Book Month: Review and Giveaway of Fabricate by Susan Wasinger


Fabricate: 17 Innovative Sewing Projects that Make Fabric the Star by Susan Wasinger
Interweave Press, 2009

The beauty of Susan Wasinger’s Fabricate is the way she shows you how to create beautiful fabric, not just shop for it. For some of us living in the wilds of the American Midwest (far from a Bolt or a Purl Patchwork), that’s a pretty valuable skill.


Laminated wool felt laptop sleeve

The book is divided into four main sections according to technique:

  • Pleats, crinkles and tufts
  • Laminates and matrix
  • Cut and fray
  • Surface embellishment


Swatch matrix lampshade

She doesn’t have you creating the fabric from scratch — I mean, you’re not sitting there with, like, a sheep and a loom, going to town — but she does show you ways to take what you’ve got and make it better, different, more textural or just plain more interesting. For some projects, she shows how to embellish in a new or creative way; in others, she is creating the ground fabric from scraps or pieces (such as in the “swatch matrix” of tiny triangles forming a lampshade, or in the laminated felt laptop sleeve).


Simple chiffon skirt

Fabricate‘s 17 projects look a little more sophisticated than most craft books today — or at least moreso than the ones I’m drawn to, in style if not in complexity. She uses materials like voile, silk dupioni and organza, in addition to more humble wool felt and cotton, in a light, sherbet-y palette. Many of the techniques are actually quite rough: tying, shredding, cutting. But the results look professional and neat.


Shag pillow

While the fabric-altering methods are not complex, Susan still walks you through each step. What I found most helpful was the photographic examples. And once you have altered or embellished your fabric according to her technique, she then provides a project pattern to turn that raw material into something pretty and useful. Wave-tucked linen becomes a dress; sheared silk becomes the Faux Chenille Shawl, eco felt becomes a Shag Pillow.

She does assume a base level of sewing knowledge. Where other sewing books dedicate a chapter to “The Essentials,” Susan keeps it simple with a page about fabric and a couple pages about recommended notions and sundries (she does do pretty amazing stuff with water-soluble stabilizer). There is a glossary in the back, but new sewists might still feel more comfortable with a second sewing reference or grandma nearby.

If you’re looking to punch up your stash a little, get outside the quilting-calico box, or just make something that doesn’t have the word “ironic” in the title, Fabricate is the book for you.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

(Sorry. I”m not sure how to conclude a book review without sounding like Levar Burton.)

We have one copy of Fabricate to give away! Just leave a comment on this post telling us a new fabric or textural technique you’ve recently worked with or are interested in trying out. Comments will close and a winner will be drawn on Wednesday, December 16, around 2pm Central U.S. time. This giveaway is open to readers worldwide. Good luck!


  1. Mary P says:

    I’ve been wanting to trying discharging dyes in fabric. And I love fabric folding in general–I’d love to explore more techniques like that!

  2. meg says:

    recently I braided some fabric and sewed it onto a shirt, which (I think) is less boring than it sounds:

  3. I’d like to get over my fear of pleats.

  4. I just learned that sewing on ‘sweater knits’ is fantastic!!

    I love experimenting with new fabrics.

  5. Karen says:

    I would love to try the technique used on the purple skirt in the picture!

  6. Kaye Prince says:

    I’d really like to try quilting with wool! I saw the new book about it and I’m seriously considering buying it! This book looks great too and I’m sure there’s lots of stuff in there I’d like to try out!

  7. Jenny says:

    I just made a bag using window screen. a pattern was in Handmade Home and it was so simple…came together easily and thankfully my screen came from our old screen door, so I can make 4 or 5 bags out of our old door! Thanks for a chance!

  8. Lisa P. says:

    I’d like to learn more about various kinds of gathers and pleats–and I’d love to see all the other techniques in this book, too!

  9. Jane says:

    Wow! What interesting ideas in the previous posts already. I’m thinking about texture & pillows. Saw a picture of a pillow that appeared to be made of woven fabric and another that had insets of what appeared to be crocheted raffia. I’d like to do something along those lines.

  10. Catherine says:

    I like adding a combination of applique and embroidery to my daughter’s small garments–I’d love to try adding pleats or folds or something else interesting. Thanks for the great review!

  11. Carmen says:

    Those images all look so inspirational!

    This is completely uninteresting, but I just worked with some double gauze and found it sooo luxurious to sew with!

  12. Leigh says:

    I’ve wanted to learn more about overdying/discharging dyes… and the laminating fabrics in this book sounds fascinating!

  13. Isabel says:

    I’ve recently tried my hand at playing with pleats. This book looks great.

  14. carrie says:

    Oh, I’ve been stalking this book (if that’s possible)! I think the bag on the cover is pretty much the loveliest thing ever.

    As for new techniques/fabrics, I’ve messing around with combining lots of different fibers in a single quilt: cotton, linen, silk, wool, etc. Even some vintage mystery fabrics–polyester? Rayon? Who knows?

  15. Allison L. says:

    I’d love to learn how to do pleats. Pleats are lovely and darling and turn the ordinary into something special. I’m nervous though…pleats are intimidating.

  16. Tong says:

    I have to big to-learn list! I want to learn how to quilt with wool, make small embellishments with felt, and make totes and purses with canvas and leather straps.

  17. Corky says:

    I’m not sure what its called, but ‘pin tuck’ is about as close as I can come to describe it. the under fabric is a different color so it peaks out from behind the top fabric. Nice look and unique. I would love to own this book, thanks for the giveaway!

  18. Carmen says:

    I have yet to try using my pin tuck foot. I also recently purchased some texture magic which I am planning to experiment with.

  19. camelama says:

    I’ve been learning how to do different kinds of seams in order to get different looks, or for different strengths. And gathered seams! Eeep!

  20. Greta Helphrey says:

    I’ve been working on the technique variously called “Canadian smocking” or “Lattice smocking” – using it to embellish girl’s dresses. I’m interested to know if others are familiar with this technique and, if so, what they are making with it. Love your blog, BTW!

  21. cynthia says:

    My girlfriend is in a smocking guild. And I would love to learn and join her group. They make outfits for the babies who pass on at the hospital to present them to the parents. How sad and so important is that.
    Looks like a great book Thanks Cynthia

  22. Sequana says:

    I made some stuffed ballerina dolls last month for a granddaughter…..and used yoyo’s on the movable shoulders to hide the joint that attached them to the body.

    They looked kinda like Joan Crawford. *S*

  23. I’d love to be able to sew with knits. I made a dress years ago that didn’t turn out so well….

  24. Lilian says:

    I would just love to try making a bag with felting.

  25. I have read a little about and would love to try the product Texture Magic.

  26. Mandi says:

    I’ve recently learned how to do lattice smocking and I’m working on a purse accented by it. I think it’s amazing how a few knots on the back of the fabric can make such a cool design on the front!

    Thanks for the chance to enter!

  27. Melissa says:

    This book sounds fabulous, I have been wanting to try screenprinting. Never Done it and love the idea of being able to.

  28. April says:

    I actually used wool felt for the very first time last week. Felt has always seemed…not very me…but now that I’ve used it, I LOVE IT! Lots of homegoods things are in my future, I think.

  29. Ramona says:

    I’m getting into felting right now, but i guess the techniques i just got into that’re more relevant are pintucking and shirring. What can I say, I’m sort of a wuss when it comes to messing with fabric. But I need to break out of my shell.

  30. SewLindaAnn says:

    I’m interested in combining crochet motifs, or open work with fabric and making quilts with it. I’m still trying to put all my ideas together. The book looks like fun!

  31. Nancy says:

    The latest technique that I tried turned out well – painting on 5 oz weight canvas in a bold-for me- palette of oranges, greens and reds, with an open landscape feel to it, real happy how it came out. I plan on using this material for summertime outdoor lounge chair pillows. I’ve also shredded hems to create fringe and I’ve pulled threads to create an airy texture, very basic stuff, but fun to explore. My next crafty adventure will involve pleats somehow-somewhere (I was fantasizing about those Elizabethan ruffs actually!) because I reallyreallyreally have a lovething for stripes, I’m thinking pleats will exude a subtle stripeyness in the shadowing they create, and I need a new approach to challenge my thinking. I love to fabricate and am always looking for inspiration; this book looks great!!

  32. Leah says:

    I just started quilting and I really like playing with ribbon. embroidering ON the ribbon is always fun. This book looks lovely…thanks for the give-away!

  33. carmel says:

    sounds like a great book
    i would love to win it

  34. isa says:

    I would love too learn more about smocking, I love the texture of a smocked collar!
    Great give away, by the way thank you!

  35. Tatania says:

    A technique I would love to try is textile art using an embellishing machine. This would involve, wool felt, wool roving, trims, silk, organza and anything else I can lay my hands on.
    Loved your book review, makes me want the book. It sounds cool, with all those techniques and things to do with them.

  36. julie says:

    that shag pillow looks so comfy – monochrome but with interest!

  37. Sarah M says:

    “…sitting there with, like, a sheep and a loom…” I laughed out loud at that visual (in my mind, this included a mildly offended looking sheep being slowly unraveled, cartoon-style); thanks for that. On a quilt I’m finishing up, I did some applique with wide raw edges – meant to fray a lot & give more texture to the piece. That’s as adventurous as I’ve been. This book looks so exciting. I’m really drawn to the lampshade project.

  38. Melissa H. says:

    I’ve mainly done basic sewing (quilting, bags, etc.) and would love to branch out more in apparel sewing. Very neat book!

  39. Mimi K says:

    This book looks like so much fun! I’d love to try out more pleating fun- always a bit scary.

  40. Elizabeth says:

    This book sounds amazing, and thank you for telling us about it. I love embellishment techniques. Lately I’ve been experimenting with pintucks and then cross-tucking them — believe me, with a pintucking foot for your machine, it’s very easy. The next thing I’d like to try is smocking, which seems a lot harder.

  41. mariana says:

    I love that pillow!!

  42. amy says:

    This book is a great idea. There are so many gorgeous voiles coming out that I have no idea what to do with! I would love some inspiration or direction on what to do with this fabric.

  43. Jennifer W. says:

    I am experimenting with smocking by hand (yes, real smocking… not SHIRRING!) and I am loving every minute. The detail on the purple chiffon skirt is fantastic – I would love this book! Hope I’m the lucky winner!

  44. Sara says:

    I realize this may sound hopelessly simplistic, but I’m a novice. I really want to learn how to sew jersey/knit fabric. It just seems like it would open up so many possibilties in clothing!

  45. Jessica Ziel says:

    That shag pillow is so interesting!!!

  46. Marsy says:

    I’m always playing with fun fabric techniques, but I never do anything with the fabric when I’m done! I’m a huge fan of anything with fringe or visible stitching!

  47. anja says:

    love the chiffon skirt–creating some texture and play of light in sheer fabric is intriguing to me

  48. Tricia says:

    I want to try honeycomb smocking!

  49. Barbara says:

    I would like to try working with felt and haven’t figured out where to start.

  50. Becky Joiner says:

    I love the idea of hand smocking. It looks complicated but beautiful.