Sewing e-books by David & Charles

by Leah Taylor on August 11, 2010

I was excited when I heard from Fiona at the Sewing Directory that David & Charles are releasing a series of 10 e-books about crafting for beginners, and didn’t hesitate when she put the call out for reviewers! So now I have in my possession 4 of the e-books, before their official launch date on 16th August. They are each 24 pages long and will be downloadable for the bargain price of 99p each.

How to Sew: Basics

How to Sew: Basics gives the complete novice a high level overview of the basics of sewing. Bearing in mind that it is only 24 pages long, it can only touch on each topic, but for the price of 99p it’s a brilliantly affordable way to get a good introduction to sewing if you have never picked up a sewing machine or made anything with your own hands before.

It isn’t biased to any particular type of sewing, and introduces patchwork as well as sewing on zippers and making bias binding. However, I did feel that the chosen topics were rather random as it covers sewing on zippers but misses out other important basic skills such as sewing on a button, hemming, or different types of stitches.

The pictures are also difficult to make out as the images are low resolution and therefore a bit fuzzy. This makes it difficult to see the detail in any of the pictures.

These two issues aside, the book is written in a very accessible, easy to read style. The most useful section for a lot of people will no doubt be the list of what to include in your basic sewing kit. It also has some good confidence-boosting tips on choosing fabrics.

The book would be of most interest to those who have never done any crafting before but are interested in finding out more, and getting inspired to create. Or if you’ve done a bit of crafting before but are feeling a bit bewildered and don’t know where to start, this book will help rebuild your confidence and give you some new ideas.

How to Sew: Applique

I’ve never tried applique before so I was very keen to read this book, and it has really inspired me to give it a go! It begins with a great introduction and overview of techniques, with clear step by step instructions. It includes some great ideas for projects, with very easy to follow directions for making clothing patches, vintage bunting, and a washbag. It includes the templates for the applique designs used in these projects, which can then be re-used for lots of other projects as well, though you will need to enlarge them.

As with all the books in this series, the image quality isn’t great which is such a shame, as it can be slightly difficult to see the detail in some of the pictures. It also assumes a basic knowledge of different stitch types (for example, it refers to blanket stitching without providing instructions) so you would need a second reference book if you’re not familiar with some of the stitches.

For 99p, this book is well worth a look and will inspire you to cut out the templates and try your hand at applique.

How to Sew: Machine Sewing

How to Sew: Machine Sewing introduces three decent projects for beginners, which themselves make the book a nice purchase at only 99p. It also has some useful step-by-step descriptions of skills such as basting and sewing round corners. However, if you’ve never used a sewing machine before you will need a more in-depth book to hand as well, or at the very least your sewing machine manual.

As with the other books, there’s only a limited number of topics you can cover in 24 pages, but I found the choices a bit unusual. Half a page was dedicated to the different types of sewing machine feet, which the total beginner doesn’t really need to worry about until they’re tackling more advanced projects. Yet the book doesn’t touch on some very important basic concepts such as thread tension, what a bobbin is, or how to finish off your stitching.

I was also suprised that it suggested you sew straight over pins, which I would never recommend as it can blunt your needle (or worse, snap it). And in the tote bag project, it suggests you glue ribbon to the fabric but given the book is about machine sewing, wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to sew the ribbon on?

These two small points aside, the book does contain some good practical advice and I would recommend it, mostly for the three projects which would be great for first-timers on the sewing machine.

How to Sew: Patchwork

I’ve never tried patchwork before and after reading this book I feel confident enough to give it a go. It’s written in such a friendly style that it almost feels like it’s a friend giving you a quick walk-through of the basics, and because it’s nice and short and sticks only to the basics, it isn’t overwhelming in any way. It has three really tempting projects in the back too, and doesn’t stick just to quilting – there is also a really cute patchwork pig and an unusual patchwork rucksack, both of which are projects I want to try when I can find the time – I’ve stuck them on my to-do list!

Overall, these books are a brilliant idea, and at 99p each they give you just enough knowledge to try a new hobby without spending a small fortune upfront. They are targeted at the complete novice, so if you have any knowledge of any of the subjects already, you would probably find them too basic. But total beginners, who will often find reference books overwhelming at the beginning, will find them very accessible and readable, and they’ll be started off on their new skills nice and gently.
The books will be available for download from RU Craft’s website from 16th August 2010. I’m looking forward to seeing what other titles will be released, as there will be 10 books overall.

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