Thursday, June 17, 2010

Book Review: Small Stash Sewing by Melissa Averinos

While at Quilt Market in Minneapolis last month, I had the pleasure of meeting Melissa Averinos. Melissa is a painter, a blogger, a shop owner, a fabric designer, a prolific Twitterer, an artist, a princess cake pusher, a unicorn lover, a Bronte / BBC devotee, and an all-around cool and crafty woman. And now, Melissa can add author to that list.

Melissa was in Minneapolis to promote her new book "Small Stash Sewing: 24 Projects Using Designer Fat Quarters". I was fortunate enough to get a copy and wanted to share my thoughts with all of you!

Small Stash Sewing

First off, let me say that I am a fat quarter* junkie. I will rarely buy yardage of a fabric unless I have a plan and know what I am going to use it for. But with fat quarters, all bets are off. When I enter a shop that display bins of fat quarters, I feel like a kid in a candy store. The small size (versus entire bolts) makes it much easier to put things next to each other and experiment with unexpected fabric combinations. And the relatively small price tag allows a few fat quarters here and there to be a nice little treat.

With my ever-growing fat quarter stash, I am always on the lookout for new & unique project ideas. Small Stash Sewing certainly fits the bill! All 24 of the projects in this book were designed to use cuts of fabric no larger than a fat quarter. Many of the projects, however, do use multiple fat quarters. This is not a book of items to make using only one fat quarter.

The book is broken down into three sections: To Wear, At Home, and For Kids. I'm not a big garment sewer, but there are some really cute ideas (fabric shoelaces!) in this section. I particularly like the idea of this Fleecy Cowl as a cool way to showcase a favorite print. It's a nice alternative to a scarf and would make a great gift idea. Also a great way to use some of Moda's new Snuggles fleece fabrics.


The At Home section featured a few more project ideas that I would like to make. I love the Daydreamer Lap Quilt, simply pieced in strips but with the added whimsy of some soft, puffy clouds quilted to the top. I can see these clouds made with flannel or corduroy, or another fabric with some added texture.


The true gems of this book, however, are in the For Kids section. This book will become a go-to resource for many baby shower and birthday gift ideas. I mean, what little boy wouldn't want a Magic Caper magician's cape? Or look adorable in a Jester Crown & Cuffs? For girls, there's a very pretty (and very girly) Yo-Yo Tiara. I'm not even going to LET my twin girls see that, for fear that I'll be up all night making yo-yo's!

This Lovely Ladybug stuffie would make a great baby shower gift (made of some Tula Pink Flutterby fabric, perhaps?)


For those of you (like me!) who enjoy a touch of embroidery, there is a beautiful pattern called Unicorn *Hearts* Moon based on some of Melissa's original illustrations. One of my daughters has already logged her request for a unicorn pillow.


And finally, let me talk for a moment about the crown jewel of this book. Take a look at this next project, adorably named Owlie McPillowpants. I knew IMMEDIATELY upon flipping through this book that this was a MUST-MAKE project. Owlie is a large, pillow-sized project that is fairly easy in its construction, but truly impresses.


I made this version for a friend who is having a baby girl out of some Hunky Dory prints, but I've already been commissioned to make 3 more -- two for my twin daughters, and one for my wife. Yes, even my wife wants one. I filled mine with super-soft, organic bamboo filling. I can easily see this becoming a staple gift idea for people of all ages. Oh, and for those of you who collect vintage sheets -- this would be the PERFECT project to start using them up.

Owlie McPillowpants

One quick note for quilters: I didn't realize until a few steps into constructing Owlie that the book assumes 1/2" seam allowances. As a quilter, I live and die by the 1/4" seam, so I didn't even think to check the front of the book for general instructions. I was able to very easily make a few minor adjustments on the fly and my Owlie turned out great, and now I'll know for next time about the seam allowances.

Overall, I think this book is a solid addition to any sewist's library. The photography is beautful and the fabric choices for the many projects are inspiring. For me, even just having the Owlie McPillowpants pattern and the embroidery patterns more than make up the cost of the book ... after that, the rest is bonus material!

-- John

* What's a fat quarter? A fat quarter is a quarter yard of fabric. However, instead of being cut along the width of the entire bolt of fabric (resulting in a piece of material 9" x WOF, typically 44" for quilting fabrics), a fat quarter is made by cutting a half yard of fabric (18" x 44") and then cutting that in half width-wise. This will produce a piece of fabric 18" x 22". Fat quarters are popular among quilters because many feel that the size of the cut is much more flexible for a wide variety of projects and quilt blocks.


  1. What a thoughtful review, thanks John! Your Owlie McPillowpants (can't bear not to say it, it's too cute) came out great! Thanks for the heads-up on the seam allowance too, I sometimes forget that sewists and quilters see the world through different eyes.

  2. Thanks John! I can't wait to get this book. I am pretty excited about the shoelaces to dress up my converse a little!

  3. Fantastic review! This book is definitely going on my to buy list!

  4. Great review, love the unicorn cushion!

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