The Brits Do It Best

I have gone hopelessly Anglophile these last couple of weeks. First, my rug-hooking friend Mary Anne was swooning so much over the British series Call the Midwife that I finally gave it a look. And promptly succumbed to its many charms.
This review of Call the Midwife sums up most of why I like the show. The main reason I never clicked when Netflix suggested it to me over and over was that I thought it would be all about babies. Now, I am probably one of the few women in this world who aren't smitten at the sight of a newborn, but Call the Midwife shows them in all their gucky glory and even I have to admit they are somewhat miraculous.

But what really captures me is the strong writing, note-perfect art direction, fabulous performances and unflinching camera work. As James, who is also enamoured with the show, says, "This is what TV can be!"
And then my request for the Merchant & Mills Sewing Book finally came through at the library. It is, of course, British. Finally, a sewing guide that I can recommend! (I look through all the new ones that come in to the library, and most of them are absolute junk. I was beginning to despair for the future of home sewing - how could anyone learn, or even be inspired to, by the trendy, superficial, dumbed-down books that are out there?)

But Merchant & Mills reads like it was being narrated by one of the nuns from Call the Midwife - brisk, practical, uncompromising, faithful and loving. It begins: "We love sewing and believe in it. It provides the invisible thread that literally holds together the world we know. It is everywhere, from the clothes we wear to the sails that enabled the discovery of America. It is in our shoes, the seats on the bus and lurks quietly all around the home. It is best friend to the upholsterer, the seamstress and tailor, the diva and the surgeon and is as ancient as time itself."

The book is packed full of information - even I, often accused of being a know-it-all, learned some interesting things about the history and use of sewing tools. The chapter on pressing echoes the words of my Bauhaus-trained high school sewing teacher, Elly Pucher: "You must press it beautifully!"
The design and writing style of the book are consciously nostalgic, but perfectly underscore author Carolyn Denham's approach to the art of sewing. The words on the inside front cover (above) sum it all up. I am impressed by her emphasis on quality and durability and that the word "cute" never once makes an appearance. The projects are both classic and utilitarian, with the possible exception of the Inside Out bag. This would be a fabulous book for a new sewer, and I have to admit that I have dropped some heavy hints about this one to Santa myself.

I would be remiss not to mention that Merchant & Mills has a lovely website.


  1. Oh gee! I could have told you that "Call the Midwife" is drama at its absolute best! Neither the babies nor the religious aspects are dwelt upon except as they forward the characters and stories. Perfect balance. For the record, I adore babies! The r-word, not so much.

  2. alas, while that website is perfect and no whimsical cutemess, it was started in 2010 by a couple...but i like it! and i'd treasure the book then!

  3. Yes, Arlee, Merchant & Mills design asthetic is very consciously retro. The attention to faux detail reminds me of Restoration Hardware. But the content is so good I will forgive them for it.


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