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Handsewn - Book Review

When I opened up my package the other day and saw the cover of Handsewn inside, I knew that I was in for a treat!

The book is nicely bound with a hard cover that is solid and sturdy. The cover and the pages both have a pleasant, almost waxy feel and the paper is thick and high quality. After I ripped open the shipping box, I sat right down to page through the book and fell in love with the beautiful photos throughout the book and I was ready to start stitching something, anything; forget about making dinner!

I will detail the reasons why I love this book so much in further detail below, but this is one of the few books that I would recommend that anyone who does needlework of any sort have in their reference library. It is well-organized and the hand sewing techniques are illustrated step-by-step so that anyone can grasp how the stitches are made from beginning to end.
Handsewn - The Essential Techniques for Tailoring and Embellishment by Margaret Rowan



Inside, there is a standard table of contents accompanied by lovely images of various hand stitches across the top of the pages. The introduction explains how the book is broken into three sections: Stitching Essentials, Stitch Directory, and Directory of Motifs. Immediately following the introduction there is a stitch selector that has the different hand stitches broken down by skill level and divided into functional and decorative stitches within that level. This is a fantastic tool, because all the stitches are visually collected into a few pages so that you can quickly select the correct one for your needs. This is great for people (like me) who might know what the stitch they want to use looks like, but not necessarily remember the name of the stitch.

The first chapter, Stitching Essentials, provides a fairly extensive introduction to needlework basics. Included are topics such as tools, threads, fabric types and preparation, reading patterns, and even a section on correcting mistakes.

Chapter two covers functional stitches including several types of basting stitches, several types of hemming stitches, different types of closure stitches and tacking stitches. At the end of the chapter, the book also includes several stitches for sewing up and finishing knitting.

In chapter three, we move on to the decorative stitches. Many of these stitches are ones that I learned doing embroidery as a child, so seeing them brought back happy memories. These stitches are primarily intended for embellishing fabric surfaces. They can be used to decorate skirt hems or sleeves to add individuality and pizzazz to your garments. In addition to the embroidery stitches, there are sections for specialty stitches such as needlepoint, cross stitch, drawn thread work, and cutwork. Various quilting stitches and styles are presented including sashiko stitching which is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity. If you want to learn to sew on beads, sequins, or mirrors, the instructions are here. Interested in smocking? This chapter has a good basic introduction to smocking as well.

Each stitch has a sidebar section that labels its skill level (one or two), what tools and materials are needed and includes some suggestions for where and when to use the stitch. The instructions themselves have at least three or four photos showing the steps for making the stitch along with descriptive text for the steps. Some stitches include close-up detail shots as well.

Chapter four is the Directory of Motifs which presents numerous line drawings of various objects along with some stitched samples to inspire your imagination and get you thinking about how to apply these stitches that you have learned about in the previous chapters. The beginning of the chapter spends a little time explaining how to use the designs and transfer them to fabric for stitching. The motifs are organized into groups based on theme or subject such as flowers and leaves, butterflies and insects, fruits and vegetables, hearts, and an alphabet.

I found this book to be extremely informative and well put together. It is a phenomenal stitching resource that would be a useful addition to any sewing library!


Disclosure statement: This review copy was provided to me by Interweave press. I received no other compensation from the publisher or book author and this review contains my honest opinions about the book.



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