The weekend is almost here, and what better way to celebrate than with a new sewing book packed with colorful inspiration and stitching know-how. Today we're giving away one copy of Mary Abreu's adorable Little Girls, Big Style (C&T Publishing, 2010). If there is a little lady in your life, you will absolutely love this book and the more than 20 projects and patterns inside. For a chance to win, simply comment on this post and we'll choose one commenter at random (comment by midnight Sunday to be included in the giveaway). For a little more on Mary and her creative process, read on for an exclusive Q&A.
SewDaily: Who first taught you to sew and why did you learn?
Mary Abreu: My mom really inspired my interest in sewing. She sewed so many of my clothes when I was growing up and I longed to be like her! On the downside, she was a perfectionist and really frugal, so could not stand the thought of a sewing project not being useful and would jump in to rescue anything that was not turning out well. It was literally decades before I learned how to fix my own mistakes.
SD: Where do you find inspiration for your new designs?
MA: Anywhere and everywhere! I'll see a detail on a piece of ready-to-wear clothing that I like (even clothes for men and women) or sometimes even home decor items (some of the shabby chic pieces have the coolest trims). And of course my daughter, the fashionista, is a constant source of inspiration.
SD: Does your daughter also have the sewing bug? Did she help design any of the projects in the book?
MA: I think she's at least as much of a fabric junkie as her mom! She's grown more opinionated as she's gotten older and definitely has a say in what she wants, more so now than when I was working on the projects for the book. We're working on sewing — she has her own machine — and just taking a really casual approach to it right now. She's only 6, so I follow her cues, which means we tend to work in little chunks of time here and there. She's made a few things by hand and has big plans for sewing over Spring Break and summer vacation.
SD: Your ensembles are so colorful. How do you select which fabric prints and colors to combine?
MA: I love color and pattern and texture! There are times when I know what I want to make and try to find the fabrics that bring that idea to life. Other times, the fabric speaks to me (that sounds so weird, doesn't it?) and I just sort of see what it can be. Once I know the main fabric, I can usually go from there and decide how many fabrics I'll use. I'm not always super matchy-matchy, so that really broadens my options for colors and prints. I am, however, a huge fan of polka dots, so it's rare that I don't use one in a project.
SD: What are your favorite details to add to little girls clothes?
MA: Ruffles are one of my daughter's favorite things so I tend to use them often. Rolled hems — on wovens and knits — are so fast and easy that I'll often incorporate them on sleeves and hems, especially if I'm short on time (they're much quicker than turned hems).
SD: How was the photoshoot with the girls? Did they adore the garments you made for them?
MA: Fortunately I've known nearly all the girls since they were little bitty things, so I think that helped them interact with me a little more easily than if I were a complete stranger sticking a camera in their faces. I'm also lucky to have had great help at the shoots from my older son (who's been my faithful assistant for years) and the moms of the girls, which let me focus on getting the shots you see. And everyone — the girls, the moms, bystanders — could not stop commenting on the clothes, which always brought a smile to my face.
SD: What advice can you give our readers regarding making clothes for little ones?
MA: Kids grow, and they do it on their schedule not ours. I advocate keeping a sewing notebook with your child's measurements in it and dating it, then periodically updating it. I've actually been wanting to make a dress for my daughter for at least a month but haven't been able to get started because her measurements were last taken in August.
Jump in and get sewing! It sounds so simplistic but I really believe the best way to learn and improve is just to do it. I think we are so incredibly lucky to live and sew at a time when there are so many things available to consumers. There is an abundance of fabrics, patterns, online and real-life communities and guilds, books and more to help us embrace new techniques and styles. It's so easy to play, experiment, refine and embrace your style.
I think back to the clothes my mom made for me and it never fails to make me smile. I may not have one piece of that wardrobe but I have those memories and the knowledge that my mom loved me and took the time to make such beautiful things for me. Clothes fade, styles change but memories — no one can take those away. I hope that my daughter one day looks back at the sewing I did for her and feels the same way I do about my mom's sewing.