Amongst piles of oilcloth, laminated cotton, and chalk cloth we were able to track Kelly down. But before we get to chatting with Kelly, we would like to announce Debra L as our winner of our Sewing with Oilcloth giveaway. Congrats Debra!
Wiley Craft: Tell us a little about your background as a sewer.
Kelly McCants: It’s a funny story actually. When I was in Junior High I was forced into sewing classes by my father. I really wanted to take art classes but it was Home Ec for me. The night I filled out my class schedule, my dad took us all to Sears to buy me my first sewing machine. It ended up being the best thing I was ever “made” to do.
By the time I was in college I was making most of my own clothes from my own patterns. I studied and received a degree in Costume Design and spent my post-college years working on film sets and in theatre costume shops all over the country.
Soon, my love of costumes and my love of sewing met up with my new job as a stay-at-home-mom. I had been collecting vintage aprons for months, and I was inspired to start designing and making children’s aprons for my kids and their friends. Three months later, Modern June was an official business.
WC: How did you “discover” oilcloth?
KM: When I started Modern June in 2006, I knew I wanted to make the perfect market tote. My inspiration was a photo from my favorite cookbook, in which the author was shopping at a farmers market with a big wicker basket in hand. I loved the way that the fruit, veggies, and bread laid nicely in the basket. I really wanted to create a basket-like bag in a material that would clean nicely and wear well. About the same time, a friend had recovered her kitchen’s nook benches with oilcloth. She made the material sound so cool and retro. I had no idea what oilcloth was but I was sure I needed it. Within weeks, I was making oilcloth totes and aprons for Modern June as well as a local shop. I was instantly in love with oilcloth. And a few months later I had a full line of oilcloth goods.
WC: The book is full of some really creative ideas, which project is your favorite?
KM: Oh, that is a very hard question. I have to say that the laminated cotton Mommy and Me aprons are my favorite. Over the years, I’ve used that pattern for both oilcloth and cotton. It’s one of the very first apron patterns that I designed, and it’s based on two of my favorite vintage aprons.
WC: What was the most difficult part of creating and writing this book? How long have you been working on it?
KM: Writing the text for the patterns was very hard for me. I am a visual learner to a fault. I’ve always been able to look at pattern pieces and know what to do with them, but I never really read pattern instructions until I needed to write my own. I had to read every pattern I could find just to get a feel for how to write them.
We started working on the projects for the book in late winter of 2010, and I started working on the patterns in April. We finished up the last edits April 2011. From the “proposal email” to publication, it was about 18 months. It’s an amazing process that includes many very talented people. I was very lucky to have such great editors to help me every step of the way. I am also very thankful for the lovely photos and illustrations that make the projects come alive. This book belongs not just to me, but to so many wonderful people who contributed to it and supported me.
WC: Where do you get your inspiration for pieces? Or do they seem to come from necessity?
KM: I would say that all of my creations are useful, and come from necessity. Combine that with the fact that I am a housewife that likes pretty things, and you can see why I do what I do. I really want everyday things to be pretty and not just practical. For example, I have always loved nice table linens, but I didn’t have time to wash and iron my tablecloths every time a child spilt their juice, so it was oilcloth to the rescue!
WC: What are some common mistakes you’ve encountered using oilcloth? Any good tips for beginners?
KM: I am a bit of a speed demon when it comes to sewing, so I have had to slow it down if I want nice, even stitches. Oilcloth can get a little sticky under the foot, so using a roller or non-stick foot is very helpful. If you don’t have a fancy foot you can use painter’s tape on the bottom of a regular foot instead. A regular home sewing machine, all-purpose thread, and a new universal needle is all you need. Use your fabric scraps to get used to working with oilcloth, especially when top stitching.
WC: Is oilcloth hard to find? Where do you recommend people buy it?
KM: Five years ago oilcloth was really hard to find. I couldn’t find any around town and only a few places carried it online. Thankfully, oilcloth is getting easier to find in your local fabric shops now. I’ve even seen some kitschy housewares shops carrying it.
If you can’t find it locally, I recommend my Oilcloth Addict shop on Etsy, oilclothaddict.etsy.com. We have 45 oilcloths, over 20 laminated cottons and lots of chalkcloth on hand. You’ll also find charm packs, fat quarters, and ½ yards in all three fabric types in the shop.
WC: What are some of your other favorite crafts or projects you like to do besides sewing with oilcloth?
KM: I really love to crochet, but unfortunately I am not very good at it. I want nothing more than to learn how to knit. Any excuse to buy more yarn is fine by me! I wish I could spend my days hanging out in a yarn shop, chatting with the girls while creating beautiful garments.