I quickly became addicted to looking at fabric. I had been around people who sewed all my life. These were the days when you could save money by making clothes and Mom would frequently whip up a slew of clothes for all us. Gram was an awesome stitcher, quilter and needlewoman and held a sewing circle at her house every week with her German friends. I guess I was naturally inclined to become entranced with needles, thread and textiles. I discovered the art of choosing the right fabric for a project - mostly by reading the back of sewing patterns and learning what different fabrics were called by spending hours in Abe's Fabric Store in downtown Dover. I loved to match sewing thread to fabric choosing the exact right shade. I spent hours browsing through the large patterns books from Butterick, McCall's, Simplicity, and Vogue. All through my teens, I made most of my own clothing. I had an amazing high school sewing teacher named Mrs. Airola. She had learned to sew in Paris and knew all the tricks of the couture trade. Every day I looked forward to the class period when I would race in to the sewing room and get going on project. Mrs. Airola challenged us - we learned the best techniques including all kinds of seaming, bound buttonholes, welt pockets, tailoring, and many more couture techniques. I loved to sew so much that I decided to study clothing and textile design in college.
I was so fortunate in my formative years to be blessed with these amazing teachers and parents who helped support my sewing habit. I got so into it that I started sewing for neighbors and making stuffed toys to sell. I raised the $423 by sewing to buy myself a Bernina 831 sewing machine in the 1970's which I still use today. What a great machine it has been. The number of hours it has been sewn on has got to be in the thousands and thousands.
I don't sew as much as I once did but my machine is always out and ready to go. Now I do other kinds of work with textiles but my sewing machine is often part of it - for steeking handknits and finishing edges of fabrics pre-embroidery and for mending. I make all my own linen shirts that I wear on my teaching gigs - they are basic and I re-use the pattern again and again because I have altered it to fit me.
I never think much about my sewing - it is just something I do and something I don't blog about or talk much about. I don't know much about the current sewing world - I just do what I need to do. I find it quite remarkable that there is such an increase in the interest in sewing and I am really happy that once again, sewing is on the radar of the public. Someone told me the other day that sewing is where knitting was 10 years ago. We'll see. I do know that there are some really great sewing blogs out there and some amazing fabrics - especially for quilters. The patterns and colors available are truly stunning. They almost make me want to make a quilt! And the books that are now available! Wow. Back in my sewing day they did not exist. My only book was the Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing which I still own. Everything else I learned from following sewing patterns and from my teachers.
This is a rather long introduction for today's book review and giveaway. I wanted to share my sewing story as a preface to a new book that I just received from STC/Melanie Falick Books. It is called Cloth and is written by Cassandra Ellis. This book is truly beautiful. The photos are by the incredibly talented Catherine Gratwicke and you can find her website here. It is beautiful enough to get someone who knows nothing about sewing to learn to sew. Cassandra lives in London and describes herself as a "designer, maker, writer and thinker" on her website. The book has a very British look to it which I adore. It is what they call a "pick-up" in the publishing trade and has been Americanized by the editors at STC. You can visit Cassandra's website here.
Cloth is a what I would consider a book for beginning sewers (Note - I use that term "sewers" - I despise the new term "sewist". Seriously, who thought that one up?) It is broken into chapters including an Introduction to cloth and sewing tools and then by fibers - Cotton, Linen, Wool, Silk, and Hide (Leathers). Each chapter begins with an intro to the fiber and 5 to 8 projects follow.
In the back of the book, there is a pocket with the sewing patterns for each of the projects. The projects are rather easy to make so if you are a long-time sewer - buy this book for the photos and fabric porn, not the projects. If you are a beginner, this book is a great introduction to sewing. I will say, it does not have many illustrations in it so if you are a beginner, you would also need to purchase a basic sewing book about seaming, or do some googling or youtubing to watch instructional videos.
If you are looking to purchase a gift for a friend who you think should learn to sew, this book could be it. It belongs on a coffee table at a creative home. Here are some of my favorite projects from Cloth:
These linen slippers (I would call them scuffs) are quite beautiful:
Here is a project with very little sewing made out of leather. I am tempted to purchase some leather and make these.
I am a big fan of waxed cotton and fell in love with these simple zipped bags. (Have you seen Betz White's tutorial on waxed cotton? It is here and good.)
I love this simple cotton tote. Mostly I love the gorgeous leather handles - what a pretty idea.
This idea has been around for hundreds of years but isn't it beautiful? A braided cotton rug. I love that enameled stove!
This is my favorite project from Cloth - a wool tweed zippered tote again with the gorgeous leather handles.
Because I am an experienced sewer, most of these projects are not very challenging but then sometimes, that is just what I am looking for - a quick project to whip up for a gift or to use myself. I think it is time I get out my fabric stash which has been languishing in the attic and start sewing again!
For me, the best part of Cloth is the Resource List and the large listing of Books and Magazines, Museums and Galleries around the world, Stores and Markets, and interesting Organizations and People. I really have to spend some time looking up the different websites and getting myself excited about sewing again!
Sew ....... here is what I have for one lucky winner today - a copy of the new book Cloth by Cassandra Ellis donated by STC/Melanie Falick Books. Here's how you enter....
Answer the following question in the comments......
Tell me something, anything...... about what, how, if, if not ...... you sew. I love to hear what crafts you do and talents you all have.
Contest is over - the winner is Pattie who said: