Jane Austen's Sewing Box: Craft Projects and Stories from Jane Austen's Novels, by Jennifer Forest
As soon as I heard about this crafty sewing book back when it was published, I wanted to get it. It wasn't printed in the US, though, and I was worried that it would turn out to be like many current sewing books--long on simple projects and pretty photography, but short on anything I would actually want to do. Even my favorite designers seem to do that. I finally decided to get the book through ILL so I could check it out properly, and I'm very glad I did.
This book is beautifully illustrated--full of Regency fashion plates, old drawings, and photographs (mostly very close-up photos of furnishings). Pretty pictures are at least half the content. It has lovely essays on Regency domestic life, sprinkled with apt quotations from Austen novels. It features 18 fairly simple projects based on everyday items: a reticule, a workbag, a netted purse, a man's cravat.
What it does not have is good photographs of the projects or detailed instructions, though to be fair most of the projects are simple enough not to need them unless you're a beginner. Each project gets one photo, usually from an angle that makes a very pretty set piece but does not allow for a good view of the item.
I kind of feel like the projects are too simple for an advanced sewist, but the instructions are too sparse for anyone who is not at an advanced level. None of the projects are at all challenging, but a beginner will be frustrated. (That said, my 12-year-old daughter is happily constructing a muff--though why she wants one is beyond my understanding. I'd do the workbag or reticule.)
I enjoyed the essays very much. They are informative and well-done; Forest is a historian so that's her strength, and they are by far the best part of the book. But I'm glad I didn't purchase it. I would have been quite disappointed if I'd invested $30 or more in hopes of getting a great sewing book.