I had a chance to ask Janet Clare about her new self-published quilt project book – Freya and Fred: a week full of quilts for a girl and her dog. This beautifully presented book full of imaginative and fun quilts and other projects is a joy to hold and view and I know many of the techniques and images will be inspiring us for a long time. 

Hi Janet, I love the concept behind this book – a little girl and her dog doing a week of activities – can you tell us a little about what inspired this idea?

Janet: I was inspired by the paper dolls and their clothes that I used to play with when I was little. Making an appliqué girl and getting to design a wardrobe of clothes for her was great fun! And then I felt she looked a little lonely so I got her a dog! Freya is my favourite girls’ name, but I had two boys- luckily I have two lovely nieces called Freya now!

You self published this book – is that correct?  … the photography and design of the book is simply wonderful – I love the quality of the paper too – can you talk about the process of going from idea to self publication?

Janet: Yes, I did self publish and made all the projects and took all the photos too. My friend Hayley is a graphic designer and she laid out all the pages for me and my lovely husband helped do all the technical bits that I am clueless about! My friend‘s little girl modelled for me. So, in no way did I do the book all by myself, I had a lot of help.

I’m so glad you liked the style of the book and the paper etc because I was very fussy indeed about all that and got the printer to order in the paper especially. The best part about self publishing was never having to compromise! So, I made my book my way and am very, very fortunate that others like it too!

In terms of the process I decided in January 2010 to write and self publish a book which would be launched at ‘The Festival of Quilts’ (the biggest quilt show in Europe, August at the NEC Birmingham), started a sketchbook (new project, new sketchbook!) and asked Hayley if she could help me and then worked round the clock for a few months to get everything made. Hayley, Tony and I worked ‘til the wee hours of the morning every night for three weeks. The files were taken to the printers and I waited and waited and then just the morning before I had to leave for Birmingham I picked my books up- there wasn’t a second to spare!

A couple of things about the illustrations and designs that really stood out for me were the jointed applique templates for Freya and her dog Fred, can you talk about how these came about, and what quilters can use these for?

Janet: The jointed appliqué templates were a brainwave of mine a few years ago. I was cooking dinner for the boys and trying to draw six horses all the same size but in different positions for my Horse blanket pattern.

It wasn’t going well, the dinner was spoiling and the boys were bickering when all of a sudden I just knew I only needed to make one horse that moved. The rest is history! I now have jointed movable patterns for a horse, rabbit, dinosaur, cat and dog and in my book there is a dancing ballerina and a moving Fred.

Using a jointed template for your appliqué makes them very versatile and makes every quilt truly unique. Just position the ballerina as you wish and then trace her onto some fusible web (Bondaweb) or onto your fabric and appliqué as normal. Re-position the template and start again! The templates can be turned over too so Fred can look left and right.

I have suggested photocopying the templates onto card before you use them and you could also enlarge or reduce them too. I have also used my templates for paper crafts and the boys have coloured them in and made little puppets to play with. My appliqué templates are very versatile!

I love that each quilt project is accompanied by a little story, recipe or additional craft project accessory – you obviously had a huge amount of fun creating the projects and concepts for this book – can you talk about your decision making process for each quilt?

Janet: I had the best time writing my book! I had so many ideas that I couldn’t fit them all in. In the beginning I decided to make ‘Freya and Fred’ a lovely object in its own right- the kind of book that you just loved to curl up with and take inspiration from. I was really determined not to make just a project book (although there are many projects to make in the book!) I also decided not to make the book for complete beginners- this meant I didn’t have to include very detailed step by step instructions but could assume some prior quilt making experience.

However I did want to explain my favourite techniques in great detail, so I took a lot of care over describing and illustrating how I use my appliqué templates and how I use free motion stitching to draw with my sewing machine. I hope I achieved this.

Once I knew the book was going to be about a week in Freya’s life the projects and ideas came very easily. I actually made the front cover of the book first and worked through it day by day until it was all done. I drew and painted in my sketchbook and looked at a lot of vintage toys and fabrics from the 1940’s and tried to capture that childish innocence. Writing ‘Freya and Fred’ was a pleasure from beginning to end, and I really feel it shows.

One lesson I have learnt though is to leave more time for the next book- so I’ve started it already! Hayley and I have a ‘book design’ meeting in our favourite bar planned- we’ve discovered that these meetings go better with a margarita!

Thanks so much Janet, I know a lot of people are going to love this book – can you tell us how we can get one for our friends?

Janet: Oh, I do hope you’re right! You can buy ‘Freya and Fred’ from: Etsy,  Amazon (UK) and Amazon (USA)



{ 1 comment }

November is book month at

Growing Up Sew Liberated: Making Handmade Clothes and Projects for Your Creative Child By Meg McElwee, Published by Interweave Press (June 14, 2011).

Meg McElwee is a teacher and parent, crafter and blogger and she sure knows her stuff. Her latest book is all about sewing for kids – the practical side and fun stuff too. It’s for parents sewing for babies and up to about size 7 – but the bags, toys and dress-ups are more flexible of course. If you know how to size up your own patterns then you can use some of the clothing patterns as a guide to making bigger sizes for your bigger kids. I am going to have to do that with the sleeping johns and crossover tee – I also really love the pants pattern that is included too.

The kids clothing section is minimal because this book is about sewing all the things that your kid will need – there are a few basic clothing items plus other things a cape for dress-ups, a steiner style doll and that fabulous teepee on the front cover! Also there is quite a few baby essentials – including a baby wearing sling, bigs and baby clothes and some sweet toddler alphabet letters. For older kids there is a marvelous nature explorer bag.

For me this book is a big inspiration to throw away (or donate to charity) all those store bought toys and clothes and get back to basics again.

Sewing for Boys: 24 Projects to Create a Handmade Wardrobe By Shelly Figueroa and Karen LePage, Published by Wiley; 1 edition (September 6, 2011).

I want my little boy to go back in time just a couple of years so I can make him some of these cutie pie duds. The clothing sizes range from babies up to age 7 – so if you have little boys in this age group then you are in very good luck – because these duds are super cute and practical too.

Because the patterns are written by the gals at Figgys – you are in good hands – these girls know how to sew and write a readable pattern. The patterns are not all aimed at the beginner sewist – there are some more difficult projects that require collars, pockets, buttons, interfacing, facing etc (The Henry shirt for example) – so there is plenty here to challenge and inspire the experienced sewist – while the beginner is not left out either. The lovely thing about making clothes for your little kids is that they appreciate it and wear it even if it’s not perfect – so the important thing is to give it a try even if you are unsure about whether your skills are up to the job – how else will you improve anyway.

Because I like my kids to have nice things to wear I don’t often indulge in special occasion sewing, but I love that there are some special occasion outfits for boys in here – lovely jackets and shirts with collars, a super cute pair of suspender shorts. But most of my sewing for kids involves quick, easy and practical sewing because I know they will be wearing them in the mud and climbing trees and playing soccer – and luckily this book has some of these sorts of things too – romper suits and raglan t-shirts and drawstring pants.

I did say earlier that the patterns only go up to size 7? You can always size up the patterns yourself – using your child’s current clothing as a guide. I think I might do that with the raglan t-shirt -and the linen shirt.

Project excerpt: Make the cute hat that appears on the cover.


November: Month of books at

Microcrafts: Tiny Treasures to Make and Share Margaret McGuire, Alicia Kachmar, Katie Hatz, Tamara Barker, Claudia Cormier, Elizabeth Duke, Sarah Goldschadt, Larissa Holland, Melissa Jacobson, Len and Melanie Kachmar, Holly Keller, Colleen Lemons, Mei Pak, Mel Sparkles, Jessica Trail, Hope Wattanaphand, Nadia Marks Wojcik. Published by Quirk Books (October 4, 2011).

Quirk books live up to their name and publish some really interesting and well … uhm … quirky books (they may be quirky but they are also pretty cool!)

Microcrafts is a collection of tiny contributor projects (none more than 2 inches high) – based around the concept of tiny handcrafted treasures and using up odd bits of craft supplies. From mini books to use as jewellery, bunting to decorate a cake, polymer clay candy charms and tiny sewn felt puppies – there might just be a project or two perfect to give at the holidays.

Happy Home Made Vol 1: Treasured Collection by Yoshiko Tsukiori has been republished by Penguin Australia into English with full-sized pull-out pattern sheets adapted for Western sizing (Aus6–16).

You might have come across the original Japanese version of this book – or others like it – if so you will already know that the styling is very oh so simple and relaxed and seemingly without fuss. The clothes are loose fitting but not frumpy – a little bit boho – a little bit hippy, but perhaps just Japanese effortless style is more to the point.

Shorts, smock dresses, pinafore dress, tunic top, crossover jacket and tiered skirt – is what you will find in this book – definitely a couple of items I will make to add to my weekend casual attire. So happy it’s in English – yay!

{ 1 comment }

November: Month of books at

1, 2, 3 Sew: Build Your Skills with 33 Simple Sewing Projects by Ellen Luckett Baker, published by Chronicle books.

When I say I love Chronicle books, it’s not because they are also the publishers of my two quilt books – its because they do quality, beautiful, practical books: pattern sleeve, spiral binding, lovely photos, pleasing design – and well edited too. Ellen Luckett Baker’s book is a Chronicle book and has all these great qualities, plus what she brings to the table – which is well made, well designed, thoughtful and lovely sewn projects.

In this book Ellen has gone back to basics to introduce the new to sewing crafter some basic skills which can then be built upon in a series of three projects gradually increasing in difficulty level – great concept and well achieved! For example – pillows – begin with a basic scrappy straight sewn design and learn about an overlapping pillow finish. Move on to blind hem applique and buttonholes and then learn about reverse applique and making a hook and loop fastener – all while making a series of three pillows. Tote bags are another great example – begin by learning about squared corners, then add in a divider and then learn about drawstring closures and French seams. Brilliant.

Project excerpt: You can make the mouse pincushion using this video tutorial.
Ps. Ellen is multi-talented and has just released a line of fabric with Moda. Congratulations Ellen!

Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design, and Inspiration By Malka Dubrawsky, published by Interweave Press (December 7, 2010).

Malka Dubrawsky and Interweave books – what an amazing combination – one of my favourite improv quilters and one of my favourite book publishers all rolled up together: Malka’s stunning colourful designs, combined with Interweave’s attention to detail – love it – and the book delivers!

Malka’s quilts and patchwork designs are all about colour and pattern. She dyes and over-dyes her own fabric and combines these in eclectic and clashing and fun ways that are part gypsy and part country but the final result is completely modern! Her stitching may be a bit wonky at times and her corners may not meet up perfectly – but for me that not only adds to the charm of these improv quilts but also the accessibility of her style – she all about fearless quilting and sewing – just getting in there and doing it. Her fearless style embraces flaws but also discovers new methods, exciting colour combinations and fantastic designs.

PS. You can purchase Malka’s beautiful creations in her Etsy shop.


November (and a little bit into December) is book month at

The Art-Full Tree; ornaments to make.  Jan Gilliam and Christina Westenberger.  The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2011.

If your thoughts are turning to decorating your tree this year, you might like to have a look at The Art-Full Tree, which is inspired by objects in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.

The book begins with a quick history of the museum, that was started by Abby Aldrich Rockerfeller who started collecting and exhibiting folk art in the 1920’s, at a time when common crafts and amateur arts were not highly valued.  She left her collection to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and this collection forms the core of the current Folk Art Museum in Willamsburg, Virginia.

The museum has had a long and treasured tradition of decorating a holiday tree every year with ornaments made by staff, volunteers and guests of the museum.  Some of these ornaments are inspired by items in the collection, and others are based on the skills of each contributor.

The Art-Full Tree presents 33 ornament projects that have been inspired by some of the most popular items in the museum collection.  The book is an interesting combination of museum catalogue, inspiration notebook, project instructions and stitch guide and template sections.

Each project features the original artwork, with a short history of the item and some information on the artist or style of art.  There is a very detailed materials list, and step by step instructions and photographs on making each ornament.

There is a wide range of crafting techniques used in the creation of the ornament projects, including needlepoint, paper craft, punch needle embroidery, foil work, metal punching, painting and collage.  My favourite ornaments are Recycled-Card star (inspired by a compass design quilt), Scherenscnitte Birds (inspired by a cutwork picture), and Aluminium Butterfly (inspired by a metal weathervane).

I really like the process of taking a formal artwork in a formal setting, that is meaningful to the people around it, and appropriating all or part of the work to inspire the creation of anther objet, in this case tree ornaments.  I feel that readers of The Art-Full Tree will be inspired to look around them, in their local museums, public spaces, or around their own treasured and meaningful objects, and to create ornaments for their own family trees that are small and perfect reminders of things that they love.

To win a copy of The Art-Full Tree, please leave a comment on this review.  The comments will be open for 72 hours, and a winner will be selected at random.  Good luck!  Congratulations to Becky!

About the reviewer: Kate is a busy mother of four with many craft projects on the go, including, but not limited to, crochet, knitting, sewing, dyeing, paper making, spinning, felting and bookbinding. Kate has challenges in the areas of finishing things, saying no and craft supplies storage. She also has a very very patient and tolerant husband.