Book Review: Sewing Solutions by Nicole Vasbinder

By the way Nisha, what were you doing the whole time you were sick?  Were you lying in bed … longingly staring at your sewing machine.  Were you wishing you could sit upright and sew something.  Sew anything?  Stitch a seam?  What does one do when you’re totally caught up on every “Wives” reality show (Real Housewives of … any city, Basketball Wives on … any coast) and those Toddlers and their silly Tiaras aren’t cute anymore. 

You pick up a book!

Though I have a Kindle and a tablet … I’m a little old school when it comes to books.  I love a book store and I still visit my local library.  I will spend hours at Barnes and Noble or Half Priced Books.  I’ll peruse the shelves … leisurely scan the pages and when I find something that strikes me.  I’ll pick it up.  Since sewing is my new passion (and free therapy), I’ve been spending time in the Sewing section of book stores looking for anything that can further unravel the mysteries of sewing for me.

This is the first time I’m posting a review of a book.  You may take a look at this book and think … “this is sewing for morons”.  But understand the context from which I’m currently approaching sewing.  I’m a beginner.  I’m still learning techniques.  Heck – I didn’t even know to use wax when hand stitching until I went to an ASG meeting last night.  Go figure … wax. 

I picked up Sewing Solutions by Nicole Vasbinder and this little book is FULL of tidbits of information that are extremely helpful to a newbie like me. 

First I like the size of this book, it is small enough for me to use as a reference when sewing.  I don’t know about you but my sewing space is limited.  I don’t have enough room on my sewing table for my machine and the necessary tools much less a large reference book.  Smaller than an 8½” x 11″ piece of paper this book is higly organized.  I’ll  keep it close to my sewing machine when planning my project and while sewing it.

Sewing Solutions Picture

Here’s what I like!

Content

One of my frustrations as a beginning sewer is the majority of tools, resources, and information available  for the mass market is for the experienced sewist.  As I vented in What I’m Wearing to Work, as a new sewer I need patterns to assume I know nothing.  Especially if they are marketed as an “Easy” pattern.  Those simple things that are instinctive to women that have sewn for years … are not a part of my DNA.  There are times I’m in ASG meetings and sewing terms are flying so fast … my brain is working overtime to match the word with what it means.  Bias, grainline, baste, looper, presser foot, selvage … I have to think … concentrate … focus … on what these words mean.  Then I have to put them in the context of the conversation.  It can be overwhelming. 

Sewing Solutions contains not only a Glossary of terms, a list of resources, and an index.  But it has a great way of cataloging every subject (complete with page numbers) so you can dig as deep as you’d like to get what you’re looking for.

The book is divided into two sections:  (1) Tools & Equipment and (2) Solutions and Tips

A few of the chapters to entice you …

  • Sewing Tools
  • Marking, Measuring, & Cutting Tools
  • Pattern Solutions
  • Embellishments & Trimming Solutions
  • Fitting Solutions (got your attention there right?)

Chapter 5 – Fabric Solutions is a fantastic chapter.  This chapter addresses grain and bias and dives a little deeper into weaves and fiber content.  It contains a list of common fabrics with pictures and a description.  Pages 84 and 85 cover how to identify fabrics and is one of my favorite parts of this book.  Its a table of how to identify fabrics using the burn test!  There is nothing like doing the burn test and not understanding what it means.  All you’re left with is burned fabric and you still don’t know anything about it.  These pages help you identify the fabric by the odor, how the fabric looks when it’s burning, and by the ash.  There is a list for both natural and synthetic fibers. This certianly beats surfing the net to try to find accurate information for your burn test.

It’s Organized

Here’s a real life example.  I’m working on a tunic that is part of an ASG Sew Along.  This pattern includes a technique I’ve never used before – using bias tape for the facings.  I found the pattern instructions for this technique cryptic, so I just pulled out Sewing Solutions and looked up bias tape in the index.  The index shows pages 34, 66-67, 128-131.  I started with page 34  which is in the Tools & Equipment section of the  book.  This first reference provides a general description of bias tape.  What it is.  When it is used.  How I should use it.  I love that the author has a section titled “Every sewist should know”.  This section she provides those helpful hints … those details that experienced sewers have in their DNA.  These are those tiny details I need to add to my knowledge base!

Now here’s the really cool thing about how this book is organized.  At the bottom of page 34 I have a listing of the other places in the book I can find details on bias tape and what that information is. 

Page 66 –  Bias tape markers

Page 76 – Grainlines and bias

Page 128 – How to sew bias tape

Super cool right? No paging back and forth between the index and pages. I can get as little or as much information as I want on any topic in this book.  It is greatness!

Sewing Solutions Picture 2

What don’t I like?

I haven’t found a thing that I don’ tlike at this time.  If you pop out to Amazon and look at the reviews you’ll see complaints on the font size and the size of the pictures.  But those aren’t a problem for me.  Easy access and the compact size make up for the font size.  And I am not too proud to grab those reading glasses!

I’ll see you next time with my adventures with knits. Hint! Hint!

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