Sunday, 18 September 2011

A review: The Liberty Book of Home Sewing


Last week I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of The Liberty Book of Home Sewing, due for release next month, published by Quadrille. As you'd expect from Liberty, it's utterly beautiful. Everything from the cloth front cover to the floral end papers make this a book worthy of coffee table status. It's a book that you'll want to pick up and look through repeatedly to feast on the smorgasbord of deliciously photographed and styled Tana lawn fabric prints (and yes, you can find out in the introduction why Liberty cotton lawns have taken on the Tana name).


The project images are in keeping with the imitable Liberty style making it a perfect fit for the shop as a whole, not just their fabric range. The finished items are shown against a backdrop of sumptuous soft furnishings; an eclectic array of jugs and vases, books and wall hangings; and elegant room sets that ooze with seemingly effortless élan. This artful styling demonstrates how you might work the handmade into your home without the finished effect feeling homemade.


Many of the projects give options for creating the most basic versions of the item and then go on to elaborate with ways of taking the project further - for example, a cushion cover can be made with an open-ended button closure in its simplest form or created with an envelope back for a more professional finish that requires more effort effort and skill on the sewer's part. Not only does this serve in offering options for differing skill levels, but it also demonstrates how much can be achieved simply by working with the finest materials - an open-ended cushion cover could easily appear rather half-finished and inelegant (it's certainly not an option I'd ever considered), yet shown in Liberty's beautiful lawn prints, offset with minimalist solids and co-ordinated with self-covered buttons, this basic sewing project is elevated to covetable status.


Projects are predominantly home-furnishing related, ranging from roman blinds to assorted designs of cushion; to hexagon quilts and appliqued throws.


The book's limitation comes in the fact that it teams relatively simple projects with an expectation that the maker will feel inclined to put in the effort of transferring patterns to pattern paper or enlarging the few templates given on a photocopier.


As illustrated above, most patterns are shown in miniature on a grid where each square represents a centimetre (although in some patterns a square will represent 2cm or 2.5cm, making things a little more complicated). The expectation is that you will buy some dressmaking pattern paper and scale up the pattern as you transfer the measurements onto the pattern paper. It's a technique I like myself as I have plenty of pattern paper to hand and so it seems preferable to being asked to leave the house to enlarge the patterns on a photocopier as is the case with many books, but my worry is that this technique could kill off a beginner's enthusiasm at the first hurdle. For projects such as a large floor beanbag, it instructs you to create a 42cm circle for the top on dressmaker's pattern paper...having played with drawing circles beyond the realms of a compass when creating my own beanbag pattern to work from a few years ago, I know from experience that it's not the easiest of things to do.


Liberty have a flair for style, print and colour that make this a book worthy of drooling over for any of us who aspire to incorporate a little of their magic into our sewing projects. It's not a book of ground-breaking new sewing patterns, nor is it a one-stop definitive guide to sewing. What it is though, is a compendium of sewing inspiration; a pictorial testament to why it's worth stretching your budget a little further to buy fabric that will elevate your sewing project from the work-a-day to the utterly delicious; an unwritten education in ways to combine colour and pattern that are both surprising and delightful. I'm hoping that the latter is something that can be sucked up by osmosis just by leafing through the pages on a regular basis. You can pre-order a helping of this goodness on Amazon here. Enjoy.

Florence x

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for this great review! The book looks fantastic - will have to add it to my wishlist!

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  2. You are right Flossie - I would never ever bother with a pattern if I had to get graph paper and scale it up. I would rather make up my own design than do that. There is definitely a place for eye candy though and in fact I would often rather have that, than try and re-produce something. Quite often the books I like best serve as inspirational rather than how to's. I saw this book recently and was dying to know what was in it. Now I know a bit more. Not sure if it is one for me though - will have to see it first I think.

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  3. Thank-you, great review, have just ordered my copy, I can't wait!

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  4. Not sure where this blog is from, but I've had my book for over a week already. I ordered it from chapters.ca

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  5. I hadn't sewn anything since I got C in GCSE textiles 17 years ago, and my mum (who does sew, and made my gorgeous wedding dress last year!) bought me this to encourage me, and it really has.

    I haven't let the "scaling up" put me off, I found on some forums the recommendation of using greaseproof paper to make patterns out of after using several fabric and dressmaking supply stores who told me they no longer sell it. This works great for me, and I've made myself a paper pattern for the apron (pictured top) that I can use again and again. I think the point of making you take an action to get to that point in itself teaches you that you can make your own patterns, and I'd feel more confident in adapting them now in the future. I used a household tape measure to make the measurements, but I think I will invest in an A2 craft matt, which has squares on it (which you should be able to see through the greaseproof paper).

    While I find the liberty materials beautiful, a beginner like me is reluctant to cut out such expensive fabrics, and instead I have found some lovely material which was cheaper. You can find some really classy prints in the mid-price range, and I'm confident in my own taste (and good enough at understanding fabric quality) enough that I don't have to rely on being told. Fortunately this is catered for, as they don't just tell you what the name of the fabric is, they tell you what *kind* of fabric it is, so you can easily have a go with cheaper. When it comes to presents when I have improved, I will probably buy the Liberty ones for the luxury of it.

    Another nice thing about this book for a re-starter (or a "never-really-got-going") like me, is that it reminds you about things like laundering and ironing the fabric before making the item, meaning that when you wash an item of two different fabrics later, one won't shrink in comparison to the other.

    Thanks for the lovely review, I found your site googling for a problem I'm having with one of the patterns really, but glad to have found it, and I'll be having a look around :)

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  6. I have just bought this book for myself, it is beautiful, I've just started sewing again and am taking on different projects to try to improve. Your blog is lovely.

    Jill x

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x