April 27, 2012

Book Review: Everyday Handmade


Everyday Handmade: 22 Practical Projects for the Modern Sewist by Cassie Barden and Adrienne Smitke (Martingale) is a promising addition to any modern sewist’s craft library. Whether you’re looking for a small, simple project to give you a break from that quilt you’ve been slaving over or you’re in the mood to create something featuring some favorite fabrics from your stash, Everyday Handmade is likely to please.


Beginner-level projects include a simple tote bag decorated with fabric-covered buttons, pieced coasters and potholders, and a sewing set that includes a pincushion and needle book. The instructions and illustrations are clear enough, though, that even projects that seem more intimidating, like the full-fledged messenger bag with pockets and a laptop compartment, are easy to follow.



In contrast to many sewing craft books that focus on one material (felt, scraps of quilting cottons, upcycled fabrics), authors Barden and Smitke challenge sewists to explore working with a variety of materials. Projects make the most of selvages, wool felt, linen, canvas, interfacing, fusible fleece, and zippers.

When I was studying the 22 projects in Everyday Handmade and trying to decide which one to make, the Literary Genius e-Reader Cover caught my attention. I received a Kindle as a birthday gift only a week after I won this book at a quilting retreat, so the timing was perfect. Before I started, I noticed that the finished size (5 1/2” by 8 1/2") was going to be bigger than my Kindle and therefore wouldn’t provide the intended protection. The authors note in the project instructions that they have included measurements for two e-readers, but unfortunately both were bigger than mine, so I decided to reduce the cutting measurements and make a practice cover first to check the sizing.
practice #1 -- Kindle would easily fall out
Fast forward through recalculations and two practice covers and I was finally ready to proceed with my final fabric choices. I used interfacing on all my quilting cottons to give them a bit more heft, and at the last minute I decided to also supplement the outer layer of the cover with fusible fleece to better protect my Kindle. I’m happy with how the final product turned out. Although there are slight changes I would make if I were to make this again, it holds my Kindle snugly and provides sufficient protection.

practice #2 -- Better, but Kindle still isn't tight in the top corners
Since I did have to do a lot of recalculating and make two practice covers before I settled on the proper measurements for my Kindle model, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note my disappointment that this particular project did not include formulas for adapting the measurements for any model of e-reader. In the end I was able to make the cover I wanted, but formulas for getting the right measurements would have made the project faster and less frustrating.



Success!




One other project that I tried from Everyday Handmade is the Petunia Hedgehog Pincushion. Petunia is part of a three-piece sewing set, along with a stump-shaped needle book and notions pouch. To satisfy this month's Woodlands theme for the ornament challenge, I turned Petunia into a soft ornament by simply eliminating the base and sewing both sides of the body together all the way around. Templates are included for the tree stump parts as well as all Petunia’s parts, and I found it very easy to trace them using freezer paper and then transfer and cut the shapes out of craft felt. At the back of the book Barden and Smitke include simple instructions for techniques used in the projects, including the French knots and blanket stitch on Petunia. Even when you know how to execute simple embroidery like this, if your memory is anything like mine you know it’s helpful to have a refresher on hand.
April ornament: Hedgehog

I’m pleased with the range of projects in Everyday Handmade, and I like the look and feel of Barden’s and Smitke’s designs. Whether you’re making a little something for yourself or sewing up a personalized gift for a friend, you’ll find something to try in Everyday Handmade.

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