A book review from The Old Schoolhouse Store on Pins & Needles

Once upon a time, all young girls learned the art of sewing from their mothers and grandmothers. It was a necessary skill and one that no homemaker dared be without. But sadly, this domestic art has fallen largely by the wayside in today's culture. Many mothers themselves lack the know-how to teach their daughters even the most rudimentary sewing skills, and they have no idea where to start. But thanks to JoAnn Gagnon and her excellent instructional manuals, help is on the way!

 Ms. Gagnon has written a whole series of books on the art of sewing-for the novice all the way up to the seasoned seamstress. Her first book, Stitches and Pins, introduces beginning skills and simple projects. This review, however, will focus on two of her other books for the more experienced seamstress-Pins & Needles: An Intermediate Sewing Book and Pintucks & Lace: Using Heirloom Techniques on Today's Styles. 

Pins & Needles is an 80-page, wire-bound manual that continues where Stitches & Pins left off. It covers more challenging sewing techniques, including waistbands, zippers, and set-in sleeves, while also briefly reviewing basic skills as needed. The format of the book is very easy to use, and I really like the way the instruction in the various techniques is immediately followed by projects designed to incorporate, practice, and perfect the skills that have just been learned. As always, "doing" is the best way to remember! There are over 30 projects in this manual, including instruction in using a serger, quilting, heirloom sewing, polar fleece, and garment construction. And all patterns are in a handy pocket on the inside of the back cover. Sizes include Girls 8-16 and Misses 8-16. I especially liked the section on applique, as this is a technique that I've been interested in for quite some time. All projects are really nice and up-to-date-and there is something for every season! My 15-year-old twin daughters have been taking sewing lessons for over six years, and I asked them and their sewing instructor to take a look at the manuals. They all agreed that with a good working knowledge of basic sewing skills, almost anyone could follow the step-by-step instructions in Pins & Needles. The directions are well-written, and the methods are well-presented and easy to understand. 

Pintucks & Lace is a 96-page wire-bound manual that is designed to teach the experienced seamstress how to use a sewing machine to create heirloom-style clothing for today's wardrobe. There are over 24 projects to choose from (complete with sewing patterns), including a fancy gift bag, an exquisite sampler quilt, an embroidered tea cozy, a whole baby ensemble, and much more! Of course, new and more difficult techniques must be mastered in Pintucks & Lace, such as puffing, turned applique, endredeaux, sharks teeth, pintucks, and more. For that reason, heirloom sewing may seem intimidating and out-of-reach for many seamstresses. But if you are already well-skilled in most areas of sewing, don't despair. According to the front matter of the manual: In sewing heirloom you will apply heirloom techniques on the fabric first, and then cut out the pattern. You will be using lighter weight fabrics, special sewing machine feet, and starch and stabilizers as you complete a lot of precision details. Heirloom sewing is not difficult once you know the stitches and procedures, but it takes time, patience, and skill at the machine. The end result is well worth the time and effort to learn the techniques! Once again, I asked my daughters and their sewing instructors for their opinions on Pintucks & Lace. They all agreed that while the manual's format is easy-to-use and the directions are clear and well written, this book is not for the novice. It is definitely for the seasoned seamstress who expressly wishes to learn heirloom sewing and can dedicate the extra time and effort required in order to master this lovely and historic art form. Both books are soft-cover and retail for $24.95-a true bargain for all of the excellent instructions, projects and patterns that you receive. 

You can also visit the Bunkhouse Sewing website to find other resources, newsletters, patterns, ebooks, sewing supplies, and more. It's a veritable treasure chest!   Overall, I highly recommend these wonderful sewing manuals. If you're interested in learning this timeless and profitable domestic skill that has been passed down through the ages, be sure to check out Stitches & Pins and Pins & Needles. And who knows? Before long, you might just be ready to try Pintucks & Lace!