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How The Colette Sewing Handbook was hatched

From what I understand, there are two main ways to get a craft book published. Method one is to create a book proposal and shop it around to publishers, perhaps with the help of an agent.

Method two is to be very lucky and have a publisher contact you. I fell into the “very lucky” category.

Actually, in early 2010 I’d already been thinking about writing a book. I’d even read a wonderful book about writing book proposals. But then I got an email from the lovely Vanessa at Krause Publications. She’d bought some of my patterns and loved the instructions, and wondered if I’d thought about writing a book. It seemed perfect.

It was actually even more perfect than I’d thought. Not only is Krause the publisher of such long time favorite authors as Claire Shaeffer and Colette Wolff, they’ve also published beautiful books by modern designers like Kay Whitt and Joel Dewberry.

To top it off, Vanessa ended up being the perfect editor for me. She took all of my ideas seriously, made great improvements and refinements, and gave me much more creative control than I’d anticipated. She loved the Colette Patterns aesthetic, had me art direct the photo shoots, and hired my friends and collaborators to help with the photography and styling (more on that later!). I couldn’t have asked for more.

We worked together on the concept of the book. At first, we talked about whether it would be a technique book or a project-based book. I wanted something that would be a mix of both. The projects would be beautiful in themselves, but would also help to illustrate the techniques in action. I’m a hands-on learner, and I think a lot of other sewists are too.

I thought long and hard about the book’s overall concept. I thought about the questions you ask on this blog, and on other sewing sites. I thought about the things that stumped me as a beginner and intermediate sewist, and why that was. I thought about what separates a successful sewing project from a failure.

Here is what I realized: most of us don’t learn what the fundamentals of sewing actually are until we’ve been doing it for many years. Sure, we learn the basic techniques like how to sew a hem or press a seam in the beiginning. But what gets left out for many of us (especially the self-taught) are the true fundamentals: How do I make things I actually will want to wear? Why is it important to understand pattern markings? How do I choose the right fabric? How can I make things that fit me well?

I settled on five basic fundamentals that I find often overlooked: planning your projects, working with patterns, getting a good fit, choosing fabric, and finishing.

I wrote a detailed outline of my idea, which Vanessa worked with me to refine. In many ways, this was the most crucial part of the whole book writing process. This was setting down the whole concept of the book, really trying to think about it from a reader’s perspective. It was a challenge! But hopefully you’ll agree that the idea makes a lot of sense.

So that’s how the book idea was hatched. I’ll dive more into the details of actually writing, creating, and styling the book soon!

Sarai Mitnick


Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.



August 24, 2011 #

Congratulations on the book! I just handed down my old sewing machine to a friend of mine and now I know what she’ll get for Christmas. Many sewing books are only project based having merely a little glossary at the end and I think it’s really smart of you to combine projects with techniques!


August 24, 2011 #

Glad to hear you had such a good experience writing the book. I’m looking forward to reading it.


August 24, 2011 #

Pure awesome. I really cannot wait for this book to come out! The dress on the cover is gorgeous and I cannot wait to make the projects in it!


August 24, 2011 #

After reading about the concept behind the book I am excited to get my hands on it! Those 5 questions you laid out in your post are exactly why I only sew for my kiddos and very rarely for me. Looking forward to getting a little help on it!


August 24, 2011 #

Congrats on such an awesome book writing experience! I can’t wait to add this book to my now-growing sewing book collection.


August 24, 2011 #

Congratulations! How exciting to be contacted by an editor – especially one that sews!!


August 24, 2011 #

Congratulations! I am a very (very!) new sewer and am excited for your book to come out. I definitely need some instruction!
All the best!


August 25, 2011 #

So glad the stars fell into a nice little line for you on this project, good for you and good for us. Writing a book is a monumental task, I am sure the end product will be awesome. Thanks so much for sharing the process. Very interesting!

Amber Elayne

August 25, 2011 #

I’m eagerly waiting for this to come out! I’ve been doing some research of late and I am a learn by doing, not by reading only so this sounds perfect! Great work!

Amber Elayne

August 25, 2011 #

Sorry, after hitting Post realized it was vague… I’m been researching into getting my first sewing book… sat for an hour and read through the ones they had in my local store… and struck out!


August 25, 2011 #

Dear Sarai,

So very happy for you, congratulations on the new book ! I couldn’t pre-order it fast enough. May this be many of a million wonderful’s for you and Colette.

Heart & Best,

molly bermea

August 25, 2011 #

CONGRATULATIONS!!! I am DYING to see this book (and use it!). What an awesome and WELL DESERVED stroke of luck. m.

Laura Isabel

August 25, 2011 #

Yes, Congratulations! I actually read the first few pages on Amazon and was really impressed by the writing. Elegant and clear. I can’t wait to see it. I hope one of the future peeks will have info on the projects included in the book. They’re described in a really general way but I’d love to know a little more.


August 25, 2011 #

I love that you will be covering these items in your book (which I have pre-ordered, squeee!). You are on to something– we learn some basics, enough to get going, but the finer details, like fit and fabric choices, tend to come later as we realize our projects aren’t quite what we envisioned when setting out. I am more excited than ever to get this book!


August 26, 2011 #

Every time I read about this book it seems more and more perfect for me! I can operate a sewing machine, and use a pattern (with occasional assistance), but sewing garments really intimidates me. I can make a pencil case or half-apron on the spot and be happy, but anything that needs to fit and look nice? That’s scary. I really like the sound of the approach your book takes, and I look forward to reading it!


August 30, 2011 #

Can’t wait for this book!!! I just got back into sewing after dabbling here and there. Your book is the first official sewing book I’m going to purchase.