So, I’m still working out what I want to do with craft book reviews going forward, but I’ve had this in my stack for some time. I love it dearly for a number of reasons, and wanted to share.
In the world of sewing-project books, Simple Modern Sewing is a great example of function trumping form. That sounds like I think it’s not a pretty book – and that’s not the case at all. I love the art direction here, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
The book contains eight full garment patterns, the pieces of which you can mix, match or alter to build 25 different garments. There are dresses, blouses, pants, and skirts, and all are designed to be the kind of simple, comfortable things you pull out of your closet all the time.
The author, Shufu To Seikatsu Sha, has designed a really usable and charming collection of silhouettes here.
The full-size pattern sheets come in an envelope bound into the back cover, ready for you to trace onto your own pattern paper. There are clear markings to help you see which pieces go with which patterns.
I’m going to get nerdy about the instructional quality in just a moment, but before I do, let’s look at some of these garments. Here’s a simple yoke-front skirt with a cute ribbon-tie detail.
As you might have guessed by now, Simple Modern Sewing is an English translation of a Japanese sewing book. So the designs here reflect that overall simplicity.
These garments are designed as a collection, so you can layer them easily.
…And in all seriousness, I’m very much in love with these models. I assure you, by the time you get to be my age, you are very, very tired of stick-thin scowling 20 year-olds representing all of fashion. The ladies in Simple Modern Sewing are delightfully real, and this helps me not only appreciate the garments, but better understand how they might fit on me. And frankly, looking at them is just a huge relief.
…Speaking of which, I like that the sizing data for each pattern is given with the ease included, which means these measurements reflect how big around, essentially, the garment is at each measurement location. If I know my own measurements, and I know these measurements, then I have a much better idea of how I can expect the garment to sit on my various curvy bits.
OK, so, instructionally… for techniques you’ll use over and over, like seam finishes or tracing patterns, you get lovely photo instructions like these.
Then, each pattern has fully-illustrated step-by-step instructions. I think anyone who’s done at least a little straight-seam sewing would be very comfortable with these diagrams – they’re phenomenally clear. And there’s a nice range of simpler to more complex projects, so if you’re a beginner, you’ll have plenty of accessable options.
This gets at what I mean by “function trumping form:” the lion’s share of the pages here are actually devoted to these carefully-illustrated sewing instructions. To me, this is what a good sewing book should do – focus on teaching me sewing! I don’t tend to need lavish, beautifully-styled photography – in most cases, it doesn’t give me a reliable idea of how the garments will fit me, and the lavishness frankly inhibits my ability to imagine how the garments might fit my actual (and considerably less lavish) lifestyle.
Lastly, my photos don’t really communicate this well, but for each pattern, the book offers great advice on fabric choices and extra little details you might add to make the project uniquely yours. This book will stay in my library, and I’m already making a fabric list for my Spring wardrobe. (A girl can dream in January, right?)
(The disclaimer: Interweave sent me a review copy.)