Q&A With ‘Sewing With Oilcloth’ Author Kelly McCants & Book Giveaway!

Today I’m happy to tie on a vintage apron and host a blog tour stop for Kelly McCants, author of the new book “Sewing with Oilcloth: 20 Patterns That Make Sewing with Oilcloth Easy, Fresh, and Fun.” Read on for the late-night Q&A we put together for you and then leave a comment to enter to win a copy of Kelly’s book.

Before we get to your book, please tell us about the crafty business that preceded the it? What do you make? Where are you based and when did you start selling and blogging under the name Modern June? What inspired you to launch your business? 

I started Modern June five years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom with a thing for vintage aprons. I had this huge collection of aprons so I started selling them at the local farmers market. It was just supposed to be my one day away from home, I never dreamt that it would become all of this.

That summer I discovered oilcloth, it was perfect for market totes. I spent the summer drafting patterns off my favorite vintage aprons, which I then tweaked and modernized. By the end of the summer my oilcloth totes and aprons landed me my first wholesale client and Modern June became a real business.

Today, Modern June is a fun place to buy handmade housewares. While we have a wide range of goods, our specialty is custom-made tablecloths in oilcloth and laminated cotton. You know, cool stuff of the hip housewife. Lots of pretty and practical goodies with a retro feel.

Once Modern June was going strong I began to sell my favorite materials through Oilcloth Addict. Along with the second Etsy shop I began sharing my tips and tutorials on the Oilcloth Addict blog, I had one goal in mind to spread my addiction. It was that blog that lead to the book deal with Wiley.

My staff of Junies and I work out of my home studio in Richmond, VA. It’s a tiny little studio, it’s only about 250 square feet, somedays there are 4 of us working in there. It’s pretty crazy, but we are managing and keeping our overhead low for the time being. I am amazed at the amount of product that comes out of that one little room.

What are you doing when you’re not running a crafty business? 

I still consider myself a SAHM. I have to great kids that I homeschool, they are 11 and 13 so you can imagine how busy that keeps me. Between the business, the kids and my cute hubby, there’s not much time for anything else.

I would really like to get back to my garden, I really miss that part of my life. We just lost a huge tree, most of our landscaping and garden in the last hurricane, I’m already planning a new back yard.

I understand you got addicted to oil cloth around in 2006 and you’ve been up to your eyeballs in it ever since. Looking back, do you think the vintage stylings of Modern June proved to be the gateway drug that led to serious oilcloth addiction?

Oh yes! It all goes hand in hand. I spent years trying to come up with uses for oilcloth, I would wake up at 3 a.m. with great ideas for new projects.

What is it about oil cloth that you find so appealing? What is your favorite thing to make with it?

You know the thing I like best about oilcloth is that that it’s so easy to take care of.  For example, my most favorite thing to make out of oilcloth/laminated cotton is tablecloths. They are just perfect for moms, you can let the kids finger paint on your tablecloth all day, then wipe it down and set the table for dinner. No more washing and ironing the linen tablecloths over and over again. I can’t tell you how many mom’s that have bought a tablecloth to protect their wood tables.

I’ve worked with oilcloth a bit and admit that I thought it was going to be really difficult before I tried it. But with the proper needle and foot, you can make some really great stuff as you expertly demonstrate in your book. What do you want people who have never worked with laminated fabric, oilcloth or chalk cloth to know? What are they missing? 

Throughout the blog tour I read how afraid people are to work with oilcloth and that makes me sad!

Now, I will admit there is a learning curve! But you’re right, with the right needle and foot it’s really fun to work with. I suggest, playing around with scraps and be fearless! We all love learning new things and it’s so cool to take our craft to a higher level, working with the slick fabrics can help you do just that. The book is filled with some really easy projects, I suggest to start with those and them work your way up to the trickier ones. You’ll be surprised how fast you get the hang of it.

What inspired you to write a book about oilcloth? What do you hope your readers take from it? 

I just wanted to get as many people addicted to oilcloth as possible! Seriously, I believe that everyday objects are memory makers, even more so when we make them ourselves. I love the idea of a woman buying this book to make her girlfriends Christmas gifts. Make up bags for everyone! That same woman then makes her first baby a laminated cotton bib so her life is a little bit easier and the babies a little bit cleaner. Then, a few years later she comes back to the book to make a toddler apron or art smocks. Think of all those memories!

I wrote the book because I wanted everyone to see how cool this specialty fabric is and how it can make life a little bit simpler!

Please tell us about some of the projects you included. Do you have a favorite? I LOVE the Party Banners on p. 49 and the Mommy and Me aprons on p. 117.

Those two are big favorites for me too! The party banner pattern is so flexible, you can make them entirely out of oilcloth or cotton for that matter. Wouldn’t it be fun to use this pattern to use up your secret stash of scraps. But what’s really fun is that you can make them as short or long as you want.

The chalk cloth runner is also a big favorite of mine. I love using those for parties and holidays. At Thanksgiving, I use one to mark where each dish goes, this way I know that my gravy will end up between the turkey and the mashed potatoes.

I understand you’re dealing, I mean, selling oilcloth now, too. It’s challenging to find in some local fabric shops, is that why you decided to start selling it? How fast is oilcloth addiction sweeping the nation? How is the demand? Which country or state is most oilcloth crazed judging from your shipping receipts?

Yes I deal, I mean, sell oilcloth, chalk cloth and laminated cotton at Oilcloth Addict. I started selling it because people were intrigued and wanted to give a try. It really was hard to find back in 2006, but it’s popularity is rapidly growing. You can now find it in your locally owned quilt shops more and more, which is great. It used to be sold at every five and dime in the nation because it was so practical. It’s about time you can get it locally again.

Our sales have grown and grown over the years. Just in the last year, my shipping and cutting assistants hours have doubled. It’s been amazing!

Which states buy more oilcloth? We send multiple packages out to California, Texas, North Carolina and New York every shipping day. Oilcloth is very popular in Australia, Canada and the UK, we ship to those countries constantly.

How long did it take you to write your book? What is it like to finally see it in print?  

It took 18 months from first contact with the publisher to published book. Writing a book was really crazy, terrifying and exciting! I had NO idea what hard work it would be. I thought the first five projects where going to kill me. After I turned them in, my agent asked why I did all the hard patterns first. Good question!

Finally getting to hold the book was the thrill of a lifetime. You work so long and hard to write and edit it. Then you have to wait so long for it to become a real book. The day the books were due to arrive, I paced the sidewalk in front of my house waiting for the UPS man to show up. Once the books arrived, the kids and I unpacked them and then I just stared at them for the rest of the afternoon.

Truth be told, my 11 year old son was not impressed and couldn’t be bothered. But my daughter enjoyed every page and every photo that day. That was priceless, something I’ll never forget.

Writing a book is a lot like having a baby! But keep in mind that your midwifes (editors) are in Indianapolis, your doula (agent) is in California and the pediatrician (publicity) is in New Jersey.

Is there another oilcloth book on your horizon?

I might have a partial table of contents filed away on my laptop somewhere! I am not sure if it’ll be a book devoted to oilcloth, I do love kitschy cotton too!

Thanks so much for making yourself available for an interview on very short notice. I really admire your mad oilcloth sewing skills, your passion to inspire others to give it a try and your ability to crank out a Q&A on a ridiculous deadline. I’d put on an oilcloth apron and go on a bike ride with you any day. You rock, sister! 

That is so wonderful to hear!! I am honored, you rock too!!! I wear my CraftSanity t-shirt with pride.

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In an effort to celebrate the joy of sewing with oilcloth, Kelly and I are giving away one of her books. Leave a comment below about what you have made or what want to make out of oilcloth by Wednesday, September 14, 2011.

Have a great day, everyone! 

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1 Response

  1. Yasin says:

    Very interesting! I’m cretunrly growing a 2.5 x 1.5m kombucha scoby. I make leather and traditional egg or brain tanned buckskin, so was interested to put the scoby through the same processes involved. last night I cut off a strip and put it in tanning solution. Will take up to 3 months. If you are interested I will be describing the process at the website of the forager book project or on my blog at wildman wild food. Would be very interested to hear if you have already progressed further with similar experiments.Cheers, Fergus

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