Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Book Review: How to Sew a Button and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew
Some books just need to be written, and to be written at a specific time. Erin Bried's book, How to Sew a Button is a prime example.
Readers of this blog know that I am all about self-sufficiency. I was fortunate enough to be raised by a mother who lived through World War II in rural England. Mom knew how to do and make do and she never un-learned those lessons. We were taught to sew at a young age, first edging handkerchiefs and then moving on to make aprons, curtains, skirts and eventually our own wedding dresses. Mom could make a roast of beef last almost an entire week, even for our family of thirteen children.
My mother would have been a prime candidate to be one of the grandmothers who advised Bried as she wrote this book of how-to hints that cover everything from cooking a whole chicken (although she does not tell you how to actually kill and dress the bird) to building a fire, sharpening a knife, unclogging a toilet, and yes, sewing on a button.
Bried was not raised to do-it-herself. After college she landed a good job at Self magazine and lived the life of one who has others take care of things. She candidly admits that she never balanced a checkbook or developed a household budget. Reading the introduction, I found myself either laughing aloud or gasping in disbelief. It's difficult for me to grasp that there really are people who do not know how to do the things I consider basic to survival--like cooking, sewing, and gardening.
There are more people living in urban areas today than there are in the country, and more people who were raised in suburban settings with two working parents. The stay-home mother is not so commonplace now, and even those who do stay home may not have had mothers or grandmothers who still practiced the ages-old household arts.
And that is what inspired Bried to write this book. She realized that she didn't know how to do the most basic things, like sewing on a button. And she knew she was not alone. Since her grandmothers had passed away many years ago, she recruited some women who had survived the Great Depression to advise and teach. Her education is the basis for her book, and there will be many women who will thank her for writing it.
Today frugality is all the rage. I admit I laugh when I read blogs that espouse "frugality" by telling readers about great deals to be had at various big-box stores or online sources. The truly frugal know that saving is not about spending, it's about using what you have on hand. There is another level of frugality, however, that does not just make do, it does so elegantly and with style so that life is enriched in the process.
This isn't just a book about housekeeping, however. Relationship in need of help? Baby won't go to sleep? Need to find no-cost entertainment? Bried offers suggestions and helpful advice on all of these topics too, recognizing that too often we look to the outside for solutions that might be within our own homes and hearts.
How to Sew a Button will help readers do-it-themselves in a creative, relaxed and entertaining manner. Feeling stressed about that chicken? Drink another glass of wine, Bried advises. Snake in your garden? After you chase it out, share your tale of bravery with your friends and get a cat. (You wanted one anyway, right?)
For an old homesteader like me, there's not a lot of new information in How to Sew a Button. But for those who weren't raised by a frugal mother or grandmother or who haven't spent years in the country, this book could well become an indispensable guidebook into the mysteries of the simple life.
How to Sew a Button
Ballantine Books; December 15, 2009