Book Month: Sew Liberated by Meg McElwee


Sew Liberated: 20 Stylish Projects for the Modern Sewist
by Meg McElwee, Interweave Press, 2009

If, like this reviewer, you had a baby a few years ago and revived your interest in crafting at the same time, you might remember seeing patterns on a blog called Montessori By Hand.

Ring a bell? Meg McElwee was living in Mexico teaching students the Montessori way and sharing her creative, useful sewing creations on her blog. Now, she’s moved back to the States, started, and designs and sells professional sewing patterns (when she’s not caring for her baby, Finn). Pretty impressive.


Wall Clock from Sew Liberated

Sew Liberated, the book, is the result of all those years of innovative pattern design. She focuses mostly on applique or “fabric collage” to incorporate scraps of beautiful fabric to projects that are fairly simple but lovingly embellished.

Baby Carrier from Sew Liberated

The book is divided into three categories: projects for making a house a home, projects for spoiling yourself, and projects for babies and children. And you just know that all that Montessori teaching (and the birth of her son) means that her kids’ projects are fantastic. She even includes a pattern for a Mei Tai baby carrier; despite the popularity of baby carriers today, this is the first pattern I’ve seen included in a sewing book. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!)

The projects themselves are mostly standard craft-book fare: appliquéd quilts, tote bags, tunics, aprons. She does include a few that stand out for creativity: a folk-artsy embroidered wall clock and a DSLR camera bag are two.

What I really enjoyed about Meg’s book was the careful combination of fabrics in her projects. She stuck mostly to a rich, autumnal palette of olives, rusts, mustards and aquas, in fabrics including linen and corduroy.

Camera Bag from Sew Liberated

The instructions are thorough, and generally include an assembly diagram and one or two illustrations. At the back of the book, she even includes cutting layouts, pattern sheets, and an embroidery refresher.

Meg’s book is an appealing and beautifully designed and photographed collection of useful projects. It’s definitely getting pride of place on my bookshelf; I haven’t made any of her projects per se, but I’ve already been inspired by the applique design from her floor pillow project and am using it on a different project. If you’re looking for new embellishment and applique ideas, pick this one up.


  1. Jennie says:

    Amanda Blake Soule has a pattern for a pouch sling in Handmade Home, but other than that I think you may be right.

  2. jenny says:

    Just ran across this one and thought it might be fun for book month:

    Cath Kidston’s In Print: Brilliant Ideas for Using Vintage Fabrics in Your Home

  3. [...] December 11: Meg on (interview)Saturday, December 12:Rashida on In the Studio with Cate (studio tour)Sunday, December [...]

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