Merchant & Mills Sewing Book

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If your style is more normcore than girly girl, you might feel like the sewing world doesn’t cater to you – after all, more often than not, sewing boxes and accessories come plastered in Cath Kidston-esque bright floral prints, and many sewing shops stock endless reams of ruffles, sequins and other fussy trims. Sewing books also often go in for this super-feminine style. Not so, however, in the case of this new sewing manual from Merchant & Mills, who sell sewing notions, patterns and fabrics and are known for their stripped-back, utilitarian aesthetic.

This book offers a no-nonsense approach to sewing and is all about celebrating craftmanship and creativity. Carolyn Denham and Roderick Field set up Merchant & Mills in 2010, hoping to, as their website says, ‘elevate sewing to its proper place in the creative world’ and encourage women and men alike to make ‘a clear statement of individuality and experience the satisfaction that comes from making clothes that compete in style and quality with top-end retail, paid for in time more than hard cash.’

Of course, high-end clothes are usually set apart by the details – the flawless darts and tucks, the perfectly matched seams, the flattering fit – and this manual aims to help you achieve this finish at home. As you might expect, then, the level of detail in this book is truly second to none. Without ever being boring or dry (aside from the odd bit of dry humour, that is) it features pretty much everything you need to know about great sewing. From fabrics to stitching styles, fastenings to must-have sewing tools, this manual covers it all.

The book also features 15 projects to get stuck into, ranging in level from nice-and-simple to a bit more advanced – for instance, I’m tempted by the pillow cushion with sweet cotton ties, but might just leave the oilskin shoulder bag until I feel a bit more comfortable sewing with different materials.

One of the main things I took away from this book was the importance of pressing correctly. It can be so easy to concentrate so much on the actual construction of the garment that the finishing touches, like pressing, get forgotten, or are just done as an after-thought. However, this book reiterates that pressing your seams, darts and tucks properly – and this includes not over-pressing, which can distort the fabric – is the key to a professional-looking end product.

I know the phrase gets bandied about a lot when a latest must-have sewing book is released, but this truly is an essential book for all dressmakers of all skill levels.

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