Q &A with Betz White, author of Sewing Green

How did you learn to sew?

I learned by watching my mom sew on her old Singer Featherweight. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I used to crawl around under the sewing table and dig through her sewing box while she worked. I loved examining the tools and machine attachments. In those days, she made a lot of clothing for my brothers and me. Eventually, she showed me how to use the machine and years later I started making simple outfits for myself. I have a distinct recollection of a raspberry fleece mini skirt with a matching batwing funnel-neck top circa 1980s.

Which project in Sewing Green was the most fun to work on and why?

I really enjoyed making the Woodland Draft Buster, a branch-shaped softie that keeps drafts from sneaking in under the door. It’s fun to randomly stitch the wood grain pattern onto the fabric to create the look of tree bark. I also like the idea of a whimsical soft sculpture doubling as a functional piece. Plus, I love the play on words: a log that helps keep your house warm without a fireplace!

Which project in Sewing Green was the most challenging to work on and why?

The most challenging project was the Auto Sun Shade, which is made from 100 Mylar juice pouches sewn together into a screen. I had never sewn Mylar pouches before so I did a lot of experimenting before settling on the final design. I had to keep hounding my neighbor at the school bus stop every morning to supply me with more empty juice pouches. My husband brought them home from Cub Scout den meetings as well. At the time we had just moved to a new town, so I’m sure our “trash-hoarding” raised a few eyebrows.

What was the biggest overall challenge of working on Sewing Green? The most rewarding?

While designing feels like second nature to me, writing takes much more focus and discipline. I’m fortunate to have had excellent editors to keep me on task and nudge me along. It was extremely rewarding to pass my labors of love into the hands of the most talented photography, design, and editing professionals in the industry.

What is the most environmentally innovative project you have ever created?

To date, I think that the Reusable Sandwich Wrap is the project that has the most environmental impact. As the mother of two young boys, I pack 8 to10 lunches a week. I did some research and found out that children's school lunches create a disturbing 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year (according to Kids Konserve, www.kidskonserve.com). With that in mind, I set out to design a reusable sandwich wrap that is fun, functional, and easy to use. My design folds easily, accommodates various bread sizes, and, when opened, serves as a clean "placemat." And after each use, it can be wiped clean or even tossed in the laundry.

Which is the quickest project to make in the book?

The Easy Breezy Skirt is fast to whip up. Since it’s made with a premade pillowcase, the majority of the cutting and sewing is already done. All you have to do is create the waistband casing and, if you want, add the optional decorative trim.

When you were a child, what did you imagine you would be when you grew up?

Ride designer for Disneyland, artist, professional ice skater, and forest ranger are the careers I can remember off the top of my head.

If you could spend an afternoon sewing with one person in history, who would it be?

My late grandmother, Frances Sayre, who influenced me greatly. She combined simple yet elegant style and practicality. Most of my memories of her include stitching. She was always either sewing, embroidering, or knitting.

What are you making now?

I have a mental queue of sewing projects that I can’t wait to get to, mainly skirts and summer tops. I’ve got lots of vintage finds, such as tablecloths, pillowcases, and a chenille bedspread waiting in my stash!