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. lahuitrefrite says:

    I’m a beginning sewist who’s slowly conquering cotton, but I’d really like to try my hand on silk jersey. I see dresses! Thanks for the giveaway. This is a book I must get my hands on, win or not.

  2. Wendy says:

    I just sewed with laminated cotton for the first time, and I loved it, my next project with some laminate is a backpack…

  3. keyka says:

    I recently did some hand smocking for the first time. It was fun and interesting to learn how it is done! In the next few weeks I hope to find the time to make a heavily pleated clutch using irregular folds.

  4. monicalee says:

    Awesome review! I love a peak inside to help me decide whether I NEEEED it, which i usually do!

  5. Shorty says:

    I would love to make that shag pillow, but I would really love to learn to make perfect pleats and ruffles that could re-purpose an old sweater or shirt. I currently have some sweaters that I’m making into cardigans, but they need some embellishing. I’m a bit timid on what to try out…

  6. Rachel H says:

    I’d love to try smocking…It looks so complicated to do, but the results are so lovely.

  7. I currently have 2 projects with pintucks and smocking – but would love to try that shag pillow – simply delicious!

  8. katevet says:

    I’d love to start quilting this year!

  9. Sara R. says:

    I want to try smocking–maybe after the Christmas rush!

  10. Mary says:

    I have been working with pleats and look forward to designing my first custom bag with pleats to carry home with me for Christmas.

  11. alex says:

    I’ve been making faux chenille with flannel. I’m always ready to try any new technique.

  12. Anne marie says:

    I am attempting to learn quilting – all the wonderful blogs are so inspiring.

  13. Alison C says:

    I’ve been weaving zoori sandals with old t-shirts. Lots of fun! I really want to do some Hawaiian quilt applique.
    Thanks for offering the book!

  14. Susana says:

    I would love to try some serious fabric folding, but would probably need my hand held through the process. I have tried pintucks and all but failed!

  15. Joy says:

    I did not know you could laminate wool…I would love to try THAT new (to me) technique. And I have a ton of felted wool already, so this book would be very handy. ;)

  16. Heather says:

    I like the idea of fabric folding and some of the fabric “origrami” that I’ve seen. Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. Sherie says:

    The book definately looks interesting. My goal for the new year is to try new things with fabric and this book looks like a starting place for that.

  18. quinta da quilter says:

    I love christmas taffeta – at this time of year , I would love to be playing with christmas taffeta all those great plaids! Love them!

  19. Jeannie says:

    I, too, love trying new techniques of altering fabric. Some great ideas from the comments as well. I’d love to win the book as I’ve been on a book diet recently—more successfully than a food diet, I might add.

  20. Patty says:

    The book looks interesting……..I’d like to try couching heavy threads on a wall hanging sometime.

  21. I want to know more about “ruching.” I think that is how you spell it. I love the look of it when I see it on vintage garments, but I don’t know how to go about constructing it.

  22. Arabella says:

    I am seeing ruffles and ruching on everything lately and I would really like to give it a go myself, but have been a bit scared to get started…


  23. Susan’s book sounds like a must have for any textile lover. I’d love to try new fabric textures. The last one that I did was to play with needle tucks and twisting them with beads tacked down. It definitely added a punch to the dupioni silk.

  24. Line says:

    I love books, I love craft blogs , I love giveaways… and I need something to cheer me up after my first dreadful try at felting wool (to make Sweetie a glasses case, myself a business card wallet, & the nice lady who gave me the wool a heat/cold relaxing rice & lavender pillow).
    Even machine washed on 90°C, it didn’t felt! I’m so disappointed… And I don’t have a dryer, so I don’t know what to do…
    So please, Santa, pick me for this giveaway!

  25. mjb says:

    I’d love to shibori dye, but that chiffon is so cool!

  26. Angelina S. says:

    I really want to make the chiffon skirt pictured! I’m a fairly new sewer so I haven’t tried anything too complicated. I’m working on my first foundation pieced quilt though!

  27. mommymae says:

    not terribly exciting, but i want to sew knits. i could make some great basics for me & the kids if i wasn’t so scared to try!

  28. Grace says:

    I tried sewing pleats last week, need some skills improvement LOL! I’ve been eyeing this book, would love to win :) Thanks for the chance.

  29. Ana Gura says:

    Lovely smocked dress. I’ve been searching for some ideas for my next smocked dress project and this is just wonderful!