Writing Craft Books

Sew Magical for Kids by Laura Lee Burch

My second craft book, Sew Magical for Kids just came out; it’s the second in a set of two sewing craft books full of my favorite projects that I’ve designed for children. The first book, Sew Magical for Baby introduced projects for babies, and both books contain sewing patterns and illustrated instructions.

Sew Magical for Baby

The process of writing two craft books was a real learning experience for me, I found creating a craft book a bonanza of creative projects in and of itself:  designing products, making patterns, shooting products, illustrating instructions, designing book layouts, styling products and designing and painting sets. I made many of the props, the clothes the models wore and used things from my antique stash so the photos would have the look that I wanted. I had my own ideas about how everything should go, but the publishers made most of the design decisions like which photos to use, which projects to cut and the book titles.  If anyone else out there in blogland has experience with publishers and writing craft books, I’d love to hear about it.

My working process for the books went something like this:

  • I chose one of the many ideas floating around in my head and I sketched it out…
  • I made a rough pattern for the prototype. Once the prototype was the way I wanted it (many times it took 2 or 3 or 4 prototypes till I got it right) …
  • I made a final pattern (with several sizes if it applied) and then…
  • I made the final sample. At this point I looked at the fabrics and materials I already had or I went out and looked for the right materials and bought according to how many items I wanted to make.
  • I shot the finished piece so I could use the photos in my blog and promotional pieces…
  • I shot the step-by-step process of making the project and I used these photos as guides for the illustrations…
  • I wrote what I was doing as I made a project
  • I matched up the written directions with the illustrations and sent them to the editor for corrections. 

    making ducklings

I think my book writing experience has been different than the norm, at least in the beginning. Because of the reputation of my store ( in Tel Aviv), I was asked by a publisher if I wanted to write a craft book and this means that I didn’t go through the whole process of writing a proposal and submitting it to publishing companies. Yah! To the publisher, I proposed my favorite things I’ve designed and the things that people liked (bought) the most from my store. Writing a book like this takes an inordinate amount of time and that’s not including the editing process. I’ve spent many hours going over the instructions with the editor Shoshana, but these were enjoyable hours since Shoshana is such a patient and fun chick! I don’t think Shoshana could sew on a button in the beginning of this project, but I think she can now single handily sew a custom tailored wedding dress from the sewing information she’s gleaned from our conversations over the last year!

bedroom set for Sew Magical for Baby

I wanted the projects in my book to be very unique and to be something that people could really use. Because there are so many craft books out there, unique and useful projects are very important. One of my favorite aspects of my books are the detailed, step- by-step illustrations that accompany the written instructions. I don’t usually read instructions, I  look at the photos or illustrations when I make something and I know that most other arty people do the same. I know that Japanese craft books are super popular these days, partly because of the detailed illustrations that accompany the text. The illustrations or photos are so clear that mostly anyone can follow the steps without having to read them; I think my books have the same clear, step-by step visual instructions.

Stick horse and western backdrop

After the products were designed and sewn, it was time to photograph them. I had wanted to do the photography, but the publishers wanted otherwise. So, for the first book, I made the sets for the photos by creating a space in my store that looked like a baby’s room. I placed the products in the room and the photographer shot them in natural light. The effect was very soft and elegant and I am very pleased with the outcome.

Puppy hat photographed by Laura Burch

Photography for Sew Magical for Kids was different, we used a photographer’s studio and backdrops. I painted several backdrops to use with a variety of of the products, modeled by my two youngest girls and several friends from school.

I'm painting the dragon backdrop for the princess and knight items

I thought the backdrops added a lot to the photos. I didn’t want the book photos to look like pack shots.

The princess and my dragon backdrop at the photo shoot

My girls helped me to paint the backdrops because the deadline of the book fell during my absolute busiest time, preparing (designing and sewing costumes) for Purim.

Elli helps paint backdrops

I was looking for my books in American book and craft stores over the summer and I couldn’t  find them:o I assumed that they would be distributed to the bookstores that do business with the publisher, but I think I have a lot of  marketing to do; I’ll keep you updated on this phase of writing craft books.  So now I have two beautiful craft books that I’m very proud of and now I’m looking into publishing them internationally.

Maxi in the snake t-shirt