‘Sew & Stow’

When Betty Oppenheimer was in sixth grade, her mother bought her her very own sewing machine. Oppenheimer picked up the skill right away and said she fell in love with it.

“My mom was totally excited,” recalled Oppenheimer, who now works as a publication specialist for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Center.

As she improved, Oppenheimer realized it wasn’t clothing she enjoyed creating, it was accessories such as bags, upholstery and stuffed animals. In junior high, she created a custom-made purse that fit her petite frame and said she used it for years.

“I would get compliments on that purse all the time,” she said. “I had it forever.”

As Oppenheimer designed and created her items, she also fell in love with writing. Her first book, “The Candlemaker’s Companion” was published in 1997 and was a huge success: The book has sold more than 60,000 copies and been translated into Spanish, Estonian and even Braille.

“It wasn’t intentional, but it was released around the time that people were concerned about Y2K,” she said. “People thought they’d have to make their own candles.”

On the heels of “Candlemaker’s” success, Oppenheimer released “Gifts for Herb Lovers,” also in 1997 and “Sewing Packs, Pouches, Seats and Sacks” in 1998. A self-published book on the Sequim-area lavender business followed.

With the renewed interest in sewing, Oppenheimer’s publishing company, Massachusetts-based Storey Publishing, decided to re-release the sewing book under the name “Sew & Stow.”

The book, which Oppenheimer illustrated as well, has 31 sewing projects from the trademark cloth grocery totes to aprons, fabric file boxes and beach wraps.

“I don’t understand why, but I’ve always enjoyed making things that hold things,” Oppenheimer said.

To fit the new millennium, Oppenheimer and her partners at Storey Publishing revamped the book to make it more “green,” promoting the reusable grocery bags and other earth-friendly projects.

While it is updated, Oppenheimer made it clear that it is not very different from the version that came out a decade ago.

“If you bought the book 10 years ago, there’s no need to buy it again,” she said. “It’s basically the same book.”

When first creating the book, Oppenheimer said she made sure the book was easy-to-understand and included detailed explanations and “how-tos.”

“It’s not rocket science, but if you’ve never done it before it can be difficult,” she said. “My feeling now is that sewing is having a resurgence. People are realizing that it can be fun.”

“Sew & Stow” is available at,, and can be ordered at local bookshops.

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