Imagine a soft pile of pressed linen and smoothed cotton, a sewing machine, some choice thread, a pair of sharp sheers…and a whole afternoon to get lost in creativity. What a glorious summer thought! Allow me to introduce two books of sewing inspiration that celebrate fresh, natural fabrics.
Linen, Wool, Cotton by Akiko Mano is not a new release, but one I keep coming back to. It’s a slim little thing, and some of the projects required some trial and error on my part to get to the finished product, but every project is so worth it! There is not a design in the book that is not both useful and provokes drools with loveliness.
As the title suggests, the book is divided into three sections: projects using linen, using wool, and using cotton. The result is neutral colored, fresh, chic creations with a small hint of accent color using simple french knots or colored stitching. They are simple but attend to small details (like a bit of lace or a button-snap closure) that add a truly professional touch, and enough personality to persuade you that anything you make from these pages would be better than a similar item found in a store.
Mano’s original ideas may have never crossed your mind, but once you open the pages a whole new vision of “home” comes to life. The projects don’t take up much room, they just add to the beauty of a house, inviting you into a space you want to remain in. Her lunch bag and “sweets mat” make food something to linger over. Her wastebasket cover, and hanging fruit bags make kitchen time less of a chore, soft wool socks with just a touch of embroidery, and a felted hot water bottle cover make cosying up to read a magical hour. I could go on.
Most patterns are executed by replicating the dimensions she offers onto pattern paper. A list of resource websites and some brief sewing tips are offered in the back. These are the patterns of an artist who celebrates living, and I hope you will have a chance to linger over them, and even edit them to suit your own personality.
Home Sewn by Cassandra Ellis was released this month and is full of modern, elegant projects for a home-designer who has a space to call their own. All of the projects match, and span each room in a home. Ellis’s style crosses a bohemian mix of colors and patterns, often scrapped together, with plenty of neutrals to keep things from looking busy. Her attention to quality fabrics such as canvas, leathers, and linens elevate simple quilt patterns and easy square designs.
Projects like a headboard, various curtains, a room divider, and hanging lamp shade are gorgeous, but would do best in a somewhat large and airy home. Ellis also includes smaller projects that are more versatile: an ottoman (my favorite project in the book, and also hers), book ends, heating pack, napkins, and pillows (all using a simple square or rectangular cut), and a bulletin board. Though one could easily make these items without a design, Ellis does the guess work for you on best sizing and fillers.
With her fresh take on fabric choices, I appreciated Ellis’s sensitivity to cost (often using re-purposed or scrap bits of otherwise expensive materials) and her specification of which linen or leather weight to use on various projects. Some patterns give dimensions to make your own pattern, others use a downloadable design, and some use a kit that can be ordered separately (like the lamp shade). Though we all may not have a use in our home layout for the full scope of ideas presented, Ellis’s beautiful vision for what a home can look like, all done with our own two hands, is inspirational, and accessible to sewers with all levels of experience. You can get a good idea of her decorating style by visiting her website: cassandraellis.co.uk.
Review copy of Home Sewn courtesy of Penguin/Random House