Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sew Beautiful: A Profile + giveaways!

Sew Beautiful: A Profile

Sew Beautiful, in the hands of a sewing enthusiast, is both a roadmap to creative design and a diary of sewing tradition with a rich patina. Knowing our challenge is to honor heirloom techniques while at the same time staying current, we build our content as if we were a cottage industry – distinctive, original and focused on quality. With a vintage thread running throughout, we look for articles that teach a new technique; inspire the reader to take on a new project; inform readers about current trends in sewing, patterns and design; demonstrate a great way to use a new product; or show a unique use of traditional techniques from past eras. Within its pages, readers meet sewing personalities, learn new and challenging ways to embrace their favorite hobby, discover the latest sewing products, fabrics, notions and books, and stay attuned to some of the most popular sewing events. With an added bonus of at least one free full-sized pattern in each issue, Sew Beautiful has become one of the industry’s most valuable resources for sparking fine sewing creativity.

We had the opportunity to pull away Kathy Barnard, editor, from her very busy schedule for a few minutes to do a Q&A with us!

First, a little background on Kathy Barnard...

Kathy graduated from the school of Consumer Affairs at Auburn University with a degree in Apparel Design and Textiles in 1988. She spent a year as an apprentice for Betty Grisham, a nationally known and award-winning textile artist recognized for her work with unique textile dying techniques. Kathy started her design career working as a children’s wear designer for a ready-to-wear manufacturer. When marriage brought her back to Huntsville, Alabama, she began working for Martha Pullen Company; first as an illustrator and book designer, and eventually as editor of Sew Beautiful magazine. She has been the primary editor of Sew Beautiful for the last 18 years. While at Martha Pullen Company, she has taught classes at the School of Art Fashion, produced the Sew Beautiful Pattern Collection, and produced the designer technique segments for Martha’s public television show, Martha’s Sewing Room

Sew Beautiful: Where did you get your love for sewing?

Kathy Barnard: Believe it or not... from my dad. He was an Army officer with four kids, and sending me to the mall with a credit card was out of the question. Plus, my mom hated to shop for anything and still does (based on that, I must have been adopted). My dad promised to pay for any fabric and patterns I wanted if I made my own clothes. I think he was actually being sassy, but I showed him. After I got the hang of sewing, all he ever did was brag about my accomplishments and praise me. So we had a big laugh about that. I was a teen fashionista in the mid ‘80s (think Madonna and Flash Dance) so slashing, razor cutting and tearing were “in” and easy. My best friend in high school, Lisa Charbonneau, and I would mimic the Cyndi Lauper look with thrift store remakes (BTW she graduated from design school with me at Auburn University). So basically, if you accidentally cut something wrong, you could easily pass it off as original intent. That aspect alone took all the fear out of it, and that cultivated confidence. My high school sewing teacher, Joann Willis, introduced me to the thrill of designing my own patterns, and the rest was history. She told me that if there are fashion designers out there working and making a living, that someone had to do it; why not me? The dream became attainable from that point on.

SB: What is the most rewarding part of your job as the editor of Sew Beautiful magazine?

KB: Without hesitation, it is about helping our designers realize a dream. It is great to feel that you had a small part in what became Kari Mecca for example. Don’t get me wrong; it is the designer’s own unique craft that pulls them to the top, so I take no credit, but everyone can use an open door. I just get to open that door sometimes. I also love to witness the thrill a designer gets out of being published for the first time. When I actually published an article in Threads magazine I was on cloud nine, so I know the feeling (SB does not count, because I get to control whether I put my own work in the magazine). The same goes for the moms of our models. You should be the mom of a model and feel that excitement when you see your child in the magazine. Not everyone gets to experience that kind of joy at his or her job.

SB:  What is the hardest part or most challenging part of your job?

KB:  The hardest part is saying no to a submission, because now you have just stepped on someone’s dream. The most challenging part is anticipating what every reader wants and expects. An editor wants to make everyone happy; it is our job and our joy. One day, I hope to put together the perfect issue.

SB:  What kind of sewing are you most passionate about – fashion, home dec, quilting?

KB:  Definitely fashion, with a passion for couture sewing in particular. My husband and son took me to Nashville’s Frist Museum to see an exhibit on the great designers of couture from vintage Dior, to Queen Elizabeth’s ball gowns. They regretted it. I simply had to send them away to find other activities after 2 hours - doing that trip alone next time. I do love to sew for my home because I can get really high-end, quality fabric and make it myself for a fraction of the cost of retail and end up with a very expensive custom look. I am currently working on a wedding gown for our photographer’s niece, so I am really excited about that, and hope to share some things in Sew Beautiful. Maybe I will post progress reports on our blog – that might be fun.

SB: Is there a particular fashion designer or sewing teacher that inspires you the most?

KB: Hmmm… I love Alexander McQueen because his techniques are mind blowing, although, he is an artist who sculpts with fabric more than a fashion designer. I love the bias draping of Madeleine Vionnet and the styles of the 1940s, ‘50s, and early ‘60s. I am so into the show Mad Men right now, and I think it is because of the early 1960s styles. But then again, I am also fascinated by the flapper dresses of the ‘20s. The techniques of Coco Channel taught by Claire Schaffer are pretty impressive and ingenious. The teacher that most inspires me is Claire Schaffer. Trust me when I tell you, the woman knows her stuff. I have also taken a class with Susan Khalje and found it extremely inspiring. Both are couture sewing educators and book authors. I know all of this seems odd for the editor of an heirloom-sewing magazine, but I love all kinds of sewing.

SB: What sewing product or gadget can you not live without?

KB: I will have to agree with Amber Eden from Stitch magazine that it is the 1/8” grid ruler as a gadget, and as a product I cannot live without, I would have to say basting glue (best stuff invented since peanut butter).

Thanks again to Kathy for allowing us a glimpse into the heart & mind of Sew Beautiful!



Here's what we have in store for you next year...

January/February –
Easter/ Valentine’s Day
            Think soft and sweet and a little vintage chic. This issue will be heavy in classic heirloom with an emphasis on fine and natural fiber fabrics, lace and dainty embroidery. Traditional motifs of bunnies, chicks, hearts and flowers will be offered for embellishment. The free pattern is a vintage inspired dotted Swiss toddler Easter dress.

March/April –
White Issue/Ceremonies and Celebrations
            All tones of white, cream and ivory will sweep the pages of March. The emphasis will be heirloom classics or modern with a vintage twist. This issue offers last-minute Easter sewing opportunities and heralds the coming season of weddings, first communions and spring christenings. It is the issue of ceremony and celebrations. The free pattern is an antique reproduction, heirloom, christening gown.

May/June - Spring/Summer
Burgeoning Blooms
            A color explosion of all things in bloom infuses this issue. You can almost detect the sweet fragrance. All articles will encompass a flower or garden-related focus and design from fabric prints, smocking plates, embroideries and flower embellishments to projects for boys that include garden-inspired motifs – think salamanders, snails and toads. The free pattern is a 1940s vintage romper (bodice with shorts) for little girls.

July/August –
Autumn/Back to School
            With August sending kids across the country back to school, and sales on fall fabrics and patterns beginning in early July, we shifted our Fall issue back a couple of months. This issue ushers in a more practical side of sewing. Considering that kids rarely wear heirloom clothing to school, we focus energy on what’s on our readers’ agendas – fun fresh fashions for fall, new fall motifs for smocking and embroidery, and custom costumes for Halloween, not to mention transitional ideas to innovate and reuse summer patterns for fall looks.

Sept/October –
            Or focus here is on fabrics, pattern, designs, embroideries trims and projects for the holiday season. Features will include both formal styles (silk smocked dresses) and practical styles (holiday cotton prints and machine embroidery). Projects for home decorating and gift giving abound.

November/December –
Ribbons and Trims
            This issue will offer a few last-minute ideas for holiday preparations, but will focus the reader on how to incorporate and manipulate ribbons and trims into their sewing projects. Each article will be infused with beautiful ribbon or trim. Book excerpts will feature pieces from well-known ribbon artists/authors, and embroidery will focus on ribbon products rather than of floss. Smocking features will showcase ribbon in the design. Even machine embroidery will share designs of bows and ribbon elements.

We have 3 giveaways for you today!

To win a copy of our special Sew Beautiful 25th Anniversary Issue, enter HERE!

How a copy of "The Best of Sew Beautiful: Christening Gowns?"  Enter HERE!
**pssssst: this is our November issue cover!**

OR a 1-year subscription to your favorite magazine, Sew Beautiful!
Enter HERE!


  1. Love your dialogue.....put the 1/8 grid ruler in the Newsletter please. Need one. Love hearing @ your background and work.

  2. You, Kathy, are an inspiration to me and challenge me to sew! I love your sewing blog and video's soooo much! Thanks! J.