I have a small confession: if I had to make a choice between sewing or books, books might just win.
Some part of me truly believes that the answer to everything can be found in a book. Whenever a problem crops up, I think “hmmm… there must be a book about that somewhere…” If I haven’t found the answer, it just means I haven’t found the right book yet. (I am only just now realising that some problems can only be solved though time, experience and relationships). I can’t remember when this belief in book authority took root, except that I learned to read at a relatively young age and when I was 7, told my teacher that I’d rather read books to myself as adults couldn’t get the voices right (I know… precocious brat).
(My bedroom bookcase – I keep my collection of crime novels here, and have just realised that may be weird.)
I don’t think I’m alone in the sewing blogosphere with this love of books… I’m sure Carly and Karen are like-minded, and I’ve just come across this beautiful blog where authors make children’s clothes inspired by children’s books. (Is it wrong to want a small person of my own so I can make cute mini clothes?) So: how many crafting books do you have? I’ve just been round the house for a count-up, and my grand total is 25. Is that a lot? Or pitifully small?
This got me thinking: do I really use these books? Actually read them? Have I ever made anything inspired by them? No idea. So, I propose to review them all, one each week (I’ve picked Wednesday, as it somehow has a nice bookish feel to it). I’m not on the payroll of any authors or publishers, so it will be an honest personal summary of the good, the bad and the ugly. If I come to the conclusion that the book is useful, but not for me, I will stick it in a giveaway and see who wants it. If you have the same book, please do add comments, or different opinions, or links to things which it has inspired you to make. Here we go!
The first book on the list is one which will definitely not be in a giveaway, my recent birthday present: The Party Dress Book, by Mary Adams.
Put simply, this book is gorgeous. I tend to be a pretty casual dresser, but as I said in my earlier post: if you’re not into overly feminine dresses, this book will a) make you want to be, and b) give you some fab ideas to incorporate into other projects. If you are into the girly look, you may just cry tears of pure joy.
My friends, it is a design feast. The first section is called ‘Origins and Influences’, where Mary Adams explains how she got started and set up her own business, and what inspires her – from Marie Antoinette to the feminine styles of the 1950s. It’s a real insight into the creative process, and how her style has developed over time, with plenty of luscious pictures. Brace yourself: there are a lot of ruffles. One of the most striking dresses is a frothy wedding dress in transparent aqua, lavender, peach and yellow… for a split second, I was like ‘why didn’t I do that for my wedding?’ (I promise, you get infected by the floaty dresses). All this was far more interesting than a sequence of twee ‘how-to’ projects.
The middle section of the book gets technical – fabrics, colour combinations and sewing techniques. I did my first french seam following the step-by-step photos, and it turned out great! Mary Adams doesn’t give away all her secrets – no clues to her fab sleeve designs or corsetry – but she covers applique, quilting, pintucks, ruffles and using bias strips, so there’s plenty to get on with.
The final section is planning and making your own party dress. It does come with a paper pattern (in its own little envelope) but actually, I wouldn’t recommend it for a brand new sewist. It’s a lined princess-seam bodice with a circle skirt, in taffeta or organza – I can’t imagine that being an easy way to start. On the other hand, if you’ve been sewing for a while, you’re likely to have your own favoured patterns that you’ve tried and tested, and don’t need particularly need this. I can’t see myself using it. I’ll just let my imagination run riot on other things.
Conclusion: A gorgeous floaty meringue of a book. Some practical bits, but the real treasure is the inspiring peek into Mary Adam’s creative process. I reckon I’ll come back to it for an inspiration boost during creative blocks.