Note: Back a long, long time ago, way before I started working on GenQ, I had a whole bunch of plans for this blog, one of which was to occasionally do book and product reviews. But, you know, good ones, not just rah, rah cheery ones so that people will advertise and send me free stuff. I am trying to renew my commitment to keeping this blog alive and in that spirit, I give you my first book review.
I've pretty much decided that all patterns for all things should be written by people who have advanced degrees in some scientific field. I am fairly sure that this is the key to me not wanting to take the author of any particular pattern and smack him or her around for a while for writing such incomprehensible gobbledygook. When I was a new quilter, I stumbled and cursed my way through a lot of bad patterns, and the difficulty in interpreting poorly worded instructions kept me from attempting more complicated things, even when I was probably ready to do so. Fortunately, this is often what I wrote about and managed to turn that into a minor career as a quilting humorist, so THANK YOU, CRAPPY PATTERN WRITERS.
I had also avoided attempting to make clothing, except for the odd skirt that required only straight lines and some elastic in a tube. But sleeves? Hell, no. Zippers? There was no way anybody could possibly explain—with, you know, words and stuff—how to sew in a zipper. People who made things with zippers were clearly giving it to their moms to do for them and then lying about it on their blogs.
And then I discovered Carla.
Well, to be more specific, I discovered Sis Boom Patterns, which are created by both Jennifer Paganelli and Carla Hegeman Crim. (Carla also has her own line of patterns under the name The Scientific Seamstress.) I made the Patricia Tunic for me and the Marissa dress for each of my girls. Sleeves! ZIPPERS! And the instructions were so incredibly good, I kind of fell in love. Carla has a degree in molecular biology, and I have become convinced that the rigors of scientific research and writing (and the aptitude for such things) have helped make Carla into the incredible pattern writer she is today.
See, I love clarity, and I have a great deal of respect for anyone who can speak, write, or otherwise convey information in a way that is easy to understand without being overly simplistic. With the Sis Boom patterns, I felt like I had a teacher with me, helping me along and making sure I didn't sew my hand to my face while also letting me know that the techniques I was about to attempt were perfectly doable by anyone who was not completely (or partially, for that matter) drunk. AND I learned to sew zippers. Myself. No mom anywhere.
I have since purchased a bunch of Carla's patterns and more Sis Boom patterns, and when I heard on Facebook that Carla was publishing a book on hats I was SO excited, both for Carla because, yay—book!, but also for me. See, I love hats, but I never buy them because I have a gigantic melon head. Seriously. Hats do not fit me. They sit perched on top of my skull like something Princess Eugenie would wear to the gym. I turn every hat into a sad fascinator.
Sewn Hats has patterns for babies, kids, and adults, and the adult hats fit all the way up to Gigantic Melon. I know this, because she has a very easy-to-read chart that shows where your head circumference fits in the range of sizes that are given for each pattern. (And yes, I measured my head, and it is, apparently, freakishly huge, but is at least actually on the chart. Unlike some of my other parts.) And instead of an envelope crammed with tissue paper pattern pieces, which I despise, you download a PDF of the project and print them yourself. If the pattern has different sizes, the first page will tell you which pages to print for the size you want. Then, if you want to make the hat again in a different size, you just print out what you need—no more trying to salvage those damn tissues you already cut up. This is pure genius, and is the same way all Carla's individual patterns have been done, but the first time I have ever seen it in a publication. I suppose it's possible that other books have been done this way, but if they have, I'm totally going to ignore it and give Carla all the credit.
The first chapter has a ton of great information about tools and techniques, so don't skip it. I tend to gloss over this kind of section in most books, because it's usually all "I'm going to teach you to sew in 4 pages" and doesn't tell you anything worthwhile, but Carla isn't doing that. This gives you specific info on the stuff you will be using to make these hats (think interfacings, glues, and starch), techniques you might not be familiar with, and tips on reading the patterns themselves.
The patterns are exactly what you would expect, considering the high praise I've already given. This is a curated book, meaning that Carla has her own patterns here but has also gathered patterns from many other people such as Melissa Stramel, Bari J., Betz White, Shelly Figueroa, and many more—but the patterns have all been written and edited and illustrated to be consistent with Carla's style. And that makes me confident about every pattern in the book.
And, oh, the hats are so stinking cute! I apologize for the crappy photography, but the book won't fit on my scanner.
There's every kind of hat you can imagine and several you probably can't. There's cute, pretty, silly, fussy, simple—even a good old do-rag. If you can't find a hat in here you like, well then you are clearly just a soulless hat-hater and no good can come from any association with you.
Just so you know, Carla did give me this book, but I have determined that I will never praise a book on this blog that I don't actually love, so if it had turned out that I hated it, you would never have heard about it at all. I don't give praise lightly, so when I do give it, you know I mean it.
By the way, your ass looks fabulous in that hat.