Slow Fashion thoughts week one.....

As a maker, my process is constantly evolving, and recently an issue has arisen that has given me pause.  It has been five years now since I took my sewing back up, after about a ten-year lapse. I sewed clothes for myself as a pre-teen, and then again just out of college, and yet again in my late thirties. But for most of my forties my making was dedicated to knitting. Late in that period I developed a pretty bad case of Epicondylitis, also known as Tennis Elbow, that forced me to stop knitting, entirely, for about nine months. This was the time when I became aware of the Modern Quilting fabric movement. Pretty sure it was Amy Butler’s Midwest Modern line that drew me in. I unearthed my Singer sewing machine, took it to be serviced, and starting sewing pieces of fabric together again. It took a little while to remember my skills, but, as the saying goes, it’s like riding a bicycle. You remember. Partially ergonomic memory, partially instinct, voices of early teachers, words from books, mistakes made, and fixed, it all comes flooding back.

A pile of some current garment 'scraps'....

A pile of some current garment 'scraps'....

Anyway, that’s a story for another day, me re-finding my love of sewing. What is timely is where I am right now, five years into a dedicated sewing practice, making predominantly garments. I have a stash. I have excess. The photos that accompany this post are of that stash.  At times it feels like wretched excess.  I have piles of scrap fabric. (no, I'm not showing you that....) I have taken up quilting, and it does address some of this overflow. But honestly I am not quilting with my rayon scraps…. So there are small cuts of fabric piling up. On the other end of the process, I have accumulated a sizable stash of completed garments that for one reason or another, I no longer wear. This category includes styles that no longer appeal to me, items I no longer fit (sigh), wearable muslins in colors and patterns that don’t really work for me, and items that just never really worked for me. I am pretty much 95% handmade garments in my daily wear at this point. So I have a lot of clothes to wear. Which means items that don’t sing to me, don’t get worn. I am starting to run out of closet space. More importantly my psyche is feeling burdened by these pieces of perfectly wearable clothing that are not being worn. I feel guilty.  This is a guilt of my own making, and not one I want to project on anyone else. But it feels real to me.....  I know that there is a glut of second hand clothing in the universe. No matter how virtuous giving to charitable organizations might make you feel in the short term, the reality is much of what you donate ends up in the third world, as scrap, or worse, in landfills. If you pay attention to Fast Fashion news, you know that there are millions of shoddy Tee shirts that are discarded a few weeks after their purchase, that end up in this system. That whole construct horrifies me. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I highly recommend you watch The True Cost (film), it’s available on Netflix. There is also an article circulating in slow fashion circles about the problem with second-hand clothing.  You can read it here.

Having this knowledge has recently caused a schism in my Making construct. Well, that, and my overflowing closet. I have too many clothes. And unlike many people in this situation, my clothing is not disintegrating fast fashion. It’s handmade garments that will probably last a good long while. But I’m not going to wear most of this overflow. So what do I do with it? With the current conversation started, and generously guided, by Karen Templer for Slow Fashion October, I feel it is time for me to address this issue.

A little background and context. My mother was born at the end of the Depression and was raised during the Second World War. She was never homeless, and always had enough food, but the issue of shortage was ever present in her young years. My Mother does not waste anything. She has always washed out tin foil and plastic bags and re-used them. She shops on the sale rack, always. She is constitutionally unable to buy anything at the regular price. Being her first born, even though my childhood was pretty comfortable, I absorbed these habits. I look for bargains. When I was younger, Loehmann’s was a store in New York City that sold actual high-end Designer clothing (the real stuff, not the current secondary market junk) for affordable prices. My Mother and I shopped Loehmann’s hard. Because even though she looked for good prices, my Mother still had a dynamic sense of style and recognized quality, workmanship, and good design. I remember one blouse we bought for me that was not dissimilar to the Wiksten Tova, in a lovely off-white cotton. We referred to that blouse as “the world’s most beautiful blouse’. And it was legendary for years. We gauged other garments based on their similarity to, or lack of, the “world’s most beautiful blouse”.

Some of the garments I have made that I no longer wear.....

Some of the garments I have made that I no longer wear.....

I was instilled with this awareness of style and value at a very young age.  The Vogue September issue was a regular read for decades. To my mind, there is little surprise that I like to sew my own clothes. My Mother also taught me to sew, so she gave me many tools with which to indulge in my love of clothing. For the last little while I have been blithely sewing away, looking for my signature look, looking for flattering garments that make me feel good, searching for the perfect pattern. Style is an ineffable quality. We all have some version of it. Some of us obsess over it, others have it effortlessly, some disdain its pursuit. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, you are aware of it. At the ripe old age of 54, having cruised past Menopause, I am feeling increasingly comfortable in my skin, and aware of what my ‘style’ is. This has led to some pivoting in my wardrobe, and some insights about my earlier choices. So you see, we are back at that pile of handmade clothing. Most of it is perfectly lovely, well made, and fashionable. But it is not for me. So what do I do with it? I have certainly thought I could beat the system and find a charity that would actually use it. The article referenced above has squashed that belief. At points I have thought about holding a clothing swap….but I am an Introvert. The thought of spreading my clothing life out for others to paw through, to choose, or discard, in real time, has given me extreme pause. I have thought about perhaps selling it (at reasonable prices) as one would sell one’s stash.  I do not know what to do about it all.

As the conversation about Slow Fashion blossoms during this month of October I am hoping some clarity will present itself. Perhaps someone else out there is wrestling with this issue. Are you?  Do you have any ideas about what to do?

Piece Keeping

Amy Butler has a new book out titled Piece Keeping and she has invited me to be part of her blog tour to support the book. I was honored to be asked, and excited to get my hands on a copy of the book.  I first met Amy two+ years ago at Quilt Market when I walked up and introduced myself to her. She could not have been warmer or friendlier to this total stranger and I was instantly impressed with her grace and generosity.  Amy's Midwest Modern was the first line of Modern quilting fabric I became aware of, so to be talking with her in the flesh was a bit of a fangirl moment. As I have gotten to know her over the past two years (she came to Maine July '15 and taught a workshop with Heather Jones- another favorite of mine) my admiration for her talent, her creativity, her business, her friendship, but most of all her heart, have grown steadily.  In an ever growing industry, Amy has stood as a shining light, a fabulous role model, a tireless advocate for creativity, and just a lovely human being.

When Chronicle Books sent me a copy of the book and asked if I'd write a blog post there was no time between the question and my resounding yes! When the book arrived I will admit to a pause in my daily work to page slowly through it, ignoring emails and other business at hand.  The photographs, by Amy's husband and partner in creativity, David Butler, are colorful and inviting, and the directions are all well spelled out and diagrammed. But what totally drew me in, full disclosure, was the section in the back of the book where Amy talks about feeding the creative fires.

The projects in this book are all darling, and inspiring, and the photos will make you want to dive in.  Amy gives a long paragraph in the beginning of the book to each theme and technique used in the book. If you are more of an improvisational maker (as I am) this section will offer much spark for your creative engine. I have been daydreaming about the flying geese block for the past month or two, without yet putting fabric to task. But reading through this first chapter of Amy's books got me doing this.... 



These blocks are made from linen held in my stash from lord knows where, cut with scissors, and stitched by hand.  Yes, by hand. One hot Summer day, under the tent on our patio while trying to escape the heat. And it is this small project for which I am grateful to Amy Butler for writing this fabulous book. With her voice in my head, a rumbling of an idea about flying geese, and some materials at hand, I started a project that may take me months(?) to finish, but that totally turns me on. What a distinct pleasure to find that type of inspiration in a book.

Remember that final chapter I mentioned above?  Well, for me, that is my favorite part of the book. Amy calls it Creative Communion, and it is an issue all creative people struggle with. Especially those who make their creativity their business.  How do you stay engaged, excited, and productive with your muse? Amy offers up tips and resources for keeping that mojo flowing! She has ideas for crafty weekends with friends, places to find inspiration, both virtual and analog. And she encourages you to carve out creative 'me time' which is SO important. Those geese you see to the left were channeled during some me time I had to force myself to take. But oh the results!

The project that I selected from Piece Keeping is the Embellished Infinity Cowl, and below is the image from the book.  I am planning these geese on the left to be an Embellished cowl of my variation, but we will see what it eventually becomes...  I think this cowl is a beautiful project, ripe for personal touches from your own stash, and a lovely way to wear your creativity around your neck. The instructions are clear and detailed as you can see below, allowing the newer sewist the opportunity to follow a project to completion, and the more experienced to use it as a starting point. My finished cowl will look differently, but will be forever inspired by Amy.


I have been told I can share the full instructions for the project here with you, so you can try it and see what your cowl looks like!  The instructions are at the bottom of this post.

I am also giving away a prize package of a copy of the book, a stack of fat quarters of Amy's latest line from FreeSpirit, and some of her ribbons from Renaissance Ribbons. Much fuel for your creative fire! I will pick a winner at random from my comments on Thursday July 28th. Tell me about an aha! moment of your creativity.  Make sure to include your email so I can contact you.

You can check in on all the other creative folks on Amy's Blog Tour from the list below.

July 11 - Chronicle Books

July 12 - The Root Connection

July 13 - Suzy Quilts

July 14 - Rock Paper Scissors

July 15 - 100 Billion Stars

July 16 - Carrie Bloomston

July 17 - Late Night Quilter

July 18 - Crimson Tate

July 19 - A Gathering of Stitches

July 20 - Heather Jones Studio

July 21 - Make It In Design



Embellished Infinity Scarf From Amy's Butler's book Piece Keeping, 20 Stylish Projects That Celebrate Patchwork from Chronicle Books

Finished size: 11" (27.9 cm) wide x 72" (182.9 cm) circumference (37" [94 cm] flat)

Handwork mixes with fresh patchwork for this fanciful scarf.

Wrap yourself in handmade beauty!


All seams are 1/4" (0.6 cm) unless otherwise stated. The seam

allowance is included in all measurements and templates.

Press all seam allowances to one side as you sew.


Flying Geese


Paper Piecing
Hand Embroidery



Use Figure 1 as a guide for selecting the fabrics
From 44" (112 cm) wide light- to mid-weight fabric (unless otherwise noted)

1/4 yard (0.23 m) each of 9 coordinating prints and solids for Patchwork Stripes (Optional: Choose one floral print for hand embroidery)

1/4 yard (0.23 m) each of 2 coordinating prints or solids for the first stripe of Flying Geese Patchwork

1/4 yard (0.23 m) each of 2 coordinating prints or solids for the second stripe of Flying Geese Patchwork

21/8 yards (1.9 m) of 45" (114 cm) or 60" (152 cm) wide fabric for Scarf (Note: Choose a fabric that is reversible; the Patchwork Panels will only be on one side, but the scarf is not self-lined.)

1/4 yard (0.23 m) of coordinating print or solid for Scarf Binding

1/2 yard (0.46 m) of cotton muslin for Patchwork Backing


1 spool of coordinating all-purpose thread (Coats)

Up to 9 different colors of coordinating all-purpose thread for machine quilting on patchwork strips (Coats)

1 skein of embroidery floss to coordinate with the fabric for one Flying Geese triangle (Anchor by Coats)

2 or 3 skeins of embroidery floss to coordinate with fabric for the hand embroidery (Anchor by Coats)

7" (17.8 cm) embroidery hoop (Clover Embroidery Stitching Tool Hoop)

1 spool of transparent thread

4 beads (4 mm) for embellishment

28 to 30 coordinating seed beads for embellishment


4 sheets of foundation paper, 9" x 12" (22.9 x 30.5 cm) (Carol Doak’s)

Ruler that works with rotary cutter and has 1/4" (0.6 cm) markings (such as an Add-A-Quarter Ruler)

1 hand-embroidery needle (Prym-Dritz)

1 short hand-beading needle (Prym-Dritz)

Needle-nose pliers

1 hand-sewing needle

1/4" (0.6 cm) piecing foot for your sewing machine

1.     Cut Out the Template Piece

a.     From the pattern sheet included with this book, cut out: Flying Geese Template

2.     Cut Out the Fabric Pieces
Use your rotary cutter, mat, and ruler to cut the following fabrics:

a.     Flying Geese Stripe 1 (for both Patchwork Panels)

                                               i.     Fabric 1:

                                             ii.     Cut 4 squares for Triangles: 4" (10 cm) square

                                            iii.     Cut 8 squares for Background: 4" (10 cm) square

b.     Fabric 2:

                                               i.     Cut 4 squares for Triangles: 4" (10 cm) square

                                             ii.     Cut 8 squares for Background: 4" (10 cm) square

c.     Flying Geese Stripe 2 (for both Patchwork Panels)

                                               i.     Fabric 3:

                                             ii.     Cut 4 squares for Triangles: 4" (10 cm) square

                                            iii.     Cut 8 squares for Background: 4" (10 cm) square

d.     Fabric 4:

                                               i.     Cut 4 squares for Triangles: 4" (10 cm) square

                                             ii.     Cut 8 squares for Background: 4" (10 cm) square

e.     Patchwork Strip Fabrics

                                               i.     Cut 2 strips from each of the 9 Patchwork Strip fabrics:

                                             ii.     Fabric 1: 11/4" x 111/4" (3.2 x 28.6 cm)

                                            iii.     Fabric 2: 1" x 111/4" (2.5 x 28.6 cm)

                                            iv.     Fabric 3: 11/4" x 111/4" (3.2 x 28.6 cm)

                                              v.     Fabric 4: 7/8" x 111/4" (2.2 x 28.6 cm)

                                            vi.     Fabric 5: 17/8" x 111/4" (4.8 x 28.6 cm)

                                           vii.     Fabric 6: 21/8" x 111/4" (5.4 x 28.6 cm)

                                         viii.     Fabric 7: 13/8" x 111/4" (3.5 x 28.6 cm)

                                            ix.     Fabric 8: 11/2" x 111/4" (3.8 x 28.6 cm)

                                              x.     Fabric 9: 17/8" x 111/4" (4.8 x 28.6 cm)

f.      Scarf Fabric

                                               i.     Cut 1 piece: 74" x 111/4" (188 x 28.6 cm)

g.     Binding Fabric

                                               i.     Cut 4 strips: 2" (5 cm) x width of fabric* (wof)

h.     Muslin

                                               i.     Cut 2 pieces: 18" (45.7 cm) square

3.     Make Flying Geese Strips Using Paper Piecing
Note: Each Patchwork Panel has two Flying Geese Strips. The fabrics in the two strips are reversed on the two panels. (See Figure 2.)

a.     Trace the Flying Geese Template once onto each piece of foundation paper, making sure your lines are straight, as you will be following these lines when you are stitching. Transfer the numbers of each section onto the tracing.

b.     Start with Flying Geese Strip 1 on the first Patchwork Panel. Place one Flying Geese Triangles square under Section 1 with the wrong side against the wrong side of the paper. The fabric piece needs to extend 1/4" (0.6 cm) past all sides of Section 1. Then, take one Background square and match it with the triangle fabric right sides together. Pin these two layers together through the paper with the paper on top. Make sure all sides of the fabric pieces extend 1/4" (0.6 cm) past the section outlines. (See Figure 3.)

c.     Reduce the stitch length on your sewing machine to 1.5 (12 to 14 stitches/inch/2.5 cm). With the paper side up, stitch along the drawn line between Sections 1 and 2, stitching slightly past the beginning and extending through the seam allowance at the end of the line.

d.     Fold the paper back along this stitched line. Use your ruler, rotary cutter, and mat to trim the seam allowance* to 1/4" (0.6 cm). (See Figure 4.)

e.     Turn the paper over and press the fabric open with the seam allowances toward Section 2. The background fabric will now be under Section 2. The excess will be cut off later. (See Figure 5.)

f.      Repeat with another square of the background fabric for Section 3 on the other side. (See Figures 6 and 7.)

g.     Place the second Flying Geese Triangle fabric square right sides together against this first block you just made. Pin through the layers to hold. With the paper side facing up, stitch along the line at the bottom of Section 4.

h.     Fold the paper back along this stitched line. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4" (0.6 cm). Turn the paper over and press the fabric open with the seam allowance going toward Section 4.

i.      Repeat Steps 3b to 3f to sew the background fabrics for Sections 5 and 6 to both sides of the Flying Geese Section 4. Then complete the remaining two Flying Geese sections in this strip.

j.      Trim along the outside edges of the template and gently remove the paper.

k.     Repeat Steps 3b to 3j to complete Flying Geese Strip 1 for Patchwork Panel 2, alternating the fabrics for the Flying Geese Triangles and the Background. Then make two Flying Geese Strip 2 pieces, alternating the fabrics.

4.     Make the Patchwork Panels

a.     Divide the Patchwork and Flying Geese Strips into two groups for the Patchwork Panels.

b.     Start with the first panel and follow the layout in Figure 1 to lay the strips in order.

c.     Working from the left to the right, pin the long edges of the first two strips right sides together. Sew the strips together and press the seam allowances in one direction.

d.     Pin the next strip, right sides together, onto the previous strip and stitch. Continue pinning and sewing in the same manner to complete the panel.

e.     Repeat Steps 4b to 4d to make the second Patchwork Panel.

5.     Quilt and Embellish the Patchwork Panel

a.     Center the wrong side of the first Patchwork Panel on one muslin piece. The muslin will be larger than the panel. Smooth out any wrinkles and pin in place.

b.     For the sashiko stitching on the Flying Geese:

                                               i.     Place the panel and muslin in the quilting hoop, centering it on the first triangle, making sure there is at least 1" (2.5 cm) of fabric outside of the hoop at all times.

                                             ii.     Thread your hand-embroidery needle with two or three strands of embroidery floss. Tie a knot at one end.

                                            iii.     With your chalk pencil and ruler, mark the sashiko lines on the triangle following the image in Figure 8.

                                            iv.     Bring the needle up, from the wrong side to the right, at one of the marked stitches. Make a single straight stitch about 1/8" to 3/16" (0.3 to 0.4 cm) long, following the drawn lines. Space your stitches evenly and the rows of stitches 1/16" to 1/8" (0.1 to 0.3 cm) apart. Make a knot on the wrong side of the fabric with the last stitch.

                                              v.     Repeat to stitch the remaining three Flying Geese triangles in this Strip, moving the hoop as necessary.

c.     For the hand embroidery (use Figure 9 as a guide):

                                               i.     You will use a satin stitch* to fill in patterns on one of the print fabrics. I chose a floral print. Choose small elements of the print that you would like to highlight. Re-hoop the panel and muslin over the portion of the strip you wish to embroider, making sure there is at least 1" (2.5 cm) of fabric outside of the hoop at all times.

                                             ii.     Thread your hand-embroidery needle with three strands of embroidery floss. Tie a knot at one end.

                                            iii.     Start in the center of the pattern. Bring the needle up from the wrong side of the fabric on the outside edge of the pattern. Reinsert your needle into the fabric directly across from where you brought it up through the fabric, spanning the pattern. Pull the thread taut, but don’t make the fabric pucker.

                                            iv.     Bring the needle up next to the original stitch and make a second stitch parallel to the first with very little gap between the two. Continue sewing in this manner to cover the entire motif. Tie a knot on the back of fabric when you are finished.

                                              v.     Re-thread your needle and continue satin stitching any other areas of the patchwork strip you wish to fill in on both panels.

d.     For the beadwork (use Figure 9 as a guide):

                                               i.     Select design details on a floral print or other fabric to embellish with bead clusters. Note: The beadwork does not have to be done inside the embroidery hoop.

                                             ii.     Thread your beading needle with a double strand of transparent thread and tie a knot at the end. Tip: Kink the thread with a pair of needle-nose pliers where you want the knot to go. When you tie the knot at this kink, it will be less likely to shift. Use the pliers to help pull the knot tight.

                                            iii.     Stitch a large bead in the middle of a chosen design. Then, stitch six or seven small beads around central large bead.

                                            iv.     Repeat for a second bead cluster on the first panel. Repeat to make two bead clusters on the second panel.

e.     For the machine quilting (use Figure 10 as a guide):

                                               i.     Thread your machine with the appropriate thread for each Patchwork Panel and Flying Geese Strip as you work.

                                             ii.     Attach your 1/4" (0.6 cm) piecing foot and set your stitch length slightly longer than normal.

                                            iii.     Start with the Patchwork Strips by sewing lines 1/4" (0.6 cm) apart down each strip. Go back and stitch between each row of stitching so the rows end up being 1/8" (0.3 cm) apart and the panel has a flat feel. Note: For the strips with the hand embroidery, stitch in the areas that are not embroidered, working around the embroidered areas.

                                            iv.     Follow the stitching guide in Figure 10 for the Flying Geese Strips, keeping the stitches 1/8" (0.3 cm) apart on the background fabric and 1/4" (0.6 cm) apart inside the Flying Geese Triangles.

6.     Construct the Scarf

a.     Match the short ends of the Scarf fabric, wrong sides together, and stitch. Press the seam allowance open.

b.     Place the wrong side of the first Patchwork Panel onto the Scarf so that one short end completely covers the seam and seam allowance. Pin the Panel onto the Scarf.

c.     Place the second Patchwork Panel 28" (71.1 cm) to the right of the first Panel. Pin the Panel to the Scarf. Try on the Scarf, looping for two layers, and adjust the placement of both panels to your liking. Carefully remove the Scarf.

d.     With your chalk pencil, mark the placement of both Patchwork Panels and then unpin them from the Scarf. Press each short end under ¼" (0.6 cm) to the wrong side on both panels. Repin the panels to the Scarf where marked.

e.     Use a hand-sewing needle and thread to slipstitch* the Panels to the Scarf along all short ends on both Patchwork Panels, hiding your stitches.

7.     Sew the Binding* to the Scarf

a.     Sew the Binding strips together along the short ends and then trim to make two long strips that are 2" (5.1 cm) wide x 74" (188.0 cm) long.

b.     Follow the steps for French Straight Binding* in the Glossary and Techniques section (page 166) to finish the Scarf.

c.     Wash the scarf when you are finished to soften the fabrics.





Making with Cal Patch

During this June weekend, my feed will be full of images of Jen Beeman leading a group of ten excited sewists in making an Archer button down shirt.  I thought this would be a good moment to share with you a conversation I had recently with Cal Patch.  If all the cool making you see on Instagram gets you thinking about joining in on the fun here at AGOS, we've got another garment sewing event coming up. Cal will be here next month to teach a really cool workshop called Design (And MAKE) Your Own Patterns!  I had the great pleasure to take a version of this workshop with Cal four years ago and it truly blew my mind wide open with the possibilities of fitting to my very own body.  If you sew garments for yourself already, you know how liberating it is to be able to customize a garment to fit the particular slope of your shoulder, or the length of your torso. Take that a step further and imagine starting with your dimensions, and creating garments from scratch to fit you in all your individual loveliness!  That's what Cal will be teaching here in our fully equipped studio next month.  And there are still a couple spots left. Not a lot, but a couple.  So if this idea rings your bell, go HERE and register.....soon!


In the meantime Cal and I are going to let you in on some of the workings of this terribly creative, and talented, lady's mind....


AGOS: How did you start sewing?

Cal: I've always been into art and craft, and I did play around with sewing clothes in high school, but not with great success. It was in college (I majored in clothing -- aka fashion -- design) that I learned how to sew properly.

AGOS: Can you tell me about an early make?

Cal: I remember a project I made in high school for art class; it was a dress made out of t-shirts that I over-dyed grey, with reverse-applique triangles out of some kind of sheer mesh, in neon yellow. I designed a brand and packaging for it too! I think it was after I'd decided to major in design in college. I'm not telling you the name of the brand because it's too embarrassing! maybe I'll divulge it in class if someone reminds me... {oh please, someone needs to ask...!}

AGOS: Do you have any favorite tools?

Cal: I'm not too fussy about tools, and I try to keep them to a minimum. I'm not one to go out and buy every gadget on the market. I've had my same Gingher shears since college, which means I've had them for almost 30 years! (gulp.) One little tool that I'm so glad i finally bought, after years of resisting, are those little bias-tape folders. I have 3 sizes and they do make bias-tape making much quicker, and the tape looks much better!

AGOS:  Do you have a favorite time of day (or night) to make?

Cal: I like to sew by day (afternoon is my prime time) and crochet by night, after dinner.

AGOS: Where do you do your making? Can you describe what you like (or don’t) about your creative space?

Cal: I have my own studio, which is the largest room in our house. It has one great feature, which is also its downfall: 3 sides of it are all windows and French doors out to a deck! So the light is amazing, and I can see nature all around me, and my garden and chickens! I love that. But, what I really need is 3 walls of floor-to-ceiling shelves, to house all of my fabric, yarn and other supplies.


AGOS: Do you practice any other Crafts? What are they, and why are they different from sewing?


Cal: Do I ever! Crochet is my other love, and for the most part they are perfectly complementary because I can crochet while traveling or in the evenings while watching a movie, so I do it at times when I couldn't sew. I love that crochet is very portable. Sewing tends to need a lot more space and supplies, so it only happens in my studio. I also spin, embroider, print, dye, and knit.

AGOS: Why do you teach?

Cal: I started teaching when I had my own shop, a dream that I learned was better (for me) as a dream than a reality. I'm not very good at selling, but teaching comes naturally, and I feel really good about empowering others to make. When I teach, I get inspired and excited by my students' enthusiasm, and it renews my love for craft. It also fascinates me how each student processes the skills they learn in their own way, and the end result reflects their own style.

AGOS: Can you describe a typical day for you?

Cal: I'm not a morning person. I get up around 8:30 and ease into the day with tea (teatime continues all day, actually!), breakfast and emails, which always take much longer than I plan for. eventually I work my way into the studio where I work on orders from my Etsy shop, or design new patterns or samples for classes. Somewhere in there I have lunch; my boyfriend also works from home a lot, so we might have it out on the back deck or the front porch if it's warm out. Most days I get out for a walk with my dog Pippi; she likes to go down to the creek for a swim. After dinner I usually crochet on the couch while watching a movie or British detective series.

AGOS: If you could sew with, or for, someone living or dead, who and what would it be….

Cal: Oh wow! I think it'd be fun to go back to the 70's and sew with Betsey Johnson. I've always loved her energy and playful designs. We'd probably make wildly printed knit dresses and matching leggings... not so far off from what I make now!

You can read much more about Cal over at her blog Hodge Podge Farm. Check out her Etsy shop and see the beautiful garments that she has designed and offers for sale. She also has a numbers of classes available on CreativeBug which you can check out.  We are really lucky to have her coming to teach here in Maine, and I am totally excited to host her!  Will you join us?

A new member

If you've been in the space lately then perhaps you've been the recipient of the warm welcome of Katherine Ferrier. If not, what a treat you are in for!  We have a new member of the community, someone whose energy and creativity are boundless, and whose enthusiasm for making, and for A Gathering of Stitches, are infectious. I have been running things by myself for the past two years, and I cannot lie, it may be a bit beyond me. There is a lot of cool stuff going on here, and keeping up with it all is more than one full-time job. Katherine has generously agreed to come on as Studio Manager to help with the physical plant, our community programming, and general creative energy. I am beyond thrilled to have her lovely presence in this venture. I hope that you all take the opportunity to stop by and say hello, and meet this wonderful human for yourselves. Katherine is a force in the world of Making and artistic collaboration, her creative drive and expansive vision are a huge addition to the A Gathering of Stitches community.

To begin with, she will be around Monday through Wednesday holding down the fort while I take a short breather. But her fingers are in many pots, she will be part of our retreats, she's helping Adele Ngoy with the Stitcher Training, and there is another long-term project that we are not quite ready to share, that she will be integral to. How's that for a tease?  Katherine will be Fairy-Godmother-in-residence for the Open Studios weekends of the 14/15th and 21/22nd of this month.  Come do some making and say hello to Katherine this month!  Stay tuned for more exciting developments. And in the meantime, read about her road to A Gathering of Stitches below.



KATHERINE FERRIER is a quiltmaker, poet, dancer, visual artist, educator, curator and community activist who has been immersed in making since the late 80s.  She earned a B.A. in Dance/Women’s Studies from Middlebury, and M.F.A. in Dance and Performance from Sarah Lawrence.  She’s recently moved to Portland from Bethlehem, NH where she’s been based since 2009.

A co-founder of The Architects, an improvisational quartet with a collaborative performance history spanning over 20 years, she is also the founder and Artistic Director of Immediate Theatre, and a founding member of Haiku Analog, both ensembles working with dance-theater-spoken word hybrids.  Her creative research is born from the intersections of movement and words, text and textures.

A year after moving to Northern New Hampshire from Raleigh, North Carolina, Katherine founded Cultivate, a festival designed to nourish community in Northern New Hampshire through contemporary dance and art.  The festival hosts cutting edge dance artists from around the country and abroad, who come to Bethlehem to teach and perform, and immerse themselves in the local community, creating opportunities for North Country audiences to see work and engage with artists otherwise unavailable to them.  A year later she founded the Bethlehem Art Walk, a day long festival of art and performance that fills the tiny town of Bethlehem with the work of over 100 artists, artisans and performers and draws visitors from around the region.  In 2014 she was the driving force behind the creation and installation of a 22 by 10 foot “Welcome to Bethlehem” mural comprised of over 200 panels, each painted by a different member of the community.  The mural is installed on the side of WREN’s Local Works Marketplace and is highly visible while driving down Rt. 302, inspiring many tourists and passers-by to stop and linger in Bethlehem.

She has devoted her professional life to fostering situations in which people can experience the transformational power of creativity, collaboration and community. A juried member of the New Hampshire State Council Artist Roster, she offers residencies and experiential workshops in both dance and writing throughout the country. She designed and facilities WREN’s “Business of Art” curriculum for artists and entrepreneurs, offering artists practical training in a comprehensive variety of topics including: publicity, promotion, pricing and selling one’s work. She believes art-making and collaboration are our most powerful tools for creating and nourishing all aspects of community and creating positive social change. Katherine has been instrumental in organizing art and cultural events throughout the North Country, including the Bethlehem ArtWalk and Cultivate, a festival designed to enliven community through contemporary dance and art in Northern New Hampshire. In recognition of all she has done for the arts and artists of the North Country, she was recently named the 2016 NH Arts Advocate of the Year by NH Citizens for the Arts.

Combining her love of writing and making, Ferrier developed Thread, a trendsetting on-demand typewriter poetry practice into a successful wedding industry business. Featured twice in The Knot, and regularly in North Country publications, she has written hundreds of spontaneous on-demand poems at weddings, art openings, reunions and other special events, and creates one-of-a-kind heirloom quilts. 

Katherine is eager to dive into the creative communities she has long been drawn to in Portland, and is thrilled to have found a home at A Gathering of Stitches.





Talking to Lladybird

We are less than two weeks from the arrival of this talented lady here at AGOS, so I thought I'd give you all a glimpse into the workings of Lauren Taylor. For those of you familiar with her very popular blog, this may be old ground, but for those of you new to Lauren I am offering a glimpse of what the upcoming retreat with her will entail....

Lauren Taylor, also known as LLADYBIRD, is a self-taught sewing force-of-nature.  Blogging intensively for over five years, Lauren is a prolific Maker. She even gets questions about how she can make as much as she does.... A lesson to us all that when you put your mind to something it is amazing what you can achieve!  Lauren is based in Nashville, home of other such Making luminaries as Anna Maria Horner and Craft South, Alexia Abegg (Green Bee Patterns and Cotton + Steel), Devon Iott (regular contributor at Colette Patterns), Karen Templer (Fringe Association), Elizabeth Suzann, Ann Shayne (Mason Dixon Knitting) and much more. Doesn't that line-up make you want to check out Nashville?  Surrounded by such creativity, Lauren is a fixture in the world of garment sewing. Her blog is an endless parade of delicious clothes, lovingly explained, and recorded, for our reading, drooling, and general admiring pleasure. In person she is even more delightful, being a sprite of sewing enabling, and the best cheerleader you ever wanted for your sewing practice. This weekend we do is unique in that it all revolves around you and your sewing desires and needs. I am thrilled to be hosting her, again, here at AGOS this month. You bring any project you want to work on and Lauren will help you sort it all out. There is still room in the retreat if you want to make an impulsive move and register for a long weekend of productive creating and making! And a ton of fun......! See if you don't find yourself smiling after reading the below! 

These are some of Lauren's most recent makes.... Cool, huh?

AGOS: How did you come to start sewing/quilting? Did someone teach you?

LT: My mom has sewed for as long as I can remember - she made all sorts of things, from Easter dresses to stuffed animals to home decor stuff like curtains and pillows. I had my own little sewing basket and I'd (hand sew) alongside her. I am almost entirely self-taught - despite having a mother who sewed, her method of "teaching" me was more along the lines of, "There's the instruction book. Follow the numbers on the machine to thread it. You can figure it out." A little frustrating at the time, but it definitely taught me how to problem solve on my own - as well as to be fearless with new techniques!

AGOS: Do you remember your early makes? Can you tell me about one?

LT: Well, once I started sewing with patterns (around age 20), I got reeeeally into New Look 6557. I have made that pattern dozens and dozens of times, improving on each version as I figured out how patterns worked (my first version did not have any gathering under the bust. It was completely flat. My boobs did not fit into it and I couldn't understand why haha). Most of my dresses are long gone, but I still have my favorite one. I made it using an old Laura Ashley bed skirt, with the ruffled border print around the hem of the skirt and hot pink colorblocking and piping scattered throughout. Oh, and hot pink and red tulle attached to the lining (I should add - which I was trimming it with my brand-new Ginghers, my then-kitten-now-cat got in my way and I nearly lopped off her tail. She had a bald spot for months). You can actually see this majestic beauty over on Craftster, when I posted it back in 2008. MAN how blogging has changed!

AGOS: Do you have any favorite tools?

LT: My very favorite tool is the humble seam gauge. I think it's useful for almost every thing - I have several scattered around my sewing room. I also love my bamboo point turner and sleeve board, both which make pressing so much easier.

AGOS: Do you have a favorite time of day to make?

LT: I love sewing in the morning! The early sunlight really inspires and energizes me, and it's really awesome to kick the day off with some creativity.

AGOS: Can you describe your making space? What parts of it do you love? What parts of it frustrate you?

LT: I am lucky enough to have a full, dedicated sewing space (! It's a strange open room in a basement, so there are nooks at either end that are perfect for my sewing machines and cutting table. I have plenty of room for fabric storage, notions storage, a pressing area, and even a desk. It's a great space and I love the color and set up! The only thing I don't love is the one thing that I can't change - the fact that it's in a basement. It's cooler than I would prefer, and I always want more windows!

AGOS: Do you practice more than one Craft? What others do you do? And why?

LT: I do! I knit - it's a wonderfully portable hobby that is great for traveling :) I also dabble in watercolor painting and sketching. I love learning new skills and am always looking for new ways to expand my craft repertoire.

AGOS: Why do you teach?

LT: Because I love sewing and I want everyone else to love it as much as I do :D

AGOS: Why do you sew?

LT: I love all forms of art, and sewing is such a beautifully practical one. You get all the benefits of making something beautiful with your hands, but then it's also actually useful (you can WEAR it!). I find the problem-solving aspect very therapeutic, and I love having the ability to improve on my art/craft with each new project. I think it's important to always seek out new ways to continually learn and increase your knowledge, and surround yourself with things that you find beautiful and that make you happy. Sewing does all this for me.

Now go read some of her blog posts...!  And come join us to sew!

Janome Memory Craft 7700 QCP

ETA:  We have sold this machine!  Thank you to everyone who looked at it.  Next week we will have two new machines in the studio....!

We have a beautiful sewing machine for sale!

When we first opened the doors I had a picture in my head of what would happen in this space. As is often the case, what has come to be is rather different from what I saw in my head. It is always good to be flexible, no?  The sewing machines that I bought initially are not entirely appropriate for the needs of the studio as it is currently functioning. So I have decided to sell one of our Janome quilting machines. I intend to replace this quilting monster with a couple of heavy duty multi-purpose machines. So do not fear that our collection of sewing machines is shrinking. No, on the contrary, we have more machines now than ever. But as I fine tune the programming and the offerings here at AGOS, I need to also adjust the tools.  The right tool, makes the job so much smoother and easier. We are refining!

This Janome Memory Craft 7700 QCP has a wide throat (or harp) of 11 inches that makes it a joy to quilt quilts up to Queen size, even King if you're really careful. So for someone who is looking to do a lot of their own quilting, instead of sending it out to a long-armer, this is a big step up from an average machine. I personally have a very similar machine, an Elna Excellence 740, with the same throat dimensions, and it is a pleasure to quilt with. This machine also has a built in walking (or even-feed) foot which is great for quilting, and for sewing on thick or napped fabrics. And lest you think this machine is only good for quilting, I have made many, many garments with mine. The buttonhole function alone is bliss. It also has a great blind-hemming function, and foot, a sweet rolled hem foot, and many other garment sewing attachments.  Initially I bought two of these creatures, but they are being under-utilized, so I have made a decision to sell one. We will still have one that you can come in and rent time on for your quilting needs.  I will use the funds from that sale to buy two new heavy duty multi-purpose machines that will have much more use for the studio.  So our change is your opportunity. If you have been pining for a bigger machine, this unit is going for a good price. The list price is over $2,000, but I am asking just $1,200.  It has been well-loved, and maintained with annual check-ups at South Portland Sewing Center. It purrs like a tiger and quilts like a dream. It has all it's accessories and options including many feet, a knee lifter, its manual, and a cover. I do not have the box anymore, sorry, but the important stuff is here. You are welcome to come by and give him a test drive. Oh yeah, his name is Dumbledore, which came from the person who contributed the funds (and naming rights) to purchase him during our IndieGoGo campaign. Contrary to expectations, he was named for a dog, not the Harry Potter character.