Publication Day! ‘Laura’s Handmade Life’ Goes Live

Oh, I wish we could have a real launch party with champagne and cake and fabulous home made outfits, but we’ll have to enjoy the next best thing – an online celebration.  ‘Laura’s Handmade Life’ is being published as a paperback novel today!

Little, Brown were kind enough to send me an advance reading copy and Amanda Addison, the author, has agreed to a blog interview. It gets better, readers! For UK readers, we have a blog giveaway of two copies of this book.

But first, what did I think to the novel? How does sewing translate into fiction?

Laura has left London to live in Norfolk and feels stranded. It’s only when a fire in her home sends her life into turmoil that she discovers the reassuring, liberating and inspiring habit of sewing.

‘I’ve been sewing every free moment I’ve had,’ Laura comments.

‘Sewing gets you like that,’ her companion replies. Sound familiar?

I was fascinated to read the amount of sewing background and research that was seamlessly squeezed in. Want to know how to learn embroidery as a left-handed person? Sit by a window and watch the reflection of someone else sewing. Ever curious about the history of rose prints on fabric? Listen to Laura’s new friend, Hannelore. Elsewhere, we’re told – through Laura’s love of vintage clothes – that outfits prior to the 1960s didn’t have size labels in them. Did you know that? I didn’t.

The novel features charming little pen and ink drawings to go with each chapter head. The illustrations are of a bobbin of thread, a thimble, darning needle or set of buttons and are accompanied by a different embroidery stitch definition for each chapter heading – Lazy daisy stitch or Renaissance stitch.

It’s clear that an awful lot of thought has gone into the writing and lay out of this novel. There’s an appendix with instructions on making a lavender bag – hello, Handmade Jane! – and sewing a spring chick. Then there are the links for crafting inspiration – I definitely want to check out The Women’s Library in London.

I’d say this novel is a great beach read for someone who’s been forcibly removed from their sewing room to lie in the sun. But what does Amanda think and how did she start writing this novel? Let’s find out…

Hi, Amanda. Thank you so much for joining us on such an important day for you! Can you talk us through the inspiration for ‘Laura’s Handmade Life’?

There were several strands to my inspiration. Firstly, as an artist/maker I wanted to explore fictional ways of telling stories about the artistic process. Craft has often been seen has the poor relative to art & design and with the current resurgence of people returning to crafting and the whole handmade movement now seemed the right time to write about craft. Laura, a collector of vintage clothes and textile artist, who in many ways is every an everywoman juggling work, family and trying to pursue her own dream was a good vehicle for telling a fashion and textile story. Secondly, the sub-plot of Hannelore and the real need in the former Eastern Europe to make-do-and-mend, coupled with tales of stitching in the workhouse gives Laura’s Handmade Life an added depth.

Can you tell us a little about your own sewing history?

Like many of my art school contemporaries and textile teaching colleagues, our training taught us a lot about ‘process’, developing ideas and thinking skills but missed out on the rigour and the basics of craft skills, such as hand embroidery. In fact a straw poll of my art and textile department colleagues (all graduates) reveals that no-one knows the A-Z of hand embroidery stitches. We tend to use stitching more as mark making.

So when my eldest daughter was a toddler I attended a hand embroidery class. This was before the numerous classes which are springing up all over the country. Originally with the sole intention of using different stitches within illustration work. My agent sold mixed-media images for the greetings card market which I embellished with stitching. At that time I was the youngest student in the class, the eldest being 92! It was good that the other students all knew what they were doing as at first I needed a lot of help to realise my ideas. This also led to producing pieces of artwork for exhibition which included my own dyed and printed fabrics embellished with stitching and more recently larger scale works.

Hand embroidery, unlike painting, fitted perfectly with the stop-start nature of my work once I had children! A piece of embroidery can be left mid stitch, whereas a painting is often ruined if left mid brush stroke.

You’ve achieved what many of my readers dream of and have turned your creativity into a career. Do you have any tips for sewing fanatics who want to make this more than a hobby?

I think as life becomes more digitalised there will be a trend for people to want to furnish their homes and themselves with hand-made things – so good news for crafters. Working for yourself is never 9-5, but personally I love being about to think about one of my projects whilst doing something seemingly dull or repetitive, such as chopping vegetables or sitting in a boring meeting! Finally in a global economy it is important to try and create something unique, which defies mass production techniques – easier said than done!

You’ve produced several textile installations, including a recent shimmering wall of ribbons at Bergh Apton Sculpture Trail. How do you start putting together ideas for a textile installation? Do you have a collection of fabrics that you use?

I have an attic filled with bags and boxes of fabrics, which one day I must sort out. When putting together ideas I use my formal training in art as it is literally back to the drawing board. I also talk to my husband, a designer and arty friends and colleagues because I really believe in brain storming ideas to get the best result.

Little, Brown has done a great job of packaging and promoting your novel. How closely did you work with the publisher on the cover design, the inside illustration and the added extras of activities and links? Did these ideas come before the writing of the manuscript or after?

Little, Brown has been fantastic to work with. I’ve been told that authors usually have very little to do with the cover design. But in the case of Laura’s Handmade Life the story is so visual that myself and Caroline my editor collected lots of bits and pieces to make a mood board to brief the design team. Poppy Treffry, the Cornish designer was then commissioned to illustrate the cover, as in some ways she is very much a Laura Lovegrove (our heroine) with her own textile business.

The added links, such as museums and galleries were places which I visited and used for my own research, both for the book and my own artwork.

I wrote the textile ‘recipes’ at the back of the book and then tested them out several times and fingers crossed they are fool-proof!

Do you have any tips for would-be writers out there, especially on the subject of craft?

I think there is a craft readership out there. For me, the best writing comes when the writer has a particular slant and includes little bits ‘n’ pieces of information, which leave the reader thing – I didn’t know that.

Thanks, Amanda! Now, for the giveaway. If you’d like to have the chance of winning one of two free copies of ‘Laura’s Handmade Life’ answer the following question in the comments section:

If you were to write your own novel inspired by sewing, knitting or any craft at all, what snappy title would you give your book?

The giveaway will end midnight GMT 27 June 2011. Two winners will be chosen by a random number generator.

Good luck! Thank you to Little, Brown and to Amanda.

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23 Responses to Publication Day! ‘Laura’s Handmade Life’ Goes Live

  1. Rachel says:

    ohh this sounds so amazing. I wold call my book love to stitch! because thats what I love to do, even though it isn’t paarticularly imaginative. its the name of my blog and website too!!

  2. muddledstyle says:

    Oh gosh, I’m rubbish at titles (I mean, look at my blog title..!) Um… I have a subtitle, if that’s any good? “how a stitch in time really did save nine…”

  3. Suzy says:

    This looks like a very sweet book and I definitely wouldn’t mind reading it! Thank you for the giveaway opportunity. I’m not very creative with names, as you’ll see, but my first thought on a title would be “The accident-prone seamstress” as sometimes I think if I was to write a book on the clumsy things I do I could fill a book.

  4. Kirsty says:

    Love this post! Does anyone else get a lump in their throat when reading about people with great careers in the art & craft industry? Just me?

    I would call my book “please buy me so my author can buy lots & lots of fabric”.

  5. Katie W says:

    Titles for books are so important as they grab the reader….I have no idea what I would call my book….I guess it would depend what it was about, which I have no idea!

  6. Jessica says:

    I think I would have to go for ‘Knitting on Trains’. Bit of a cheat I suppose as it’s also my blog title, but I think it would fit the bill well!

  7. Sherry says:

    Ooh this sounds really neat – I love how you describe it suitable for someone on holiday who has been torn away from their sewing machine! I can relate to that, I’d have to take some knitting or embroidery instead!
    My book would be Tales of a Tailoress!

  8. Roobeedoo says:

    “Roobee Does it Again” – well there’s a random chance of winning so I am going for a random title that references my blog!

  9. molly says:

    How exciting! I really want to read that book!

    If i were ever to write a novel about my sewing adventures I would title it “Stitching up life’s pattern” – pretty corny, but the best I colud think f for now. Of course as soon as i stop trying to think of one, the BEST title EVER will come to me, in which case i promise to come back and share 😉

  10. CarmencitaB says:

    “Pattern Making” where the hero finds out that her life is very much like a self-drafted skirt, learns how to live with all it’s imperfections and finds happiness despite a crooked seam and a wonky zipper.
    If I win, I’ll give you a UK address to ship it to.

  11. Jane says:

    Doh! When you wrote your original post on this book, I liked the look of it so much I ordered it from Amazon. It’s currently winging its way to me as we speak. Can I still enter a book title just for the hell of it? Mine is ‘Needle in a Haystack’! x

  12. Karyn says:

    I love the sound of this book. I would call my book Kaz’s Crafty Heaven! And I have loads of ideas for it too as I was lucky enough to work in two craft shops for a number of years and have stored up loads of funny situations in that time! I love Kirsty’s name for her book!

  13. Susan says:

    I’d love to win a copy. My book will feature a plucky heroine and her trusty needle: ” Daisy stitches on!”

  14. Maria says:

    I would call my novel “A Jolly Good Yarn”. It would be a fun caper centered around a travelling knitter.
    I used to knit when I was young, about 20 years ago, but have just started it up again….so many patterns to choose from!! But I’m lovin’ it.

  15. Oh, I can imagine reading this book could help me pluck up the courage to quit my office job & find a way to live my dream (am I ready for it? will i ever be ready for it?)
    So, I’ll leave it up to chance …

    I am also claiming a distinct lack of imagination, so will go random,
    “No it’s not from a shop, a badger made it”

  16. Jacqui says:

    Great giveaway.
    I could do with a good read, even better when said book is about sewing.
    I would call my book ‘My life in stiches’

  17. Tilly says:

    Great interview – I’d really like to read that book. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy. Hmm… my novel would probably be called:
    ‘Stitching and Sherry: Or, How I Killed My Social Life and Grew a Sewing Life’

  18. How about ‘The Fabric of Life’ or ‘Sew much to do, sew little time’? Its a lovely and inspiring book and I particularly love the Norfolk slant. A first for chick lit I wonder? I think what I really enjoyed was the way that the sewing, textile history and the make do and mend philosophy was the real thread (s’cuse the pun) of the story and the men were really rather insipid and cipher like. More about sewing, please!

  19. Tors says:

    Oh, that sounds like a wonderful book, what a great giveaway. I’d probably call my book something like ‘… because knit happens’ mostly because I can’t knit very well and a lot of my projects end up going wrong.

  20. melissa says:

    With Mis-Teeq’s blessing, I’d totally name my sewing-related chick-lit romance novel “Sew Sew Sew Scandalous!”. And put some big hunk with inflatable, orange manboobs (think Fabio) on the cover with one of the tiny JL Mini sewing machines. Just cos.

  21. wendy says:

    I love the sound of this book! I’d call my (historical) novel ‘Hollie Point’, after a style of 19c English lace used in babies’ christening gowns and bridal wear. Just a working title, you understand…

  22. swishina says:

    My book would be called Mid-Stitch. I can totally relate to leaving a project mid-stitch because, after all, I’m a parent first.

  23. Bold Sewist says:

    This book sounds lovely! The perfect summer read. I’d call my book something like ‘Just make the first stitch’ since that seems to be a chronic handicap of mine in life and sewing!

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