I recently reviewed two e-books published by Vivebooks: Modern Smocking Part 1 and ModernPincushions, both written by Debbie Shore. I am thrilled that Debbie has kindly agreed to be interviewed by me today.
Hello, Debbie, and thank you for agreeing to answer some questions today.
May I start by asking about you? How did you first become interested in sewing? When did you actually begin sewing? What brought you to the point where you are today: writing books and articles about sewing, sewing adviser/specialist/guru on Create and Craft TV and setting up the Shortcuts To Sewing forum?
I don’t actually remember learning to sew, as my mum was a seamstress it was just part of family life. Born in 1922 in between two world wars, she lived the catchphrase ‘make do and mend’, so even in more prosperous times continued to make, bake, recycle and stretch the purse strings as far as they would go!
I began a career in TV back in 1979, and in the eighties became one of the first live presenters for Children’s ITV. From there I went on to act in a few of the soaps, before becoming a presenter for Ideal World and Create and Craft.
It was when we started selling sewing machines on the channel that I realised that not everybody had the same upbringing as me, not everybody could sew! And there was such a demand for the craft that I volunteered to demonstrate the machines, so, this is where my hobby and my career merged! Realising the lack of tuition available for beginner sewers, I developed a series of instructional sewing DVDs which proved to be a hit. My husband photographed my projects as I made them, just to keep a record. These pages turned into books, so career, hobby and hubby all came together perfectly!
When presented with practically a finished book with beautiful photography, Search Press went ahead with publication of Making Cushion Covers, followed by Half Yard Heaven, and then asked me to write Sew Bunting. Based on their success, they have commissioned four more books to be published over the next two years. I’m never short of ideas and have finished three already!
Your books, Modern Smocking Parts 1 and 2 and ModernPincushions, have a lovely array of designs. How did you decide to write books concentrating solely on smocking and on pincushions? Why did you choose to have them published as e-books?
Smocking is something that I used to do with my mum when I was younger, and at the suggestion from my friend Ruth, I started again a couple of years ago. When researching the technique, I could only find a couple of sites worldwide that featured patterns and smocking methods, so I thought another book would be a good idea! However, it’s so much easier to be shown the knotting and stitching than reading instructions, so I approached Vivebooks with the idea as they publish e-books, and Vivienne happily went ahead with the e-book. In fact, there was so much information that two e-books had to be made to accommodate all patterns: ModernSmocking Parts One and Two. The beauty of an e-book is the video content, and the fact that you can zoom into type and photography to get the best view of the work, and still print it off if you prefer. These e-books were followed by Modern Pin Cushions, I love pin cushions and discovered that you can convert many household items to make simple or very fussy designs! Again, it was the video content that was the appeal for me, I love writing, but like to demonstrate and talk, so I get the best of both worlds!
Obviously, when working on a book you need to make many examples – there are numerous pincushions shown in photographs in the book for inspiration. What do you do with the samples you make? Are they scattered around your home? Do you give them as gifts? Or do they clutter up your sewing room?
I’ve kept everything I’ve made from any of my books, all in large storage boxes in the loft, just in case I’m asked to make an appearance at a book store or exhibition… as you can imagine, there are quite a few boxes now, I must have over thirty cushions alone!
Do you have any more books in the pipeline? What can we expect to see next from our favourite TV stitcher?
Besides the books I have a few more things in the pipeline, I’ve designed a ‘sew your own Humphrey’ dollfor Humphrey’s Corner, alongside Lottie and Baby Jack, and am working on a range of children’s clothing for them too. There’ll be a huge launch of a new product later in the year that I can’t talk about yet, [how annoying is that!] and another e-book to work on with Vivebooks: this time, bags!
I also put regular demonstrations on You Tube, and receive around 6500 hits per day, which shows just how popular sewing is! I even dream sewing projects, and am regularly up in the middle of the night devising easy ways to make items that I can then share with you.
You have famously said that your aim is to get Britain sewing and you are certainly doing your “bit” to achieve it. What do you think can be done to encourage more people to sew? And, finally, what advice would you give to anyone thinking of taking up sewing as a hobby?
The thing I love most about sewing is the feedback from particularly people new to the craft, who I’ve inspired or helped to get going on their needlecraft journey, anything I can do to get the nation sewing I’ll do! I just know how satisfying it is to create something to wear, decorate your home with or give as gifts, aside the practical side, mending and repairs can be so expensive!
So, anyone thinking of taking up sewing, buy a basic sewing machine, thread and fabric, choose small projects to start with like make-up bags or cushions, don’t worry if you don’t sew straight or cut too short, [if things are too perfect they look shop-bought is my excuse…] and have fun! And thanks, Mum, for teaching me to make do and mend, I’m spreading the word!
Debbie, thank you so much for sparing time out of your busy schedule to talk to me – it is much appreciated by me and, I’m sure, by my readers. We all look forward to seeing much more of you and reading your forthcoming books. Good luck and every success with all of your future projects.