In addition to reviewing Deborah’s new book, Sew Fun, I also got to interview her about crafting and the creative process behind her new book! My questions are bolded and the responses are in her words.
And as promised, here is the beginning of my bunny army. (This is the Little Smiles Bunny pattern from Deborah’s book.) I actually used leftover bits from this dress.
What was your experience with crafting as a child?
I have always been maker and I grew up making all kinds of objects. We had a big round table for projects in our family room. There were shelves filled with fabric and paper and trims and other supplies. My mother’s sewing machine was always there and ready for us to use. I was fortunate to grow up in an environment created by my parents, who value the handmade.
What is important to you about engaging kids in crafts?
There is a joy that comes from the process of creation that I think is essential for children to experience. I see it with my own kids and with my students. And they have so much to teach us grownups!
What is your #1 inspiration?
I am inspired when what I make brings a smile to someone else.
I work with what is in my own small world. A flower in the garden, my daughter’s drawing, a ceiling tile. Whimsy, color, stories. Ultimately though, it is the effect of what I make that is my inspiration, even if I am just making myself laugh.
What was the first thing you ever made?
That’s a hard one! I remember a parrot mobile I made out of felt and wire. I glued the felt together and sat the parrot on a wire ring perch that probably started out life as a coat hanger. That was the start of my love affair with mobiles. I made dozens of them for my room.
What are your favorite materials to work with?
I am such a mixed media maker. To me, the materials are the meaning, the essence of the object. My favorites are what the meaning tells me the materials need to be. If I am making quilts that need to be bold and durable, that tells me what I need to use. If a stuffed lion needs to be textured, then that is what it needs to be. It is not about what I want to use, but what the object needs to be made of. I love the tactility of fabric and textiles so I hope the objects I make keep telling me to use them!
What does crafting mean to you/do for you?
For me, making is just a way of being. Right now I sew and design quilts and other sewn things. But if I couldn’t do that I would absolutely find another way of making, other materials to use and other objects to make.
What was your biggest crafting flop?
Oh, there are so many! Ugly quilts, misshapen dolls, clothes that will never fit. Many, many clothes that will never fit. I have them all!
What is your favorite thing you’ve ever made?
I am very hard on myself. Often I will really doubt what I have made but looking at it months or even years later I just love it. I need that distance. My favorites are not specific projects but collections or groups of projects like Sew Fun and programs of the Bright Hopes Collaborative Quilt Project which I started with my mother in 2003.
What is the hardest part of sewing for you?
The hardest part of making anything is trusting myself. That is one of the best parts about sewing with kids. They have a freedom that is incredibly inspiring.
What is your favorite sewing technique?
Tying a proper knot at the end of the thread when hand sewing! I didn’t learn how to do this until I had been sewing for a good 10 years. When I discovered it, it was like I won the sewing lottery!
You are hosting a crafting tea party: who is on your ideal guest list?
What fun! My 2 girls, of course. My mom who taught me to sew, encouraged all kinds of making, and is a tea party expert. My friend, Susan Borger, who sews the most amazing chenille projects and is an incredible knitter. Illustrator Amy Saidens who I spent lots of time making great stuff with when we were young. My high school art teacher, Joan Singer, who is now my friend. Artist and soft sculptor Dorothy Lazara who I was an assistant to when I was a teenager and who taught me how to sew fun. (She died a few years ago but you did say ideal!) And if we are going that way, then my Grandma Ro who taught me to knit as well as swim. I could go on and on. These may not be well known names, but they are all amazing makers who have inspired me and encouraged me in my life and work.
What is your #1 guilty pleasure?
These days, cake. My older daughter has recently become very interested in baking and cake decorating. She made a cake with my mom and brought the whole beautiful thing home. I think I ate 3/4 of it myself. I’m not kidding.
What is your favorite project in your new book?
Hazel Doll! Dolls were one of the first things I made when I started sewing. I think there is magic in creating a friend. And the accessories are so much fun to make. The Hazel Doll has a reversible skirt, a reversible top and a one pattern piece jacket that can be embellished with embroidery and trim. You can make shoes, slippers, a boa, and a ladybug cape for her also. I could have made a dozen versions of her if I hadn’t had so many other projects to make.
How are your craft projects unique?
I think my projects are unique because they juxtapose seemingly divergent ideas. They are cute yet sophisticated. They use basic sewing techniques but challenge the maker to push their personal boundaries. They are inspired by children’s drawing and ideas yet are far from childish.
Why did you choose to create this book?
For many years I was searching for the best ways to share what I love to do. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to share my ideas in this way. I hope Sew Fun inspires adults to have fun with their sewing and share the joy with kids.
Thanks so much, Deborah!