Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review: Sewing Solutions Tips and Techniques for the Savvy Sewist by Nicole Vasbinder; Interweave Publishing


Have a sewing mishap? Sewing Solutions has you covered! Even the most experienced sewist encounters problems, snags, and little glitches. When you need answers, you’ll find no better resource than Sewing Solutions, from expert teacher and author Nicole Vasbinder.


Organized by stages, you’ll find:

  • Detailed Advice about the sewing process, including pros and cons, and basic considerations of working with a variety of tools and materials.
  • An easy to follow layout that provides basic information as well as step-by-step techniques for making bias tape, attaching and sewing trims, buttonholes, zippers, hems, and more.
  • Troubleshooting tips that advise how to deal with common sewing obstacles.

Whether choosing the right tools, reading patterns correctly, and everything in between, Sewing Solutions will prove to be an essential sewing companion.

My Review


This book hits right on the money. Whether you are a beginner needing to know the basics of sewing, someone who has the basics down but wants to know OTHER certain things (like how to translate pattern envelopes), or an expert who just needs a touch-up.

I’m the middle-man in sewing expertise. I’m not a beginner, but yet I’m not an expert either. There are a few EXTRA’s that I really needed to know about- such as the different types of clothing patterns.WP_001968

I’ve made just about every type of bag, wallet, tote, and toys you could imagine- but I have issues with clothing. I’m scared to use that much fabric and mess it up. There’s only a slight difference between a size 2 and 4- I don’t want to cut it too short and then be stuck with fabric that’s too small to do anything with.

So I really needed help with fitting. I would have loved to own this book when I first began my sewing adventure. They break everything down, tells exactly what it is, and how to work with it.

There are two sections to this book. The first section is nothing but the sewing tools, notions, trims, and miscellaneous items you need to begin sewing. What they are and what they do are both explained so that you know WHY exactly you need them!

The second section is solutions and tips to fabric, patterns, sewing, embellishments, fitting, and finishing. This is what I needed the most help with was the fitting and finishing.


Section 1


Chapter 1 is Sewing Tools.  This is the chapter that tells all about the different types of sewing machines, where you can get them (AND make sure you test your machine before taking it home), and how often the machine should be cleaned and what will happen if it isn’t cleaned.


How to insert and wind bobbins, the different stitches, all about Serger machines, and different sewing feet (basic feet, zipper feet, button feet..). The difference between Machine and Hand sewing needles and what the numbers on them mean.


Chapter 2 is notions and trims. This is once you have the basics down pat and are ready to move on to the next level. Notions refer to all sewing materials EXCEPT for the fabric. These are the tools that you use to get the job or project done!

Knowing the difference between the different threading and what projects they are good for is something that EVERY seamstress should know. Then there is the applique, beaded and sequined trims and how to properly sew them onto your project.


This was something that confused me when I first began sewing. I knew how to applique (straight applique), but they have reverse applique as well (which is trickier).

What is bias tape, what is it used for, and can I make my own? These are all questions that are answered in this chapter. As well as attaching braided trims, elastics, and lace.

Did I mention piping, welting, corded edges, pom poms, fringes, and ruffles? These are all covered as well. She doesn’t leave OUT anything in this book. I love that it is broken down into comprehensive wording so that even a beginner can understand.

What about ribbons and rick-rack, Closures, fasteners, D-rings, and eyelets? Hooks, eyes, Snaps, zippers, hook and loop fasteners? All this can be very confusing at first, she tells in detail how to apply each and whether they can be stitched right onto the fabric.


Chapter 3 is marking, measuring, and cutting tools. Besides just your sewing machine and thread, there are other tools that you need. You need to measure, mark, and cut your fabric so you get a precise project fitting. Accurate marking makes it easier to cut, the right (fabric) scissors make it easier to cut, and measuring makes it easier to get it right!

All the tools you need to begin may become a little confusing at first. What are they, what do they do, and the different types of each tool are all listed in this book.

  • Tailors chalk
  • markers and pens
  • tracing wheels
  • transfer paper
  • basic and specialty measuring tools.
  • Cutting Tools
    • Rotary cutters, scissors, self-healing mats


Chapter 4 is miscellaneous tools. These are all the smaller tools that you need that will definitely be of help to you. Pins, seam ripper, point & loop turners, bodkins, seam sealant, bias tape makers, patterned paper, pattern notchers and awls, and dress forms.

These are the tools that you’ll be looking for when you’re in need. The pins hold your completed pattern together why you sew that it doesn’t come apart. A seam ripper helps to tear the seam if you accidentally messed up. Point turners help push the sides out of a purse for instance. These are all really helpful things, and it’s a good idea to know what they are before making the sewing journey.


Section 2


There is more to sewing then just grabbing a fabric and starting a project. First you need to know WHICH fabric is best for what project. You don’t want to use linen or something that is lightweight for a purse. You want it to stand-up to wear and tear and not be flimsy and fall apart.

Fabric is made by weaving, pressing, or knitting yarns, threads, or fibers together. So you need to look at the anatomy of the fabric and what you’re choosing before you start a project. Read the pattern and see what type of fabric is needed before you begin.

There are more than 40 different varieties of fabrics and they are all very different. This book breaks down what each are and how you can tell which type of fabric it is.


I didn’t know that if you clipped a small piece off the fabric and burned it you can tell what it is by the way it smells when burning and what the ashes look like. That was very interesting to me, and I’ve already used it a time or two already!

Do you know the difference between interfacing and lining? The different types of each? That there are 7 main things to look for when choosing the right fabric?

The 7 things to look for:

  • Drape of the fabric.
    • How does the fabric drape on the body? Does it cling to the curves of your body? Stand away from the body?
  • Difficulty of the fabric
    • Use simple fabrics for difficult projects and save the difficult fabrics for the easier stuff, don’t make it harder than it has to be.
  • Durability.
    • Everyday items should be used with fabrics that can stand lots of use- don’t use a fabric that pills and frays.
  • Expense
    • use low-priced fabrics for projects that need a lot of yardage.
  • Hand
    • How does the fabric feel against your hand? Scratchy fabrics won’t work against the skin because they are irritating. They need lining- or choose a softer fabric.
  • Plaids and Prints
    • Will there be a lot of seams that interrupt the the print?
  • Sheer Fabrics
    • Does it need to be lined? That will add extra time.


Chapter 6 is all about patterns. The front and back of a pattern envelope has important information so that you choose the right size and pattern for your liking.

This breaks down how to clearly decipher the envelope so that you can easily read the information without getting confused or irritated. Each has certain pattern symbols and terms that need to be read without problems.

You’ll easily learn how to see the different pattern pieces. This will help you determine WHICH pattern you actually need to cut (especially helpful if it’s clothing) because it will need to be fitted to your body.

It also shows how to choose the right fabric for certain patterns, and how to lay them so that the grainline matches up with the pattern. I love the little extra tips in the book which help a beginner. TIP: Tissue paper patterns can be hard to work with because they are so flimsy, Iron fusible interfacing to each piece so it’s easier to work with and easier to cut out!

I never even thought about doing that, but I KNEW I hated working with the tissue paper patterns. They are very hard to cut out properly because they are so thin that they rip. Overtime they start to wear and tear as well, which makes it hard to maintain proper pattern cut-out. This is GENIUS!

This is definitely a must-have reference book for anybody wanting to sew or someone who already knows how but needs extra information! This is STAYING right beside my sewing machine from now on. There is tons of invaluable information!

Even if you are an expert, you might need a refresher every now and then- you never know. This is the perfect size to fit right in a sewing drawer or beside your machine! Never be stumped again!


About the Author:


Nicole Vasbinder owns and operates StitchCraft and an independent accessory line, Queen Puff Puff. A founding teacher of Stitch Lounge in San Francisco, she currently teaches at Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics. Her designs has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Adorn Magazine, JoAnn Magazine, Venus Zine, and Craft. She lives in Petaluma, California.

Buy It: You can buy the Sewing Solutions- Tips and Techniques for the Savvy Sewist for $19.95

Check out ALL Interweave publishings amazing titles, both new and not!

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Jessica Renee


This post was written by:

Jess is the creator of Stylish Southern Mama + Southern Rambles. She is a freelance writer + designer, Social Media Marketer, and Journalist. She has 2 amazing kids, Aidan and Adisyn, and has been with their dad Adam for 12 years, and has 2 amazingly adorable dogs; Harley + Cheyanne! :)

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