The Spell Tailors

The Spell Tailors

By Author / Illustrator

James Nicol



Age range(s)



Chicken House Ltd




Paperback / softback




A spellbinding new fantasy novel from the author of The Apprentice Witch series - perfect for fans of Studio Ghibli and Diana Wynne Jones. Hen dreams of becoming a spell tailor, stitching magic into clothing like his beloved Nana. But thanks to new factories, spell tailors are struggling. His Uncle Bertie's fancy shop has shut down, and when he, Aunt Lucia and stuck-up cousin Connie move in, it's a disaster for all the family. Then Hen stumbles upon a new kind of stitch - one which causes Nana and Bertie to ban him from sewing. What is the power of the stitch that can sew memories into clothes - and could it be the very thing to save them all?

Combines James Nicol's trademark cosy fantasy with an enchanting mystery - perfect for readers 8 and up. Explores the real magic of clothes as Hen, a spell tailor's apprentice, struggles to master his family craft - and discovers a new kind of stitch in the process. A warm hug of a book - one to curl up with in your favourite old jumper!



The Spell Tailors is a charming, magical and colourfully imaginative adventure fantasy. Family tailors Danelli and Co are the finest spell tailors around. They have a reputation for style, intricate stitches and perfectly sewn spells.  They can sew protection spells to keep your clothes clean and waterproof 'fire spells' for keeping nightdresses toasty warm on a winter's night amongst other carefully kept Danelli original spell stitches.

Under his Nana's watchful eye and expert guidance, young Hen wants nothing more than to be the next generation of Danelli spell masters and to create masterpieces of beautifully magical clothing. Hen is a character clearly affectionately created by Nichols. He is gentle, caring, conscientious and more than a little unsure of himself. The reader takes to him immediately and is invested in the twists and turns that lie before him in the story.

When Danelli's business is in danger from both the increasing threats of magic stitch-destroying "spell brat" vermin and from the development of mass produced, workhouse-style clothing factories (promising spelled clothing on a budget), we see Hen's world turned upside down. His own future as a spell tailor is precarious as he is blamed for creating bad spells, and banned from using a newly found talent with a "memory stitch" spell. Hen must win back the trust of family members, discover the truth behind Pepper's Affordable Fashions clothing factory and try to save the famous Danelli name.

Family dynamics are at the heart of the story - Hen's closeness with Nana is tested by the changes in the business now Uncle Bertie rules the roost. Hen also has to adapt to sharing responsibilities with seemingly offhand cousin Connie. The blossoming and growing trust between the two cousins is a real highlight of the book as they learn to work together to solve the mystery surrounding the stitching spells. The way in which the characters balance out each other strengths and weaknesses is warmly written and with lovely touches of humour.

The idea of clothes containing memory stitches that you can touch and unlock a memory from is a wonderful, clever and emotional extension of the idea of clothes as holding precious memories for us; think of the way we keep first baby clothes or remember fondly clothes we wore on special occasions. Think of the way we often remember certain clothes our loved ones wore in our most special memories of them. The idea of an actual "memory stitch" is inventive, captivating and wonderous. Set against this is the spectre of the bleak, grey, foreboding and grim clothing factories . There is nothing truly magical about their worked to the bone employees and the sinister, malevolent manager Mrs Thackerey. The fleece-giving gentle 'shleep' creatures are treated horrendously and the factory itself may explain the rise in the destructive spell brat vermin themselves. This darker side of spell tailoring is so well written and contrasts dramatically against the small Danelli family shop.

The Spell Tailors is a fantastic book. The plots flows and swirls like the spell-infused stitches through scenes of drama, peril and emotion as Hen and Connie race against time to preserve and save the family business and the family memories themselves . A delightful, engaging story.

368 pages / Reviewed by Jenny Caddick, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 7+


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