I have made many softies (soft toys) over the years and have countless books with different patterns but my go to book is The Big Book of Softies published by Penguin books.
The most pattern I have made from the book is Polly. She is a really basic doll and she is my go to dolly for little girls but I make her without the ears. She makes a great 1st birthday present as she is cloth doll without any buttons or things that could be choking hazards. This pattern is great for using up scraps because you can make each section out of different fabrics. For the body it is basically a square rectangle with a little curve over the head area. I have added hair before using yarn but I have also made it without hair. I am actually planning to make another Polly in the coming months for a gift.
Looking back I have made the Gnome. I thought I had a photo of it as I made it purple but I can’t seem to have. Sometimes I make things and forget to blog about them.
The Lizard was another pattern that I made from this book. Not everyone has a pink lizard but at the time my niece was liking the colour pink and like reptiles so this was a good combination. That is the best thing about toys that you make you can make them in the combination that you need for that child.
Another pattern I have made is Maisie. Again this is a great scrap busting project because you can make the different sections in different fabrics. This pattern is for more your older child if you add the buttons on the ears, you could make it for a young child without the buttons.
My most favourite toy I have made from the book is the Car and Caravan. As soon as I saw this pattern in the book when I purchased it I thought of my childhood neighbours and the caravan they had. I made this for their great grandson. This is a very sentimental toy.
The instructions in this book are very easy to follow. The pattern pieces list what size to photocopy them to but you can easily make the toys larger or smaller by photocopying them at a different amount eg 120% not 100%. This book doesn’t just have toys to sew but also some to knit and crochet. It is a really comprehensive book to have in your stash if you are thinking of making softies.
A Stash of One’s Own by Clara Parkes is a book that I will admit from the start if it wasn’t for seeing a few people on Instagram reading this book I would never have found it let alone been drawn to pick up and read. I was totally a book lemming on this one and in this instance I am glad that I was.
When I first saw this book in people’s photos I thought it is just another yarn fictional romance novel. I have read a few like that but I lose interest quick in them as I can’t really read fictional stories (except Harry Potter) Don’t judge this book by the illustration on the front, read the words in the title, do a google search, go hold a copy in local store and you will see it is a book of short non fictional stories or essays from various people sharing their account of what their “stash” is and what it means to them. On the back it lists the 22 people who have contributed stories to the book. I don’t know many “famous” knitting names so there was only 2 that I recognised from the list but you don’t need to know who these people are to read their stories. It is the stories and not the persons themselves that makes this book wonderful.
Each story is about 6-10 pages long (some shorter, some longer) It is fascinating reading everyone’s stories. Not everyone thinks of their stash in the same way. Some people are really emotional about their stash, some aren’t. Some people have really organised stashes, some have yarn stashed in the bathroom. Before I had even finished reading the Foreward I was already drawn into this book knowing once I had finished it there was no way I would be passing it on, this book is staying in my book stash. I am glad I didn’t actually borrow this book from a friend like I was considering when I was trying to decide if I needed to buy it or not. I haven’t even finished this book yet but I can already relate to little bits here and there from different stories after just reading a few. It is really comforting to read things and think you are not alone with the way you are dealing with things whether it be emotions or storage. The stories are the perfect length to read the book in small bites. If you wanted to you could sit down and read this in a day, I would say it would be a very emotional day so maybe have the tissues handy particularly if you find yourself relating to a lot of the more in depth parts of the human psyche. Unfortunately I don’t have any dedicated reading time at the moment so I have been reading 2-3 stories a day than putting the book down for a day or so and going back to it for another short read when I can. For me this works perfect as in this short periods I am reading I can really take the words in and reflect on aspects of my own life that relate. Don’t just think it is all depressing stories you will laugh so much as well. My favourite sentence so far “If Barbie and My Little Pony dropped acid” I would never have imagined I would ever read those words!
Even though this book is centered around yarn stashes anyone who has any form of craft or hobby stash can relate to this book. Each time the term yarn is used insert your preferred craft term and it is just as relatable. When you get home, close the door and look around at your stuff and how you deal with it you discover from this book you are not alone. In this book real people with real stories share their experiences with their stash. I have always enjoyed reading autobiographies and have always believed that everyone has a story to tell they just need the opportunity to tell it.
When Wendy Ward started showing previews of her latest book late last year I jumped online and pre-ordered a copy through an online bookstore in Australia. A Beginner’s Guide To Sewing With Knitted Fabrics is Wendy’s 3rd book. My book was delivered the same time that the book was released in the UK (ok maybe even a couple of days earlier than the official release date in the UK) It was one of those from the minute you flick through it you want to make things from it books. I love sewing with knits so this book was perfect.
The book has 6 projects in it
- Peak t-shirt
- Derwent wide leg pants
- Winnats tank
- Monsal lounge pants
- Kinder cardigan
- Longshaw skirt
So as the names of the projects suggests you get patterns to make a t-shirt, wide leg pants, tank top, cardigan, skirt and lounge pants which I would say are more like what we call trackie pants in Australia but stylish ones. What I love about this book and all of Wendy’s books really is that she gives you a basic pattern for the garment for example the t-shirt so that if you are a beginner you start with that or even if you are not a beginner anymore it is a wardrobe staple pattern, we all need a good crew neck t-shirt. She then gives detailed step by step instructions on how to alter the base pattern to change the style like turn the t-shirt into a dress. She lists what fabric requirements are needed for each style in every size and the pattern cutting layout on the fabric. These little checklists and visual pictures are a sewing confidence booster so if you are not a seamstress wizard who can visualize things in your head and miraculously than have them turn out the way you want in the end piece you can still give the project ago and it will work.
You could do an entire wardrobe for both summer and winter from this book. Some of the projects you can combine to make dresses which can be tank style or long sleeve. You could make both pant styles either as shorts or long pants, you could use lighter weight knits for summer or thicker knits for winter. The cardigan could be short sleeve or long sleeve. This book is very versatile and not just for beginners, experienced knit fabric people will also enjoy it. A note to point out is that I found the pattern sheets in this book a little easier to follow than I did Wendy’s skirt book, there isn’t as many pieces to the patterns in this book I don’t think so visually the pattern sheets looked less cluttered. I have been meaning to blog about this book for some time because I have actually made 2 Kinder cardigans already. I’ll post about them in the coming weeks but I will say they were simple to do and are very comfortable.
From the previews of the book I thought I would make one or two patterns from it but once I got the book and saw all the patterns and the variations of them I’m now thinking I am going to sew my way through the book like I am the skirt book.
Have you ever liked a designers patterns a few times and before you knew it you had become a fan of theirs without realising it? To be honest I can’t remember where I first started seeing Wendy Ward’s designs but now I own 2 of her books and have just seen she has another one recently out.
A Beginner’s Guide To Making Skirts is the second book I purchased but the first book that I have made something from as it may have become apparent from my posts I am a bit of a skirt addict so no wonder I have been attracted to this book. The book contains 8 skirt patterns that can be modified to make 24 different skirts. The instructions go through how to make each basic pattern and then the ways you can modify it. There are a range of fabrics used in the various skirts including denim, jersey, cottons, rayons. The instructions are written with accompanying line drawings pointing out key areas to watch and helpful hints. For each of the skirts there are line drawings of the cutting layout on the fabric. There are also lots of beautiful photos of the finished items.
The only slightly confusing part in the book is the printed patterns. Each skirt comes in 10 different sizes and the books comes with pattern pieces for 7 of the skirts (no pattern for the circle skirt as you draft your own) So in theory that is like 70 different skirt pattern pieces all printed on a series 6 pages of paper pullouts. Each skirt is colour coded and all sizes are marked out the same for each pattern so you need to just keep an eye out that you are following the correct colour and size code for the skirt you wish to make. I trace out my patterns on to trace and toile which is fairly transparent but I would not try tracing this out under the normal overhead lighting I have above my craft table as it is a yellowish light instead I would wait until I had enough natural day light that surrounds my craft table so that I could see the pattern markings easier.
I have made one skirt from this book thus far with plans to make more. It is a great little book to have in your collection demonstrating how you can tweak a basic pattern multiple ways to create different looking items.
Over this past week I read The Dressmaker by Roaslie Ham so I can tick one thing off my To Craft list this month.
I started reading it when I first got the book a few years ago but from where my bookmark was placed it looks like I only read the first few chapters. I started reading it from the beginning again. I think the reason I put it down and never got back to it is that is slow to get in to. There are a lot of different characters and at times I did get a bit confused of who was who. Once the story line got going I found it to be ok, I read some each afternoon but could easily stop and do something and come back to it without needing to rush back to it. Some books I can’t put down or I have to read to the end of the chapter and struggle to put it down for the day, sadly not in this book. Some days I would read to the end of the chapters other days just to the end of the page. There was some moments in the book that I wasn’t expecting so it does have twists in the plot. I liked reading about the characters wearing all their different fabrics and I did try to imagine them in my head and I think that maybe what kept me interested in the book. The ending for me was a little bit unfinished, I could reason with most of the ending but one part made me think why?
My overall thoughts are it is an easy read. I think it would be a great book for a holiday where you can pick the book up at your leisure and read some casually. You have to get past the first few chapters which are a little slow but then it gets better and your mind gets lost in a world of fabric and fashion. It is worth the read if you haven’t seen the movie which is my next step. I thought I had brought the dvd but it turns out I hadn’t so I will be getting it this weekend to watch over Easter. From everyone’s thoughts on Instagram the movie is better than the book. Normally I always think that books are better than movies but I think this may be the exception to the rule as I think the clothing and fabrics need to come alive visually and you need the real life expressions in the characters to really understand them.
The Better Bag Maker by Nicole Mallalieu has been on my wish list since almost its release in 2014. As I’m trying to reduce the excessive amount of craft books from my stash recently I borrowed a copy of the book from my local library, within 5 minutes of reading I knew I needed my own copy.
I’m not a complete novice bag maker I have made 2 messenger bag and numerous tote bags, zipper pouches but within in the first 8 pages alone of this book I had learnt so much. As the front cover suggests this book is full of useful techniques, tips and tricks. There are some great bag makers out there who have wonderful patterns and fantastic instructions / tutorials that go along with their patterns but sometimes they tell you to do a step but don’t tell you useful gadgets that will help you do the step. If your familiar with bag making sometimes you told to trim back the interfacing / stabilizer from the seam to reduce bulk but how do you do that if it has been fused to the fabric? This book explains how and shows you a tool to use. There was another little cutting tool that was mentioned in this book to cut inner points in corners, I wish I had known about this tool when cutting out the box corners on the make-up pouches it would’ve been handy.
There are 10 bags in this book that you can make. They start at a beginner level and increase in difficulty with each bag adding another layer of skills but all techniques used are covered in the book. To be honest I’m not sure how many of the bags I will make but I will use all the skills from them on other bag projects I’m doing but also sewing projects. The skills you pick up in this book can be used in any sewing project. Whether you’re a novice bag maker or advanced you will get something out of this book. I’m glad I now have it in my stash.
Rhonda Hetzel writes the successful Down To Earth blog and is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. I was lucky enough to do a workshop with her in 2013 and it was wonderful. Rhonda has just published her 3rd book The Simple Home which is a follow up to her book Down To Earth.
From the start once I opened this book I instantly liked the look of it. It just feels warm and comforting which may sound strange but some books just have that affect. The layout, the font, the images. You can see a lot of care and love has been put into this book. Rhonda has this amazing calming nature and it just comes through the pages in her book.
This book is broken up into chapters based on the months of the year but also to coincide with the seasons within Australia (At the end of the book she also suggests ways to follow this book if you were in the Northern Hemisphere which I thought was a lovely touch and shows how she is widely followed by readers from around the world) She suggests areas you could concentrate on each month that will help you living your more simplified life. This breaks it down into more manageable tasks and helps simple living going from a concept to practical things to do day to day. If you’re not new to simple living you might think yes but I know all this. I found it as a reminder to think ok I know this but how much am I actually doing. Thoughts don’t always turn into actions. If you have fallen out of your simple living ways (we all do at times) this book helps get you back on track and helps you focus on things you can do or change.
You could easily read this book without reading her first book. It is a standalone book with its own topics, information and recipes, however it does refer at times back to her first book Down To Earth. I think that actually works really well as it means she has put new material and topics in this book and isn’t just rehashing things she has covered in the past. Instead of publishing all the same recipes and patterns again she points you in the direction of where to locate them and offers new and different ones in this book. I’ve read other books by authors who have done multiple books and often it’s the same information in every book. Another thing I liked was Rhonda refers to modern technologies such as websites and apps to help you in your daily life. You wouldn’t except apps and simple living would go together in the one sentence but Rhonda is moving with the times and is moving the concept of simple living with modern times. We have to face it technology is part of our lives these days, there are plenty of ways it can waste our time but there are also ways in which it can save us time.
If I had to pick a favourite chapter in the book it would the chapter covering crafting as simple living – total surprise right 🙂 It just made me smile and think the gifts that I’m giving are from the heart. There are many areas of simple living and crafting is just one of them.
Oh and my favourite picture in the book is the rolling pin. I really want that rolling pin now, it is just a little bit awesome!