Wednesday, September 24, 2014

sewaholic sewtionary review

Despite being mostly a self-taught seamstress, I actually don't have many sewing books in my arsenal. I've survived so far with only a few: one good reference book and a couple fun pattern or project books. Obviously you can now find most anything sewing-related online, but the quality of that information is sometimes questionable and there are many sources that give conflicting or confusing advice. And not everyone wants to have to prop their laptop up on their sewing table and inevitably become victim to the bottomless pit of sewing blog tutorials. Having a reference book written by a reputable source is essential for all sewers.

Tasia St. Germaine, owner and designer behind Sewaholic Patterns, recently released one such book, called The Sewtionary: An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques and Definitions. It discusses a wide range of alphabetically-listed sewing terms in detail, including the term's definition, when to use it, and how to do it with accompanying full-color photographs of each step. It has a spiral binding and a matte finish on the pages for a more pleasant reading experience.

Image courtesy of the Sewaholic blog

Tasia kindly asked me to be a part of her Sewtionary book blog tour this month, and I agreed to review the book and try out a technique from it. I've been a long-time fan of Sewaholic Patterns and Tasia's blog, not just because she designs for pear shapes like me, but because her blog is a wealth of information (and purty clothes). Tasia's education and professional background make her a qualified patternmaker (bio here), so I've always trusted the quality of her designs. And whether she's leading a sew-along of her own pattern, sewing her first quilt, or sewing a vintage McCall's pattern, she covers the details of her construction process in extensive detail. I've followed many of her tutorials before and it's clear she knows what she's talking about. Her sewing is impeccable!

So who better to write a new sewing reference book? I'll admit that I own a pretty stellar one already that is a 350-page beast and covers almost everything possible (fabric types, machine use, fitting, pattern adjustments, technique tutorials and projects). However, I do think there's a place on the shelves for a book like the Sewtionary. First of all, my Singer photo reference book covers so much that it's a bit overwhelming and difficult to navigate. When looking for info about hems, I'll get distracted by info about serger tension or swimsuit sewing and then I feel like I've fallen headfirst into a Pinterest-ish abyss. The Sewtionary is more concise and straight-forward due to its alphabetical format. The pages all follow the same layout with careful spacing so nothing feels cluttered or extraneous.

Tasia is of a younger generation of sewing professionals and is aware of modern techniques and fabrics. This affects the styling of her book and I think sets it apart. Even though my Singer book is revised regularly, the garment samples are not and the result feels dated even though the information is still sound. I know I'm biased, but I appreciate Tasia's use of samples such as the Minoru jacket, the Renfrew top, the Grainline Studio Archer shirt, and other more casual designs that modern women want to sew and wear everyday (since I have sewn those patterns and do wear them everyday!).

It makes the techniques feel more applicable to me and makes me feel more inspired to sew. Whereas this skirt suit from my Singer book -- ummm, not so much:

I think the Sewtionary would be a good buy for someone who is relatively new to garment sewing or, say, needs a visual aid when trying to interpret Burda magazine's garbled instructions for a fly-front zipper. But it's probably not for more advanced sewers or those who already have shelves upon shelves crammed with sewing books. I found some information that is new to me but not a ton. If I wanted to execute an advanced technique like tailoring a jacket with hair canvas, I would probably try to consult several sources more focused on that technique. If you only want one reference book in your library, however, this could be the one because it is very well-done, but maybe it doesn't have enough supplemental information for you if your library is already robust with reference books. Or, yaknow, if you're a dude. I'm sure you could guess that the Sewtionary is aimed more toward female sewers than male sewers, which makes sense considering Tasia's expertise and pattern market. It includes terms like horsehair braid and boning, but not collars or tower sleeve plackets. Ohhh why is it so hard to find info about how to sew tower sleeve plackets? 

Anyway, I decided to put the book to the test and use it to learn a new skill. I chose bound buttonholes since those are tricky to teach and tricky to learn. I've tried them once before but ditched that particular project long ago. The bound buttonhole section is one of the longest sections in the Sewtionary and rightfully so because it's an involved little task. I appreciated the clear photos and pro tips along the way because my buttonhole ended up looking alright! I will definitely be following that exact technique if I need to sew bound buttonholes in the future.

The Sewtionary is a nice resource overall and I couldn't admire Tasia more for sewing ALL those samples and creating such an organized and polished book. I think it reflects her brand and her blog quite well, but doesn't feel catered to Sewaholic fangirls only, if that makes sense. Like you could buy this for your second cousin for Christmas and she'd dig it even if she doesn't know a Cambie from a Belcarra.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of the Sewtionary signed by Mrs. Sewaholic herself, you can do so here. It's also available on Amazon and such. The blog tour is still going! The following galz are participants, many of whom are hosting giveaways of the book:

Wednesday, September 10th: Thread Theory Blog
Thursday, September 11th: Miss Crayola Creepy
Friday, September 12th: Coletterie
Monday, September 15th: City Stitching with Christine Haynes
Tuesday, September 16th: Tilly and the Buttons
Wednesday, September 17th: Madalynne
Thursday, September 18th: Closet Case Files
Friday, September 19th: By Gum, By Golly
Monday, September 22nd: Lladybird
Tuesday, September 23rd: True Bias
Wednesday, September 24th: Four Square Walls
Thursday, September 25th: Ada Spragg
Friday, September 26th: Did You Make That?

What's your favorite sewing reference book? Do you have the Sewtionary? Have you tried a technique from it yet?

Disclaimer: I was given an electronic PDF version of the Sewtionary free of charge for this review, and I tried to be as honest as possible about my impressions.