Book Month: Rashida Coleman Hale’s I ♥ Patchwork Blog Tour

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I Love Patchwork: 21 Irresistible Zakka Projects to Sew by Rashida Coleman Hale
Interweave Press, 2009

Rashida Coleman Hale writes the blog I ♥ Linen and has a shop of the same name. With just one glance at her famous Blossom Pincushions, you can tell that she has an amazing eye for color and combining fabrics, and is able to infuse a ton of impact into unfussy, beautiful sewn objects. As you might guess from the title of her blog, she hearts linen (she’s also a big proponent of gingham) — it’s these fabrics that set off and balance colorful cotton prints, really giving them a chance to sing.

Rashida’s book I ♥ Patchwork: 21 Irresistible Zakka Projects to Sew was just released by Interweave Press, so we can all try our hands at these Japanese-inspired, happiness-inducing projects. Rashida is here today as part of the “Double the Fun” blog tour (see our interview with Meg McElwee, the other half of the author pairing) to tell us more about the book and the other things she ♥s.

Pin_cushion Blossom Pincushion from I ♥ Patchwork

First off, huge congratulations on the release of I ♥ Patchwork! How did your blog I ♥ Linen become the book I ♥ Patchwork?

Thank you so much, Kim! It really has been quite a journey and I’m so thrilled to have had the opportunity and experience.

Back in April of 2008, Tricia Waddell, the editor of Stitch Magazine, contacted me about submitting some work for their premiere issue. Since she is also the Editorial Director for Books, out of sheer curiosity I inquired about the process for submitting book proposals. Turns out she already had plans to ask me if I was interested in doing a book with them! I submitted an outline of what I thought I’d like the book to be about and a tentative list of projects. Tricia then brought my ideas to the book acquisition committee. It was happily approved and I ♥ Patchwork was born!

Can you tell the uninitiated about your book in a nutshell? How is it different from other sewing books on the market? What is the skill level of most of the projects?

I ♥ Patchwork is basically a collection of simple and modern patchwork projects using the popular Japanese Zakka style that many of us have grown to adore.

I think my book is different mainly because of my use of linen in every project. Its popularity has grown quite rapidly and there aren’t a lot of English publications available with information about this glorious fiber and how to sew with it. 99.9% of the time I use linen in my work and I really wanted the projects to stay very true to the style you see on my blog and I think I was certainly able to achieve that. Interweave Press gave me complete creative freedom with my designs, which was very important to me.

I’m not a fan of making things too complicated, simple and easy are my best friends. There’s something to be said about the ability to make something beautiful and innovative without having to stress yourself out! The projects are focused toward a beginner to intermediate sewist, but I certainly think someone with advanced skills would still find some joy in making them.

Lamb
Little Lamb Softie from I ♥ Patchwork

What is Zakka, exactly, and how did you put your own spin on the Japanese concept?

Zakka is a Japanese term that basically means “miscellaneous goods.” It could be anything from kitchen towels to place mats, an empty jar or a teapot, even a pair of slippers. The term has evolved over the years and is more of an aesthetic and design style pertaining mainly to household items that we use in our everyday life. Handmade zakka in Japan uses linen a lot and that style certainly appealed to me when I began making my own zakka. I also have a great love for patchwork and thought that marrying the two styles would make for a wonderful match.

In your book’s intro it says you studied at FIT. Can you tell us more about that?

My mom was a model in Tokyo and I was exposed to the fashion industry very early on. She’s also who taught me how to sew when I was a girl. Between the industry experience, my drawing, sewing and creating, it seemed only logical for me to take up Fashion Design as my major once I finished school. I left my home town the morning after high school graduation bound for New York and the fashion industry and I never looked back! I studied it for about three years and eventually decided that it wasn’t for me and dropped out. Mainly because I hated all the sewing! Go figure!

MachineCover
Sewing Machine Cover from I ♥ Patchwork

Please wax poetic about your love for linen. What is your very favorite weight and source?

Oh wow. Where to begin! I LOVE it, but I guess you knew that already. I’ve always been fascinated by this fiber ever since learning of its history and properties in my Textiles course at FIT. It’s such a wonderful material to work with, strong and durable as well as elegant and lovely. The natural color isn’t that attractive if, say, it were a cotton solid fabric, but the texture of linen is what really makes it come alive. With all of the different weights available you can make bedding, baby items, toys, clothing, towels, bags, table cloths, curtains. Home items to industrial items, the list goes on! What other natural fiber can do that?

My favorite of the three weights is the medium weight (4.5 to 6.5 oz). It’s the most versatile as you can make a greater array of projects from it. I buy it 5-plus yards at a time and never run out of uses for it! The one shop I used to frequent in NYC was Gray Line Linen. They have a huge selection of quality linen there at awesome prices and the people are super nice and helpful as well. I’m going to miss being able to pop in there when ever I want, but I can still order online or by phone, so … yay!

Most of your book’s projects involve sewing linen and cotton together. Is it tricky to combine these, since linen has less give?

I love combining the two fabric super powers! The natural linen makes an awesome partner for all of the wonderful and colorful cotton prints we have at our disposal and it really makes the colors pop! Although linen can indeed be tricky to combine with cotton. It does indeed have less give and has a tendency to be quite shifty. Pinning and basting is key when using this material. Time consuming and tedious, I must say it’s one of my least favorite sewing tasks, but I’m a perfectionist so it’s a necessary evil. If you want your work to come together nicely and smoothly, pin, pin, pin, thread baste, pin, pin pin! And then pin some more! I can’t stress that enough.

ButtonCalendar
Button Calendar from I ♥ Patchwork

You are in the middle of a move! Have you settled into your new home? Have you gotten a chance to sew yet? What are you making (or what is next on your to-do list)?

We actually officially moved in on Saturday! We lived in an apartment in NJ before and our stuff seemed to fill up the place quite well. Now that we’re in a house I realized we don’t have as much as we thought we did. So the place seems pretty big and empty right now. I’m sure that’s something that can be cured with a few trips to Ikea!

My machine has been in storage for a while so I haven’t been sewing much. I’d LOVE to be making things for Christmas and I’m hoping I can squeeze in some holiday sewing. I’m also hoping to make some things for the new digs at some point as well.

I’ve got a couple things on my to do list for the beginning of 2010:

I’m excited to be a part of the Block Party team! Alissa and Kristen landed a book deal about our quilting bee and all of the bee participants have agreed to join the fun. The twelve of us will each design a quilt to be featured in the book scheduled for release in Spring 2011!

I’m also working on few projects for the Spring 2010 issue of Stitch Magazine.

Our new baby boy will be here in February, so I hope to make a little something for him as well. I think I just might end up sewing in the delivery room!

What was your most recent fabric purchase? And what other fabrics have caught your eye lately?

Oh geez louise, I just went to town over at Fabricworm.com a couple days ago (Thanks Cynthia!). I scooped up some yardage for my projects for Stitch. I chose some Heather Bailey prints from her new collection Nicey Jane, a print from Patty Young‘s Flora and Fauna collection, a few polka dot prints (you can never have enough polka dots), a few Japanese prints and a ton of others.

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I’m loving all the screen-printed fabric that’s been popping up everywhere lately. I’m especially swoonie over the prints from Summersville on Etsy. I really hope Santa got my email about these because I don’t think I’m on the naughty list this year.

What else is on your wish list for this holiday season?

There are quite a few new books out that I’d like to have. Appliqué Your Way by Kayte Terry has caught my eye, One-Yard Wonders by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins, and of course Sew Liberated by Meg McElwee. There are some Japanese ones I’ve been spying on Amazon Japan as well, but I can’t really translate the titles without embarrassing myself! I think the biggest thing on my wish list is just the chance to slow down a little and really enjoy the holidays and the end of the year with my hubby and our wee ones.

Sweet! Thank you so much for stopping by on your tour, Rashida, and the best of luck with everything. Rashida’s next blog tour stop is on Wednesday — she’ll be interviewed on FabTalk (hi, Laurie and Sarah!). See the full tour schedule here.

5 Comments

  1. Amber says:

    I love her book and that little lamb is on my to-do list – so cute! Great interview – off to check out those cute fabrics on Etsy!

  2. Kaye Prince says:

    Great interview! Rashida is so talented and I love everything she does; I’m eagerly awaiting the chance when I can go out and get her book!

  3. Margie says:

    I’ve been good all year and I’m sure I’m on the nice list, so I really hope this book finds its way to my home. I’m off to email Santa a little reminder. Thanks for the great interview.

  4. Judi Music says:

    I enjoy Rashida’s blog and every project she produces. My book will be here on December 21st….. which can’t get her quick enough.

    First on my list… the sewing machine cover! It’s a dream!

  5. Thank you for the exciting and fun-to-read interview. I really want to have Rashida’s book for my own… it’s definitely on my wish list!