Book Reviews

5 Best Sewing & Design Books I Read Last Year (And 5 More I Plan to Read!)

The beginning of January is one of my favorite times of the year for blog reading. I love the end of the year reflections and I always look forward to reading “best books I read this year” blog posts. I read over 40 books this year, not including sewing project books that I regularly borrow from the library and browse. I love reading theology, books that challenge me to be a better wife & mother, and books about education. But I also enjoy reading books about art, design, and creativity, along with more visually oriented sewing & craft project books. Many of these are new this year, and all are published within the last couple of years. Without any further explanation, these are the 5 best sewing and design books I read last year:

Creative Books| Sewing & Design Books Gift Guide | Radiant Home Studio

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1. How to Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone – This year, I discovered that I love branding and marketing for creatives. This is a topic I have been reading about for a couple of years, since starting my pattern business. I’m still learning, but I enjoy the challenge of doing my own design work and this book is the perfect guide for creative entrepreneurs like me. I have been working through How to Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone for a couple of months and have thoroughly enjoyed learning about color psychology using her seasonal branding system. I’m still deciding if I’m an Autumn side of Summer or a Summer side of Autumn. But I’m getting closer to nailing down my brand style as I make mood boards and sort photos.

2. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon – This book has been recommended by many creative business owners and bloggers. This is a short and fun little book, subtitled “10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative.” I love the hand-drawn lettering and casual design style throughout the book. It feels as though a good friend is writing you an inspiring letter. There is so much good advice packed into this little book! I’ve read through it a couple of times now and I plan to work through it again, putting the suggestions into practice as I go. I’m looking forward to reading his 2nd book Show Your Work.

3. Handmade Style by Anna Graham – If you are following my blog, I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t already know about Anna at Noodlehead. Her bag patterns are amazing, her photos are beautiful, and her sewing style is just the right blend of modern and classic. I don’t buy sewing project books very often, (like I said before, I tend to borrow them from the library…) but I love everything about Handmade Style. I’ve made several of the projects from the book including, pencil pouches, a makeup travel case, and an organizer basket. My favorite part…all of the patterns are included on an insert at full-size!

4. A Million Little Ways by Emily FreemanIn this book, Emily shares reflections on living an artful life by reflecting the glory of God in the creative work we do. God is beautiful and as image bearers of God, we were created to reflect his beauty. There are so many helpful and inspiring parts of this book. She talks about how God’s grace holds us together when you feel like you are falling apart and how to handle criticism and self-doubt by finding your hope in Jesus. She shares how understanding the love of God keeps you from making mediocre art and how criticism can be a gift. This book is for anyone that desires to live a life sharing beauty in the world as a response to the beauty of God.

5. Present Perfect: 25 Gifts to Sew & Bestow by Betz White – I have to include a little disclaimer with this one…I was a contributor to Betz White’s blog this year, so I received a free copy of this book. Our collaborations aside, this is such a great sewing book! With 25 projects, arranged in categories for special occasions, kids, and home decor, there is truly an idea for almost everyone. I love that the projects are designed to be given as gifts and include extra notes about how to make your gifts personalized for the recipient. Not only does Betz share ideas for personalization, she also gives lots of good ideas for upcycling and repurposing old clothes. This book also contains full-sized pattern pieces and a variety of projects that even beginners can make. I’ve made several projects from Present Perfect and highly recommend it if you enjoy sewing gifts and useful home items.

There are so many amazing and beautiful sewing and design books out there I’d love to use for projects this year, plus some more books with thought-provoking advice and reflections on art and creativity. Here are 5 I have on my 2016 wishlist:

6. Beyond Cotton by Krista Fleckenstein – I love experimenting with other materials for embellishment to my sewing projects. Stamping, printing, and working with leather are some of my favorite ways to add more handmade elements to my sewn projects. Beyond Cotton looks like it is filled with ideas for projects that I would enjoy making, so I am looking forward to Krista’s advice and inspiration in this book.

7. Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style – Lotta’s minimalist style clothing is appealing. This book looks like it includes patterns for lots of basic casual wardrobe items, plus a couple of bag patterns too. I’ve enjoyed Lotta’s other books, and I expect this one is just as good.

8. Making an Impression by Gennine Zlatkis – This book is all about designing and creating stamps. Gennine’s artwork and photographs are gorgeous and inspiring. Her Instagram feed is one of my favorites. I’d love to use this book to experiment with and grow my stamp carving skills.

9. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon – As I mentioned above, Steal Like An Artist was an inspiring and practical book. I hope for more of the same with Kleon’s second book!

10. Refractions by Makoto Fujimura – Fujimura is a Christian fine artist living in NYC. His collection of essays on faith and art looks intriguing. Beautiful art points back to a creative God. I love making connections between creative work and the Creator. I’m hoping for some thought-provoking writing…

What were your favorite creative books? What are you planning to read this year?


12 thoughts on “5 Best Sewing & Design Books I Read Last Year (And 5 More I Plan to Read!)

  1. Rachel says:

    my 3 favorite creative books: Spoonflower Handbook, the Modern Natural Dyer, & Handmade Style. I look forward to reading Beyond Cotton & Lotta Jansdotter.

    1. Sara Curtis says:

      Thanks for your ideas Rachel! I can’t believe I haven’t looked at the Spoonflower book yet! After 3 years of uploading designs there and contributing to their blog, you’d think I would have made it a priority. I’ll have to see if I can find it at B&N so I can look at it more closely. The Modern Natural Dyer was #6 on my list of books for next year 🙂 I left if off because I know myself…dyeing is messy, and as much I’d love to play I know I will keep putting it off until the kids are old enough to stay out of it. 🙂

  2. Krista says:

    I enjoyed your list! My daughter and I read both of Austin Kleon’s books this year, and she received “Steal Like An Artist” for Christmas, so now we can read it anytime . He does give some really good insight into the creative process and distills things down to the basic level. I remember the chapter on Share Your Work and how that made an impact on me. I took that to heart and now try to make the effort to share things on social media, even if they aren’t artist-wannabe-amazing because it’s meant to encourage and inspire others. I have found that to be true, both in the sharing and receiving.

    I’ve heard of Makoto Fujimara and I appreciate how he’s part of the voice to help Christians get back into the art conversation in a biblical, God-honoring way. When I was growing up, there was this big controversy about taking art out of the school curriculum, and I was ambivalent to it and wondered why it could really be that important. I have a much better understanding of that now.

    I’m looking forward to the book “On the Go Bags! ” 🙂 I hear that it’s being released very soon! That’s a book on my 2016 list. 🙂

    Happy reading, and thanks again for sharing the list!

    1. Sara Curtis says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply Krista! I’ll be taking part in a group discussion of “Steal Like an Artist” over the next few weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing what others have to add. I read about Fujimara in a book my husband was reading called “Restoring All Things”. There was a chapter on art that I read, which mentioned his work. I’m looking forward to reading what he has to say. I’m so glad you are excited about “On the Go Bags”!

  3. Ajaire says:

    I really like this list! I have read a few of these, but the How to Style your brand catches my eye. I’ll have to read that one!

    1. Sara Curtis says:

      I think you would like it Ajaire! The audience is people like us, with basic design skills and a good eye, but too small to warrant paying someone to do a full brand design.

  4. Cassy Gobin says:

    This is my first read of your blog, but I’m taking notes on these books and coming back too!

    I found you in the Sewing/Craft/Creative Blogger Group. 🙂

    1. Sara Curtis says:

      Thanks Cassy! I’ll stop by and check out your blog later!

  5. This is a timely post for me and I look forward to looking in to some of these myself. One of my goals for 2016 is to read and review a sewing or quilting related book each month.

    1. Sara Curtis says:

      I’d love to do that too! It’s a good excuse for buying pretty books 🙂

  6. Stephanie says:

    I really enjoyed Steal Like An Artist, Beyond Cotton & Handmade Style are both on my list to check out!

    1. Sara Curtis says:

      I need to back and check in on the Steal Like an Artist discussion! I think you’ll like Handmade Style as well.

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