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– Listed in Alphabetical order by Book Title. –


Author:  Valerie Van Arsdale Shrader

This entry is a “twofer” as the books are so similar and by the same author.  These were the first two books that I picked up which got me interested in sewing.Fun and Fabulous Tops to Sew

I purchased the “Tops” book first and read through the first half of the book, which consists of an introduction to sewing.  It has some useful tips for a complete beginner, including sewing machine and fabric basics and describes sewing tools and a variety of stitches and seam types.   The second half of the book illustrates several styles of tops (albeit, some may be a bit dated) with basic steps explaining how they assembled and sewed them.

One issue is that they do not provide a pattern, nor refer to any specific pattern numbers to use for these tops and there is no reference at all to making your own patterns.  They do outline how the pattern pieces should look for that particular project, but, for a complete beginner, it would have been better to either include a pattern or give some details on specific patterns to purchase.  Also, I’m not sure that the steps included are any more detailed or helpful than the actual directions that come with a pattern.  It was good to use as a basic overview to let you know how to assemble and sew various aspects of tops, but not ideal for actually carrying out a specific project.Sew Simple Stylish Skirts

The “Skirts” book is laid out in exactly the same manner, with the entire first half of the book, the sewing basics part, being almost identical to the “Tops” book.


Author:  Laura Zander of Jimmy Beans Wool

This book review/preview has been featured in Stitching the Night Away Craft Daily, issue: April 21, 2013.

Sew RedThis is a sewing and quilting book dedicated to raising awareness of Women’s Heart Health.  Approximately 5% of the proceeds from Sew Red will be donated to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) in support of The Heart Truth.

“Worldwide, 8.6 million women die from heart disease each year, accounting for a third of all deaths in women.” (Women’s Heart Foundation).

The Hearth Truth

The book includes sewing project contributions from 27 different designers, fabric designers, sewists and fashion designers, including Amy Butler, Brett Bara, Ty Pennington, Tula Pink, Nancy Zieman (from Sewing with Nancy) and Suede (from Project Runway).

sew red toc

Sew Red Table of Contents Page

The table of contents excited me (and I mean, really, who gets excited over a table of contents??) because it listed a picture of every complete project.

Sweet Sixteen Skirt

Kay Whitt’s Sweet Sixteen Skirt

The book includes a little blurb about the contributing author and instructions, diagrams, patterns and photographs of a sewing or quilting project they have created.  Most of the projects have you draft your own pattern, such as Kay Whitt’s Sweet Sixteen Skirt, named for the 16 panels sewn around the skirt.   Step-by-step instructions are included along with numerous diagrams to help you with your self-drafting endeavours.

Amy Butler Drawstring Dress

Amy Butler’s Drawstring Dress

Patterns are also included with the book for some of the projects, such as Amy Butler’s cute and flirty Drawstring Dress.  (Please note, a few corrections for the instructions of this dress can be found on Amy’s site, here).

anna cohen petal dress

Anna Cohen’s Petal Dress

A pattern and instructions for a gorgeous evening Petal Dress, aptly named for the undulating ‘petals’ that make up the entire skirt of the dress, by Anna Cohen is also included.

For Project Runway fans, the full Simplicity Suede Says Pattern for Suede’s Kimono Sleeve Tunic is also included in sizes XS to XL.

Simplicity Suede Says Kimono Sleeve Tunic

Simplicity Suede Says Kimono Sleeve Tunic

Quilters will also be excited with the patterns included for the beautiful pieced quilts as well as the quilted applique motifs.  Quilted pillows, bags and pouches are also featured.

Marcia Harmening Queen of Hearts Quilt
Marcia Harmening Queen of Hearts Quilt

There are also contributions from folks who have created their own fabric lines, such as Ty Pennington.  Remember him from Trading Spaces and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition?  He has designed a fabric line for Westminster Fibers called Impressions, “inspired by the resilience he witnessed in our [USA] nation’s…communities when filming his shows.” (Sew Red, p.74).  He includes instructions for a practical yet stylish backpack.

One fun thing about the book is that every single project was sewn in a red coloured themed fabric.  No matter the pattern or style, all the beautiful fabrics chosen were dominantly red, which nicely reinforced the reason for the book, heart health.