I am so happy to have Susan Wasinger visiting today as part of her Sewn by Hand: Two Dozen Projects Stitched with Needle & Thread blog tour. Susan is also the Author of The Feisty Stitcher and Eco Craft, both of which I quite liked.
I asked Susan a couple of questions about her love of hand sewing and her eco-crafting philosophy.
I love the idea of sewing without electricity – the whole concept of slowing down and enjoying the process. Can you talk a little about your ‘slow sew’ philosophy and how you came to it?
It was purely self-preservation–and plain old loneliness–that brought me to the hand-sewing idea. I was tired of being locked away in my sewing room everytime I had a project to finish. I wanted to be mobile and able to mix with people while still being able to engage in my work and get it done. Originally, hand-sewing was merely a way to cut the cord, to make sewing as portable and sociable as knitting is. So I brought my sewing out into the open, to the kitchen table, to in front of the saturday night movie, to the sidelines of soccer and baseball games.
All of that was lovely and fun, but it wasn’t the end of the wonders of hand-sewing.
There is the relaxation, the “slow going” of hand sewing that makes for fewer hectic, stressful moments. You know how it is when you are machine sewing and you have a difficult seam, and there are a million pins, and a tight curve to negotiate, and that needle is pumping away at 20 stabs per second, bearing down on your tender little fingertips. Now that is stressful! In hand sewing, no matter how difficult the seam, or tight the turn, or how many pins, you are just poking along one tiny stitch at a time. It’s just calming, and relaxing, and it makes even the hard stuff nice and easy.
And then there is the silence, which I rhapsodize shamelessly about in the book. But really, when was the last time you had a conversation while you were sewing on a machine? Hand sewing is quiet time, which is something so rare in this clanking, buzzing, shrieking, twittering modern world of ours. It is quiet time that just happens to be engaged and productive as well. This is work that your hands and heart and mind all seem to enjoy at the same time, without any one of them racing ahead or another falling behind. And in our crazy disjointed willy-nilly lives, that gentle balance is a lucky and happy thing to find.
There are quite a few projects in the book that reuse and recycle materials, this eco/green crafting fits in well with your ‘slow crafting’, can you tell us about what sorts of fabrics and materials you prefer to use and what draws you to certain fabrics?
For years I made projects out of junk and trash and recycled materials first for Natural Home Magazine, and then in my book EcoCraft. After hundreds of craft projects inspired by green thinking, it is second nature for me to see possibilities in stuff other people throw away. I have sewn a messenger bag from old plastic sacks. I’ve made chic date book covers from truck tire innertubes. I just can’t help but see possibilities in the lowliest stuff.
Often I find the inspiration right within the thing I want to repurpose, like over-shrunk sweaters or an old vintage shirt. I start looking at the nature and characteristics of the thing, at what makes it still loveable, and then I start looking for another way it can be useful. In the case of old sweaters, it is the color and the softness that inspires me to make a hat. With the old vintage shirts, I loved the soft palette, the practical no-nonsense material, and all the buttons and tailoring. So I made an apron that allowed me to “borrow the seams”. I cut the shirt as little as possible, moved pieces, turned them sideways, to make a very functional apron that uses the old shirt button placket front to make an adjustable neck strap and uses the old shirt pocket to make a new useful pocket on the apron. Form begets function in this funky form of renaissance. It is recycling playing at a little bit of reincarnation.
Your design aesthetic is quite varied – but invariably encompasses natural materials, and earthy raw textures, can you talk a little about your design philosophy and aesthetic?
Natural fabrics, stuff that feels real, and true. That is what I like. Linen is my absolute favorite fabric, especially natural linen. But I also like colorful calicos and shiny oil cloth, and graphic printed stuff. I like when things inherent to one kind of fabric are played up and amplified in the design. For instance, little vintage print calicos are all the rage. Part of their appeal is that they are soft and rumply and remind us of some of the most well loved things of our past like a treasured quilt or a favorite dress. With age, the soft cotton gets softer, and paler, and maybe a little fuzzy around the seams. This adds to its history and charm. I like to design that right into the project from the start.
In Sewn by Hand, I made a hat and some slippers that use a piped edge made from cotton calico that was deliberately frayed and ruffled to bring out its inherent character. I used the same frayed edges to add sweetness to bibs and soft fabric spheres. Cotton and linen don’t mind wrinkles, and a frayed edge is both soft and simple and carefree. That wrinkly, ruffle-y, softly frayed edge is just in the DNA of the fabric itself. When the design brings that to the fore, then the project seems just right….
Follow along with the blog tour
4/4 Blog tour kickoff at LarkCrafts.com and giveaway
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
Would you like one of these books? Lark is giving one away along with a small hand sewing kit, and other bits and pieces. Leave a comment here – you have 48 hours. The winner will be contacted via email.