ReSew cover I am pleased to offer my first book review and giveaway here at Crafty Nest! And what a worthy title to start with: ReSew: Turn Thrift-Store Finds into Fabulous Designs by Jenny Wilding Cardon.

In her book, Jenny turns secondhand basics (i.e. sweatshirts, sheets, pants, etc.) into adorable new fashions and home decor. She offers 20 beginner-friendly projects, including tops, dresses, skirts, hats, bags, and a rug—all made from thrift-store cast-offs. You’ll never look at a boring sweatshirt on the rack at your local Goodwill the same again. BTW: Her projects remind me of my own thrift-store tank-top totes.

Jenny’s instructions are easy to follow (she hand-drew all the illustrations herself!), which makes any beginning sewer feel confident that s/he can tackle her projects with success. And she includes instructions for basic sewing techniques, such as shirring, along with helpful tips and tricks. Her designs are so inspiring that it makes you want to run to your nearest thrift store and start hunting. Here are some of my favorite projects from her book:

Shirred Sheet Dress

Shirred Sheet Dress

This dress makes me long for warm summer days. Sigh.

Sweater Scarves

Sweater Scarves

This scarf looks so easy and cute. I’ll be hunting for sweaters this spring/summer (Jenny suggests shopping thrift stores for the opposite season you’re in).

Paper Clip Rug

Paper Clip Rug

I am sooo making one of these rugs made out of jeans. It’s fabulous and durable. Genius.

Q&A with Jenny Wilding Cardon

And now for the Q&A. I asked Jenny about her work and to share some advice with us. She kindly—and prolifically—obliged. Thank you, Jenny!

Q. Where do you find inspiration for your creative endeavors?

A. If you are open to it, I believe inspiration can come from anywhere! You just have to realize that that’s what it is. I’m inspired by my thrift store finds (the things I buy and the things I would never buy!), by quilts of all kinds, by the free paint brochures at The Home Depot, by other sewing and fashion books, by whatever surprises me on the web (lifetime’s worth of inspiration there, right?), by paying attention to what people are wearing at the grocery store. I also love to people watch. I could spend a couple hours on a bustling city street just looking at all the different shoes people wear! (But that’s a really weird thing to do, so I don’t do it. Not too often.)

To me, the most important thing is to keep the ideas coming—learn to recognize when you are being inspired. And then act on the inspiration, whether that means heading toward your sewing machine right then and there, jotting down a few words on the back of a receipt, or sketching out a quick design in a little notebook you keep in the car. While the light is still red, of course. No, wait… that’s not very safe. While the car is parked. Yes, parked only.

Q. Any advice for getting a craft/sewing book published?

A. Yes! My first piece of advice is: GO FOR IT. If you love to make things, if you feel you are really good at it, if you think you are producing some cool and unique stuff, go for it! Publishers want to hear from you. Their job is to find and launch new, innovative designers with fresh ideas. The process is not for the faint of heart (the deadlines, oh the dreaded deadlines) but it is worth the adventure! If you truly are interested in writing a book, I would start with three steps toward your goal.

1. Create a theme. My first book (which is actually a box), the The Little Box of Baby Quilts, had a baby-quilt theme. ReSew: Turn Thrift-Store Finds into Fabulous Designs has a refashion/upcycle theme. Hop over to Amazon.comand check out their bestsellers in any craft or sewing subject; you’ll find they are thematically strong. Twenty super-cute patterns that aren’t really related to each other might be great, but they should probably be marketed as separate patterns. But how about twenty adorable, easy ways to make crazy hats for little ones?  How about 20 different designs for, I dunno—pajammies!—using today’s array of amazing cotton prints? Specific, original techniques that make sewing/crafting easier or quicker are also bankable themes. Think hard about what you would spend $25 for; then hone your idea until you would spend $35 for it. (When it comes to publishers, exceeding expectations is a good thing.)

2. Put together a proposal. There are lots of craft-book publishers out there; research which publishing houses would fit your theme best (find out who published your favorite books to get started). Most publishers have links online that will help you begin the process of preparing a book proposal (for instance, my publisher, Martingale & Company out of Seattle, has a link here.)

I think most people believe you must have an entire book, from the dedication to the index, completed before you can even submit an idea. Not so! Martingale prefers to have a certain number of sewn samples; examples of how you write and illustrate pattern instructions; a table of contents; and an extensive questionnaire filled out to be considered for publication. Other publishers have different requirements. Preparing a book proposal is no easy task. But once you complete it, you should have a strong vision of what you want your book to look like. And that is monumentally important because it will help you…

3. Believe in your idea. If you complete a book proposal, you are serious about getting published. You just proved it to yourself. So let it go—get it out there and see what happens! You may not hear back. You may get turned down. But if you believe in the vision you’ve created, you can keep on going until your idea finds a home. You’ve heard it a million times: Somebody who’s finally found success talking about being rejected time and time again. Just believe in your idea. Just keep going. Heck, I just heard J-Lo talk about her own experiences with rejection on American Idol this week! But, you know, I’m not addicted to AI or anything. Oops, I just called it “AI.” Outed.

Q. What is your favorite part about being a crafty mom?

A. I think I’m more creative than I’ve ever been in my life because I’m a mom. (TIME to create is an entirely different question with little ones, so we’ll forgo that for now!) My six-year-old, Jack, is a creative powerhouse. He knows when he’s inspired, and he acts on it immediately. Sometimes, in the middle of his creating, whatever his medium—scissors and paper, paints, markers, Legos, costumes, acting out stories, drawing, whatever—he’ll say, “Look mom, I got inspired!” He reminds me to act on the ideas I have in my head. To make them real. And I see our little Charlie, 2, following close behind. Two little souls, every day, reminding you to do what you love to do. How awesome is that?

Sometimes I watch Jack creating—so focused, content, and confident in his intentions—and I think to myself, “I taught him that. To create. That’s kind of like me. He’s like me. In a good way.” That’s a proud mama moment.

Book giveaway!

ReSew coverNow for the best part: a book giveaway. I’ve got an autographed copy of ReSew: Turn Thrift-Store Finds into Fabulous Designs for one lucky Crafty Nest reader. To enter, leave a comment here telling me why you’re dying to get your hands on this book. Want an extra chance to win? Like Crafty Nest on Facebook, and leave another comment telling me that you’re a Facebook fan. I’ll choose one commenter at random to receive the book. The deadline is in two weeks—Friday, March 11, 2011.


Jenny blogs about her life, work, and kids at thewildcards.com. There you will find more of her tutorials, including Flowers at Your Feet and Loopy-Loo Holiday Garland. At Sew, Mama, Sew! you will find a tutorial for her Elephant Cuddle Cushion.