Ok normally I don’t post ‘books I’m looking towards’ posts but this time I want to particularly share with you my excitement for the return of James Nicol with The Spell Tailors coming September from Chicken House.
James is the author of one of my very Faevourite series, The Apprentice Witch which follows the adventures of Arianwyn, as she overcomes her self doubt, low self worth and bullying by mean girls to find courage and how knowledge, strength and ability don’t always come in the forms we expect them to.
And there’s magic, and there have been many more books since that lean into the cosy fantasy with a dash of dark peril that forms the Heart of the Apprentice Witch series.
The Spell Tailors is set to reframe magical stories further with a new magical system where spells are stitched into fabric or items of clothing much like the wearing of talismans or lucky charms- except the act of stitching is just as important as the pattern.
As someone who loves books, and witchy books as much as she loves sewing, this book couldn’t be more perfect for me.
So when James and Chicken House dropped a sneak peek of the opening chapter last week, I was thrilled… and even more so to see an immediate opportunity for a quick bookish cosplay creation!
Our sneak peek chapter follows our hero Hen as he wishes to save the craft of spell tailoring from industrial methods by apprenticing with his Nan- and now he must show his skills by choosing and applying the right stitch work to a customer’s jacket.
The jacket was dark green velvet, like a midnight forest, with a high collar, wide sleeves, and three gleaming jet buttons to hold it closed just above the waist.
I decided to make this jacket for Tinyfae as Littlefae got a velvet tailcoat for cosplay as Harley Hitch.
I immediately ordered two different kinds of dark green velvet, satin style lining, jet-marcasite buttons and sashiko thread after James confirmed some suspicions of mine about the inspirations.
I settled on a blazer style jacket with a ruffle ‘bustle’ bottom and found the right pattern in the Phresh Blazer from Winterwear Designs
I made a few alterations such as using a woven velvet and hacking the pattern to make the neckline naturally curving high around the neck rather than using a collar. The pattern is a really achievable one, but please note I used a woven textile when this is a stretch pattern, if you intend to recreate this please allow for ease and make sure throughout to make adjustments for fabric choice and intended fit.
I also fully lined the jacket and ruffles to enable the space for embroidery without spoiling the lines of the jacket as the extract told me that the embroidery would be all but invisible to the normal eye so I chose not to embroider the outer velvet of the jacket.
I took inspiration from both sashiko and semamōri embroidery both from the Japanese tradition, the latter of which always was placed to stand in proxy for the spiritual defence of a back seam as this was absent on young childrens clothes.
I took this inspiration here to place a larger talisman like embroidery on where the ‘logo’ might be sewn into an expensive blazer and hidden longer sections under each ruffle at the back.
After much deliberation I embroidered a Borromean rings symbol with additional flaring stitches on the centre high back in sashiko style running stitches with green ombre thread.
This was to reflect how James wrote in the extract that Spell Tailors will usually embroider particular symbols in white or black thread according to the garment intention but it will then ‘disappear’ or blend in only visible ‘if you’re looking for it’ if done correctly- of course I had to replicate this in a ‘non-magical’ way and so I thought the ombre would represent the rippling of energy in the garment through the stitches.
I also embroidered overlapping circles, wave/rainbow pattern and undulating curves on the underside of the ruffles in descending order before attaching the ruffles to the garment.
Now I know this may seem silly as it’s not even out yet, but I hope it expresses to you just how excited I am for The Spell Tailors and maybe you will get excited too?
And I may well be inspired by more garments in the final book!!!
In the meantime check out the extract here if you haven’t already and I thoroughly recommend a reread of The Apprentice Witch books or indeed Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna and Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe both of which share beautifully ‘cosy with a dash of dark peril’ vibes with the Apprentice Witch series.
The Spell Tailors by James Nicol will be published by Chicken House 1st September