Yes, it seems it’s that time of year again… the end of summer. Our school district starts annoyingly early (next week!) and I’m back to school myself for the college slog right after Labor Day, so the twilight of the season is upon us. I hope we have a nice couple of months ahead of us weather-wise, so we can still grill dinner and do fire pits for awhile longer, but the sleeping in and longer evenings of relaxing and activities is waning. I didn’t get to my entire summer bucket list this year – but we did do some camping and travel, and got outside a good amount. And there was lots of relaxing and 4-H, and of course – reading, so I feel good about how the summer turned out. It was just the bit of respite I needed to recharge for the next push to finish school and get some life things organized.
On the reading front, there is just something wonderful about digging into a good book (or a dozen) outside in the fresh air and sunlight (okay, I hide in the shade a lot but you get the point). I had a nice stack of books on a variety of topics I’ve been learning about to get through this summer, and I definitely made the most of my time. So I thought I would share my opinions of them with you, so you can add them to your fall reading list, because there is never a season that doesn’t work for curling up with a good book.
I love this book. First up, I should say that this book is part of series, so there’s one for every major geographical region of the US – I just happen to live in the Midwest, so that’s the one I read. One of the most important features of books on foraging are full color, clear photographs, and this book is packed with them. Many of the plants listed show multiple photos – the overall plant, close ups of flowers and fruits, etc. I find this super helpful in making a positive identification out in the field. To my novice’s eye, black and white line drawings (which is what you find in many foraging field guides) are not enough to help me feel confident about my identification skills, so the photographs are great. It’s also organized in a really logical way – alphabetically by common plant name – so finding what you want is easy. Each plant’s listing has detailed written information about it as well, including identification notes, where you can find it, when you should harvest, how to eat it, how to sustainably harvest to ensure future harvests, and cautionary notes in case the plant has any dangerous lookalikes. The author is an experienced herbalist and forager, and the information she presents is well-researched and consistent with other reputable sources, so it’s a trustworthy reference book to what is safely edible. And if you need further boosting that you can trust this book, Sam Thayer (a renowned forager and naturalist) endorsed it as well. A great addition to anyone’s foraging toolkit, and I’d say it’s even in my top three foraging book favorites!
Confession time – there are many fairly common plants on my own property that I don’t know the names of. Since I have a small property that I’ve lived on for quite a few years, I consider this a bit shameful. I also don’t know the names of a lot of plants when I see them out on nature hikes – and since I’ve lived in this same corner of the Midwest for probably 95% of my life, also personally shameful. I’ve been on a mission to correct that. This book identifies tons of common – and not so common – garden plants in beautiful full color photographs and engaging descriptions. There’s also plenty of information on how to grow them and do some flower arranging with your harvest as well. Definitely a great addition to any gardening book library, especially if you’re new to flower growing.
Of course my summer reading list had to include at least one sewing related book. Like the vast majority of home apparel sewers, it’s a rare pattern that fits true to a size without some adjustment. And that’s where so many of us get stuck. Do we start with a larger size based on measurement X or a smaller size based on measurement Y? Once we choose our starting size, what kind of adjustment(s) do we need to make in order to create a well-fitting garment? And once we’ve figured all of that out, how do we actually accomplish it at the cutting table and sewing machine? First Time Garment Fitting has the answers, and very importantly – it has the answers in a language that even an absolute beginner can understand. And it is chock full of full-color photographs (which I know at this point it seems like I’m obsessed with, but I really prefer to learn with good visual aides – it’s a great confidence booster to check against against). The book walks you through every step of diagnosing fitting issues, making flat pattern adjustments, and finally – creating a fitting muslin. One of the elements I like the most is the fact that it advocates creating a proper fitting muslin, as opposed to a “wearable muslin” which seem to be increasingly popular these days. A “wearable muslin” is basically a practice version of the finished garment, created in a serviceable, but cheaper fabric than what a sewist might really like to create with. On the other hand, a fitting muslin is meant to be marked up, cut open, restitched and otherwise adjusted in order to determine the proper construction steps for a perfect fit. Sure, it takes extra time and effort to create, but for patterns that you suspect you might like to make again and again, or a special garment for a notable event or that calls for a pricey fabric, creating a fitting muslin is absolutely worth it. The step by step photos and detailed explanations in lay terms make it super easy to sit down with a good pattern and get to work. My only “complaint” is that the book isn’t spiral bound for ease of use at the sewing table, as it’s destined to become a work horse text on my sewing kit.
**I received a copy of these books for free from the publisher, but I only share content I enjoy and think that you would too!