Sew Serendipity Book Review

This photograph alone was all it took for me to become fixated on the imminent publication date of Sew Serendipity.And it is finally here.

The book is incredibly well written and very inclusive - this is not a one pattern fits all book: it offers so many hints and tips about how to tailor the patterns to fit your own unique figure, and includes a variety of body shapes on which to model the clothes. The instructions are clear and well illustrated, with every single diagram having been hand-drawn by Kay Whitt herself, which must have been a staggering amount of work, but it means that nothing has got lost in translation. It covers everything you'd need to know from installing invisible zippers to creating facings.

The only thing that I was less keen on was the quilting-weight cottons that many of the clothing samples had been made up in. While I think that this can work well for children's clothing, where the fabric standing away from the body a little only adds to the sweetness, I'm not convinced that it works for adult clothing...actually, that's an understatement, I actually think that quilting weight fabric should be banned when it comes to apparel for grown-ups...extreme, moi? I always feel that it doesn't drape or flatter in the way that it needs to, and I'm drawn towards thinking that there's a good reason why shops don't make up clothing in quilting-weight cotton (you can read more on my thoughts about dressmaking with quilting fabrics here). So for some of the patterns in the book where the illustration looks gorgeous (see below), I don't think it translates so well once made up as a garment, which is such a shame, because every single one of the designs is lovely.

The book includes some lovely summery dresses, but for me the real strength of the book is in the coats and jackets section, where many of the garments are made up in wool, in more muted colours. The fastenings and collars have lovely detailing to them, and the tailoring is beautiful...I feel a little obsessed by the sweet empire line waist and small pleats of the grey and yellow coat.

I'd love it even more if one of the coat patterns was demonstrated with a lining as if I was making a jacket from wool then it would probably be for autumn/winter wear, when I'd like for it to be lined...but I'd hopefully be able to work that one out.

This morning the new Autumn Boden catalogue landed on the doormat, and I've suddenly realised that we are already three days into August. It's making me feel panicky - I have another couple of ideas in my head for summer clothes that I'd like to make and the days are running out. With my small ones at home for the summer I'm only sewing in the evenings...this may become an adventure in speed-sewing...

Florence x


  1. Thank you so much for the review. I have to book on my wishlist, but I am wondering: do you think it is doable for Europeans to work with? I mean, is it very technical English they use, or are you able to figure out if you speak a normal level of English and see the pictures?

  2. I saw this in my local craft shop- I know what you mean about the quilt prints- they do drown out the designs a bit. I find quilting fabric with its tempting patterns neither arthur nor martha for clothes- too heavy for tops too light for bottoms. A bit of trim maybe or adornment to satisfy the eye! The coat and jacket patterns are wonderful in this book!

  3. That first picture with the model in the coat looks just like you! I had to do a double-take. The book looks very intriguing. I'll have to have a look-see.
    Thanks for sharing. I truly enjoy your blog.

  4. I know just what you mean about the coat, it is divine! And I can't believe how quickly this summer is romping away, I think I'm probably done with summer sewing - but then again ...

    Super review, so thank you for that and perhaps I may indulge, it certainly looks interesting.

    Kate x

  5. I got this last week too, and I have to echo your thoughts on the choice of (some) of the chosen fabrics.
    Lovely to look through.
    P x

  6. Hello Florence, have just discovered your blog and am quite excited about it! It's like one of those excellent American crafty blogs only NOT AMERICAN. Hurray! Don't suppose you've got any suggestions about where a person might find a pattern for a classic and chic funnel-neck coat? I'm coveting the one in Toast but want to make my own in organic/Fairtrade fabric...

  7. Kimminita, I had another look through last night, and I think it is fairly clear, but certainly not as self-explanatory as the Japanese Pattern books - have you tried one of those? I don't understand a single word of Japanese and yet they are some of the best sewing books I've ever come across.

    Kerry & Pam - I'm so pleased it isn't just me being picky and odd about the use of quilting weight fabrics in this book.

    Tami B, now that you've said it I can see that my profile picture opposite the picture does look a little similar. Unfortunately I do not have her modelly long legs...or the lovely yellow and grey jacket...but it's nice to think that for a moment someone thought that I did!

    Anonymous - thank you so much for your very lovely comment, which made me laugh!

    Kate, yes it's just little time!

    Florence x

  8. @Florence : The Japanese books freak me out when I open them. I immediately close them and walk on. But...since you are not the first one making this suggestion, maybe I should freak a little less and have it a go. Thanks so much for going through the trouble of looking at your book through my Dutch eyes ;)

  9. Kimminita, I know what you mean - the pattern sheet particularly is scary, but if you take a deep breath and just look for the bits relating to the pattern that you want to make, it's actually not too bad. The visual instructions are far less confusing than a shop-bought pattern, I find...and I'm very easily confused.

    Your English, by the way, is so perfect that I can't imagine you having much trouble with anything!


  10. Hi Florence from New Zealand,
    I'm thinking of getting this book - from your review it's just what I've been looking for! This might be a dumb question, but it's a step out of my comfort zone to get a book like this; but would it be easy to use different types of fabrics other than the quilting fabrics suggested, do you know?
    I just love the coats - I've been trying to muster up the courage to make my own for the last two winters as I've never found one I really liked in the stores down here - so I've stuck with the good old faithful instead, but it's starting to look worn out!
    Thanks so much for the review. I would probably never have known this book was out there otherwise.

  11. I do like those coats - although I caved last year and bought myself a coat in the clearance sales. Before that I had been 'planning' on making a coat for about 3 winters...

    The first proper sewing pattern that I tried was a coat for my daughter ( It included lining fabric in the pattern sheet, but then gave no instructions whatsoever on how to put the lining in. I probably did not do it the correct way, but it worked...

  12. Hi Rachel

    Gosh, I'm not sure. I'm guessing that if you use a linen or drill then the patterns would probably translate fine. The problem that I can forsee is that often summer cotton dressmaking fabrics can be slightly sheer and so require a lining for a skirt or dress....which is why it's infuriating that things have been made in quilting cotton as it fudges this issue. So you may need to think about exactly what fabrics you'd want to make things in and whether the patterns being unlined is a problem for you.

    I don't know whether you read the whole post, but again, with the coats, if your winters are cold then you'll want to line the coat and it doesn't give you the pattern pieces or instructions to do this.

    However, the designs (if you imagine away the quilting weight cottons) are really lovely.

    I'm not sure if that helps...but I hope it might a little.

    Florence x

  13. Hello Florence. What a great book, (good review too). I would love to make the coat, is is beautiful. I also agree with you about quilting fabric being a no no for grown up clothes. But they make it so tempting by all the beautiful prints!

    Catherine (forgot my password for google!!)

  14. I bought the book after reading your review and absolutely LOOOOVE it. I love that it is a hardcover book but has a spiral binding in it so you can lay it flat without balance things on the edge to keep it open, I love the many different options you can do with each main construction, and that the paper patterns are all included in a little envelope in the back of the book. I have already purchased nearly a full washing machine amount of fabric to make some tunics and skits and even two of the jackets (yes I went to 'Festival of Quilts' in Birmingham and went a bit overboard...) and am halfway through making a muslin version which I never thought I'd do! Thanks again for the lovely review and inspiring me to purchase this book. :) x


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Florence x