The Story Behind Sew Illustrated

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Hi, it’s Minki Kim and Kristin Esser writing here today, and it’s our absolute pleasure to introduce you to the book that we created called  Sew Illustrated—35 Charming Fabric & Thread Designs: 16 Zakka Projects.

The concept for this book goes back almost three years, when at the start of a new school year, Kristin was walking her son to school and noticed that a new family had moved in down the street. She also noticed that right there, in the front window, was a sewing machine! An avid sewist, she was determined to make friends with this new neighbor. Long story short, we became great friends over our shared love of both sewing and cappuccinos.

Kristin tells this story:

I remember the first day that Minki invited me into her home to show me some projects that she had created. She led me over to a wall in her sewing space and showed me this:



I stood there in shocked amazement for what seemed like a full minute before I asked, “You create these with a sewing machine?” She told me that she called this technique “sewing illustration” and went on to show me how she used it to embellish all kinds of adorable projects—coasters, tea mats, zipper pouches, and bags, just to name a few. The idea that this technique and aesthetic needed to be shared with the sewing community started to form at that moment.

Minki has created sixteen wonderful zakka-style projects and Kristin has written the tutorials for them, so that sewists of all levels and abilities can create these charming little works of art.

We had such fun planning every aspect of this book, starting with working together to select the projects. It was important to us to provide a wide range of projects that sewists could quickly make and use to enhance their everyday life. Chapters include: Projects for the Table, Projects for the Crafter, Projects for Everyday, Bags for Every Occasion, and Art for Your Home.

We wanted to be sure to include fun, useful projects for every level of sewing enthusiast, from simple beginner projects like coasters and tea mats, through different types of bags, to, finally, creating artwork like what is on Minki’s gallery wall in her home. We also wanted to make sure that there were lots and lots of how-to photos to walk you through every step of creating these projects.

Collaborating on this book brought out the best in both our skill sets, which made the process of creating it so enjoyable. During the writing of the book, we discovered many new techniques and products to make the process of sewing illustration even easier and were able to share those lessons and discoveries throughout the projects in the book.

Since that serendipitous meeting, Minki has begun to share her projects on Instagram and a quick check of #sewingillustration there shows that many people are finding enjoyment embellishing their projects with this technique. Minki is asked on a daily basis for more information on how she creates this unique aesthetic, and we are so happy to now be able to share in-depth information and instruction on how to do sewing illustration with this book.

Just a few examples of #sewingillustration on Instragram

There are a few recurring themes in the book—but the one that we want to share with you now is one that we both try to live out each day. And that is to take the time to do something that feeds your soul every day—a few stolen moments to sew will help you to tackle the rest of your busy day with renewed energy. Even if you just give yourself the time it takes to drink your morning coffee to do a bit of hand sewing, you will reap the rewards all day long. And that is what sewing is all about.

In case you were wondering about this technique of sewing illustration, here is a short video to show you how it’s done, creating one of the projects from the book—an adorable tea mat with a tea cup motif.

For more inspiration, visit Minki’s English blog, Instagram, and Facebook page. You can see what Kristin is up to on her Instagram and blog

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  • Minki Kim
  • Kristin Esser
  • Sew llustrated
  • video
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