I was extremely pleased to be asked to review Melissa Wastney's book, Sweet and Simple Handmade. First, because I was going to buy it anyway. Second, because I knew I would have no shortage of nice things to say about it.
If you read the Tiny Happy blog you'll be familiar with Melissa's work. She uses new and used materials to make sweet garments, toys, accessories, and home wares that have her own characteristic style, which I would describe as Japanese-Scandinavian-Vintage-Antipodean-fusion.
This paperback book is published by Stash Books, and contains 25 projects. It is available here and here and perhaps in your local bookshop, too. Each project is photographed (by none other than her good self), and has paper pattern pieces or measurements and full instructions.
Melissa notes that it is intended for home crafters; grandparents, friends, aunties, parents who want to make clothes or gifts for the small people they know. It would certainly be ideal for that audience. I found myself wishing that I'd had this book years ago, because there is a simple pattern for all of the essentials that I needed back then; pants, a skirt, a Sunday-best dress, dress-up capes, a cardy, a sweatshirt, a coat, etc. There are small and large versions of many of the patterns, so they will still be useful for me with a 7 and a 9-year old.
As I mentioned above, there is a good selection of essentials, but also some great extras. There is a pattern for those fantastic baby shoes, you know the ones, and a grown-up's bag, a children's satchel, pencil case, a foraging bag, drawstring bags, soft toys, and a cot quilt. There is a knitting project, and some great ideas for wrapping gifts imaginatively and inexpensively. The methods of construction are explained in an easy-to-follow manner. As well, there are new ways of thinking about sewing. For example, it wouldn't have occurred to me to refashion a child's cardy from a piece of adult knitwear, but there are instructions and photos for how to do that in a very stylish way. There are some very simple projects suitable for beginner sewers, and more complex ones for more experienced sewers. If you are a sewer and you have a fabric stash, even a small one, you could likely make at least half of the projects without even going to the shops. If you do need something, you could very likely get it at a charity store. In this way, the book is extremely democratic. You don't need lots of money, designer fabrics, special notions, or advanced technical skills to achieve these looks.
Other points to note
Melissa's simple and practical techniques could be applied to a whole range of projects for adults or children. I found this book to be a great springboard for ideas- I'm planning to make an adult version of the bias-trimmed cardigan, for instance. I hope this wonderful book is just the first in a series, I would love to see a follow-up that included some of her home wares and accessories, too.