She was able to spend some time helping me learn some new techniques before she passed away. I remember having 3 or 4 Simplicity patterns in the 60's and they were my base patterns for creating a multitude of outfits from mini to maxi. By 14 I was making 90% of my wardrobe. Sewing is a wonderful skill.
Barb from Prince George.

MizzSmartyPants said...

I have an 8 year old niece who is already a fashionista and enjoys seeing my makes on Facebook and my blog. Neither her mother nor her grandmother sew, so I was planning on once she's just a little older, to get her a sewing machine and go out there where they live for about a week to work with her on getting started on her first project.

MakeitAnyWear said...

I've just promised my niece, who lives in a different state, sewing lessons for her birthday. Luckily there are kids classes 10 min from her house. I would love to give her this book.

Eleanor said...

Thanks for recommending this book! My oldest granddaughter is four and loves to play in my sewing room... I hope she will become a sewer some day.

annie said...

I have a beautiful, enthusiastic fashionista granddaughter, 14 going on 24, you know the type. She is very talented and would love to sew. I don't live near her so I can't help her. Her sweet mother works long hours outside the home so she really doesn't have the time. I would LOVE to give her this book and I will even if I don't win. Thanks for all you post. Most of the bloggers of a "certain age" are dropping out. I hope you will hang in there, mostly because you write about so much more than sewing.

annie said...

P.S. Not sure what you meant by sending our email addresses by PM. Perhaps direct email?

Linda said...

Oh I hear you!!! I do read the blogs and am amazed at the "here's a new pattern for a potato sack, let me give it a name" posters. Give or take fifty years and they may KNOW anything at all! I try to help new sewers as much as possible and would love to start classes for kids. For now, I also find old Singers, get them in working order and give them to young sewers looking for a dependable machine. This would be a wonderful gift and I know just the young person for it!!

SunnyTechGirl said...

My daughter is a new sewer but maybe she's only young to me. I would like to give her this book though. Enjoying your stories about Daisy and reading about your sewing adventures.


Catherine said...

I have a young co-worker buying her first machine and getting her sewing feet wet. This would be a great reference for her.

sewsan said...

I've started a sewing group that teaches anyone 7 and over basic sewing skills. The program runs throughout the year and is free, however, from September to January we are "sewing for others", making things that are sold at the church's christmas bazaar and the funds earmarked for various specific outreach programs. From January to June, participants can work on projects for themselves. There are one or two girls in that group who would love this book.

PJSewlady said...

Agree about the young sewers. I am currently working with a friend's 11 year old daughter. She took a couple of sewing classes in school and wants to keep going. She loved her glitter, flannel pj pants. We are now working on a crazy quilt. All items are her choice. After the quilt she wants to go back to clothes so this book would be perfect.

ElleC said...

I have a friend with a 13 year old daughter who desperately wants to learn to sew. Someone who moved away gave me a nice basic Kenmore sewing machine that I am saving for her, when both of us have the time to get together. I am buying basic tools for her whenever there is a sale at Fabricland. I haven't decided on which book(s) to buy for her. This one just might be the one, even if I don't win it. Thank you for the review. Whether I win the book or not. 8-)

Pam from South Australia said...

I am in my mid 60s, have sewn most of those years and now have a 6yo great-granddaughter who spends 1 week every school holidays in my sewing room with me. I sew for her and she sews (?) for Barbie. We both enjoy this time, BUT she is so ready to get on to the machines and sew for herself. I allowed her mother (my granddaughter) to use the machine at age 7 (with the pedal on a phone book) so I figure it is time I took her to the next level. Don't want her to lose interest. This book sounds just perfect for both of us to follow. Guidance for me and knowledge for her. Thank you for the opportunity.

CJ said...

My granddaughter, Anji, age 12, is asking me to teach her to sew. This book would truly inspire her, to see a peer accomplishing good seeing habits and insights.

Leigh in Portland (we are not burning down) said...

Know what you mean by the trend of 'I just learned to sew 5 minutes ago and now I'm an expert so watch my (crappy inaccurate) tutorials.' I have been sad to see a favorite indie pattern company who hired an "enthusiastic" new sewist to do the blog. She doesn't sew well, and it's just unreadable now. Enthusiasm only takes you so far. Sometimes you actually need to have the knowledge and skills to back it up.

Please include me in the drawing. I have a friend whose daughter is the appropriate age and has recently gotten into sewing.

Maryissewfast said...

My God daughter Chloe would love this book! She loves when I bring her a box of remnants!

freshcityfarm said...

Oh this is so wonderful that publishers recognize the need for a voice other than the main ones that are out there repp'ing for the sewing world currently! My daughter is stuck behind that line of "mom that's not really a look I'd wear, it's more you" so to have something written by a teen is fantastic! I'm sure my daughter would gobble this book up. I'm so excited at the possibility of really igniting her interest in sewing like a compelling book that can not be set down. Thank you!!!

jirons42 said...

My greatniece Kayliegh (age 11) has shown a real interest in learning to sew. Her mother doesn't sew at all by her grandma (my sister) has been working with her. My sister has asked me for book recommendation and this sounds like it would be perfect.

mumbird3 said...

My niece and fashionista Tatiana would probably really appreciate this book!

Tina said...

My daughter is learning to sew. She's eleven and would love this book because she is always modifying patterns that I make for her. She wants pockets or a different sleeve. She even draws up her ideas complete with accessories.

Anne said...

My daughter is a new sewer and uninspired by the books I have shown her not to mention fashions that are more for me than her. Like sunnytechgirl said, though, she is maybe only young to me!!

edj3 said...

My granddaughter is nearly 9--for her 7th birthday, she asked that I teach her to sew and I did. But now she and the rest of the family live pretty far away so any face to face lessons are rare.

She's super tall and thin, and comes from a family of skinny giants so learning to make pants that fit her is going to be essential. So that's who this book would go to :)

Janet said...

I know a young woman in the community who may not have the opportunity to pay for lessons. She would love this book. She is going off to high school next year.

Rhonda Russell said...

My niece has decided to learn how to sew. She even used her Christmas money to buy a used sewing machine! She could really use a book as I'm not readily available to help her learn. Also, it's always nice to have a good resource to have around when you're in the middle of a project.

Rose in IN said...

My granddaughter is a very beginner sewer, and I am certain she would love this book!

Anonymous said...

My granddaughter is 13, and likes to sew. I'd like to help her move on to something more challenging (and more gratifying when it's finished!) than pajama pants or pillows. I bet she would love this book, and if I don't win it, I'll buy it for her. I'm sure the author's view on sewing would encourage my Hannah in her sewing! I love reading your blog. You're funny, have a wonderful outlook and attitude on life, and pass on a lot of sewing knowledge. Keep on writing!!

Lisa said...

My nephew asked for a sewing kit at the age of 6 and his face just lit up when i showed him my recent quilt. I think he would love it!

GJH50 said...

My "adopted granddaughter" from church just had her first sewing experience at school as a 7th grader and can't wait to learn more. She's eager to design clothes she can sew and wear herself.

GJH50 said...

My "adopted granddaughter" at church just had her first sewing experience at school, and is enthusiastic about learning to design and sew things she can wear. We would love to explore this book together!

d said...

My two nieces are 10 and 8, and want to be fashionable but comfortable at the same time. This book would be perfect for setting them on the road to sewing for themselves. Thank you!

judi said...

This would be a great book to get my almost 11 year old started with! My 17 year old might enjoy reading through it as well.

Unknown said...

That's so funny.... My daughter and I were just talking about how I need to live closer in order to teach my soon to 11 year old granddaughter. This book is going to her house one way or another. said...

Oh my, your comment, "There is something for knowing what you don't know" could be the statement of the year.

I have a 7-year-old granddaughter who is fashion-y and likes to hand me pins as I sew.

Anna-Marie said...

Would love this book for my 16 year old daughter who has her GCSE (UK) Textiles exam tomorrow morning. She's done really well in the practical so I'm hoping she does equally well in the theory. That said there really isn't enough time time to learn what you want to know in school so a book that would help her produce an item of clothing that she'd be excited to wear really appeals. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

LinB said...

I recommend anything by Adele Margolis. Sadly, her books are black-and-white, and the illustrations are fairly dated, so they don't appeal to modern readers. Her methods are not earth-shatteringly different from other well-respected authors, but her explanations of WHY to do something one way or another are clear and thorough and filled with gentle humor. Her "Make Your Own Dress Patterns" is a standard classic of the genre. It holds within its pages what have become industry secrets (not industry secrets when she wrote it) for drafting and sewing up many different garments for women, children, and a few men's garments.

Of the modern stuff, go with anything by Claire Schaeffer, Kenneth King, Sandra Betzina, Gertie Hirsh.

Angela Lan said...

Thank you so much Barabra for participating in the blog tour and all your kind words. It really means so much to me!

Angela Lan

Meigan said...

That book looks wonderful! My eldest daughter has started getting interested in sewing and I think she would love that book. It helps being instructed by someone other than mom. :)