wendyportraitDesigner Wendy Mullin knows how to make things simple. Her back-to-basics, sidewalk-chic line Built By Wendy has been a co-ed staple uniting everyone from DJs and Baby Cakes bakery clerks to Christina Ricci and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Understandably, Mullin's knack for boiling fashion down to its most wearable essence has translated well to the page in her how-to sewing book, Sew U, and its latest companion tome out this month, Sew U—Home Stretch, a colorful step-by-step tutorial on stitching up stretch fabrics and knits with flair.
The book, which outlines the basics from scoring the right sewing machine to whipping up the world's easiest T-shirt, also explores recycling ("giving old knits a new lease on life") and how to navigate a pattern—the designer has even gifted each reader with a few in the back of every book. We asked the DIY auteur to spin a few more crafty secrets and tell us why sewing up a little Yacht to Trot dress is better than binge shopping any day.
Why did you want to write a book about sewing?
"Because I am pretty much self-taught and have a lot of knowledge to share. Not just basic sewing but some patternmaking and the elements of clothing construction. I wanted to help people that were interested in sewing and design."
Have you always made your own clothes? What was the first thing you sewed for yourself?
"I made a pink cotton drop-waist jumper with buttons on the shoulder. It was pretty '80s preppy. This was 1982."
What are some of the biggest obstacles for people trying to start sewing?
"Having the supplies and space to work. When I first started my line, I would have to pull fabric from rolls under my bunkbed in a railroad on the LES. Then go through stacked bins to find any trims. I used my kitchen table to iron. It's much nicer to have a dedicated sewing room or area where all your things are accessible."
For the DIY-challenged, what's the simplest, quickest thing to make?
"Probably a basic A-line skirt. To make it even easier, you can make it a snap-front if you can't deal with zippers."
What's the one thing you hope readers will get out of your book…
"To feel less intimidated by sewing, patternmaking and design and to give people the tools to make their own style."
Anything you've always wanted to make but haven't yet?
"A patchwork quilt. I don't have much time though."
Sew-U Home Stretch ($25.99), by Wendy Mullin, is published by Little, Brown and Company and is available at www.builtbywendy.com.
Wendy Mullin shows us the give and take in her latest sew-at-home manual.