Stitching a simple life: Q & A with Maggie Bonanomi (+ special giveaway!)

Welcome to the warm, woolly world of Maggie Bonanomi, where whimsical wonders await!

Come on in, take a seat, and enjoy some slow stitching with this celebrated maker—she’ll lead you on a creative journey inspired by a simpler time.

Pure & Simple

In Maggie’s world, hand-drawn patterns and hand-dyed wool combine with artful motifs and casual stitches. The result is Pure & Simple, a rustic collection of primitive projects that are a delight to make, use, and enjoy.

From Pure & Simple

No fancy skills to learn, no expensive tools to buy: needle, thread, and wool are about all you need to begin. Create pillows, runners and toppers, wall art, and even clever vegetables crafted into sewing essentials—make them in minutes to warm up any nook or cranny.

Early Radish and Sweet Peas
Early Radish and Sweet Peas

A few things to know about Maggie:

  • Her small appliquéd projects feature an indulgent mix of cozy wools, textured linens, and crisp cottons.
  • When stitching her primitive designs, Maggie uses only ONE type and color of thread: Coats and Clark’s Summer Brown (how simple is that?).
  • Maggie uses a whipstitch to appliqué raw-edge shapes. That’s it! No turning under edges. Although she might toss in a sprinkle of embroidery stitches from time to time.

Little Brown Bird
Little Brown Bird

  • She prefers hand-dyed wool by Blackberry Primitives, and the colors she uses are listed in Pure & Simple. (We hear Blackberry Primitives will be hosting a sew-along for the book—stay tuned!)
  • Sometimes Maggie uses found items, like twigs and bits of book pages, in her projects. The results are enchanting.

May Basket Pin Keep
May Basket pin keep—note how the paper behind the top button transforms it into a flower!

  • You’ll instantly be put as ease once you learn Maggie’s stitching philosophy: perfection isn’t the goal. It’s supposed to be fun, after all!

Maggie’s simple, casual style will charm you—as all things do when they’re handmade and from the heart.

We asked Maggie to answer a few questions about her creative life—read her answers below. And don’t miss the opportunity to enter to win a copy of Pure & Simple AND one of three adorable kits from Blackberry Primitives!


Maggie BonanomiStitch This!: How did you come to write Pure & Simple?

Maggie: The way Pure & Simple came to be written is a bit of a roundabout. I started to miss writing a book; it had been a few years since my last one. I put together a monthly newsletter, which included a few wool projects that became a monthly girls’ club through the Country Sampler shop in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Once I had contact with Martingale, those projects became part of an idea for a new book. I guess you’d say the rest is history.

ST!: Your work is known for being primitive, unfussy, and, well . . . pure and simple! Can you tell us more about your aesthetic? How did it develop?

Maggie: I just find that working with a muted color palette and simple designs is more pleasing to my eye. I design things I’d want to live with.

Life is Good pillow
Life Is Good pillow

ST!: What’s your typical process for designing, and where do you find inspiration?

Maggie: I can’t say I have a typical process for designing. I may do some simple drawings, I may be inspired by a purchase of some wonderful wool, or there may be an idea for something I want. Inspiration comes from many places. Most often it’s nature and color, and occasionally a scrap on the floor that I see in a different light!

ST!: It’s obvious that you love wool and hand sewing; what is it that draws you to them over other fabrics and techniques?

Maggie: Wool, particularly hand-dyed wool, is wonderful to work with. It’s easy. You can cut out a piece and just stitch it down!

Sunshine on a Stem
Sunshine on a Stem

ST!: What do you love about being a designer?

Maggie: What I love about being a designer is that I’m able to share what I love, simple as that. Well, and getting to travel to places to teach!

ST!: Tell us about The Purple Turnip!

Maggie: The Purple Turnip is my studio and shop in Lexington. It’s in a wonderful building on Main Street, built in 1869. It’s only about four blocks from home. It’s a bit antiques/collectibles, old textiles (if I can part with them), ironstone, wool, my books, and an assortment of things I love. The shop is where I can work and also occasionally hold workshops.

Potted Topiary
Potted Topiary

ST!: Finish these sentences for us:

One reason working with wool is so satisfying is: there are such great colors and textures, and you don’t have to turn under the raw edges!

If I had a three-word sewing mantra, it would be: stitch, stitch, stitch. It can be very meditative.

My best tip for new stitchers is: NOT to worry about perfection. A lot of time, and sometimes money, is spent on our projects. The process should be enjoyed, and we don’t need to waste time worrying about how we’re doing.

Before I begin designing a new project, I must have: the materials I think I might want to use as well as a simple drawing to help direct me.

If I had a sewing superpower, it would be: being able to get to and make all the ideas I have!


Many thanks to Maggie for answering our pressing questions—and now for more about that warm-and-woolly giveaway!

Our friends at Blackberry Primitives generously sent us THREE of the cutest little kits we’ve ever seen! They come with all the wool and ribbon you need to make this pretty White Tulips pillow from Pure & Simple, plus a fun little tape measure too!

To enter your name in the giveaway to win a kit plus a copy of Pure & Simple, tell us:

Pure & SimpleHow often do you set time aside for a little slow sewing?

  • As often as I can squeeze it in.
  • At least once a week.
  • Every day!
  • Most of my time is spent speed sewing on the machine—but Maggie’s got me thinking about slowing things down here and there!

Share your answer in the comments! We’ll choose three random winners one week from today and let you know by email if you win. Good luck! And if you feel like you can’t own Maggie’s slow-sewing book fast enough, order Pure & Simple at our website and instantly download the eBook for free.

Comments are closed for this post.

Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The winners are:

Kathie, who says, “I’d say at least once a week.  More often if I have a wonderful project like these in the book.  Thanks for the giveaway.”

Linda, who says, “I slow sew as often as I can squeeze it in. It’s my preferable way to sew. In the winter when life slows down, I try to sew a little every day and always with wool. Thank you Maggie, Blackberry Primitives, and Martingale for this delightful giveaway!”

Sharon, who says, “As often as I can, but at least once a week. I love to embroider (as well as machine sewing/quilting), and it’s so enjoyable. Thank you for the giveaway!”

We’ll email you about your prizes, ladies—congratulations!


472 Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.