Saturday, August 14, 2010

Book Reviews - David and Charles

I recently got the opportunity to review four e-books from David and Charles...titles as follows :
How to Sew - Basics
How to Sew - Machine Sewing
How to Sew - Applique
How to Sew - Patchwork

I was quite excited about these because I love sewing and love reading about it, and I really wanted to love these ebooks.  Unfortunately, I was not as impressed as I wanted to be !
Let me just state here that I am coming at this as a sewer who has been sewing for about 18 months, so while I am fairly confident with basics, I still have plenty to learn.

Lets start with the 'Basics' book.  This really should have been combined with the 'Machine Sewing' book and made into one larger more comprehensive book.  However, I digress, lets get back to 'Basic'

My first issue is that it doesn't show how to thread a sewing machine or wind a bobbin - which is as basic as it comes.  Neither does it deal with selecting tension, stitch type, stitch length although it does deal with machine needles!   (Now you might say...'oh but the Machine Sewing book will cover those'....nope!)

My next issue was that the section on fabric did not deal with the whole 'grain' issue - later in the book, cutting a pattern is advised with the grain, however I think the book could have benefited from an explanation of the grain, the warp, the weft, the bias etc.  Bias binding does gets a chapter but I think an earlier short description of all of this would have been great.

Also, the zip section is not great - it's a little unclear in the section about inserting a visible zip - I know techniques differ but the one used would not be so easy for a beginner.  Also, there were not enough photos or illustrations of the zip insertion.

I think this book is trying to do too much, it would have been really helpful to include more info on the zips, info on threading a machine, winding a bobbin, selecting tension and stitch length, edge stitching, seams, seam allowances, seam finishing, and it could have omitted the patchwork and quilting and the bias binding.  Neither is the info on gluing fabric particularly relevant at this stage.  Beginners need to know the mechanics of what they are doing (i.e. simply joining two pieces of fabric) the things needed to be considered for that (e.g. fabric, grain, bias) and the mechanism for doing it (seams, seam allowances, stitch length, tension).  So I'm sorry to report, I am disappointed with this book.

Now I put aside my niggling disappointment and assumed that the 'Machine Sewing' book would deal with some of the omissions from 'Basic'...however it didn't.  The info on the sewing machine covered types of presser foot (but didn't mention a button-hole foot) but did not deal with threading, bobbins, tension - the most basic of machine sewing considerations.  It did deal with stitch types and seams, but not in as much detail as I would have liked.  There were projects in this book - bag, cushion, window blind...nothing inspiring.  I would have much preferred less space given to projects and more to how to actually operate the machine.

The next two books dealt with Applique and Patchwork, neither of which I have done yet....but have been meaning to get to both.  To be honest, these did not inspire me to have a go.  The techniques looked fine, but the projects were a bit uninspiring again - e.g. the patchwork quilt given as a project was a bit tacky - big shiny squares, a brocade backing with no quilt binding which looked mass produced - miles away from the fabulous handmade folksy creations that are adorning the blogsphere and sites like etsy and folksy.  These last two books provided templates which was a plus though.

So, I'm really sorry David and Charles, I was a D&C virgin until now but had heard of your reputation for producing great craft books....boy was I disappointed in these ebooks.  There was some useful information in them, but on the whole I found the glaring omissions and uninspiring projects just too distracting so any useful information was lost for me.   Maybe some will say ' you can't include everything' and I agree but anything titled 'How to ...' is surely be aimed at beginners and should be pitched accordingly.

And don't get me started on the typos....!

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