Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Shirtmaking Workbook by David Page Coffin

My latest book review was one dedicated to making shirts, so I slipped it into my craft blog. If you would like to read my review and additional comments on The Shirtmaking Workbook by David Page Coffin You can pop over to my blog Moonwishes Crafts and read it.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Creative Kids: Complete Sewing Guide to Sewing

On the Amazon Vine program that I am in to give product and book reviews, I rarely get a sewing book to read and review. The other day I was offered two, so I grabbed them. This one is Creative Kids: Complete Photo Guide to Sewing by Janith Bergeron and Christine Ecker. Published 2015 by Creative Publishing International. Softcover. 144 Pages. ISBN 9781589238237. Full color photo illustrations.

I had some problems with this book and many times, other than for the projects, I felt like I was reading a beginning sewing book for adults with children's projects thrown in to make it a 'child's' book. Here is my review:


I really, really, really wanted to like this book. I am all for teaching children to sew and to love and enjoy the experience. My life revolves around sewing as I have made 50+ quilts, have made most of my own clothes for 45 years, and also embroider both by hand and machine, I also sell sewing patterns on line under the name Moonwishes Sewing and Crafts and studied education in college, so I think I have the sewing knowledge to critique/review this book.

The first thing I looked for when I got it in the mail was what age group was the book for? Unless I missed it in several times going through the book it was not mentioned, nor did the Amazon product page. Why did I want to see the age group it is geared for? So many things hinge on the age factor when producing a book, such as font size, word usage, phrasing, clarity of photos and the need for adult supervision. The only hint as to age in the book was the actual photos with child models that looked to be in elementary school and photos of one of the author’s two children that were hand models. They also looked to be in elementary school. I grew up in a home where sewing was happening so I was ahead of the curve when it came to learning for myself. The author’s children most likely had been around sewing much of their lives also so if they had been asked if the understood something, then most likely they did, but that doesn’t mean other children would also find the instructions clear or easy to read at that same age level.

Why am I concerned with font size? I have a children's book sitting next to me that I will be reviewing next and the fonts in it are more than twice as big as the fonts in this book. Younger children that might be fairly new readers could have trouble with the smaller font. I know with my bifocals I was having trouble reading the book as the text was too close together. Of course if the book is for young or older teens, then that might not be a problem. There were words and phrases in the book that a younger school aged child probably can't read or understand yet. If a book is written for them, they should be able to read it without difficulty and with understanding.

I found it difficult to follow the photos and think a child might as well when the text says to do one thing but the photo is showing something else as well as there being photos that are literally hiding what the needle is doing. The text is poorly edited and does not always have the correct letter to signify each photo. The text also references using at one point a circle pattern that is not included in the book but is supposed to be. There is a tooth fairy pillow pattern at the back of the book that runs across two pages. I’m not really sure how the authors expected a child to trace it out when the lines go right into the gutter of the book on both sides. I would expect that to accomplish this, either the pattern will be the wrong size or the spine of the book will break leaving the book in danger of falling apart sooner than normal.

When it came to instructions on sewing techniques, they showed making a knot on the right hand finger. I’m not sure how most sewers do this, but I have always used my left hand for making a knot in hand sewing thread. There was no indication from the author that the child might want to try different hands if they couldn’t do this fine motor action of making a knot on a thread wound around your finger. They also instructed on how to thread a needle by pinching the thread around the needle and then threading the needle by pushing the thread bend into the needle eye. I’ve seen occasional references o this technique over the years in other books and have tried it previously but couldn’t get it to work. I tried again using the largest chenille needle with the biggest eye that I had and 6 strands of embroidery floss. It took 5 tries before I semi-accomplished it. This is yet another fine motor skill that might not yet be developed depending on the age of the child. How much easier it would have been to give the child a feeling of satisfaction of learning something new by using a needle threader. When the authors mentioned pinning a pattern to felt, they depended on the photo to teach as they didn’t explain the ways to pin something so that you aren’t poking yourself or getting your threads tangled when working with the pinned item.

When it came to giving instructions on sewing on the sewing machine, the child is instructed to read the manual (and I assume comprehend it). I know when my mom got a new machine when I was in 12th grade, I was not allowed to touch the machine until I read the manual thoroughly. This is yet again a problem perhaps with younger children. Are they able to read the manual with understanding. When discussing presser feet it seemed as if the author’s were expecting the child to possibly be buying more accessory feet as they got better with the machine. Whose machine is this, the child’s or an adult’s? At times they throw in the mention of doing something with adult supervision but it is rare. Most of the time it seems like the child is on their own on their own voyage of discovery.

The first project that the child was supposed to do with the sewing machine was sew on lines on papers without thread in the machine. Some computerized machines will not run without thread in them and the book doesn’t mention this. Sewing on paper, in my opinion, is a total waste of time as it just does not really give the same sense that sewing on actual fabric can. So much better to learn with fabric and feel like you have actually learned something. The first machine project, Scrappy Cards, would give the same learning focus with something to show for it at the end.

I suppose that many of the projects might interest a child depending on their age and personal interests in learning to sew. There are three garments to make, shorts, kimono robe and hooded poncho. All use the child’s measurements which are used to draft a pattern. None of those instructions suggest that they might want a sewing buddy whether an adult or child to help with the measuring. There is no explanation of using a simple manufacturers sewing pattern to make a garment so that would need further instruction.

You might want to try to see the book in person or download a sample, if available, before deciding to spend your money on this book. Take the time to go through it and be sure that you understand the project and what is being taught so you can be ready to handle problems and questions from your child.

After posting my review and trying once more to find an age group, I saw that the book was for grade school students. Depending on a school district that could be anywhere from K-6, K-4 or any other set up. It still remains that the younger students, won't have the vocabulary to understand what they are reading. Young teens who may come upon the book might find it and it's projects 'babyish'

Monday, June 1, 2015

DII Kitchen Millennium 4-Piece Heat Resistant Seamless Non Stick Dishwasher Safe BPA Free Silicone DII Kitchen Tool Set, Red

In my time as a reviewer of books and products for Amazon and some other companies that send me things, I have received some great products. Other products are such a waste and yet they garner so many positive 5 stars reviews that I wonder if the reviewer had even tested them (much less seen them or taken them out of the package). Such is the case today. My son Steve and I were making spaghetti last night, both sauce and noodles. This gave me a chance to try out this silicone kitchen tool set. I ended up giving them one star because no stars isn't an option. I thought they were absolutely worthless. I never read other reviewer's reviews until I have actually posted mine. I was shocked to see all the 5 star reviews and they had an average score of 4 stars with 80 reviews done at that point. What did I miss or did they 'cheat'. I will never know.

I also found it interesting when I saw more of the product information on the product page. They made a big deal about them being hygienic and that the red color stimulated the appetite. Since most kitchen tools are left in the kitchen when the food gets served I wouldn't count on them being much in the appetite stimulate department. Anyhow here is my review for these poor excuses for kitchen tools. Hygienic, possibly/probably but I have cooked with wooden spoons for years without dropping dead from a food borne pathogen hiding in the wooden spoon.


This is my third time attempting to try out and use silicon kitchen ware. Even the one item that I had thought turned out while even after scrubbing it clean I discovered it to have congealed grease several months later when I went to use it again. Other than prep to be able to use these, I haven't technically washed them and I'm not sure they are worth the time. I tried the spatula while making a scrambled egg and it is a good thing it was scrambled as the spatula has a very thick and short 'ramp' up onto the flat part of the spatula. I don't think I could have gotten a friend egg out without scrambling it since it was too thick to get under food in a pan without the food being damaged.

Yesterday I made spaghetti sauce and tried out the spoon. Just stirring the sautéing onions and garlic the spoon didn't want to do much and as soon as I included thawed, loosely packed hamburger and tried to stir it in the spoon bowl literally bent in half! Again and again and again. Nor was it possible to scrape up the fond (those yummy brown bits on the bottom of the pan) without the spoon bowl bending in half. It was only once I had some tomato sauce in the pan that the spoon stopped bending with every stir. I would it consider impossible to stir things like cookie or bread dough by hand with this spoon and certainly won’t try as I don’t need the frustration.

Then I tried the pasta server thinking there couldn't be much difference between this one and the super cheap one I have used for years. Wrong. The tines or whatever you call them were so thick that they pushed the noodles out of the way in colander instead of collecting them so I got about half the amount of noodles in it at a time as my other one.

I haven't even tried the slotted spoon and doubt if I will. Working with these things made me honestly wonder what the manufacturer was thinking and did they even give them a casual test in a kitchen? These are worthless and don't waste your money on them! And just to be clear, I'm not a newbie to a kitchen. I've been cooking for about 50 years now at this point. I know that cooking with a spoon that bends when you need it to be stiff while stirring something.