The earliest sewing needles were made of bone, ivory and thorns, used by primitive peoples thousands of years ago. For thread they worked with what they had: animal sinew and plants for cordage.


The earliest sewing needles were made of bone, ivory and thorns, used by primitive peoples thousands of years ago. For thread they worked with what they had: animal sinew and plants for cordage.

Things have come a long way since the Stone Age and Missy Shepler has her grandmother and Elias Howe — inventor of the first functional sewing machine — to thank because of it.

Shepler is the author of two sewing books. Her most recent work, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sewing,” was published this year with co-author Rebecca Kemp Brent.

Growing up in Iowa she began sewing at a young age, learning all she could from her mother and grandmother.

“I was the kid with the sewing card.”

“It wasn’t considered cool, so I did it in hiding.”

Shepler graduated from Iowa State University in 1984 with her bachelor of arts in graphic design and later co-authored her first book with Linda Griepentrog, “Print Your Own Fabric: Create Unique Designs Using an Inkjet Printer” in 2007.

It was through Griepentrog that Shepler came to meet Brent. Shepler was then contacted by a “headhunter” — someone who hunts down prospective employees for corporations — for The Complete Idiot’s Guide about a work-for-hire sewing book. When the contract was signed, Shepler and Brent had only three months to have the guide finished.

Now complete and gracing Do-It-Yourself shelves nationwide, the 290-page manual leads the reader through five parts, beginning with basic hand sewing and advancing to the sewing machine.

“The book is aimed for those who have sewn but need a refresher,” said Shepler.

Within the book’s pages are how-to illustrations — a specialty of Shepler’s — which help readers to visually understand instruction.

Her Chillicothe garage-turned-studio has also allowed her to work on sewing how-tos from her home since 1997.

Even after publishing two books, Shepler says she is not raking in the dough. “Let’s face it, it’s not Harry Potter.”

But these days Shepler is happy doing what she loves. “From the creative side of it, I think it is fun.” She currently creates how-to graphics for Interweave, an art and craft media company.

As far as being a forgotten pastime, Shepler said she believes sewing is making a comeback. “People can’t afford the designer clothes in this economy. People are having to watch their budgets.”

An alternative to squandering your wallet at the department store, Shepler said “It’s neat to be able to repurpose,” as she pulled out a purple scarf made from cotton tee-shirts.

Sometimes simpler is better. Shepler said, “There’s something truly satisfying about just being able to make something yourself …you know the ‘story behind the stitch,’ so to speak, and I think that makes the item more valuable, or at least more personal.”   

To learn more about Shepler, visit www.missystiches.com. To purchase “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sewing,” go to Amazon.com, us.penguingroup.com, or idiotsguides.com.