The Colette Sewing Handbook, an inverview with Sarai, and a treat

by Dana on November 29, 2011

We’re always looking for gift ideas to tell our husbands about right?
Here’s another one to add to the list.
The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick
It’s fun reviewing sewing books.
You get to peek into an artist’s mind and see what’s important to them, what projects they choose to share, what fundamentals of sewing they wish to emphasize, and of course what fashion style they reflect.
The Colette Sewing Handbook is pretty unique. Aside from Saria’s classic/vintage/modern styling (it’s fun to see a ’50s inspired dress with tattoos peeking out), there are only 5 patterns in the book. And that’s what kind of makes it cool. The book really teaches you grounded techniques by focusing on these five big projects.
There’s an entire how-to section that’s very well done: how to sew a dart, how to sew zippers, how to install a facing, basic stitches, tools, etc.
Sarai has vast sewing knowledge and does a good job sharing it.
I love the pages talking about the Sewing Experience, Fundamentals, and having a thoughtful plan. Just another peek into an artist’s sewing philosophy.
The book is really packed with sewing info that will teach you a variety of skills. The five project chapters are paired with a special technique to help you make lovely, well-made garments.
Have you ever wondered about creating a muslin test garment? Or how to fit a garment to YOUR body type? It’s all in there.
I would say this book is definitely for an Advanced Beginner or Intermediate Sewer.

But my philosophy is to have no fear when it comes to sewing. Push yourself to use new fabrics and explore techniques that might sound tricky at first, until you realize, duh. I can totally do that. And yes, I totally want her hair–(photo below, both of them).
If you follow the Colette Patterns blog, you’re pretty familiar with Sarai’s attention to detail.

So I thought it would be fun to peek into her daily life and share some extra tidbits with you guys. I met up with her at the Quilt Market last month and asked a few questions….
DANA:
When I look at your site, it all sounds so fun….the stuff you’re doing and the way you run your studio. So I’m curious what it’s really like. What is a “typical” day like for you
(not that any day is typical for a creative person). Do you have a studio or work out of your house? Baiscally, what is it like being Sarai?

SARAI:
I work in a beautiful little studio in SE Portland, in an old factory building. One wall of my studio is almost floor to ceiling factory windows, so we are flooded with natural light, which is something to be really grateful for here in the rainy pacific northwest. The light is very energizing. I’m also lucky because the studio is only about half a mile from my house, so I get to walk to work every day.

I usually get in around 10AM every day. My friend and helper Caitlin works with me in the studio three days a week, helping with blog posts, tutorials, and sewing. My other helper is my husband Kenn, who works for me part time keeping my website running, doing customer service, and managing logisitics, but he works from home for now.

I start my days with the usual busy work for most of us: email! I’m very conscientious about responding to people, so I spend a lot of time on that every day. Once that’s done, I could work on any number of things in the course of the day. I’ll typically spend some time writing, photographing, or planning blog posts. But I might also be designing, doing project management, creating graphics, or laying out pattern instructions. I wear about 10 different hats!

I like to finish the day by doing a little sewing for myself. It helps keep me connected to the craft instead of getting lost in all the business details.

DANA:
What was the impetus that got your book going?
I assume a publisher contacted you?

SARAI:
I was vaguely thinking about writing a book when the publisher contacted me. My editor helped direct me to the type of book they were looking for, and from there I came up with a concept I really loved: a book based on five fundamentals that I think are often overlooked in sewing. I wanted to write a book that would “fill in the gaps” for new and even intermediate sewists something that would really help people find the joy in sewing.

DANA:
How long did it take you from start to finish to write/create the book?
And was it difficult to keep up with the blog while writing on the side?

SARAI:
It took about a year and a half from start to finish, I’d say. It was a pretty compressed schedule, considering how much work goes into each pattern! I did it by dividing each week into two parts, spending 4 days a week running Colette Patterns and 3 days a week working on the book (so pretty much no weekends!). It was really hard, but I’m a stickler for details and needed to give each the attention it really deserved. If I were to write another book, I’d probably try to do it a little differently. I have definite workaholic tendencies that I need to keep in check!

While writing the book, I sought out more help with running the blog and utilized guest posters more. They were invaluable, but I really missed spending time on it. I’m glad to be back to writing more for my site these days. It gives me such a nice connection to the wonderful people who use my patterns! I seriously have the nicest, most supportive customers and readers in the world, something that has definitely kept me going.

DANA: I completely agree. Readers are the biggest support to the blogging community. Every day I’m thankful that they pop in to see what we’re up to and keep us motivated to share again. Thank you Sarai for letting us peek into your life! And for sharing your sewing knowledge with us.

And to say THANK YOU to you guys….how about a giveaway?
We’re giving away one copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook.

Click HERE to enter.

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