A couple of weeks ago I received a review copy of Stitch by Stitch by Deborah Moebes. You probably have heard of her as Whipstitch. The book is aimed at beginner craft sewers or people looking to refresh their craft sewing skills.
I consider myself an intermediate quilter, but I am quick to admit that my general craft sewing skills are not as strong as my quilting skills. Ask me how to paper piece, do English paper piecing, do y seams, mitre binding corners and I have no problem. Ask me on the other hand how to insert an elastic waist band, sew a button hole, hem a skirt, insert sleeves etc and I get sweaty palms and will dive into my books looking for an answer.
Until now I had never found a book that explained these things to me in such a clear and approachable way. I have seen lots of books explain these techniques, but usually in isolation to an actual application of the technique. Or the projects themselves are so fuddy duddy that I had no interest in trying them out.
Deborah manages to clearly explain one technique at a time in the context of an actual project you will want to make. What I love is that each project is split into sections which deal with the different techniques you will need to complete that project.
For example there is a fabulous skirt for young girls made from charm packs. This pattern is split into sewing the skirt together, gathering the skirt, creating a waistband and hemming. Each section is clearly illustrated with photos for each step so there is no guessing as to what Deborah means.
(My daughter modelling one I made earlier!)
Not only that, each technique has handy tip boxes with additional information about the technique, or alternative methods for doing the same thing.
So we were very excited to be part of Deborah's blog tour. We caught up with her and asked her a few questions about the book.
What was your motivation to write this book?
I've been teaching sewing classes for years, and have heard the same complaints and concerns from so many of my students--there clearly was a lack of good information out there, and most of them hadn't had much luck locating a good reference. I love, love, love sewing books, but couldn't seem to find one on the shelves that had the right tone, that wasn't project-centered, and that really covered ALL the basics, like how to stitch a straight line and how to wind a bobbin. When my students would ask me to recommend a book for them, I never had a title to give them! I really wrote the book for them, as a way of creating a reference tool for new stitchers as they learn to sew.
Your book is aimed at the craft sewer. What is a craft sewer?
A lot of folks think of themselves as belonging to a particular category of sewing, like quilters or apparel sewers. Most of us, though, tend to do a variety of projects that cross lines into multiple categories. The craft sewer is someone who makes home dec, handbags, accessories, small gifts, children's items, as well as quilts and clothing. They fall into almost every age range and income bracket, and often have a wide range of sewing interests.
What is the most common mistake a newbie sewer makes?
Expecting perfection right out of the box! So many women today expect that they'll get flawless results right off the bat. Some of that is because there are so many amazing, inspiring projects out there to see on the web, and we all want to make them right away. But sewing isn't always intuitive, and no one can realistically expect to be perfect at a skill they've never tried before! Be willing to learn as you go, to make mistakes, and to take advantage of the chance to rip it out if you have to!
How did you find the book publishing experience?
Rewarding and challenging and surprising and exhilirating and exhausting and empowering, all at once. I thought it would be more straightforward, more like my blog, but there were more steps and stages, and more editing than I expected. I also had an idea that the publisher would have more input on the content, but was really given the freedom to create the text and design the patterns, and then had their crack design team lay it out and make it gorgeous. Truly, I've wanted to write a book my whole life, and it was everything I could've asked!
How do you recommend that people use your book? Start from the beginning and work your way through or dip in and out?
While it's possible to dip in and do a project here or a project there, the concept behind the book is that it ought to be done in order, beginning to end, so that as you complete each project you'll be building the foundational skills to tackle the next project and master it. I wanted to create a book that led new stitchers through the process of learning to sew but gave them instant results to keep them motivated as they went along.
(the book comes with a cd of patterns, so you can print them out in all sizes whenever you want)
The book starts with a questionnaire on sewing history, inspiration and goals. Why do you think this is important?
Sewing is really about so much more than the simple act of putting needle and thread through fabric. Each stitch connects us to past and present, both with the things we make and with the act of making them. I love that aspect of it, and feel so comforted and motivated by it. I wanted to offer that same feeling to new sewers so that they would give the value to their beginning work that it really is worth!
You mention that your mother taught you how to sew aged 7 but that it didn’t really take hold until later. Are you teaching your own children how to sew? What is your approach to teaching your own kids?
I am, mostly because they've asked! My mom did a great job, but I was so headstrong that I didn't listen when I could've. Having my older children really WANT to learn to sew is awesome. I'm finding that the other side is tough, too, though: it's hard for me to let them learn at their own pace, and really hard not to do it for them. It's made me feel closer to my mom, and she and I have bonded over the experience of offering sewing to our children. I'm growing as a parent because I have to edit myself and give them freedom and trust their instincts in ways that I don't otherwise--it's amazing that the more I sew, the more I learn about myself and my family. That might be the greatest gift I can offer someone else learning to sew.
As a quilter I usually buy fat quarters or ½ yards of the fabric prints that catch my eye. What size cuts would you recommend a craft sewer to buy?
All of it! No, but seriously: under a yard is often disappointing, because it's not enough to use for a project and I feel frustrated to have the perfect fabric for the project I want to do and not have enough of it. Over four yards is usually more than necessary, as only the fullest skirts or longest coats really need that much fabric. If you find a great deal on a great fabric, and think you might want to use it for clothing but you're not sure how, I usually suggest three yards--that'll cover most clothing patterns. If you're usually a craft sewer and focus on handbags or accessories, I'd go with a yard.
Any plans for a sequel?
Absolutely! I'd love to do a whole series of Stitch by Stitch books, each with a different sewing topic to conquer using the same format: cool, inspiring projects that teach key skills and motivate you to keep learning.
One last queston, do you sew barefoot, with socks on or with shoes?
I'm totally a barefoot stitcher! I like to really feel the control of the foot pedal with no shoes on.
Find out more about Deborah, Whipstitch, her book and more on Deborah's blog