You've probably heard of Zakka, a booming fashion and design phenomenon that has spread from Japan throughout Asia and to the Western world, but its a concept that's hard to define. Just like the Japanese tea drinking ceremony, there is a touch of mystery about it. Wikipedia's definition is "anything and everything that improves your home, life and appearance”, which hardly narrows it down. There's a level of detail and self-expression that makes Zakka almost almost spiritually in its simplicity. And, while it may have eye candy appeal, it isn't the same thing as kitsch.
If you'd like to bring Zakka into your sewing, Design Collective’s Zakka Style goes some way towards removing the exclusivity of the phenomenon. Yet it retains the special, slightly secretive, nature that is often associated with any new craft movement. Via its 24 projects, submitted by artists and designers the world over, it will introduce you to the colours, motifs and inspiration – often Scandi, contemporary and past – of the movement.
Compiler Rashida Coleman-Hale encourages you to develop your own unique interpretation, which may be just what you need, if you are stuck in a sewing rut. Whether you plan to make a messenger bag, photo frame, or quilt block magnets, all your homespun creations can become just that little bit extra-special, when you apply Zakka style.
2. Try a new fabric
It's always a challenge to try a completely new fabric - you have to think about the needle you're using, adjust the tension, and perhaps buy a new type of thread. You know how I feel about stretch jersey, readers. But picking something different, such as waterproof fabric, stops you sewing on auto-pilot, and enables you to tackle projects you've never considered before.
Add laminated cotton, oilcloth, nylon or vinyl to your fabric stash and you'll be able to sew your way through the 25 beautiful - yet functional - sacks and wraps featured in Lunch Bags! These projects offer a greener alternative to clingfilm because they can be washed and re-used, and you can say goodbye to plastic bags in real style. Any fabric you like can be used on the outside of such items as Cheryl B Steighner's reusable sandwich wrap, Quenna Lee's zipper-top lunch bag, and Rebecca and Karen Garcia's insulated lunch tote, as long as you use something waterproof on the inside.
Many designs can be adapted so you can make items to contain your kids' packed lunches and also for the office executive in your life, and you can also turn them into different kinds of bags by varying the fabric. The whole book just makes you want to head out for a picnic right now. But because it is February, why not get to grips with the corner construction techniques and templates featured in the back, and start sewing in anticipation!
The Essential A-Line has not only made me feel somewhat unladylike, it has provided the answer to the above sartorial problem, and pushed me in the direction of Making Skirts. A skirt for myself is a new venture but the seventeen projects within the pages of The Essential A-Line are relatively simple and have no waistband, which means it is "a cinch to sew a skirt in an afternoon". It will certainly make a change from patchwork shopping totes and hot water bottle covers.
With the help of the book's paper pattern (which can be adapted to fit sizes 0 - don't get me started on size zero - to 20) and Jona Giammalva's straightforward instructions, readers can sew themselves a whole plethora of a-line skirts. Beginning with a section on a well-stocked sewing kit, Giammalva's explanation of construction techniques is thorough and there is good advice on achieving a professional finish, which I, in particular, would do well to read carefully. The Essential A-Line offers readers the real possibility of well-fitting, flattering, fashionable skirts for all occasions, with no designer price tag or brand name in sight.
As a lover of frugal sewing, the patchwork skirt is the one I am tempted to try first but my sensible self suggests the "basic skirt with sweet ruffle lining" might be the best bit. And who could not resist sewing themselves a skirt called "sailor", or better yet, "traffic stopper"?