Review – Sew It Yourself (Daisy Braid)

Keywords: sewing, sewing patterns, fashion, accessories, manual, how-to guide, step-by-step, informational, crafty, sustainability.

The front cover

I’ve always wanted to learn how to sew. I remember watching my mum in fascination as she used this huge sewing machine she brought from her home country. It always scared and fascinated me – the sharp needle going so fast you couldn’t even see it, the sounds of piercing fabric getting louder and louder…

It was because of this fear that I never learnt how to use a sewing machine growing up. What a shame! Because now that I’ve been learning to sew, I find myself wishing I started earlier! Imagine the clothes I could have made for myself…the scrunchies I could have made for my friends…

Daisy Braid, the author

Oh well. Better late than never! My journey into sewing is what led me to the book I’m reviewing today: Sew It Yourself by Daisy Braid. I thought it’d be a simple book of sewing patterns, but thankfully it’s also a guide on sewing terms and how to sew.

Did you know that the sewing world has a lot of special words? I definitely didn’t! Thank goodness this book actually explains these words. Otherwise, I’d be completely lost and confused. Some terms you learn about in this book are:

  • Warp/Grainline
  • Weft/Crosswise Grain
  • Bias binding
  • Overlock
  • Toile (pronounced ‘twahl’, since it’s a French word!)
  • Seam allowance
  • Pinking shears
  • Silk crepe de chine (another French word!)

There was another surprise in this book. Apparently, sewing requires maths. Lots of maths (or at least more than I was expecting!). If you want to sew things, you need to understand how to measure. You’ll find a lot of measurement formulas for the sewing patterns so that you know how much fabric to cut. For example, here’s the formula for cutting the fabric for a scrunchie:

Fabric = 12 cm (4 3/4 inches) x 60 cm (23 1/2 inches)

Elastic = 5 to 10 mm x length. (Length = circumference of your wrist + 2cm [3/4 inches] OR 20 to 22 cm (8 to 8 3/4 inches)

The first scrunchie I made!

I know that might look like a lot to take in (I was pretty flabbergasted when I saw it!). Or maybe you’re more the mathematical type of person, and the formulas aren’t intimidating at all. Great! The thing is, reading these formulas and actually following them are completely different. Once you get your head around all those numbers, it’s surprisingly simple to follow. You basically just get a ruler or measuring tape, draw lines where the measurements in the formula are, then cut out the fabric. It becomes a lot less intimidating when you actually do it!

Now, the most important benefit about sewing has to do with the environment. Think of it this way: we buy and throw out cheap, weak clothes so often that we create a lot of trash. Plus, the workers who make cheap and weak clothes (‘fast fashion‘) often face horrible working conditions, with extremely low wages and dangerous work environments. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone – the workers, the shops, and the people who buy the clothes – to support fashion that’s made ethically? That means making sure the factory workers are treated fairly and the clothes we buy are made to last. By doing this, we also save the environment from unnecessary trash.

One way to be more sustainable is to sew your own clothes! You can either buy your own fabric or even work on old clothes that might not fit you anymore. That’s why it’s so important to know how to sew!

So far, I’ve made a scrunchie and a bag. Don’t tell my friend, but I’m making another tote bag for her birthday! When I’m feeling more confident, I’m totally going to create a Sophie Trapezoid Skirt and a Rectangle-Sleeve Jacket. The instructions in Sew It Yourself are fairly easy to follow, especially if you read the first section (the one that explains all those sewing terms and techniques). In a year from now, when I look at all the clothes and gifts I’ve made, I’ll have Daisy Braid to thank!

There’s a lot to research about sewing and Sew It Yourself provides a lot of that information. So, Sakura is very fond of this book! Gus loves it too – like me, he has always wanted to learn how to sew.

Review – Why Do Tigers Have Whiskers? (The Conversation)

Keywords: picture book, non-fiction, research, ages 8+, science, biology, animals, fun facts, quirky, The Conversation.

The front cover

You are witnessing a historic moment: the very first time I have ever reviewed a picture book! I’ve thought of reviewing picture books before, of course, but none of them really interested me enough to write about them. So, you may ask, “Why are you suddenly reviewing a picture book, then? What’s so good about this one that you just had to write about it?”

Well, the first thing that caught my attention was that the picture book – Do Tigers Have Whiskers? – has an eye-catching title. Have you ever wondered about tigers’ whiskers before? Never have I! Looking into the book further, I realized that it’s actually a collection of one of my favourite series of articles – “Curious Kids” from a news outlet called The Conversation.

“Curious Kids” articles answer quirky questions that kids ask about nature, science, and just about anything they can think of! What’s so great about this series is that experts actually take the questions seriously and write their answers in a fun and interesting way. People of all ages can enjoy these articles. (I certainly do!)

A ferocious little kitty!

Do Tigers Have Whiskers is a collection of some of the best “Curious Kids” articles that have to do with animals. Every question is answered by a different expert. For example, Alexander Braczkowski – the person who answers the tiger whisker question – is a big-cat biologist from the University of Queensland (fun fact: he also works as a photographer for National Geographic!) I found out about him from the book, because there’s a section where it describes the experts and what they’ve studied! All the experts’ answers have been edited and made into this book by editor Sunanda Creagh, who is also the editor for the ‘Curious Kids’ articles on The Conversation.

“Why do tigers have whiskers” is just one of the questions experts like Alexander answer. I don’t want to spoil the book too much, but I just have to tell you a couple of the other questions:

  • Do sharks sneeze?
  • Do butterflies remember being caterpillars?
  • And my personal favourite: Why don’t cats wear shoes?
My drawing of a sneezing shark!

Honestly, I have no idea how people come up with questions as creative as these. Just reading the questions makes me want to read the answers immediately! Having said that, you could have a lot of fun trying to figure out the answer for yourself. Here’s a challenge for you: what would you search (on Google or in encyclopedias) to figure out the answer for, say, “do sharks sneeze”? And here’s the challenging part: you’re not allowed to just repeat the question. I reckon you’d first need to figure out the body parts needed for humans to sneeze, then see if sharks have them. The rest is up to you! Can you figure it out?

Once you’ve done your research and figured out your answer, go ahead and read the answer in the book! How close were you? It doesn’t matter too much if your answer was wrong. The important thing is practicing your research skills so that one day, you could answer other people’s creative questions, or perhaps write a book just like Do Tigers Have Whiskers? (If you do, please let me know, because I’d love to read it!!)

Do butterflies remember being caterpillars?

Another great thing about this book is its glossary. To remind you, a glossary is the part of a book (a text feature of non-fiction texts) where it tells you what some words mean (their definitions). Why do you think you’d need a glossary? Well, it’s so readers completely understand the book and the words its using. You wouldn’t learn very much if you didn’t understand the words, after all!

Some of my favourite words in this book’s glossary are:

  • Burrow
  • Chrysalis
  • Metamorphosis
  • Proprioceptor

No, I won’t tell you what those words mean! You’ll need to look them up for yourself! What I can tell you is that each of those words (and every other word in the glossary) talks about something really interesting. (Especially ‘metamorphosis’!) Plus, if you can say those words, define them, and spell them correctly, imagine how impressed your teachers and friends would be!

Learn more about animals like this little fella!

To summarise my thoughts on Do Tigers Have Whiskers?, it’s the perfect introduction to becoming an expert on animals. It gives its readers the opportunity to read some great, reliable research and to practice their own researching skills. I tried to figure out if there was anything I’d change about this book. The only thing I could think of was that it’s not long enough! I need more information, more questions and answers! I want to know absolutely everything there is to know about sneezing sharks, shoeless cats, and tigers’ whiskers!

If you’ve read this far into the review, congratulations! You have unlocked a sneak peek into the book. This will give you a taste of what to expect, and to see if the language is a bit too challenging (which is absolutely fine!). So, tell us, why do tigers have whiskers? Here’s the first sentence:

“Just as the hairs on your arm help you feel a soft breeze, or a spider crawling on you, a tiger’s whiskers give it information about its environment.”

(Page 4, Alexander Braczkowski)

It goes without saying that Sakura, our research-loving cat, enthusiastically recommends this book to pretty much everyone. Those who find the language in the book a bit challenging could try having someone else read it to them and explain what it means. Also, the book is very scientific, because it talks about biology and shows what proper scientific research looks like. So, Louise the scientist cat has a hard copy that she reads very often!

Review – Quirkology (Richard Wiseman)

Listen to this narration while you read!

Keywords: non-fiction, science, quirky, light-hearted, research, funny, reasonably strong vocabulary, scientific terms, stand-alone book.

The front cover

This is quite possibly one of the most interesting books I’ve reviewed on this blog. You see, I’m not usually one for non-fiction – especially ‘sciency’ stuff. It generally comes across as needlessly complex and dull to me. Richard Wiseman’s Quirkology, though, completely destroys the ‘science is boring’ stereotype! It’s genuinely fun and interesting to read. However, the most important thing is how it speaks to the reader. Unlike most scientific texts, it doesn’t talk to the reader like they’re dumb and the author is oh so smart. Do you know what I mean? Like, when you can just tell that the writer is only using fancy words to say, “Oh, look to me, I am so intelligent! My writing is only for people who are at my level of fanciness!” Blergh.

Richard Wiseman is nothing like that. On the contrary, he is a scientist for everyone – particularly those who like the quirkier side of life. He writes scientifically, yes, but never in a patronizing way. His stories are engaging as well as educational. Honestly, just the summaries of each experiment are interesting enough on their own! For example, one of Wiseman’s experiments tries to figure out – once and for all – what is the world’s funniest joke? Wiseman’s experiment was this huge worldwide thing that involved online surveys, polls, and chicken costumes. No, I will not elaborate further. Go read it for yourself! 🙂

Professor Wiseman

Every chapter is categorized by a quirky aspect of human nature. One section is all about superstitions and how they develop. Another is all about horoscopes and personality tests. The best thing about this book is that you don’t need to read the chapters in order; just look at the sections and see which ones interest you most! My personal favourite section is the one about personality tests and their viability. It’s amazing what people will choose to believe about themselves (and how those beliefs actually change who they are!).

Profesor Wiseman and an esteemed colleague

This is a great book to study or to simply enjoy. I have used this book as study material for my private English students and they generally like it! Finding books that are both educational but in a quirky and non-patronizing way is surprisingly uncommon. I’m glad people like Richard Wiseman exist. The world would be much more duller without them!

Quirkology is filled to the brim with research. Naturally, Sakura the research-loving cat adores this book beyond words. Scientific Louise also loves this book and recommends it heartily!

Psst! Fun fact: Richard Wiseman has his own YouTube channel named Quirkology! You might have even seem some of his videos (he has been popular on YouTube for a decade now). Definitely check out his videos! This is one of my favourites.