There are several stories to weave into this post. So first, I’ll tell you how it came to be. As you know, we’ve been having a little discussion around here about blog tours, and how they may have been a bit over-used by the craft-publishing industry. Well, Lorraine Woodcheke, who’s a marketing and PR manager for Chronicle Books, contacted me recently. She was getting ready to promote Jennifer Paganelli’s new book, Happy Home: Twenty Sewing and Craft Projects to Pretty Up Your Home. And she said, “I want to do something different this time.”
I was happy to get involved, because as much as I love craft books, I’ve given up on old-school blog tours. They just get to feeling a little contrived after a while. But Lorraine was interested in setting aside the usual two weeks of a post a day, showing up on blog after blog. Instead, she wanted to do a loosely-structured collection of story posts, appearing here and there over a longer span of time. Over the course of June, you might stumble onto bloggers telling stories about Happy Home – and now you know that they’re part of Chronicle trying a new model. Be sure and let them how useful or inspiring you find it!
UPDATED TO ADD: Interestingly, a group of bloggers has decided to organize its own blog tour, independently of Chronicle. A nice expression of fandom for Jennifer Paganelli!
Story #2, then, is about my happy home and the making of a project from this book. I think it’s important to say right off the bat that my interior decor style is light years away from what’s depicted in Happy Home. K and I work long hours on our computers, and this makes our workdays feel very visually cluttered. When we walk away from our beloved infernal machines, we tend to want calm, uncluttered spaces. We’re all about minimalism with the occasional pop of color. (And, easily-accessible stashes of LEGO.)
I wasn’t sure how to approach Happy Home at first, because as you can see, its visual style is very lush and layered. It’s presented as what I’d call a “very lifestyle” craft book. And since the author has a popular fabric line, the book is naturally a showcase for these prints.
It wasn’t until I read something interesting in Jennifer Paganelli’s introduction that I “got it:”
“This book is not about creating a magazine-worthy, perfectly-appointed, perfectly-decorated home. Your home may not be perfect. Mine certainly isn’t. The secret to crafting a happy home is to let go of perfectionism and let your creativity flow. Work with what you have instead of getting bogged down by what you don’t have. Take risks. You may be surprised with the results.”
This made me think of our bed – which has been waiting for the quilt I’m going to get around to making one of these days. (I should add that K and I have been together nine years, so the bed has been waiting quite a long time. The quilt is still on my to-to list; I just can’t seem to commit to any specific pattern.)
So I decided to start smaller, and make us a set of these crochet-edged pillow cases from the book. I went with a simpler and bolder fabric that coordinates with the plain old cotton blanket we use as a cover.
…And this is where Story #3 comes in – I’ll share my experience of making something from Happy Home. It took quite a long time to cut out the fabric, but this isn’t the book’s fault.
I had to read the instructions for my pillowcase project over a few times. With the diagrams combining steps, I’ll admit I got a little confused, but after a few passes it all made perfect sense.
Actually, the construction of this seemingly-simple pillow case is quite ingenious, with a hidden envelope along one inside edge that you can tuck your pillow into. It makes for a really nice finish.
There’s also a really smart technique where you set your stitch length for the hem around the edge, and then use those stitches to help you measure out your blanket stitches. The result was nice, even blanket stitching – not a result, but the way, of which I’m normally capable without help.
…And I had a lot of fun with the crocheted edging. I’ve always wanted to try one and never managed to get around to it. This project was the perfect introduction to the technique. And I love the look of these edges on my pillow cases.
It took quite a long time to get the ends of the crochet woven in, but this isn’t the book’s fault, either.
…And I have to say, I really love having these on my bed now! Each time I walk past the bedroom door, there’s a nice little blast of pretty where I used to be confronted with that boring blanket. (Message to Boring Blanket: I assure you, you will someday be covered with a proper quilt. Until then, these pillows have your back.)
The rest of Happy Home deals in similarly-simple sewing and gluing projects where fabric is the main event. There are more decorative projects, like cushions and covered boxes and quilts. There are wearable aprons and hats. There are party decor banners and hangings. There are bags and pet items. It’s a nice basic home-sewing book, and if you like lavish photography, that’s a bonus.
…So what do you think of this kind of story-based review? Is this something you’d like to see more of in the blogosphere? Did it tell you enough about the book? Did it make the book more or less interesting?
(Usual disclosures: Chronicle sent me the review copy, but I paid for all the project materials myself. The title links above are affiliate links.)