Interweave Press invited us to be part of their virtual book tour for Meg McElwee’s new book, Sew Liberated (see my review, too!). How could we pass up a chance to interview one of our favorite bloggers and authors about her stash? We could not, that’s how.
Hi, Meg! Thanks for talking with us today. I recently read your Sew Liberated and fell in love with it. I thought I’d ask you some questions about your love of fabric, which shines through in your book.
You mentioned a little anecdote in the book that I think a lot of us could sympathize with: Tell us about those suitcases full of fabric lugged lovingly across the border to Mexico.
Thanks so much for hosting me, Mary Beth! I’m so glad my fabric obsession is apparent in the book; it makes all of that fabric lugging — and the accompanying sore arms — very much worth it! My husband and I were living in a rural town in northern Mexico where I was teaching three- to six-year-olds in a one-room Montessori schoolhouse. It was a wonderful time in our lives — life was slower, and we had plenty of time to develop our leisure time hobbies. I started sewing a lot more (my old Kenmore was one of the few things that came to Mexico with us). We were a four hour drive from any clothing stores, so I made and designed my own clothes. There was a fabric store in my town, although it only carried cheap synthetics. Thus began my fabric schlepping adventures! I would order fabric online, have it shipped to my parents’ or in-laws’ houses, and pack it into huge duffle bags for the journey back to Mexico. Since we only traveled back to the U.S. once or twice a year, I packed a lot of fabric into those bags! My weightlifting efforts were fruitful in the end — I would find myself back in Mexico with piles of fabric-y goodness, and so much time to sew!
You also mentioned a little friendly competition with your mom, perhaps? Who’s winning?
Oh, I have more fabric now, for sure! My mom used to have this bumper sticker that she kept on her sewing table that said “The one who dies with the most fabric wins.” Since my mom downsized her sewing table to closet storage, she got rid of all of that 80s peach stuff, which officially puts me in the lead.
Now to specifics: What was your first fabric favorite? What is it now? What’s your dream piece?
Because I was sewing mostly for young children in my classroom, I was originally drawn to the cotton/linen blend Japanese prints. I still love them, but I use them more sparingly as accent pieces.
Now? I could gush all day about NearSea Natural’s organic Silk/Hemp Charmeuse. Oh. My. This is the most beautiful fabric — both to look at and and to touch. I’ve made a baby blanket and a baby carrier with it, and it’s the bee’s knees. I have visions of making a stunning evening dress with it one of these days.
My dream piece? If I could be the proud owner of the entire Liberty of London’s Tana Lawn line, I’d do cartwheels.
(You and me both!) All right, then: who is your favorite designer?
I love Nani Iro – her florals are dreamy, and her contemporary designs are really compelling to work with. It’s art on fabric.
What does your stash look like these days? In what direction would you like to take it?
Quilting cottons still rule the roost, but lately (since moving back to the U.S. in 2008) I’ve been adding many more knits, wools, and silks to the mix. I’m moving toward having a more subtle collection of fabrics with scrumptious feels for the design of garments for women and children. I’m drawn to a more subtle European aesthetic in my design, and prefer to using my printed cottons for smaller details and applique work. Lately I’m much more interested in how the fabric feels than what design is printed on it.
How do you store it all?
I keep all of my cotton prints folded on shelving that sits directly on top of my huge work table – a nine-foot-long number that is still my best thrifting find ever! They are organized by color. Right now I’m maxed out as far as space goes, so I’m keeping my cotton buying to a minimum and using what I have “in stock.” The knits, wools, and other garment fabrics are folded and stored on shelving inside the studio closet. I’m running out of space for these, as they have to share the space with all of my other crafting supplies (wool roving, yarn, glue gun, etc.). I would love to eventually scoot my husband’s desk out of the studio (we currently share the space) and put up more shelving along the wall for the garment fabrics. He doesn’t know about this plan yet …
What are your favorite fabric shops or sources?
Since I’m a new mom and don’t leave the house much (nor do I live in a town with a fabulous local fabric store) I really appreciate stores that give you the option of ordering swatches before committing to a whole yard. For wools and specialty knits, I love gorgeousfabrics.com. I also order a lot of my knits, silks and hemps from nearseanaturals.com – they have an excellent selection of organic fabrics. Purlsoho.com also has some really fun printed knits, and the Liberty of London Tana Lawn collection that I would love to own one day!
What does your collection say about you?
I think it speaks to my eclectic style over the years – it’s colorful, cozy, folksy and sophisticated all at once.
I would have to agree. Thank you so much for your time today, Meg!
Sew Liberated is published by Interweave Press and is available for pre-order at Amazon, Interweave Store, Powells, Barnes and Noble and other independent, online (and brick-and-mortar) booksellers. For a signed copy, order from Meg McElwee’s online shop. Catch more of Meg at her blog, or visit her shop to see her boutique sewing patterns and other goodies.