I don’t know about you, but I love seeing what Sewing Bee Alumni are up to: from giving talks to crowds of people, writing magazine columns, holding run way shows- these guys are pretty darn inspirational.
So I was super excited to see that the lovely Matt Chapple (winner of series 3 of The Great British Sewing Bee) was coming out with his debut book: Make it, Own It, Love it, and even more excited to be sent a copy to review (and join my growing Sewing Book Library!)
Sizing it up
For a newbie, sewing can be really daunting. I’m sure a lot of people are put off from taking it up because they think ‘I can’t possibly do this’, ‘I don’t have X, Y, Z’, ‘I can’t even sew a straight line’. So I love the way Matt presents sewing: it’s unpretentious and makes sewing seem really doable. The book is aimed for beginners and intermediates and does it really well. It takes you through all the basics of equipment and techniques before working it’s way up skill-wise: from customising ready to wear, making brand new items to mending and repair.
The book is made up of 7 main sections:
Took kit: I really like how it’s grouped by function and goes through which are ‘essential’ (for the purists) and which are ‘desirable’ (for the gadget lovers). There are also some helpful tips of cheats/alternatives for when you’ve mislaid something. Again, I love how unpretentious this section is. Sometimes you read a book and can’t help but sigh at all the ‘must haves’ (and cringe at your somewhat lacklustre kit in comparison). Even though Matt gives reasons for why gadgets might be helpful, there’s definitely no judge-iness for using baking paper or a pencil for marking your fabric.
Fabrics: A nice little section on fabrics- a little bit of history about types of fabric as well as suggestions for which fabrics to use for what. My favourite bit here is the section on pattern matching which has some helpful tips.
Stitching: A nice reference section for different hand and machine stitches. For hand stitches- there are written instructions but only a single diagram which absolute beginners might struggle with when it comes to the more complicated stitches. But as a quick reminder it’s a nicely laid out section to refer back to. My favourite section here is the overview of commercial patterns- including digital PDFs which can seem a bit daunting for first timers.
Make it your own: Now we’re onto the meaty parts of the book. This is for all the people who don’t necessarily want to learn how to sew to make their own wardrobe, but just want to learn sewing so they can fix their clothes/shorten the hem or just customise their ready to wear items. It’s got some really helpful instructions for those common tasks (shortening hems, slimming trousers, taking in waistbands) and even as a little-more-advanced-than-beginner-but-still-make-silly-mistakes, I’m sure I’ll come back to this section for reference!
Make it from scratch: After introducing the reader to sewing through simple hacks and customisations, this section slowly tempts you into trying to make garments from scratch. Again, in classic Matt style, he starts simple and doesn’t overwhelm you with anything too complicated and scary looking.
- Bow tie
- Sleeveless blouse
- Infinity scarf
- Scuba skirt
- Sunday sweatshirt
- Pyjama trousers
- Summer dress
The patterns are all either self drafted (with simple shapes), tracing around ready to wear items or free downloads- so there’s no commitment issues for the sewing newbie.
Make it wearable and Make it live longer: These sections are about taking care of your garments and making the most out of them- whether thats repairing that seam or replacing buttons to create a whole new look. I think this section really underpins Matt’s message: Make it, Own it, Love it. In his own words he’s passionate about getting people to “create something unique” but also appreciate and care for their clothes. This section gives you all the information you need to do just that- from deciphering the laundry labels (I don’t know about you, but we’re still trying to get our laundry to be as crisp as our Mums!), to fixing holes in pockets. It’s a great message to preach to counter the ‘throwaway’ culture.
Judging a book by its cover
Ok. So maybe that’s not how the saying goes…but lets be honest-who doesn’t like a good looking book sitting on their shelf? This book comes as a hardback with a matte (chuckle) finish to the cover. The photos are all light and bright and really inviting.
On flicking through I did find that the word to diagram ratio is a little bit skewed towards words; different steps are accompanied by a thorough paragraph of instructions and a few diagrams. As a visual learner it means I need to re-read the instructions a few times, the information is all there, but I would have appreciated a few more diagrams.
Overall this is a really great book for people who want to start sewing but aren’t sure how much they want to commit to it, because lets be honest-not everyone wants to create their entire wardrobe or is aiming to be the next winner of The Great British Sewing Bee! So this book is great for beginner to intermediates. It covers all the basic bits of sewing, but gives you enough information and confidence to help you progress with your sewing if you want to: all written in Matt’s down-to-earth, approachable style. What’s not to like?
Now I’m left wondering who’s face we’ll be seeing on the front of a book from Series 4 of The Great British Sewing Bee?… Any predictions?
Many thanks to Matt and his team for sending me a copy and inviting me to give my honest opinion. Image credits to Simon Brown.