Friday, 12 April 2013

Book Review Friday- Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts: Basic Techniques Plus 150 Inspired Projects

Friday Book Review is with us again and it's another sewing book. Martha Stewart's book is this weeks' book to have a look at...

The Layout

Sewing books tend to have the same type of layout... going through every type of scissor, pin and fabric and helping the reader decide what to buy then onto the projects and techniques offered in that particular book. This book, however, hasn't actually got that addition at the start (it's at the back as an appendix) of the 'tools and notions' section and instead goes for directing the reader into what to do with their sewing and poses questions such as 'What do you want to get/ make from sewing?' 'Where will you sew?' and 'What would you like to start with?'.

I like this approach as the preliminary focus is not to aim for being a professional and full-time sewer- but to aim for finding your creative outlet and building on that. Some sewers will never use a sewing machine and just simply embellish table linen; others will create a totally homemade home... but the choice is ultimately yours to make and most importantly, enjoy.

Stewart then has a section of Techniques broken down into:

  • Sewing
  • Applique
  • Embroidery
  • Quilting and Patchwork
  • Dyeing
  • Printing

In terms of the techniques shown in the book, the basics are all there with some nice surprises. Basic stitches are shown in a black and white sketch showing insertion of needle to finish in a 1, 2, 3 step technique with a explanation beside it

Stewart's exploration of sewing is by no means exhaustive, it is however broad and with the inclusion of styles of techniques of different cultures in sewing, leaves the reader interested to research more as the appetite has been whet rather than totally fed. 
An example of this is the wonderfully presented 'Japanese Sashiko'; examples I have seen in quantity throughout my reading and researching of sewing but never under the umbrella term of 'Sashiko'.

Translated from Japanese for the term of 'little stabs'; Japanese Sashiko has a repetitive design creating beautiful designs that are modern, graceful and totally usable in any home setting. Suddenly after reading and seeing the Sashiko designs I am envisaging embroidering table linens, cuffs on dressing gowns or even a cafe curtain. Being 5 months pregnant I am fully anticipating embroidery as something that I can be busy with in my last month before little one is here. I am a HUGE fan of Emily Peacocks designs and have 'The Tree of Life' being delivered to me this week as a decorative wall hanging. However, such simple yet elegant designs as Sashiko allows for much more scope in your embroidery but still with the final results of quality and elegance. I am in love!

Followed by the techniques of sewing is the Projects section; broken down into Alphabetical themes from 'Animals' 'Wall Decor' (As A-Z as possible with sewing, I can't think of a stand-alone 'Z' subject... Zoo... but that would be Animals, anyway)

In terms of what is on offer in the book; Stewart mainly offers Home Dec and Gifts as her sewing projects. This is understandable as dressmaking is hardly covered at all in the book in it's speciality, rather, it is approached as another thing that you can sew. In the nature of the book, there are some 'Clothes' under the 'C' section. These are however more a token gesture rather than anything that I (personally) would bother to use any fabric actually making

However, there are projects on offer here for the novice to the adventurous sewer. I like the range of examples are where you can bring sewing into your home and how you can adapt  even the bought bed linen into something more personal and handmade.

Often, I think that there is a total change of tone and voice. The Martha Stewart company is a collaboration of editors these days who all have their area of expertise and some convey direction better than others. Some instructions are written too blunt and a novice sewer would be lost even on the first sentence on some instructions, where as others are very easy to follow.


I rate this book highly, I love the projects and the photography is beautiful and inspiring. I like the angle of allowing creativity to flow and a guide into bring sewing into your life rather than an instruction manual on how to be a professional seamstress.

The voice of the book can often be muffled and not clear to a novice seamstress, yet when the instructions are hitting the spot- this book is an inspirational delight.

I wouldn't buy this book as a first book of sewing. If I could imagine the reader of this book, they will have had their sewing machine for about 6 months, worked through a few simple patterns and now ready to move on and create unique pieces.

I am very happy to recommend this book to the readers of this blog!

Tomorrow, I am working through one of the projects on the book.

The Hooded Towel

See you then!


  1. That hooded towel looks very cute and useful :-)

    I'm not really one for sewing home dec, but I do appreciate the effort you've put into reviewing this thoroughly. Thank you!

  2. Nice review of the book. Not enough dressmaking for me though!


Please feel free to comment!