Nicole Blum and Debra ImmergutÂ are the authors of the new bookÂ Improv Sewing.Â They also blog together atÂ Improv Diary.Â Nicole is a freelance crafter and stylist, clothing designer,Â bloggerÂ and obsessed sewist. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she also works at her familyâ€™s hardÂ cider businessÂ together with her husband and two children.Â Debra is a writer, magazine editor, andÂ content packagerÂ who loves sewing and crafting, even when her creations turns out just a little bit awkwardly. She grew up in the Washington, DC, area and now lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and son.Â
Creativity, improvisation, and why it is so darn good to let go and make some stuff
Once, many years ago, I was in the company of a bunch of farmers who were drawing angryÂ vegetables for the side of their farm truck for fun (uh, why else?). They were young farmers from theÂ UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden program, not your typical farmer, but still. Egging everyone on wasÂ our friend Harrell Fletcher, who has since become a sort of major person in the art world, and he isÂ pretty much the embodiment of creativity (yes, look him up, his work is very worth looking at).
I wasÂ in my mid-20s, and I sat on the edge of the group and watched. I still canâ€™t believe my shyness andÂ how I simply missed out on ALL of the fun that day. I didnâ€™t really think I had enough talent to draw anÂ angry vegetable. I could throttle that young womanâ€™s perfect neck for being so silly. I might be a bitÂ of a late bloomer, but I have arrived and there is no stopping creativity once you let go of judgment,Â comparisons, and self-imposed limitations. I couldnâ€™t be more serious.
First of all, I can draw just fine. So can you. Second, I am of the mind that I can learn to do mostÂ anything, if I want (maybe not brain surgery, but I conveniently donâ€™t really want to anyway) and thisÂ mindset has been an amazing emancipator. I have gone from staring at a store bought tissue patternÂ with squinty eyes and a furrowed brow to designing my own clothes in a matter of very few years. IÂ have tweaked mistakes and imperfections into design elements (they are easily persuaded) and thenÂ cultivated those ideas into intentionally laid down lines and squiggles, Xs and seed stitches. Layers andÂ appliques have been my cover-ups and the basis for my decorative elements. It has been so satisfying toÂ play around and figure things out, and, it is crazy fun.
Of course, I didnâ€™t just go from timid non-drawing gal to sewing book author in a flash. I was aÂ school teacher and then made the natural (and fortuitous) shift to working as a craft developer for aÂ family and kid magazine for a bunch of years. I think that my commitment to instilling the love of artÂ and creativity in my students and my own children has convinced me to express my ideas without allÂ of the self-judgment. Everyone says that kids are the best teachers, and it really is true. I saw themÂ creating with abandon and it moved me. I had to let go of a lot to be a good role model and that wasÂ important to all of us. And, it has served me in so many ways.
First, I get to earn my living makingÂ things, which couldnâ€™t be more amazing. Also, I got to meet my co-author Debra who is an editor I haveÂ worked on many magazine projects with. She is an excellent writer (funny and thoughtful) and has a
fantastic ability to make directions clear and easy to understand. We were a great team and this bookÂ was really her idea.
I guess I am trying to tell you something here. Most likely you already are creative and makeÂ things if you look at this amazing WhipUp blog, but if you think that you canâ€™t make your own clothes,Â or if you think that you canâ€™t put your mark on something so that it is unique and a good expression ofÂ you, then I am here to ask you to rethink that. You can make whatever you want and I hope our bookÂ is a companion to you in the process of discovery. Improvise if you need to. Let go of your inhibitionÂ because it is way more fun that way. Way more fun.
Line Art Lunchbox Napkin (Excerpted fromÂ Improv SewingÂ (c) by Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut,Â Â Photo (c) by Alexandra Grablewski, used with permission from Storey Publishing.)
If youâ€™re new to drawing with your sewing machine, hone your skills with this low-stakes, ultracheap project (you donâ€™t even have to buy fabric if you have an old white bedsheet to cut up). This reusable napkin will make its owner proud in two ways: he or she gets to show off artwork and reduce lunchtime trash at the same time.
What youâ€™ll need ::Â 10″ square of Birdseye cotton, glassware toweling, or other absorbent woven cotton fabric +Â 1 to 3 spools of contrasting thread
How to ::Â
1. Create the drawing ::Â Tape the fabric taut to the table. With a vanishing ink pen or chalk, draw a simple design, either centered or in one corner, leaving at least a 3/4″ margin on all sides for the hem.
2. Draw with thread ::Â Before you start drawing, read the techniques intro, page 134, and practice on a scrap of the project fabric. Set your presser foot pressure to 2; this allows you to manipulate your fabric easily but still follow the drawn lines. Using a straight stitch with the stitch length set at 1, stitch along the drawn guidelines.
3. Hem the napkin ::Â Press the edges of the napkin 1/4″ to the wrong side, and then 1/4″ again to make a 1/2″ double-fold hem. Using contrasting thread and a narrow zigzag (our stitch width was 3 and stitch length 2.5), topstitch the hem in place, leaving the needle down and turning the fabric at the corners.
4.Â Stitching tip :: It will make it easier for the sewist if the drawing isnâ€™t itty-bitty, so guide the artist accordingly. For a younger child, frame the target area with tape to help him or her understand where and how big to draw the artwork.