Ethical Elegance: Sewing Skills

Jun 18

fabricOne of my few regrets is not having been a better student in Home Economics. I was in middle school and not much interested in such things. Goodness, I set a potholder on fire (not on purpose!) in the Home Ec kitchen. And even though I’m sure part of me craved sewing skills, I was in no mental or emotional place to develop them during those tumultuous years.

Things are different now. I learned a little about sewing clothes in my early 20s, but my garments never had polish nor did they fit right. After taking Cal’s pattern drafting class at Brooklyn General, my excitement about sewing has increased every week. My plan is to build my sewing skills this summer as a way to build my ethical, elegant wardrobe.

I confess to a bit of a pattern-buying frenzy. Here are some of the pieces I plan to make:

Anna Maria Horner’s Painted Portrait Dress. I’m following the Alabama Chanin adaptations.

Colette Sorbetto top. This pattern is free, and I’ll be using the gray and blue fabrics pictured above.

Factory Dress by Merchant and Mills. I ordered my pattern from Clementine, and if you call, lovely Leah will also help you pick out just the right fabric. I’m using the red pictured above.

Wiksten Tank. I haven’t selected a fabric for this yet. I think it will be a good top to wear with my skinny jeans.

Everyday skirt from Liesl & Co. I wear skirts all the time. In fact, I rarely wear pants to work, and almost never wear shorts in the summer. It’s all dresses and skirts all the time around here. I am hoping this may be one I can master and make in casual and work-appropriate fabrics.

A-frame skirt from Blueprint Patterns. The shape of this is so smart. Can’t you see it with boots and a big sweater in the winter?

I made one of Sonya’s 100 Acts of Sewing Skirt No. 1, and I love the fit of the pattern, and Sonya’s instructions are easy to follow. In fact, I was so smitten with the skirt, I dug through my back issues of Taproot and made her tunic in issue 8.

As so much of the wardrobe I’ve nursed through years of minimalish dressing starts to look shabby, I’m excited to replace it with garments I construct myself.  I’m eager to build my sewing skills, and I’ll be relying a lot on the Clementine Pinterest boards. I fully intend to make up for those middle school years!

What are you stitching this summer? Any sewing patterns you think I should see?

Read More


Jun 02


Imagine hot air, lush plants, vibrant colors. As I walked through the New York Botanical Garden Frida Kahlo exhibit, I was transported to the artist’s world. The exhibit includes a replica of Casa Azul’s garden as well as a gallery of her work. I especially loved the drawings included.

Despite living in Westchester County for 14 years, I never once visited the NYBG. From Grand Central, it is a quick train ride on the Harlem line. Now that I know, I suspect an annual visit will be in order!

Joyce braceletMaybe the best part of the day was seeing it all with my pal Joyce. She’s a writer, artist, adventurer, and I loved spending time with her as we refilled our creative wells. She pointed out a textile (weaving and embroidery) demo, and after I peppered the artists with questions, we each selected a woven bracelet to remember the day. Friendship bracelets on my mind? I guess so!

What have you seen lately that fills your creative well? I’d love to hear about exhibits, movies…anything!

Read More

Birth of a Book: Meet Damian Alexander

May 27

Last semester I had the pleasure of working with Damian Alexander in my Freelancer class. Damian, who recently graduated, is a talented illustrator, and a skilled writer. Among Damian’s many projects, he has written a children’s book (that’s just right for adults, too) with an important message. I asked him to talk about it a little: 

DAWhen I look at kids I almost instantly see myself. I see who I was and how I felt and what I thought about when I was that age. I see myself and my cousins and my friends and every kid I knew growing up in every kid I see. Over time I’ve developed this thing in the back of my head where I want to protect every one. Especially the ones who I know are going to have a rougher time with the life they’ve been given. Seeing as I can’t physically put them all into a bubble of safety, I started writing about them.

In my soon-to-be-published picture book I Want a Kid and I Don’t Care I focused on children looking to be adopted. The idea was sparked when I came across a wallin a furniture store with photos of kids looking for families. I found out that it primarily consisted of “harder to place” kids. On hearing that I instantly got sad and wished I could adopt them all, but I can’t do that at this time in my life. So I wrote a book. Through the lighthearted rhyme and colorful illustrations I wielded a story about unconditional love. Throughout its pages the book reiterates the idea that differences don’t matter, whether the child you have looks different from you or has a disability or is transgender or wants to do ballet when all you know is soccer. It just doesn’t matter.

All that does matter is love.

Over a year ago I dug through my illustrations and found just one of a little girl in acrylic paint on paper. I had found the style for my book. For the following year I worked on painting the illustrations and revising the story several times. Until finally I had it finished, printed and in my hands.

Now I need your help to make it a reality. Getting one copy printed is simple but getting funds for multiple printings and distribution takes a bit of help. I recently launched a Kickstarter where you can pledge and help support this project while getting a copy of the book or some art in the process.

Additionally for every book distributed through the Kickstarter, I will donate $2 to the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Association, which inspired the project. They’re an organization focused on placing all types children with the perfect family; they’re also open to single parent households and LGBTQ couples.

I hope you’ll consider supporting Damian’s book, at any level you can. If you’re interested in reading more about him, check out his interview on Alaina Marie’s Keys and read his blog

Read More

Mid-May Friday Faves

May 22


I’ve gathered some links for lovely things to read, to make, to buy.

  • I’m taking a class to learn Uncial calligraphy, and this week my postcard project (if you haven’t signed up for one, there’s still room!) has focused on practicing it by writing an interesting word on a watercolor background. Want to read a few interesting words? Check out this site!
  • Speaking of postcards, Gale’s Nash Island postcards are back in stock! I include one when I send a package to a fiber-loving friend, but mainly I gaze at them (especially those two lambs in front of the barn!) and am transported for a few minutes to a happy, peaceful place.
  • My former student Damian is a talented illustrator and writer and a beautiful human. He’s written a book called I Want a Kid and I Don’t Care. Take a look at his Kickstarter video. The book is done; Damian is raising funds for the costs associated with publishing. If you know someone with foster or adopted kids or someone who is thinking of fostering or adopting kids, this makes a sweet gift. I’ll be posting more about Damian soon!
  • It’s time for Through the Loops MKAL shawl! Kirsten’s patterns are so clear and always elegant. Did you see her recommended yarn? Another fave:
  • Dragonfly Fiber Pixie. I wound my two skeins last weekend, and it is so hard to wait until June 1 to cast on! Oh, what colors did I pick? Wine Country and Sixteen Candles (Molly Ringwald 4-evah, yo).
  • Want more pretty yarn and shawl combos? Check out the Sundara Petals Collection. Kirsten and my new chum Thea both have patterns in the collection. And: cashmere!
  • Last week I put out feelers on social media to see if there is interest in another friendship bracelet swap for grown ups. Let me know in the comments if you’re interested in playing summer camp again this year! In the meantime, you can grab a sweet deal on a set of Et Voila Design’s version of friendship bracelets here! The April special is continuing for some extra time, just for you!
  • One of the things I love about summer break is that the teacher gets to be a student. I took Cal’s Pattern Drafting class in NYC at the beginning of the month (it’s also available on Creativebug). If you have a chance to take any class with her, do eet! She is a patient, wonderful teacher. I’m eager to be her student again!

Your turn: leave a link to a fave of your own!

Read More

Ethical Elegance: Birkenstocks

May 07

Seriously. Even five years ago, I would not have considered bringing Birkenstocks into my closet. You might think it was the NY Times approval that changed my mind, but, no. Last summer before I left for my trip to Scotland and France, I considered the Gizeh as my research showed me they were favored by the ever-elegant French women. As a Birkvirgin, though, I didn’t want to order online birkwithout knowing more about the fit. So the Gizeh crush subsided as shopping-related crushes often do.

Until I drew up my packing list for a visit to Wilmington, NC in April.

I was due for new sandals. And I wanted shoes that would last, that would look adorable with jeans or dresses, that would be comfortable, that were ethical.

I asked my style guru Heather which Birk to start with, and her answer: Mayari. I visited a local retailer and tried on a few sizes. I’m usually between a 7 and 8, depending on the manufacturer. I went with the 37 (in Uggs, for comparison, I wear 38) and the antique lace color. I couldn’t be more pleased. The foot bed is already conformed to my foot, making this shoe delightfully comfortable.

And here’s another thing. Birkenstock is a company that’s been around since the 18th century, and they’re still made in Germany.

Here’s another thing. While I have found it difficult to give up leather (I know, I know…I’m trying), the Birks I own are vegan. And that feels really ethical to me.

And suprisingly elegant.

What has surprised you as a piece you’ve grown to love in your wardrobe?

Read More
Skip to toolbar