Book Review: Sewing in a Straight Line

Brett Bara is the go-to sewing gal for Design Sponge. She’s also released a new book, Sewing in a Straight Line (Potter Craft), and I was recently lucky to win a copy on her blog tour.

Sewing in a Straight Line book

Because I am hooked on sewing projects for the home, I probably would not have purchased this book just based on the cover. But do not be deceived, as there are equal amounts of apparel projects and home projects to sew, like modern quilts, pillows and these cute Folding Flower Bowls (video tutorial here). And yes, you only need to use straight lines to sew a round bowl!

Sewing in a Straight Line Bowls

I think what I love most about this book is that Brett really makes you feel like you can sew anything. Any material, any project. The cover project, Sewing School Skirt, teaches lots of techniques like making button holes, pleating, and attaching a waist band. But all of the projects are geared toward teaching techniques, allowing you to start with the curtains or square pillow and increase your skills along  the way, until you feel up for the challenge. And there are more surprises, like the Heavy Metal Bag, sewn from leather (can also be made with woven fabrics).

heavy metal bag

If you like sewing fashion-forward projects and also want to sharpen your technique, this book is fantastic. I appreciate Brett’s fabric choices (many samples from Mood Fabrics in New York and some modern IKEA prints), and the projects lend themselves to maximizing your fabric. For instance, the City Girl Tote and Easy Zippered Pillow (video tutorial here) both use only 1 yard of home decor fabric. You’ll want to stock up on heavy- to medium-weight interfacing to make many of these projects, but the actual fabric requirements make the projects pretty affordable.

Sewing in a Straight Line Baby Quilt

Three quilts and a pieced duvet cover round out the collection of home projects, and there are some sweet gift ideas as well, like the Mr. Bunny and Ms. Kitty softies.

Bunny Kitty Sewing in a Straight Line

There are also a few projects in the book that are easily accomplished in an hour or less, like the 1-hour Skirt (video tutorial here) or the 60-second belt. Materials like hardware for the bags and decorative belt elastic may be difficult to find unless you live in the Fashion District, so plan to order online or go with a basic substitute from your local fabric shop.

Sewing in a Straight Line City Girl Tote

My Project

Flipping through the pages of this book gave me the confidence that I could, indeed, sew with difficult fabrics. I decided to try my first-ever silk chiffon sewing project and whipped up the “Easy Breezy Blouse” (pictured above) from Brett’s book.

Easy Breezy Blouse, Hanging

I seriously underestimated how long it would take to sew this blouse. Perhaps because the word “easy” was in the title! In theory, the project is easy. It’s sewn together with four large squares of silk chiffon, cut to your measurements, so no pattern pieces are required. This is typical throughout the book, and is a welcome reprieve from cutting out pattern pieces.

The book provides clear-as-day instructions on how to sew French seams as well as how to sew a tiny 1/8-inch hem for this blouse.  But, as I’ve learned from watching Project Runway, sewing with silk chiffon is no walk in the park. It takes practice to work with a material that “sheds” so easily along freshly cut edges and each hem must be carefully ironed and trimmed before sewing, which ups the sewing time. I didn’t use a stop-watch, but this project took me at least 6 hours to sew, from the fabric store to the final ironing and fitting.

Easy Breezy Blouse, Dressed Up

Still, I’m happy with the results, and I never would have attempted this shirt had it not been for the vote of confidence from Brett, in the pages of her new book. I highly recommend Sewing in a Straight Line, and I’ve already planned out my next 4 to 5 projects from that are must-makes.

From Blog to Book Deal: Q&A with Jessica Levitt

Please welcome Jessica Levitt to Craft Buds! Jessica is a first-time author of a new book about modern quilting. You may have also read her popular blog, Juicy Bits, where she shows of quilted creations and her fabric lines.

The book is titled Modern Mix: 16 Sewing Projects that Combine Designer Prints & Solid Fabrics (Stash / C&T Publishing) and includes 7 quilt projects plus 7 Quilts + pillows, bags and gifts.

Jessica Levitt

Jessica, you must be thrilled to see your first book in print. Was this the fulfillment of a long-standing dream, or something that just transpired over time?

Yes, I’m absolutely thrilled, but funny enough, it was never my dream in life to write a book. In fact, in school I kinda hated writing. I was never bad at it, but it wasn’t my thing and I have a degree in engineering so I didn’t have to do that much in college. But when I started my blog, all that changed. I love writing there because I can write like I’m having a conversation with my readers. And it’s so rewarding to be able to share all the work, that I would do anyway, with the world. So, now I’m hooked. And the idea of making beautiful projects and having a real, live, printed book in my hand that I wrote is amazing. I can’t wait until I see some of the projects people make from my patterns!

Pebble Road Quilt

Can you tell us about the process of pitching your book? How did you go about choosing your theme and communicating that vision to a publisher?

Certainly. The theme of my book was pretty obvious to me since I love modern quilts and sewing projects that use solid fabrics. I wanted to show readers many different ways to use them in their projects while still enjoying their favorite prints. Although quilting is my first sewing love, I knew I didn’t want a book that was only quilts because I love variety. I think it’s nice to have a cohesive theme that neatly ties all the projects together and makes your book different from all the general sewing books out there, but I do know it’s not 100% necessary. If you simply have a distinct style of your own, that can be enough.

When it came to pitching the idea to a publisher, I treated it a bit like a book report. I know every author does a totally different type of proposal, so this is just one approach, but it is important to know the publisher’s guidelines. For mine, I wrote a summary introduction of the book concept. I had the potential projects already divided into chapters. I completed one full quilt top (the one that ended up on the cover) and wrote out the full directions for it, including illustrations to show that I was capable of writing clearly. For the other projects I included computer sketches or pictures of similar previous work that I had done with a short description. The publisher had a couple of questionnaires to fill out, and I also included a small photographic portfolio of my work to give them an idea of my style and potential.

I sent all this information in as a hard copy, but I think many publishers prefer them electronically now. Then it becomes a waiting game. In the end, they didn’t want to include every project I pitched and I was free to alter some as needed, so the final book didn’t look just like the proposal. For some projects, they even asked for more information, like fabric selections, etc.

I was reading about your trip to quilt market when you pitched your fabric line Timber to several manufacturers, and you said it was a bit nerve-wracking. Did you feel that way with the book as well?

Honestly, not really. That’s because I didn’t have to pitch it cold to a bunch of publishers. In fact, my publisher, Stash Books, an imprint of C&T, approached me. Their acquisitions editor noticed my blog and asked if I was interested in writing a book. I probably wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t made me think of the idea. So I met with her when I was at quilt market and talked about the process, and when I was finally ready, I submitted only to her. And don’t think I’m super-special or anything. They ask plenty of designers for submissions and then can choose from amongst those. A blog is a great way to get known and also to direct them back somewhere when you do submit a proposal.

I know that it often takes more than a year to publish a book. What parts of the process were you most involved with, and what has the waiting game been like?

Yes, it seems to take forever. I did the bulk of the writing and sewing last summer so it does feel like along time ago. Obviously I was most involved in the writing and sewing. I had more that 6 months to do that all that, but it’s never enough time! I think next time I’ll probably do more projects up front before I even submit a proposal, so there is less work to do. It made for a crazy, busy summer. After I sent in all the projects and text, then the editing begins. Stash is excellent at reviewing the text and illustrations to make sure they are both clear and easy to follow, and technically accurate. There are several rounds of edits, and for each one, we went back and forth, making it the best book possible. At the same time, they take the photos and start the design. I had input into both processes. Basically I gave them guidelines and lots of examples of my vision for the book. But they took it from there and did the photos and design on their own. Finally I requested changes or reshoots as necessary. It’s so cool to see the basic Word document turned into a pretty picture book, but waiting for your advance copy is torture!

Modern Mix Book

Can you tell me about one of your favorite projects in the book, and how you came up with the idea?

That’s a tough one. I get inspiration from anywhere and everywhere.

The cover quilt, called Pebble Road, actually came the from the quilting idea first. I love round “pebble” quilting like that. I wanted to make a really big quilt (it’s king size!) that had a lot of impact but that was relatively easy to piece, so I got the idea to do a stripe of circles that really pop. I love the bright Kaffe Fassat fabrics with the grey background.

Another favorite is the Diamond Strands quilt. For that one I wanted to feature large pieces of large-scale print fabrics, so I made them into vertical stripes. And, I’m usually not one to use templates, but I loved the idea of diamond shapes rather than squares because it’s more unusual.

There are also a lot of fun smaller projects. I love bags, and in this book the Essentials Bag is one of my favorite. It’s a great size for carrying a wallet and a few other essentials. I wanted something that came together relatively easy and was a fun showcase for some print fabrics.

Modern Mix bag

Do you have any advice for an aspiring author or fabric designer?

Oh boy, if someone has the answer to balance, I want to hear it. I struggle with that constantly, but when I get it right, it can be so rewarding. I guess my advice it that you don’t have to rush into anything. Figure out what your goals are, and then give yourself some time to get there. I took my time submitting a book proposal, waiting until I was ready to make it a real priority, and I’m so glad I did. I want to make sure I get enough time with my kids as they’re growing up, so that means sometimes passing up on a work opportunity. But I can’t say enough good things about blogging. Sometimes it can be a chore and I neglect it (like this summer), but it has helped me so much. There is a ton of inspiration out there as a reader, and if you get a decent following, it can open you up to a lot of opportunities. To get yourself more known, my advice is to offer something for free. I’m not talking just giveaways, but patterns, etc., that people will keep coming back to. And devote some time to communicating with other bloggers.



Stash Books is generously giving away a copy of the book Modern Mix to one lucky Craft Buds reader. Leave a comment with something you learned from this interview for a chance to win. We’ll pick one winner on Friday, September 30th. If located outside the U.S., winner will receive an eBook. This giveaway is now closed, congrats to #23, Jenelle!

Free Patterns from Books: Jewelry + Winner

In our fourth week of free patterns from books we’re looking at jewelry tutorials. If you missed the past weeks in this series, we’ve also highlighted patterns for the home, bags, and kid’s toys and softies!


From New Dimensions in Bead & Wire Jewelry (North Light): Magnoliophhyta Earrings and Dragonmoon Choker


From Modern Expressions: Creating Fabulous and Fashionable Jewelry: Parquet Earrings


From Wired Beautiful (North Light): Double Loop Earrings


From Handcrafted Wire Findings (Interweave): Make Your Own Kidney Ear Wires


From Interweave Press: Assorted free beading projects


As we’ve mentioned before, you can use any of these patterns to participate in the Craft Book Month linky party through the end of September! And, our winner of the book Mixed and Stitched (review found here) is commenter #21, Jil (I’ve sent you an e-mail with more information Jil!).


Book Review: Little Bits Quilting Bee

Little Bits Quilting Bee

You probably known Aussie crafter and blogger Kathreen Ricketson as the founder of You might have also seen her book Whip Up Mini Quilts, with 20 smart designs for patchwork wall quilts.

Her newest book is also for quilt lovers, and it’s all about sewing with pre-cut fabrics. Little Bits Quilting Bee (Chronicle Books) includes 20 quilt designs from Kathreen’s studio, 5 each from the represented types of pre-cuts (charm squares, jelly roll strips, layer cakes and fat quarters).

The book’s 20 designs range from traditional (with modern fabrics) to whimsical/inventive, with standouts like “Cloud Song,” a bright solids quilt from charm squares with raindrop applique and cloud-shaped quilting.

Cloud Song Quilt

“Constructivist” is Kathreen’s answer to sophisticated boy decor, and it has an adult appeal, especially with her woodgrain quilting technique.

Constructivist Quilt

“Electric Spectrum” is a take on the classic log cabin, and “Rhombus” uses a strip-piecing technique. The cover quilt, “Dress Circle” is suitable for layer cakes, but isn’t an incredibly new idea. Essentially, it’s a drunkard’s path quilt using appliqued circles instead of set-in circles. Although many designs are takes on classic quilt designs, the projects in this book are beautiful and are likely to inspire new to intermediate quilters.

Modern quilters who enjoy creating their own designs or stray toward improvisational piecing are likely to become frustrated by this type of book, which is perfect for those who like to quilt from patterns. A pattern pocket in the front of the book includes enlargeable applique patterns for the quilts that require it. The book includes full-color photographs and illustrations. The matte pages give it a bit of a “green” feel.

5 Flavors

The book shows off a variety of fabrics, including solids and prints in recent and older lines, like Lush by Erin Michael for Moda. Kathreen also makes up many of her own fabric combos from Japanese prints, polka dots and stripes, which adds a nice variety to the charm pack and fat quarter quilts. The final quilts of the book show off some really innovative designs, including “5 Flavors” (channeling Life Savers candy) and “Summer Sundae,” a delicious take on a quilt for a little girl’s room.

Community Quilting

My favorite aspect of this book was Kathreen’s introduction to “Community Quilting,” in which she shares her expertise on virtual quilting bees, quilt swaps, guilds and sewing circles and charity or fundraising quilts. There are resources in the book for quilters who are looking to get more connected with others in their craft, which is a valuable aspect of the online crafting community.

Little Bits Quilting Bee

Quilters: Do you prefer to create quilts from pre-cuts or from yardage? Do you use pattern books like Little Bits Quilting Bee or create your own quilt designs?

Book Review: Mixed and Stitched + Giveaway

Jen Osborn’s new book Mixed and Stitched (North Light Books) shows off mixed-media techniques that combine cloth, paper, stitching and printing.

Mixed and Stitched book

Her technique is not polished or precise, but that’s the appeal. The book starts off with “Forget-the-Rule Techniques,” which shows off a process Jen calls stove-top alchemy (dyeing fabrics in the kitchen). She also delves into drawing on fabric graffiti-style and the proper tools for sewing together unusual items, like fabric and cardstock, chipboard, photographs, ticket stubs and more.

Mixed and Stitched bird pillow

In addition to techniques, the book includes 16 projects to get your imagination flowing, including the Feather Your Nest Pillow, made with hand-dyed fabric and designer prints.

Mixed and Stitched Apron

The Art Apron is the stunner of the book, with the main panels salvaged from pants and skirts. The apron gets dressed up with pretty patchwork, pockets and decorative stitching. She also smartly uses the already hemmed edges of pants to create the new bottom “hem” of the apron. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Each project has step-by-step photos to show the tutorial, so the book reads very much like a sewing blog, which is a plus in my book.

Mixed and Stitched bag

The Out-and-About Purse is a stand-out with its stitched fabric leaf and vintage button embellishment. The photography in this book is bright and crisp, and the projects have the appropriate air of whimsy for a mixed-media project book.

The book comes with pattern shapes you can photocopy, but the projects are made mostly from measurements and many do not require any pattern pieces. Jen includes some quirky, almost gothic embroidery designs (i.e. skull minus the cross-bones) in the back as well, which she suggests readers can copy to hand-dyed fabric with transfer paper and then stitch. Some of the designs are cutesy and not as edgy, like the “be a songbird” and “silly bear” designs.

My Project

After digging into Jen’s mind, I decided to try some mixed media art of my own. I enjoy making cards, so I though this would be a good way to break into a mixed media style like Jen’s projects.

Mixed Media cards

For these bird note cards, I roughly cut a rectangle of linen fabric to the size of the card front, and machine stitched to the cardstock. The sentiments were borrowed from the sayings in Jen’s book, and I printed them on regular paper using my computer and printer. The bird images are stickers. Some fabric, buttons and decorative stitching finished off the cards!

Mixed and Stitched book and cards

Overall, I think the projects in this book are awesome, and I’m looking forward to making an apron in the style of the Art Apron. What do you think of mixed media in your crafting?

Don’t forget to leave a comment on Monday’s post for your chance to win a copy of this book! We’ll draw a winner on Friday.

Sponsor Spotlight: Craft Book Month

We couldn’t host Craft Book Month without support from our sponsors! If you love to support the handmade community, these hard-working and inventive shop owners are a great place to start.

Pattern Patti has some super cute e-patterns for sale, which will get you off to a great start sewing handmade gifts for the holiday season. She has some new patterns in her shop including this kindle sleeve and a cute mini tote bag with letter applique.

New Kindle Sleeve pattern

Pattern Patti Sewing Patterns

Shopping for holiday gifts instead of making your own? There’s a cute little Etsy shop I know you’re going to love, called My Little Sunshine Handmade. You can get ready for fall with this wool hobo satchel!

Wool Hobo Satchel

My Little Sunshine Handmade

Goofing Off‘s vintage sewing patterns and notions are perfect for unlocking your inner Betty Draper. Just check out this rare vintage buttonholer from Singer!

Vintage Button Holer

Goofing Off vintage sewing patterns

Reminder: Enter this week’s book giveaway through Friday, September 23! And, you can still enter your craft book project here through September 30 for a chance to win some great prizes.


Here are some more Craft Buds and Craft Book Month sponsors  . . . We just can’t get enough of them!

22 Free Patterns - Download Now

Lifestyle Crafts 20% Discount Sis Boom

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