I read a lot of DIY blogs, as you might have gathered from this post. But my absolute favourite is A Pair and a Spare, by Geneva Vanderzeil. She’s got amazing style, her projects are always simple and inventive, and she avoids that ‘I’ve got a glue gun and I’m not afraid to use it’ look that plagues some of the other DIY crew.
So when I saw she had a book out, I asked the publishers to send me a copy, which they very kindly did. And in the spirit of Christmas I’ve got another copy to give away to someone who reads this blog!
I’ve got a fair amount of DIY/beginner craft tomes (mostly presents from well-meaning relatives) which are mostly pretty useless. But I really rate this book, for a few reasons.
Firstly all the projects have great photos and really good step by step instructions. It’s a pet peeve of mine when DIY books have incredibly vague guidelines on how they actually made something (like this one). It’s so frustrating and puts you off ever trying any of the projects.
Not all the ideas in the book are new – if you read the blog, you’ll have seen some before, like this summer dress project, which inspired this awesome version by Elisalex on Stitch Me Softly. But they’ve all been re-photographed with more instructions.
The sewing skills needed for the projects are absolutely minimal – this is not the book for you if you’re a hardcore sewing technique hound. But there’s inspiration galore for upgrading the projects if you have a bit of skill. For example these silk shorts with lace on the bottom and velvet ribbon belt – you could make the shorts yourself rather than using a thrifted version.
There’s a very simple maxi-skirt tutorial which looks great and reminds me that I keep meaning to make one of these.
Secondly, what I liked about this book is the fresh perspective. There’s so much to learn if you get into making clothes that it’s easy to get caught up in technique and forget about the overall look. Often it’s the last details that totally make a project (as you’ll know if you’ve ever deliberated for hours over which buttons to choose). Geneva has a great eye for these.
I really like this denim shirt with a leather collar, which is actually glued on to the existing one.
The first part of the book is all about re-fashioning, which I am bad at, although I always like seeing what amazing bloggers like Zoe and Miss P make. But I love the idea of this ‘Boyfriend-shirt skirt’, and you can often find good quality men’s shirts second-hand. It would look awesome in a plaid flannel. Again it’s very easy to make, just gathered with elastic at the top.
Some of the projects are pretty inventive. This is a chain sewn on to a silk top to make a Peter Pan silhouette, which you could just as easily adapt to a self-sewn project like the Grainline Scout Tee or a Sorbetto minus the pleats.
And how about this Peter Pan collar necklace? It’s genius.
The other thing I really like about this book is the message behind it – you don’t have to spend loads of money on new clothes to be interested in fashion and trends. There’s an awareness of consumption and sustainability issues. Check out Geneva’s reasons for DIY-ing, which all ring true to me:
This would make an awesome Christmas present for someone you know who’s into fashion but daunted by the idea of making their own clothes. It’s a nice-quality hardback and the pictures are lovely:
It’s published by Carlton Books at £16.99, and you can get it from carltonbooks.co.uk
Or you can leave a comment below to win a copy! The deadline for this is the end of next Thursday, the 13th December. You can enter from anywhere in the world, although if you’re not in the UK you might not get it for Christmas (but it’ll cheer up those January blues at least).