Reported by Francie Horton
If you’ve been keeping up with the tour you’ll know that I interviewed Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated fame on my blog this past Friday and now I get to talk to Rashida Coleman-Hale about her book, I Love Patchwork: 21 Irresistible Zakka Projects To Sew.
If you’re not familiar with the term zakka, Wikipedia defines it as “everything and anything that improves your home, life and outlook. Zakka has also been described as ‘the art of seeing the savvy in the ordinary and mundane’… it also touches issues of self-expression and spirituality.”
The projects in I Love Patchwork are all ones “meant to enhance one’s environment”, to borrow a phrase from the book’s introduction. They marry the organic look of linen with an obvious love of patchwork. The projects include:
• Travel Sewing Kit
• Sewing Machine Cover
• Pin Cushion
• Fabric Covered Boxes
• Placemat and Napkins
• Coaster Set with Holder
• Table Runner
• Utensil Basket
• Mini Patchwork Magnets
• Fold Up Eco Bag
• Kitchen Towels
Around the House
• Flower Pot Cover
• Pillows Lap Quilt
The Wee Ones
• School Tote Bag
• Little Lamb Softie
• Pentagon Balls w/ drawstring bag
Bags and Pouches
• Pencil Case
• Oblong Cosmetics Pouch
• Shoulder Bag
• Coin Purse
There is also a section on tools and materials, techniques and, of course, The Stash. The Stash: Fabric Facts and Care contains important information on the different types of linen and how to care for it and prepare it for sewing, on quilter’s cotton and its care, and on the storage of fabric, something every sewist worth their mettle struggles with once they start building their own stash. Rashida also talks a little about choosing prints and colors, although this is an area where there are no hard and fast rules. The more you play with combinations, the easier it becomes and the better you’ll get at it.
Patchwork is one of those techniques where accuracy is important. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book for someone just learning to sew. Rashida does an excellent job with detailed instructions and illustrations for every project and technique, though, so even if you’re new to patchwork it won’t take long for you to pick it up.
All of the projects can be made with your own color and print combinations. In fact, Rashida encourages you to use your own creativity. You could even substitute a different fabric for the linen. These are good solid designs waiting for your personal touch. If you’re a fan of the handmade aesthetic with a clean simplistic look, this is a must-read.
Rashida, you give lots of of info about linen in the first part of your book and use it in almost every project. I have seen what I thought was linen but it seemed to be very loosely woven and definitely not suitable for using in garments or any type of project that was going to get wear. Was it really linen? Does linen have a certain thread count?
Linen comes in many different weights ranging from a sheer weight all the way to a canvas. You can find linen suitable for just about any type of project, so the fabric you saw could very well have been linen, just not necessarily right for garments.
Linen does indeed have a thread count, you can find linen with thread counts up to 1400. The threads that make up linen are quite thick, so its thread count doesn’t compare to cotton at all. It tends to be significantly lower than that of cotton. A 150 thread count cotton may not be the greatest quality, but a 150 thread count linen can still be a very fine quality.
Do you ever use vintage fabrics in your patchwork? And is it okay to pair them with new linen?
Yes, yes! I’m quite fond of feedsacks, vintage cotton prints, and vintage linens. The backing and binding for the table runner in the book is actually a vintage bed sheet I found on Ebay. I certainly think it’s okay to pair them with new linen. Naturally the vintage fabric should be in fairly good condition.
How would you prepare both the vintage fabrics and the linen?
I like to hand wash vintage fabrics and hang them up to dry before sewing. I also suggest using a delicate soap for washing; the harsh chemicals in today’s soaps can strip the color from older fabrics.
I toss new linen into the washing machine on a hot setting. This temperature ensures maximum shrinkage. Linen loves to shrink! To avoid disappointment after washing a finished project, you may want to wash your linen several times to make sure you’ve washed all the shrink out! Finally, machine dry on a low setting, leaving it a little bit damp if you plan on ironing it.
Looking at the book projects, I noticed a lot of blues, greens, and yellows, used together and separately. Do you find yourself drawn to certain color combinations?
Aqua and turquoise are my favorite colors, so a lot of the fabric in my stash has that color in it one way or another. Pantone named turquoise color of the year for a reason and I may be partially to blame for that. 😛 I am very partial to blues, greens and yellows and I have to force myself to use other colors sometimes!
My days at FIT have certainly come in handy and so I select my colors by eye. I think I’ve got all the color theory rules and regulations burned into my brain, but I don’t necessarily follow those guidelines. I usually choose one print fabric as my base and use that as the springboard for the other fabric I choose. My fabric stash is kept in color order and that always helps me make selections quickly. The great thing about patchwork is being able to experiment with many color combinations. I love that colors and prints don’t necessarily have to match to make awesome looking patchwork.
Are you inspired by the colors of things around you?
Plants, shoes, cars, coats, chairs, notebooks, food. You name it, I’ve gotten inspiration from it. I take a lot of photos of things that I see when I’m out and about if I like the color or the combination of colors. I can go back and look at the photos so that I can use the colors in a project later.
The adjustable calendar. I love how you mentioned that you thought of the idea and had to immediately jump out of bed to work on it. I think many of us can relate to that. Some people keep a notepad by the bed, some a voice recorder. I have a notepad function on my cellphone.
Yes! My favorite project in the book. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning working on the prototype and was so happy that I did. Tired. But happy. I keep a sketchbook where I draw my ideas as they come to me. Most ideas come from me just sitting at my craft table and playing around with fabric and trims.
I think that happens to a lot of us. The stranger the place the better the ideas! All of my best ideas come when I’m changing a dirty diaper. Okay not really, but it happens.
I usually have a pretty sharp memory and always surprise my husband with the things I can remember. The only time I have trouble is when I’m pregnant. I’m about 30 weeks along now, so pregnant brain has officially taken over! I haven’t lost any ideas(yet) and usually manage to jot them down in some way. On a napkin, a piece of mail, the palm of my hand, my three year old’s forehead. You know, the usual places.
I’m naturally a night owl, so I have no trouble staying up really late, especially if it’s to create. I think I do my best work when everyone is safe and sound, tucked in bed and the house is quiet. I can relax my mind and concentrate on just designing. When I was writing the book I would stay up until about 4 in the morning most nights. The children went to daycare and I would work some more during that time as well. The third trimester is certainly taking its toll though, so I only manage to stay up until about midnight now.
And, lastly, everybody’s favorite sewing sites are just a little bit different. What are yours?
Ah, there are so many wonderful sites to behold on the internet. I love them them all, but I certainly have my favorites.
My extra favorites are:
This woman… don’t you love her sense of humor? 🙂 I’m not sure if I would have ever thought of writing ideas on my three year old’s forehead… but then again there was never enough room between his own marker scribbles and that morning’s breakfast. I also love that she freely admits her secret to fitting so much in her day is stretching that day until 4 a.m. sometimes. And then paying for it by being tired but happy. I can certainly relate.
Rashida, thank you for being so generous in sharing your time and your knowledge with our readers. Congratulations on a wonderful book.
Follow The Sew Liberated and I Love Patchwork Double-the-Fun Blog Tour at:
Friday, December 11:
Meg on TrueUp.net (interview)
Monday, December 14:
Rashida on TrueUp.net (interview)
Sunday, December 20:
Rashida on Zakka Life (book review)
Tuesday, December 22:
Rashida on all buttoned up (interview)
Wednesday, December 23:
Meg on maya*made (interview)
Monday, January 4, 2010:
Blog Tour Winners’ Post – to be announced
Does this look like a book you’d put on your Christmas wishlist? Or if you were going to give it as a gift, what sewing tools and goodies might you pair it with?