Snippets Issue 19 : The Glitz & Glam Issue

Sew Crafty Fox

Jenny Fox-Proverbs, commissioning editor of David & Charles.

Sew Crafty Fox

Can you remember the first thing you made?

Vividly! It was a Snoopy and Woodstock cross stitch kit my mum gave me for Christmas when I was about 10, very similar to this one from…

How did you come to be commissioning editor of D&C?

I’ve always loved books, reading and writing, but more importantly found I enjoyed creating projects at school – I got a real buzz compiling text and images to present a subject in an entertaining way (whether it was about the 1920s, Holland, or volcanoes!). After a social sciences degree, I moved from Scotland to Devon to study for a PGdip in publishing, and was lucky enough to land a job here at David & Charles as an Assistant Editor not long after. The post just happened to be working on the craft list!

What should crafters wishing to write a book know?

The craft book market is incredibly competitive, and being a craft author now involves so much more than just being good at craft. Social media has transformed the how-to world – blogging, Twitter, Facebook and so on are all part of developing an on-line network that’s fundamental to creating, growing and nurturing an audience. Authors now have all the tools they need at home to promote, market and network themselves, and I’m always on the lookout for savvy crafters who use this opportunity to develop themselves as a personality and ‘name’ before they’ve even thought about writing a book.
 Lisa Lam, founder of U-handbag, is an excellent example. She combines personality, creativity and authority to create a blog that has attracted a wide and loyal following while working in synergy with her business. This aspect was a major draw for me when I asked her to write The Bag Maker’s Bible, due to publish in September 2010.

If you had to save one thing from your stash, what would it be and why?

Only one thing?! OK, if I can only have one thing, it would have to be my box of interfacing and interlining. I know – sounds boring – but no matter how gorgeous the fabric I use, I’ve discovered that without the extra support my projects just look a bit ‘flat’! I never skip that stage of a design, no matter how tempting. Can I have just one more thing? Please?! OK – I’d also save my half yard of Echino Kokka fabric, designed by Etsuko Furuya! The lush cotton-linen mix and quirky design of this Japanese import means I’m torn about even cutting it up!

How long does it take to produce a book and what's involved?

It takes 12–18 months, from initial concept to publication. The start of that timeline consists of working up the synopsis, costing and planning the book. I like to get a contents list and flatplan done as early as possible. From there, it’s much easier to accommodate all the inevitable tweaks and changes that authors (and editors!) need to make as the project evolves.

About 10 months before publication, the author will deliver their manuscript, which David & Charles edits. We also photograph the projects, and produce photography or illustrations for the how-to portions of the book. Throughout the process myself, the project manager, designer and author work as a team – communication is key. Four or five months before publication, the book will be ready for printing, including its cover artwork, then it’s just a case of waiting for those exciting first finished copies to appear!

Above is the flatplan for the first half of Get the Most from Your Sewing Machine (publishing this month), and the final cover artwork. We received advance copies just a couple of days ago – it looks amazing!!! You’ll have to buy the book to see how closely we stuck to that original flatplan…

What's been your greatest achievement?

I’ve never thought about that before! Probably something I do everyday – balancing my home-life and work. I created my blog in January this year, Sew Crafty Fox, mainly because I’m always immersed in craft in some capacity, and wanted somewhere to channel that perspective. At work, my primary job is to create books and content, and it just so happens that the content is my favourite subject – craft! I’m craft-alert 24/7 in one way or another and the boundaries tend to blur! Mr Fox is indeed fabulous, as he understands that when I chat about my job at home, it’s more often because I want to talk about craft, rather than work!

How do you get ideas? Do authors approach you or vice versa?

I make sure I get out and about to craft shows and exhibitions – I love meeting designers, retailers and customers to find out what they’re all up to and keep and eye on trends. Social networking and on-line research is also vital, both for developing ideas and making contact with designers and others in the industry. Most of the time, I’ll approach authors – either because I have an idea and think they would like them to work on it with me, or because I just like their work and think there is potential to develop an idea inspired by what they do. For example, we found the lovely Alice and Ginny (Sew Fabulous Fabric and Home Sweet Sewn) showcasing their work at The Country Living Fair and knew straight away that both their design style and green ethos were perfect book material. I’m approached by some new and published authors, sometimes with a specific proposal and sometimes just to introduce me to their work in case I have an idea that would suit them.

Describe your perfect day...

I’m a night owl, so it would have to start with a lie-in, then brunch of muffins and peppermint tea. I would spend the day sewing and listening to music (I say ‘would’ as it never seems to work out like that!). Since I got into social networking, I can easily spend an hour or two surfing the blogosphere to read and comment on all the great craft blogs out there. At the same time I’ll dip in and out of Twitter – as you know I love tweeting, and I’ve connected with some amazing, lovely and talented people that way. An hour on the phone with my sister would also be cool. She’s recently started making jewellery – a great diversion from her job as a careers advisor. Then out to dinner and the cinema in Exeter with Mr Fox – I’m quite smitten with 3D films! I’d end the day curled up on the sofa with one husband, two cats and a million crafty ideas…

Here are some bits I made recently. I’m not really a designer so love to hunt for cool patterns on the internet. The Buttercup bag is from a pattern by Made by Rae, and the iPhone holder from a pattern by Flossie Teacakes. The rather wonky pincushion is a very quick yo-you stuffed and decorated with a felt-covered button, by me (but in my defense was one of the very first things I ever made!).

Why are blogs so popular and do you think many could be the basis for a book?

In my opinion, their popularity is due to the immediacy, visual appeal and interactive potential. I love that you can dip into a blog and discover another person’s ideas and thoughts that they may have posted just seconds earlier. Links to places that inspire them (and subsequently you), new skills via tutorials, and sharing comments and ideas with the blogger and other readers are all important. I think it’s vital to link a blog through to other social network accounts such as Twitter and Flickr – this makes it a true multi-dimensional and relevant experience. Blogs can definitely be the basis for a book. The way I see blogs as books is that it’s not the actual content that becomes a book, but the blogger themselves. It all comes back to personality and audience again. Amy Karol was writing her blog Angry Chicken before publishing Bend-the-Rules Sewing. Although Amy’s blog isn’t project centred (whereas the book is) her regular updates about her life, passions and craftiness have enthralled thousands of readers who then already know and love the author of Bend-the-Rules Sewing. See how it works?!

Do you have any address book secrets you'd like to share?

 If you haven’t bookmarked Perri Lewis yet, then do it now! Guardian writer and crafty girl about town, Perri brings us entertaining snippets, news and views on a daily basis. Join her on Twitter to share and swap craft advice and happenings.
  • SHOP
: So many great fabric websites to visit, but I love Gaga Fabrics for their funky and offbeat choice that’s updated regularly. I nearly got swept away on a shopping spree just popping over there to get the address for you!
: Ever wanted to try using a purse frame, but are a bit freaked out by the gluing-it-in bit? I found this great video tutorial by Cotton & Cloud that shows you how to do it – genius.
  • BLOG
: I recently found this Sassy Lady’s blog and am hooked. I’ve recently got interested in dressmaking and this is the way I want to approach it – fun, feisty and fashionable stuff.

You can find out more about Jenny and what's she been up to on her blog, Sew Crafty Fox.


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