Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: Sew Fun 20 Projects For The Whole Family

                 I'm not sure what I love more, a new craft/sewing book or making the items that are in it.  I tend to hang on to a new book for days, carrying it around with me, flipping through the pages and creating the items in my head before deciding where I'm going to start.  When I was offered an opportunity to write a review of Deborah Fisher's new book, Sew Fun: 20 Projects For The Whole Family, I jumped at the chance.  

Sew Fun
By Deborah Fisher
Interweave/F+W Media; $26.99

For one thing, I love to sew for my daughter and I love to sew with her even more. This book is a perfect mix of sewing with and for your child.  How could I resist?

Sew Fun has so many thoughtful project in it.  Twenty of them, to be exact!  Twenty projects that showcase your child and their creativity, whether it's taking their drawings and turning it into a pillow like the ones featured in the "There's No Place Like Home Pillows".  I love these!  These are what Roo and I are going to work on during spring break.

Then there's the Topsy Turvy Story Quilt, the ULTIMATE project for featuring your child's artwork and encouraging their creativity and imagination.  I can see how this quilt would be such a great source of pride for any little boy or girl!  And just imagine the hours and hours of quiet play that it encourages! 

Every project in Deborah's new book is so beautifully thought out and meaningful.  She has written a book full of tips for sewing with children and ideas for encouraging their creativity.  She has done a wonderful job of taking the scary out of that first initial step of confidently handing over the scissors and sewing machine and allowing your child to express themselves through an art form that children are naturally drawn to.

I decided to interview Deborah and find out a little bit more about what drives her to create, how she got started and those nonprofit organizations that she is so passionate about.  Enjoy!


 1.   I love this book because the projects are so diverse and appealing, I especially love that they can be personalized with my child's art. What inspired you to write a book for children and their families?

Thank you so much! Many of the projects in Sew Fun were objects I was making for and with my kids anyway, or were ideas I had been wanting to try. The Community Quilt project idea began as a gift I made with my daughter’s kindergarten class for their teacher. I was already using my daughter’s drawings to make faces on the Fun Friends From Odds and Ends. A book seemed like a great way to compile all of my ideas and to share them. I am so happy that it all came together. It has been a wonderful experience!

2.   What is your favorite project in this book?

My favorite project is always the Hazel Doll. When I first started sewing I made dolls and I love revisiting the fun that I had with them. There is a special magic in sewing an object that will become someone’s friend. I feel there is a intimacy and sensitivity to sewing a doll that it not as present with other objects.

3.   Who taught you how to sew?

My mother taught me to sew! She always had her sewing machine out and ready for us to use. I was very fortunate to grow up in a house where the handmade was valued.

4. What kind of machine do you sew on every day?

I have a Bernina Aurora 430 that is wonderful. For the programs I do with the Bright Hopes Collaborative Quilt Project, we have basic Pfaffs that get tons of tough use and keep on going.

5.   What tools are in your sewing basket?

A few good basic tools! I still have the set of Fiskars my mother ordered for me from the back of the Cheerios box many, many years ago and I use them everyday, although I have acquired a few other pairs since then. A few good feet for my sewing machine, such as a 1/4” foot and an edge stitch foot. It was happy dance time when I discovered those! Rotary cutting equipment that I actually thought I could do without when I first started making quilts. Silly me.

6.   A lot of parents are afraid to let their child sew (pins, scissors, sharp rotary cutters, the possibility of a sewing machine needle through the tip of a tiny finger). What advice do you have for them on how to let go and let their child experience this world of creativity?

There are so many ways to get kids involved with sewing and reduce the danger level to your comfort zone. And there is a whole section in Sew Fun with tips! Start very young kids off by just stepping on the sewing machine pedal while you sew. Move them onto helping you sew with their hands on top of yours and then your hands on top of theirs. Even rotary cutting can be very safe for kids a bit older if you have them use a cut resistant glove and are standing near them. I think the most important thing is to know the kid and know yourself. Choose activities that will work well with your combined personalities. And remember, if you are nervous, they will be also. Make sure the fun outweighs the safety lessons!

7.   In the back of the book, your Nonprofit Organizations, Bright Hopes Collaborate Quilt Project and Bo Twal, are mentioned. Do you have any advice for a fellow sewist who would like to get involved in either organization?

Thank you for asking!

We are SO excited about Bo Twal! Bo Twal means cloth kiss in Haitian Creole. You can purchase our first sewing pattern, the Sewing Smiles Doll, on our Etsy site, For every pattern purchased, a similar doll is constructed in Haiti and donated to a child there. A new pattern for you, income for a sewist in Haiti, a doll for a child in need. Smiles all around! You can find out more about Bo Twal from our website, Updates about new patterns and other news are posted on our Facebook page, botwaldolls, so be sure to like us there.

The Bright Hopes Collaborative Quilt Project is a very local organization. Anyone living on Long Island, especially Western Suffolk, is welcome to join us! Otherwise, we accept monetary donations through our website,, or new modern quilting fabric.

8.   What is your most favorite thing you've ever made?

My 2 girls! But besides them, the answer to this is always changing. I need distance from what I make to really see the objects for what they are. Sometimes my favorite is a collection, like the projects in Sew Fun. Sometimes it is a doll I made when I was 12, or a sculpture I did in graduate school. Right this very minute my favorite is the Bo Twal Sewing Smiles Doll pattern because it is making other people happy-from the women in Haiti who are sewing the dolls to give to children there, to those who are buying patterns here, to those who received dolls as a perk for being part of our Indiegogo campaign. We are hearing wonderful stories and that is always my favorite part of making.

9.   And last, the question I ask everyone-including Keith Urban a few years ago-if you were a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which part of the sandwich would you be and why?

The bread, of course. I’m all about the carbs!

 To purchase this book, click here.

Thank you, Deborah, for the fun little interview and for designing such a beautiful, encouraging book!  I am looking forward to creating and sewing with my daughter even more this year!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Tutorial: Seven Pocket Project Tote

designed for "Grace" by Anna Griffin

Something really, really, REALLY cool has happened.  My friend Kerry (aka KidGiddy) sent a round of introductions between me and Anna Griffin, thinking that we would be a good match for projects.  Anna designs some of the most gorgeous textiles, paper etc this crafty fabric world has to offer, her fabric is so soft and lovely.  I am honored and excited to say that I have been asked to be a part of her sewing team.  Here's the cool part (aside from the whole darn thing, I mean) every month I'll receive a shipment of not only Anna Griffin, but also Blend fabric to play with.  I get to create something inspiring and write a tutorial for all of you!  Isn't that fabulous?

I received my first box, "Grace" and couldn't wait to get started.  I knew immediately that the black floral was perfect for the project tote I had planned in my head.  The hard part was choosing the accent pieces to go with it.  I mean, just look at all this gorgeousness!

Somehow I managed to narrow it down, and now I am ready to show you how to make your own Seven Pocket Project Tote.

1/2 yard Canvas
1/2 yard Exterior Pocket
1/2 yard Lining
1/4 yard Interior Pocket
1/3 yard Straps
(or 1/2 yard of the same fabric for Straps/Interior Pocket-shown)
 **and the usual rotatry cutter, mat and ruler, sewing machine, scissors etc**

Cut the following:
Canvas 13"x16", cut two
Exterior Pocket 19"x16", cut two
Lining 16"x16", cut two
Interior Pocket 8"x8", cut two
Straps 5"xWOF (width of fold), cut two

**Seam allowances are 1/4" unless otherwise noted**

To prepare the Exterior Pocket:

1. With wrong sides together, fold exterior pocket in half to measure 9 1/2"x16" and press; topstitch 1/4" from fold; set aside.

To prepare the Straps:

2. With wrong sides together, fold the length of the strap in half and press:
Unfold the strap and refold along the center seam (the fold):
Repeat for the other side:
Fold along center seam again, and press:
Edgestitch the strap, beginning on the side with the double-fold to prevent the strap from bunching and twisting, then edgestitch the single-fold side; repeat for the second strap.  Trim selvages from straps; set straps aside.

3. With right sides together, pin interior pocket pieces together, leaving a 3"-4" opening at the bottom for turning and stitch, be sure to backstitch at each end of the opening.  (Backstitching will prevent tearing and/or widening the opening while turning.) Clip corners close to the seam, turn the pocket right side out and press; topstitch 1/4" from top edge.  Make sure the opening is at the bottom of the Pocket!

4. Find the center of the pocket by folding in half and making a mark.  Do the same to find the center of one of the lining pieces.  Measure 3" down from top of lining, lay the wrong side of the pocket to the right side of the lining, having center marks matched.

Edgestitch sides and bottom of pocket:

To assemble the bag:

5. With right sides together, pin top of Lining to top of canvas; stitch. 
Press seam towards lining, then with wrong sides together, match bottom edge of Lining to canvas and press.  Open the Lining out and away from the canvas then topstitch the lining side of the seam.

6. Leaving the lining open as you did during topstitching, pin Exterior Pocket to bottom of canvas, having edges matched on bottom and sides; baste 1/8" from edges.

For the Handles:
7. Find the center of the bottom of the bag, make a mark. Measure and mark 2" out on either side of the center. 
Match the double folded edge side of the strap to the marks, the ends should have 4" of space between them.  Lay a ruler against the strap to make sure you are pinning it straight; sew along the stitching lines along the length of the strap.  Go about 1/4" past the finished edge of the pocket, then stitch across the strap (parallel to the pocket) and back down to the bottom of the bag; repeat for the other half of the bag.

8. With right sides together, pin bag and lining together, leaving a 4"-6" opening on the lining for turning; stitch.

To make the boxed corners:

9. Starting the measurements at the seam line, draw a 1 1/2" square on all four corners.
Unless you are really confident with your rotary cutter skills, use scissors to cut the squares out:

10. Match the seams, pinning them open, and stitch.
Repeat for remaining three corners; press all seams open as best as you can.

11. Carefully turn the bag right side out, poking out the corners with a chopstick or unsharpened pencil.  Pin the opening of the lining closed; edgestitch. 

12. Push the lining to the inside of the bag and press.  Pin the handle to the top of the bag, then topstitch all the way around.
(I stitched an "X" on my handles, which you may want to do.  It is not necessary, but it does give it a more professional finish.)    
Give your bag a final press and you are finished!

 Six exterior pockets to stuff with all of your sewing and crafting supplies!  One inside pocket to hide your notebook, gum, wallet etc on the inside.  Moms with babies might even like to use this bag as a  quick trip diaper bag!  I would love to see what you make with this tutorial.  Please head on over to my Flickr group for inspiration and to share your creations.

Happy Sewing!

PS To make a Beach Tote, follow the same instructions, but cut your pieces to the following:
Exterior 16"x22" cut two
 Medium-Weight Fusible Interfacing 16"x22"
(iron the interfacing to the exterior pieces)
Lining 18"x22"
Straps 5"x63" cut two
(or cut 6 at 5"x21", sew three pieces together for each strap)
Interior Pocket 10 3/4"x8"