Sew La Tea Do - Crafty Book Review

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sew La Tea Do is the sewing book that makes you want to down tools and go Op Shopping. The pages a crammed with beautiful photos of objects and ephemera amassed by the talent Pip Lincolne. The styling is beautiful and layout inspirational.

I picked up Sew La Tea Do because I was head over heels in love with Pip Lincolne’s last book “Meet Me at Mike’s”. I accidentally reserved it again while hunting down Sew La Tea Do. It makes a handy point of comparison. While Meet Me at Mikes is a virtual gateway drug to a variety of crafts, Sew La Tea Do focuses on the sewing.

After the initial wonder at the styling wore off, I settled down to look at the patterns and the writing. Pip’s offers numerous words of encouragement to the new sewer. The sewer is cheered on by cries of “you can do it” and “it’s the looking handmade, that makes it unique”. I’m torn between these two myself. I would prefer people ask if I made something on the basis that it looks unique rather than because it looks home made.

Thinking that one can’t possibly review a craft book without giving at least something a try I reached for the Surprise Party Skirt. It was a hot day and I have fabric for Africa, so it was time to put it to use.

I am one for reading instructions. I read them, decipher them and then tend to ignore them. My dearest thinks that this is pigheadedness; personally I like to think of it as managed risk taking.

My first surprise with the skirt was that the pattern called for 150 cm wide fabric. There is very little in my stash this wide. I read on and looked carefully at the instructions. They are randomly illustrated with stylised photos of particular steps. I didn’t find these illustrations to be particularly helpful. They do not always show key steps and given their size do not show anything particularly clearly. Instead of tracing the pattern that clearly did not fit on my fabric, I looked through my pattern stash and dug out and old vogue wraparound skirt pattern instead. Following Pip’s lead the waistband was adapted to a broad tie. While I forgot to add a few inches for the mummy factor (I last made this pattern 8 years ago) I am more that pleased with the results.

Given my failure to complete a sewing project to the letter, I looked to the recipes at the back. I am regularly dripping spoonful of chai flavoured chewiness into my cups of tea and the chocolate chip cookies were devoured in a flash. If the recipes are anything to go by the book is a success. Then there is the fact that this book convinced me to break my sewing for myself drought.

First Impression – Beautifully styled, packed with projects and a strong can do attitude.
Format – Projects divided into children, you and home sections with recipes to accompany your exploits and some sewing basics at the back.

Projects – The projects are all simple, with an emphasis on being able to do it rather than workmanship. Aside from the scarves and wrap around skirt, anyone above a size 12 might have some problems with fit or inconvenient curves. I’d recommend checking the skirt measurements before cutting out also. Many of the adult pattern call for wider fabrics, and hence will require specific purchases rather than just using what you have.

Who would I recommend it to? – Someone with a love of op shopping as the styling and ephemera is just beautiful. The projects themselves are well suited to a beginning sewer but the instructions let it down. I would recommend this as a gift to someone who has started with the foundation of basics in Amy Karol’s Bend the Rules Sewing and is looking for somewhere to go next.

Would I Buy It?
Probably not. The recipes will be faithfully copied into my cookbooks and the book will be back at the library in a few days waiting for the keen beginner sewer it is aimed at. I prefer the variety of projects in Meet Me at Mikes and the softer tones (i.e. less exclamation marks). I will finally give into temptation. Rather than getting Meet me at Mike’s out of the library for a fourth time, a copy will be following me home from the book store sometime soon.

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  1. I completely agree. We received the book as soon as it was published and when I first saw it on the shelf, I was delighted and made sure to take it out the back with me for lunch. I was not even slightly tempted. I agree with you Amy about the "home made" element - I want people to be impressed with what you can achieve yourself, not amused/baffled at the clumsy construction. It is VERY much aimed at someone who has almost no sewing experience - anyone with any experience would have made patterns like this heaps of times before, and yet a beginner would find the instructions vague. My money would be going on Anna Maria Horner's second book if I was looking for a good book on sewing projects for my family and home. And yet, I WANTED to love it! And the presentation is gorgeous. We received two for the Christmas period and have sold neither. Bummer.

  2. Hey Amy! If you haven't already, you should check out this great new book "The Perfect Handmade Bag" by Clare Youngs. It's so lovely and there are heaps of reall lovely and different patterns - there are several I want to make. I'm sure you'd enjoy it.

  3. I love your colour choices for the skirt - it looks like a lot of fun to wear. I'm glad that they make a feature of the ole "loving hands at home" look, but I'm with you, I want things to look hand made, not home made.

  4. Thank you for reviewing my book! You are absolutely right. Sew La is a book for new-to-sewing and beginner sewers. The premise of the book is to get people to START sewing without being too super-critical of themselves. Then they can hone their skills and move on the the masters : like Anna Maria or Joelle (or Nicole Mallalieu who has a new book coming out very soon!) We want people to dip their toes in the crafty water, I guess.

    (I don't like clumsy construction either!)

    Lily boot : don't forget you can send the books back if they are not right for your shop! I am sorry you didn't like it! xx

  5. i'm working on this skirt right now, and i think that beyond it's simple nature that "sophisticated" modifications can be made to the pattern. i used the pattern as a jumping off point, and drafted my own to fit a smaller salvage width (on the bias, no less). i used french seams instead of pinking shears to finish the edges and i honestly couldn't be happier with how it looks so far!


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