Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway - "Simple Sewing"

Today, I get to introduce Katie Lewis' new book!

Katie, who blogs at the red kitchen, has just launched her first book, "Simple Sewing: 30 Fast & Easy Projects For Beginners" and I am very happy to be part of her publicity blog tour. I'll be doing an overview of the book, explaining whom it was written for, and showcasing one of the projects in it, ikatbag style.

At the end of the post, I'll be giving away one copy of her book and two remade book project samples. I'll also be telling you where you can buy her book and listing a couple of other blogs you can visit for more reviews and chances to win copies of it. Sound good? 

So, let me tell you about Katie's new book!

What's in it?
30 projects for beginning seamstresses, from six functional categories: Accessories, Home, Celebrations, Baby, School days, and Toys. Each project is accompanied by color photographs and step-by-step instructions on how to make it. In the preparatory section at the front of the book are sewing tips for beginners, short introductory paragraphs to the 5 kinds of fabric used for the projects, and commentary on basic sewing techniques, equipment and materials. 

Of the 30 projects, 21 are rectangular or square and do not require templates, one is a hand-threaded garland  and 7 require templates on account of their curved sides and/or otherwise un-quadrilateral shape. The full-sized templates are found at the back of the book as attached pages and can either be traced or photocopied. Most of the projects are completed entirely on the sewing machine; only 3 have hand-stitching as part or all of their construction process.

Where machine-stitching is required, the projects employ only the straight stitch; no zig-zag or other decorative machine stitches are used. Each project (where applicable) is made with a lining so that there is no need to finish seam allowances with a serger or by any method other than hiding them within the double layers. As a result, quite a few of her projects are naturally reversible. 

Where can I buy it?
Who's it for?
The projects are simple enough for beginners and older kids learning to sew. I'd have loved to have gotten Emily to review this book and sew a project from it but you know how busy 9-year-olds are these days, with their full social calendars and extra-curricular pursuits and other pressing hobbies. Beginners can enjoy the practice from the similar method of construction and finishing shared by many of the projects. This, consequently, has the potential to build their confidence as they complete multiple projects within relatively familiar territory with increasing ease.

What if I'm not a beginner?
Good question. I'm not a beginner. Many of my readers aren't beginning seamstresses, either. However, let me tell you one reason for why beginners' projects are awesome: they're great basics, and everybody works with basics at some level - to embellish, adapt, modify, personalize. To demonstrate what I mean, I made one of Katie's projects - the ubiquitous fabric lunch sack. 

It's a classic basic - a handle-less reversible darted bag. Beautiful in its simplicity. Beginners can make it. And embroider it. Or add straps to it. Or change its dimensions. Or layer on applique. Or quilt it.

Or turn it into a fabric version of a dry bag - you know, those waterproof sacks beloved by scuba divers, snorkelers, jetskiers and other watersport people? 

Here's the mini-tutorial:

First, you make Katie's lunch sack - I used a cotton-linen blend for the outside and robust canvas for the inside. Then you add some bag-making paraphernalia that you can buy at most fabric stores:

nylon webbing and a plastic buckle, along with a little bit of grosgrain ribbon to seal the ends of the webbing. Use a long enough strip of webbing so that it's twice the width of the lunch sack, plus 8" because it's going to encircle the mouth of of the sack and leave sticky-out side bits that become the handle.

Separate the buckle halves and slide them onto the webbing. Then prepare to join the ends of the webbing to make a closed loop. 

I'm using bright blue grosgrain ribbon for visibility but the finished product has that black ribbon, okay? Bring the ends of the webbing together and trim the ribbon so that just enough is left to wrap those ends.

Flip it over (use glue if you must, but I didn't) and sew a rectangle to hold the ends together within the ribbon band.

Then take Katie's lunch sack and draw a line about 1" from the top edge, all around the sack.

You're going to slip that webbing loop, with its buckle halves on opposite ends, over the sack. Align the ribbon band thing with the middle of one side of the sack.

See how the webbing loop is bigger than the circumference of the sack? Now sew a rectangle on the webbing to attach it to one side of the sack. Use your machine's free arm or sew with the sack inside out, but sew only through one side of the sack, so you're not sewing the opening shut. Size your rectangle so that the short ends are about 1/4" from the edge of the sack. Then flip the entire sack over and repeat to sew the other side of the webbing to the other side of the sack.

Now sew a smaller rectangle on the webbing that sticks out from the sides of the sack. Sew through both layers of webbing.

Your webbing-graft should look like this.

And this is your finished lunch-sack-with-dry-bag-style-strap-closure,

which folds closed thus:

after which the buckle is snapped together.

Ta da! Handle and opening-fastener all in one.

Oh, the things you can do with a great basic!

And do you know what else you can do with a great basic?

Answer: experiment with fabric 
(and no, I don't mean print).

Here - let me show you what this can become in (from L to R)

Note that these aren't real waterproof dry bags, which are made with vinyl and have sealed seams to keep the water out. These bags above are fabric facsimiles, with needle holes and everything, but they're still pretty edgy. And they're made from the same basic lunch sack.

This one is extra light-weight and totally crushable

this one is lunch-proof and wipe-clean

and this one is insulated

and cushiony and fun to toss around.

And now it's time for the giveaways!

Katie is giving away one free copy of her book a lucky ikatbag reader! The giveaway is open only to US shipping addresses, and to enter, you'll need to sign up on the rafflecopter widget below. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There are three ways to enter:

  1. Pin this book on Pinterest
  2. Like Katie's facebook page
  3. Like my Pinterest page

The giveaway lasts for a week and Katie will pick a winner at the end of the week. 

I'm also giving away these two lunch sacks to celebrate the launch of Katie's new book! 

International friends are eligible to enter this one, because I will ship anywhere in the world. To enter, just leave a comment to this post filling in the blanks in this statement: "I've been sewing for ______ years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is _______." as well as your name and an email address at which you can be contacted. Anonymous comments without an added name will not be entertained. I'll randomly pick two names at the end of one week i.e. Wednesday 20 November - one for each sack. 

So TWO giveaways - 

  1. US residents enter the book giveaway on the rafflecopter widget ,   and 
  2. Everybody enters the two-lunch-sack giveaway by leaving the comment, your name and your email address
Got it?

Also, go visit today's two other blog tour stops to see other projects from the book, plus more chances to win copies of it: Abby at Sew Much Ado and Melissa at Happy Quilting!

Congratulations, Katie, on your lovely new book -  it is a labor of love well worth waiting for! I am so happy for you!

P.S. Today's lunch-sack giveaway is brought to you by Sarah, who recommended Jenelle's tutorial for fixing my missing comment-numbering. See- they're all fixed! So I can do giveways again! Thank you, Sarah and Jenelle!


  1. I've been sewing for 6 months and the sewing skill I most want to acquire is confidence or maybe tenacity. Or maybe just time management so I try it out more. I am awed by how much you make, and it inspired me to get a sewing machine. Which mocks me! About once a month a make some yellow duck finger puppets just to tell myself I made something. Anyway,here I go entering a contest to not make something else. I enjoy reading your blog very much.

  2. I have been sewing seriously for about 6 years. What I'd still like to learn is how to make a pair of jeans, zipper fly and all.
    aliben7 (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. I've been sewing for 10 years and the sewing skill I still most want to learn is drafting. I have two daughters and I love sewing for them, though my drafting skills are still too basic. I sew to embelish their bedrooms or make accesories for them. I have learned a lot from your tutorials and experience.

  4. Muy buena idea y fantástico tutorial!
    Muchas gracias!

  5. Gee. I rushed off while posting comment (my very first in blog-land) because I am needed somewhere else. I came back and realized I did not put down my name and email address. Very sorry, Lier. Please connect this to an earlier (about 30 minutes ago) comment, if possible. I am the grandma, having been sewing for decades, needing courage to venture into knits, vinyl, etc.
    Thank you!!
    May Wang

  6. I've been sewing for 0 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is everything! I so want to start learning how to sew and the book looks like such a great resource. Love the bags you created :)

  7. I've been sewing for five years and the sewing skill I most want to learn is drafting. I'm reading a lot about this subject, but i really need to practice.
    menduca (at)gmail(dot)com

  8. Those bags are wonderful. I've been sewing for over forty years, but I have NEVER made a bag and I really want to. I've sewn clothing galore, but always from patterns because I've never learned to draft, that's another thing I'd like to do. Your blog inspires me to try new things. Rozy in Iowa: rozylass at gmail dot com

  9. I've been sewing since I was a kid, but more seriously the past 10 years. But I'm still scared of zippers and buttonholes--I've done both successfully, I just get really nervous! (I love your blog, and one of the things I like most about it is that it has helped me to just go figure out how to make something when I have an idea, instead of looking for a pattern/tutorial.)
    parknj at verizon dot net

  10. I've been sewing for 18 month and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is dareness to sew my own outfits.

    My email is marm0tte at

  11. I've been sewing some since I was a kid (my mom taught hand-sewing classes in the 80s when she was home with us, and gave us projects to occupy us during the classes), but I started quilting about 5 years ago and that got me back to it more. The sewing skill I'd most like to learn is alterations -- which is how I got sucked into your blog (that alterations tutorial button on the side), coincidentally right after I'd picked up a cool but too-big shirt at a rummage sale. I altered it! Including cutting off extra fabric, which is something I certainly wouldn't have done without your prodding! And it came out pretty well, though I also take to heart the advice that it's better to buy/make things in the right size to start with. Easier said than done, though. So anyway, I'd like to build my alteration skills from that very modest, but encouraging, beginning. Yay! And yay for Sarah for enabling this giveaway!

    Oh and what I meant to say in my comment was, this is the best book review EVER. Very LiEr -- not gushy about the book, but straight-up info about the kinds of projects it includes, plus the value proposition if you're not a beginner. I totally want to go buy it now. And hope my 3 boys will want to learn to sew.

    mailergoat at yahoo

  12. Dear Lier,
    Thank you so much for your blog! I've been sewing for 10 (15?) years and the sewing skill I still want to master are zippers and drafting. Every time I have to insert a zipper, I worry about it, procrastinate a bit ... and once I finally get around to inserting the zipper, there is lots of work for my seamripper! And it would be so great to be able to draft clothes for myself. Yes, buying clothes would be a much better option, but most shirts are simply too short.
    As I've said before, I've been sewing for quite a while but your blog has really inspired me and has taken my sewing to a different level. It all started with your tutorial on the pinafore dress (published on 01/12/2012 - the day my older daughter was born. So I thought it was a nice idea to make that dress for her second birthday!) and I've made butterfly wings, a rapunzel wig and 7 pigs (mum + 6 piglets)! Reading your blog and sewing has really helped to keep me sane! So thank you so much for your blog, your tips and tutorials are really great!

  13. I've been sewing for 35 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is making zippered bags.

  14. I've only begun to learn how to sew, but find your blog so inspirational. I hope to be able to sew/make a fraction of the many cool things you have made for your daughters. Thank you! kchagi at yahoo dot com

  15. "I've been sewing for 25 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is zippers." That's sad isn't it? But, in my defense, I am mostly a quilter and you don't zip those.
    t dot herin at smha dot com

  16. Love your variation on the lunch sack!! They may not be perfectly waterproof, but I bet they're pretty water resistant.

  17. This book sounds great, and I love your twist her bag - what a fabulous idea! I've been sewing for 29 years (if you count hand sewing, and wow that is a long time!) and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is how to sew zippers without being scared of them. And how to wrap my mind around turning things wrong and right side out. I'm always getting it wrong...

  18. I've been 'sewing' for 15 years, with great aid from my hubby whose mother taught him to sew and for that I am grateful! So I would say I dabble in using a machine and know how to ask for help. The sewing skill I most want to learn right now is how to sew a cover for a bench cushion since that is the project that is waiting for my husbands attention : )
    Jenna Daire
    quarrykid at hotmail DOT com

  19. I have been sewing for 2 1/2 years now, and I still really want to have a go at shirring! (Tried all sorts of other things, even made my own 50s style dress, but still keep avoiding that elastic...)

  20. I've been sewing for 20 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is making button holes.

  21. I have been sewing for three years and the skill I would still like to learn is sewing from and making a sloper! Thank you for the giveaway! Kirbie,

  22. I made my first sewing project about 50 years ago. Seriously learned to sew 47 years ago in 7th grade Home Ec - a required course "back in the day!" Would love to learn shirring. I'm probably not eligible for the giveaway as I'm actually Katie's mom! Full disclosure! :) Great book review, and I love the dry bag tutorial. I will be trying that.

  23. "I've been sewing for ___46___ years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is _____clean up my sewing room__."

    Great giveaway. Now if I could just create sewing emergencies in order to get time off work in order to have time to sew more.

  24. I have only owned a sewing machine for about a year, my mom tried to teach how to follow patterns when I was young, but I'd really like to learn to experiment and make things out of my head rather than use a pattern. I love to use blogs as inspiration.
    Megan -

  25. oooooooooooh I am an international reader so
    I've been sewing for 2 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is do as better as you all these gorgeus things you show in your page. I get profit of this opportunity to say thank you for shearing your knowledge.
    You are my idol!!!!!
    Lisi from Barcelona (

  26. I've been sewing for 8 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is patience.

  27. Great Book. I like the fussy free modern style. I love sewing books! There is always something new to learn. Thank you for the book review.

  28. I've been sewing for 1 year and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is sewing clothes for my children. Want to have more times to practice sewing. Your blog is one of my fave and inspiration, I learn a lot of things from here. Thank you for this chance.

  29. I've been sewing on and off since I was a kid, but it's been a helter-skelter education and I have so much to learn! Psyche0405 at hotmail dot com

  30. G'day! I've been sewing for 3 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is how to create slopers (but have found great info on your site.... thank you!). Kerrin kerrinbwilliams[at]

  31. I've been sewing for 4 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is to be patient be before doing stitches to avoid unravel it afterwards.
    Many greetings from Dresden/Germany

  32. I've been sewing for 3 months and the sewing skill I most want to learn is the audacity to do all those beautiful projects. I've been making some hem pants pijamas and some other little projects. That's why I need the audacity to try those projects that seam so easy done by all of you real seamstresses, that make so scared. Thank you for this opportunity.
    Kisses from Portugal.
    Cátia Ferreira,

  33. I have been sewing off and on for about 12 years and the skill I most want to learn is making time to actually do it in the day-to-day as it always seems to be bumped out for the important stuff until it does not happen at all. And I so want to pass it on to my kids and anytime I do it they are so interested :-) Also better buttonholes... I have done them, but really don't have it down... it's a struggle :-) Thank you so much for the wonderful give away! Love that bag

  34. "I've been sewing for 50 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is sewing straight lines!"

  35. I learned to sew in Middle School, but really on picked it back up 10 years ago when I was given a Singer Simple. I consider myself to be a beginner, really. The skills I'd most like to learn, there are so many... figuring out zippers would be sublime, sewing a straight hem (easy, I know, but still can't manage it), and creating flattering darts.... those would rock my socks. Thank you for this awesome blog. I stop in every day - even when nothing new is posted. looloorosshirt at gmail dot com

  36. I've been sewing for 4 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is to recognize balanced tension.

  37. Hi! My name is Monty and I've been sewing for about 57 years. The sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is PATIENCE! I've so many projects lined up in my mind and on lists, I could use a little more TIME too. I still stick to easy projects, because I too quickly rush off to another project and need easy things that will actually get finished… tee-hee! That's just me! My grandmother taught me to sew by hand the summer I was 9 and visited the farm where my mother grew up. Grandma helped me make a little cloth doll, and I learned to make simple clothes for her. My grandmother could sew the most incredibly tiny stitches… handkerchief-fine. I am teaching my 13-year-old granddaughter to embroider and sew.

  38. I've been sewing for five years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is clothing alterations. I also want to get better at sewing clothes in general. I always seem to pick clothing patterns that end up being super complicated and time consuming.

    Alyssa Tsuchiya

  39. I've been sewing for over forty years and my grandchildren want to learn how to sew.This book would be a great "teachers" book for me to make things with them and teach them beginning sewing.

  40. Love these little bags! I've been sewing (not regularly) for about ten years. I would love to learn how to sew knits better and figure out why my twin needle keeps skipping stitches.

    Tara Bosch

  41. Me encanta!!! He estado cosiendo durante dos años y la habilidad de coser que (aún) quiero aprender es a usar correctamente mi máquina de coser para saber ajustar correctamente la tensión del hilo y sacar provecho de todas sus funciones. Gracias por el sorteo!!!

  42. I've been sewing for 10+ years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is how to sew with knits (or anything past quilting cotton ) !


  43. I love bags. And I think this book will be the perfect thing to give my friend who keeps saying "I really wish I could learn how to sew."

  44. I have been sewing for 43 years and the skill I would most like to learn is free-motion quilting. I just love your blog, by the way!
    Line Labrecque

  45. Hello from Scotland! I have been sewing on and off for 30 years now and still have not mastered so many things including quilting (just like you, I seem to remember). I have been admiring your style of blogging and sewing - so inspiring! Apologies for emailing my wee giveaway entry but I have tried a few times and failed to get my comment published for some reason.


  46. I've been sewing for 20 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is to ruffle without the thread breaking.

  47. "I've been sewing for 30 years and the sewing skill I (still) most want to learn is piping ."

    Ann Skelton

  48. I have been sewing for half of a year and the skill I still want to learn the most is sewing doll clothes for my sister.

  49. I've been sewing for 10 years and the sewing skill I most want to learn is how to read patterns better. Krystle P. -

  50. I've been sewing for about 6 years and the sewing skill I most want to learn is making my own clothes. Right now I focus on making baby quilts but would love to broaden my sewing abilities! Mallory Levesque :

  51. I have been sewing for 40+ years - my great grandmother taught me how to match plaids to make a pleated plaid wool skirt when I was 12 yrs old. I love to sew everything from childrens and adults clothing, draperies, formal wear and theater costumes. Even sewed my daughter's Irish dance solo dress. The skill I was most to learn is how to use the embroidery component of my sewing machine. Cathy -

  52. I have been sewing for about 10 years and the sewing skill I most want to learn is patience. I know that's not really a skill, but I get in a hurry and my stitches end up not looking so pretty. I love sewing and need to learn to slow down! Debbie -

  53. I've been sewing for 6 years, and the skills I want to learn most are to be able to sew clothing (besides elastic-waisted skirts and pj pants), and to free myself up for improvisation. I have a hard time branching out beyond the pattern as written.

    Jennifer (jennebeker (at) gmail (dot) com

  54. Is it also possible to place the cap after "rolling it up" so that the cap is pointing upwards? Do you then sew exactly as described?

    1. Marie: I'm not sure what you mean by "cap". Did you mean the buckle?


Thank you for talking to me! If you have a question, I might reply to it here in the comments or in an email.