Enjoy the simple pleasures of making something by hand? Love the sound of a needle and thread passing through fabric? Want to try sewing unplugged? If you answered yes, yes, and yes, then you’ll love Sewn by Hand, the newest book from Susan Wasinger (author of The Feisty Stitcher, Eco-Craft, and Fabricate).
Susan’s collection of hand sewing techniques and two dozen projects – like everything she does – are clever, beautifully presented, and supremely inspirational. In her book, Susan delves into the soulful side of stitching unplugged… and then, of course, there’s the sheer portability factor (just in time for summer vacation!). To celebrate the release of this book, we’re holding a little blog tour during the month of April with these fabulous stops (and hosts!). You’ll have plenty of chances to win prizes along the tour.
Blog Tour Schedule
4/4 Blog tour kickoff at LarkCrafts.com: you’ve arrived!
4/6 Sew Daily blog
4/8 Click here for a free travel thread caddy project from the book!
4/11 Pink of Perfection
4/13 Artsy-Crafty Babe
4/20 CRESCENDOh Blog
4/25 Feeling Stitchy
4/27 Zakka Life
4/29 BurdaStyle blog
To get things started off on the right foot, we asked Susan a few questions.
Do you have a favorite spot for stitching unplugged? Love to stitch outside on the sundeck on a warm, breezy day. Also like to stitch in the kitchen while the kids do homework, or on the sidelines of a soccer or baseball game. I have an old purple overstuffed chair in the living room that sits in front of a wall of windows. I love to stitch there in the middle of the day when the house is quiet. It’s like a little meditation. (For pics of Susan’s creative space, click here!)
Do you have a favorite hand stitch? I like any stitches that show. That is my favorite part of hand sewing. I love using any and all hand stitches, but I like a heavy-weight thread or even a colorful embroidery floss so the stitches are not just an important part of the structure of the project, but also integral to the design and decoration. The subtle imperfection of hand stitches is utterly charming to me. And they mark the project as completely human and unique.
What’s the most ambitious hand-stitched project you’ve considered making? I think the hand-stitched ottoman in the book is cool because it is almost a piece of furniture. It is appealing to think you can make a piece of furniture with a length of fabric, some stuffing, and a needle and thread. The ottoman is perfectly functional, and it has a sort of delightfully rumpled quality to it that invites people to take a seat or put their feet up. The fact that I sewed most of it while sitting in the bleachers at my son’s little league double-header just makes it all the more beguiling.
Repurposed fabric makes several appearances in the book. What makes repurposing so appealing for you? I do have a thing about wanting to make a rejected thing useful again. But usually I repurpose because of some quality in the material that grabs my interest, something inherent in its nature and character that I want to highlight. In the case of old sweaters, it is the color and the softness and the denseness of the felted wool that inspires me to make a hat. For those old button-down shirts, I loved the soft, crisp cottons and the subtle stripes and plaids that all looked beautiful together. But it was the buttons, and buttonholes, and the tailoring that really got me going. How could I make something that “borrowed” those seams? So I made an apron that allowed me to use the placket and the pockets, and the difficult and careful sewing that someone else had done long ago. I cut the shirt as little as possible, moved pieces around, turned them sideways, to make a very functional apron that uses the old shirt’s buttons and buttonholes to make an adjustable neck strap and uses the original shirt pocket to make a new useful one on the apron’s bib. Also, I repurpose because I hate to waste things. I suspect that is true of most people who sew, just have a look at their overflowing fabric stashes, and judge for yourself…
What’s the most interesting type of fabric you’ve repurposed? In another book of mine, The Feisty Stitcher, I repurposed old truck tire inner tubes to make surprisingly elegant address book covers. However, inner tube rubber is NOT a good candidate for hand sewing. In Sewn by Hand, I repurposed some old linen kitchen towel/calendars to good effect. I made self-covered buttons with the calendar entries that looked very cool and graphic on a linen tote bag. I also stitched one month of the calendar (a single square from the towel), on a baby bib. I personalized the bib by choosing the month of the baby’s birth, and then circling his actual birthday with bright red stitching. It makes a sweet, and fun, and very personal baby gift. Super easy to make as well.
Is there a project from the book that you’d want to make over and over? The ottoman or hassock is a favorite, and I would like to make three more of them to make a nice little casual cluster of them to sit on in my living room. They are surprisingly inviting little perches.
If no deadlines were looming, where would you be headed next, creatively speaking? I am currently obsessing on everything linen. I would love to do a book that would be nothing but 100% Linen. I’d also like to work on a sewing book that is completely pattern-less where all the projects just require a few measurements to make them work. No printing out or untangling complicated patterns, and no fiddly cutting out. In my book Feisty Stitcher, I did some simple jackets that were made out of nothing but simple rectangles. I would love to do a whole book of interesting projects that all started as rectangles.
What was the most enjoyable new technique you discovered in creating the projects for the book? I really have a big crush on the little bias-cut, frayed calico edging I used on the Pilot Hats. I cut strips of fabric on the bias and then got them wet, and roughed up the edges by rubbing them vigorously in the palms of my hands. Then I threw them in the dryer. The result is this delightfully softened, rumpled, frayed, ruffle-edged fabric I used to decorate and cover the edges of the hat. I could see a million uses for this stuff: around the edge of slippers, bibs, on the sleeves and collars of sweaters, for edging a blanket, all kinds of things. It’s adorable, delectable, versatile, can be any color or width, it’s really good stuff.
And, of course, we have prizes! To celebrate the release of Sewn by Hand, we’re offering up a copy of the book, two shirts (perfect for the repurposed projects in the book), and a travel sewing kit all to one lucky winner. To be entered for a chance to win, leave a comment on this post by 9 p.m EST on Tuesday, April 19th. Any comment will do but we’d love to hear about your favorite “unplugged” sewing spot. One winner will be selected at random and contacted on Wednesday, April 20. Click here for the official rules.
Congratulations to Jimsylperk who’s been randomly selected to win our Sewn by Hand prize! Thanks so everyone who commented. Your favorite hand sewing spots are fabulous! So many fun, new unplugged places to try: the breakroom, the carpool line, the hammock, the doctor’s office, the subway, or a peaceful backyard setting…
Be sure to follow along the blog tour for more chances to win!