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School of Sewing: Learn it, Teach it, Sew…
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School of Sewing: Learn it, Teach it, Sew Together

by Shea Henderson

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Finally a sophisticated beginning sewing book not geared to kids. Projects range from a simple pillowcase to a finished quilt. We're delighted to introduce you to Shea Henderson - pattern designer, author, wife, mum to three and lover of all things sewing. She's the brains behind one of our favourite contemporary pattern companies - and a beautiful new book! Former middle school math teacher turned designer, we can't think of anyone better placed than Shea to teach newbies how to sew. Her enthusiasm and genuine love for the craft is completely infectious, and it's for that very reason we're really excited to share with you some exclusive previews from her beautiful forthcoming book. Get ready to talk dubious fabric choices (we've all done it), crayon-box colours and top sewing tips - Can you tell us about how you learned to sew? Sewing is something I learned through a mash up of different sources: the Internet, books and pure trial and error but mostly from my mother. She tried desperately to get me to understand how important it is to take the time to press. I didn't heed her advice much when I was a teenager, but eventually I got with the program. Two early projects stand out in my mind. When I was 16, I made my parents a Christmas quilt with family photos on each block. I made it in secret and it was back before simple photo transfers - I had to glue printed photos to fabric, then wet them down and rub off the paper. It was crazy! There were blocks hidden all over my room drying. I spent a weekend at my grandparent's house so my grandmother could help me piece the top, quilt and bind it. Then in college, I got the hair-brained idea to make a quilt as a Christmas gift for my best friend, Morgan (she's in the book!). I think I made it in a weekend, which was insane. And the fabric - well, let's just say it was before I had discovered quilt shop quality fabrics! How did Empty Bobbin Studio get started? I started my blog back in 2007, when there weren't really a ton of quilting blogs. I wanted a place to document what I was making. My blog (and later, my business) name comes from the idea that an empty bobbin means you have been sewing and sewing - and sewing for someone you love. At the time, I was a 7th grade math teacher so sewing and quilting were what I did in my spare time. A few years ago I left teaching to stay at home with our children. Patterns were always something I wanted to do and I love how it combines my love for the trifecta of teaching, math and sewing. Describe your style - Much of what I design is based on pure need for my family or myself. I needed a sewing machine cover, so I designed the pattern Cover Up. I wanted to replace our store bought Christmas stockings, so I designed my Sleigh Bells stockings pattern. I like really clean lines, solid or near-solid fabrics, topstitching and finished seams. I'm not a fan of raw edges, so you'll rarely (if ever) see me do that. My colour choices tend to look like they came straight from the Crayola marker box. Lately, though, I've been using more greys and neutrals so my stash of Robert Kaufman Essex Linen is constantly in use (especially in Flax and Yard Dyed Black)! I use solids mostly often, but I have to confess that I have fallen in love with many pieces from the Cotton+Steel collections - there are already so many dresses I plan to make for my daughter from those lines! Tell us about how to the book (School of Sewing) came about - This book has such a neat origin. I had started an informal School of Sewing in real life, and my group of students already had a few classes under their belts. We'd set up a list of things they wanted to make and I'd developed a curriculum around that and we were happily trucking along, planning to meet once a month for a year. Two months in I received an e-mail from Susanne Woods, telling me about her new venture, Lucky Spool Media. I'd known Susanne for a few years and always thought highly of her, so when she brought up the idea of me submitting a book proposal, it took me all of two minutes to know exactly what book I would write, who would be in it and who would be the photographer. We were on a family trip at the time and I spent the remainder of the drive drafting a proposal on our iPad because I couldn't find paper and a pencil in the car! The funny thing is that on the night of our first sewing class, my friend Cali walked in to my kitchen, saw the room buzzing with students and their nervous excitement, stopped in her tracks (sewing machine in hand) and said, "This needs to be a book." I laughed at her, but I guess the joke is on me. This is the exact book I wanted to hand my students when we started and I could not be more thrilled about how it came together. It's meant to be used by both individuals wanting to learn and also by people who want to teach others to sew. It covers absolutely everything, from buying a sewing machine and supplies to colour theory and interfacings. We went heavy on the photos to really help people see what they're doing. There's also a giant trouble shooting section that I'm really excited about - I worked really hard to not assume too much prior knowledge or gloss over things that beginners struggle with. Then, there are also the twelve projects that build skills over the course of the book. Each project (except for the quilt!) can be made in one class. They are all gift-able, functional projects. Nothing is specific to babies or dependent on clothing size, so it really is a book for everyone. Can you describe the process of actually writing a book? I'm not sure what the process is like for other authors, but this project was really a dream to do. I honestly felt like I knew what was happening every step of the way and had my voice and hand in all of the major decisions (and lots of the minor ones!). The trickiest part was that I wanted the timeline and class schedule to remain unchanged for my students. They are real people with real family schedules and jobs and there was no way I could ask them to cram in a years worth of sewing lessons quickly so that I could get a manuscript turned in. Luckily, Susanne completely supported my wish to keep it authentic. Lauren Hunt, the photographer, is a good friend of mine (we met at the first meeting of the Kansas City Modern Quilt Guild!) and working with her was amazing. Her vision matched mine exactly and she's a pro at sewing herself, so she knew just the right angle to get for each shot. The designer, Rae Ann Spitzenberger, did an amazing job combining my text with Lauren's photos. We had a ton (a TON!) of information and didn't want to cut or water down any of it, so I'm thrilled with how she made it all fit beautifully. People often compliment the book's cover (which I could not possibly love more!) and I can honestly say it was a team effort, with everyone on the same page - publisher, author, photographer and designer. What's your top piece of advice for anyone that's just learning to sew? Can I list three? First off, don't be afraid to ask for help from an encouraging and positive person. Or buddy up with another beginner. Take the time to press. Second - It's often the biggest difference between handmade and homemade. And third, try a project with a zipper as soon as you can. Once you use one, you'll love them. And - what's next? Have you got any big plans for the year ahead? My sewing students are embarking on year two of School of Sewing. There's always more to learn! I've got some patterns for my business, Empty Bobbin, which I'm excited to publish. But most of all, I'm excited to see people share their own School of Sewing moments with me. I can't wait to see what readers are doing with the book - I'll be cheering them on all the way! - Lovepatchwork This should be everyone's first sewing book! A technique based book for the first-time sewist but packed with attractive (not juvenile) projects that everyone will want to make. Designed for individuals to learn from and experienced sewists or shops who want to use this as a teaching tool for their own licensed School of Sewing class. All the basics will be covered with clear instructions from former educator, Shea Henderson. The book is designed to tackle one project a month with each building on the skills learned in the previous lesson. 'Extra Credit' for each project is offered for each of the 12 projects which encourages students to add one more bit of flair to make their project really sing. Fabric store field trip, machine buying tips, and essential school supplies are all included in this modern, sophisticated, beginning sewing book. - O'Mahony's Bookseller.… (more)

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