Sunday 6 March 2011

Book Review: Made at Home

Time for a book review, hurrah! Today I'm looking at Made at Home: a guide to simple sewing by Lisa Stickley (published by Quadrille).

I always think of Lisa Stickley as a more contemporary Cath Kidston. Her designs always have a quirky-but-pretty vintage feel to them, with hand drawn elements, polkadots, and wallpapery florals. You may have seen her recent range for Debenhams, which included floral-print biscuit tins, bedlinen printed with sprigs of florals, and a teapot in the shape of a country cottage.

This style is represented perfectly in Made at Home. The book is illustrated throughout by Lisa's how-to sketches, and there are elements throughout which look hand-drawn or hand-printed.

Another quirky design element is that the text throughout the book is all lowercase, which I found made larger blocks of text quite hard to read (& if sentences which begin "i used..." will drive you nuts, you should stay away from this book!).

Each project is also illustrated with either a large drawing or an exquisitely styled photograph that looks like a home tour snap from an achingly cool design blog.

The photographs are actually so nice that the projects that are just illustrated feel a little disappointing, and much less inspiring. The sketchy style adds a lot of charm to the book, but I'd never buy a product just from seeing a rough sketch of it and I feel the same way about the projects in this book: the ones with photos are definitely more appealling to me than the ones without.

Enough about the style - what about the substance?

The book starts with a useful "basics" section, with information about materials, stitches and techniques like sewing corners, curves, buttonholes and zips.

Then the projects are divided into ones "for the kitchen" (napkins, an apron, a shopping bag, etc), "for the living room" (e.g. a roman blind, a patched cushion, a draught excluder, etc), "for the bedroom" (a hot-water bottle cover, a piped cushion, a bedspread, etc), and "for the laundry" (e.g. a peg bag, a door stop, a shoe bag, etc). A sewing machine is needed for most of the projects in the book.

This isn't a craft book with a big templates section at the back - there are a few rough templates, but they're more like rough sketches to help guide you when drawing your own pattern pieces than actual templates to take down the print shop and get enlarged. Instead, the projects either start with a certain sized piece of fabric and give you instructions to work from there or they instruct you how to measure the item you want to cover or the window you're making a curtain or for. Very practical!

None of the projects seem intimidating or too ambitious for a book about "simple sewing", and the copious step-by-step illustrations (sometimes several illustrations per step!) make everything very clear.

There was also only one project which I thought was a bit pointless - the instructions to make an antimacassar. Who uses antimacassars these days? And if you do, surely it's just because you've got some lovely vintage ones? (Please do feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about this!)

Heavy on style, but not too light on the all-important substance. I'm definitely making room on my bookshelf for this one.

Made at Home is published by Quadrille Publishing. It's available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

[Disclaimer: Quadrille sent me a free review copy of this book, and the Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links]


GiddyStuff said...

I've decided that I need this book, thanks for a great review!

Fiona said...

I didn't even know what an antimacassar was... great name though!

rhian said...

My nan was the only person I've ever known to use an antimacassar, but what a fab excuse to use such a wonderful word!