Catching up with Erin Bried of “How to sew a button”

I had the pleasure of reading Erin Bried’s book, “How to sew a button”, cover to cover, for a review and a giveaway while back.  I was so impressed by her book that I even convinced the coordinator who organized my recent PTSA talk to raffle Erin’s book as a prize.

When the giveaway ended, I wanted to find out why a successful yuppie, living in a city, would want to learn how to sew a button and make pies. So, I asked her a few questions. And she was gracious enough to let me peer into her head a little and also revealed a little surprise in the process. Read on and find out what she has up her sleeves.

Erin Bried

Q:   Most young people don’t think about throwing home-cooked dinner parties, never mind, attempting to bake a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie for dessert. Do you think they are not capable because no one taught them these nifty things or because they are not interested in learning?

A: Anyone is capable of learning any of these skills. Believe me, if I can learn to fold a fitted sheet, carve a turkey, grow an herb garden and dance a waltz, so can you. We’re starting to value these skills again, too. If there’s an upside to this Great Recession, I think it’s that we’re starting to recalibrate what it means to be wealthy. Like our grandmothers before us, especially those who lived through the Great Depression, we’re discovering that being resourceful, having good relationships and being able to find joy in good times and bad is more valuable than how much money you make or how much stuff you can buy. We’re learning to become more self-sufficient not only because we have to, but also because we want to. It’s fun and empowering.

Q: When I read your book, all I can think of was how eco-friendly your tips are. For example, cleaning with vinegar and baking soda (I posted about this last year), composting, shopping at farmers markets, I can go on. Were you intending to make that point or do you think living simply contributes to being eco-friendly?

A: It wasn’t my original intent to write a book about being eco-friendly, but it seems I’ve accidentally done it anyway. I collected back-to-basics wisdom from ten grandmothers, all of whom lived through the Great Depression, and I discovered that they were green, long before “being green” was a movement (or marketing concept). They grew their own food because they had to. They composted, because they saw the value in everything, even their scraps. They cleaned with baking soda and vinegar, because it was cheap. They reduced, reused and recycled. They were localvores, organic gardeners, slow foodies, environmentalists—only they didn’t think of themselves that way. They were simply living, and living simply.

Q: How much of living in the city promotes having other people do your chores, like sewing a button, or do you think this phenomenon is across the country, regardless where you live? I mean, you can just drop your shirt off at the neighborhood dry cleaners. Isn’t it much easier? And canning tomatoes or having a compost can be hard if you live in the city.

City dwellers, like myself, certainly have more options, but I can tell you from experience that sewing on a button myself takes less time (and costs less money) than even just walking the two blocks to the tailor. Of course, it’s a little harder to have a garden, but I do try to grow my own herbs and tomatoes, and luckily there are plenty of wonderful farmers’ markets within walking distance, too.

Q: Do you think men should read this book, too? I mean, this is not a gender based book, as far as I’m concerned, but some critics would say that sewing and cooking tips are for females.

Absolutely. There are 110 tips in the book, and I think men and women should know how to do just about every one. And men used to, too. One grandmother I interviewed, Lucile Frisbee, 80, told me, “During the Depression, there was no men’s work or women’s work. There was just work, and anybody who was around was expected to chip in.” When the laundry needed to be done, whoever was available did it. When the fire needed to be stoked, whoever happened to be closest to the wood pile would split the logs. They knew how to do these things because their lives (or, at least, the quality of their lives) depended on it.

Q: What domestic chore you love the best? And hate the most?

I love baking pies, and I try to eat them for breakfast as often as possible. I think so many people get intimidated by working with pastry dough, but it’s actually very easy. Besides, anything homemade that comes in a pie plate is going to be great.

What do I hate the most? Cleaning. Who doesn’t? But still, I tidy up everyday, and I feel so great when my house is sparkling.

Q: What did your mother say when you told her you are writing this book?

She was, of course, so proud! She’s a kindergarten teacher in Pennsylvania, and when I appeared on The Today Show, she had almost her entire school watching.

Q: Your book is a huge hit. Are you going to write another book? Maybe “How to tie a fishing lure…..and other nifty things my grandpa taught me”? I think that would be an awesome sequel.

I’m thrilled to report that yes, there will be a sequel! It’s called How to Build a Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew (Ballantine), and it’ll hit stores in December 2010.

Thank you Erin for taking the time from your busy schedule to let us get to know you a little better. We can’t wait until your next book hits the stores!

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