I check out a lot of craft books from my public library, and when I happen to have a little extra cash on hand, I might buy one of my favorites. I rarely follow the instructions or tutorials inside just exactly, however–I always tweak them to fit within the boundaries of my Green Crafting Manifesto. The way I evaluate a book, then, is dependent on the following criteria:
How amenable is the book to using (or how easy are the instructions to modify to include) natural or recycled materials?
How appropriate is the book’s sizing for my body, if it includes adult clothing projects (I have a 42″ chest, a 36″ waist, and I’m 5’2″)?
How reader-friendly are the instructions (I have at least the basic skills for any craft, with my best skills being in sewing, probably, but since I’m self-taught in everything there are often huge gaps in my knowledge)?
Here, then, based on those criteria, is my review of Weekend Sewing, by Heather Ross:
This book isn’t perfect, but it’s become one of my favorites. The photos are gorgeous, there are step-by-step instructions for every project, and the two huge fold-out sheets of patterns, printed on top of each other but in different colors so you can distinguish them, allow Ross to include some projects that are more complicated than you typically think there would be in a craft book. If I reckon each of the clothing projects that I’ve made or plan to make in the future as its own McCall’s pattern, for instance, I’ve already more than paid for the book.
My favorite projects so far are the children’s projects. The bloomers pattern and instructions, in particular, are super-easy to use. I’ve made several pairs of these bloomers for my two daughters out of quilting cotton from my stash–I made a pair out of an old tie-dyed T-shirt, but because Ross doesn’t have you finish the seams on these it wasn’t sturdy enough and fell apart at the first wash, so I recommend you stick with cotton. I really like the versatility of these bloomers, as well–my girls are able to wear them as panties with dresses (I like the coverage they offer) and as shorts with shirts. I’ll warn you that the sizing may well be a little wonky with this pattern–notwithstanding the fact that you’re meant to be able to customize the waist size, both my five-year-old and my three-year-old, who aren’t petite children, easily fit into the 18-24-month pattern size in these bloomers.
The baby kimono project is quite a bit trickier, unfortunately, and even with my sewing skills I actually got the sleeves set in completely wrong on the first go and had to rip them out and try again. The very nice thing about this project is that the pattern pieces are small enough so that you can remake a piece of adult’s clothing into this kimono. For the kimono I made for the new baby of a dear friend, I used a very nice blouse I found at the recycling center, with quilting cotton for the sleeves and bias hem, and had enough of the blouse leftover to make a pair of pants for the baby out of the blouse’s sleeves.
The project I’m in the middle of now is the yard sale wrap skirt–I’m using a thrifted sheet for my first skirt, and I plan to piece together the panels from my husband’s old dress shirts for my next skirt. Again, the pattern and instructions for this one are very straightforward, but I quickly found that even the XL size is much too small for me. I solved the problem in the short term by just adding two extra panels to the skirt, but this also likely means that I’m going to have to invent my own waistband instead of using the waistband pattern piece from the book.
If you’re a novice sewer, you’ll be able to do some of the projects in this book and figure out some of the other projects, but some projects might be beyond you for a while. If you’re a moderately skilled sewer, you’ll be able to do most of the projects in this book and figure out the rest. If you’re an expert sewer, you’ll likely have a lot of fun with modifications to these projects. If you’re big, however, you may not be able to follow the pattern on some of the adult clothing projects.