Community + Creativity



Kathreen put this post together on her travels. I thought it was a wonderful thing to share. – Kate


During most of 2013, will be hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

The theme for this month is Make It Local :: with Alexandra Smith of Lola Nova.

I feel incredibly fortunate to love where I live. There is so much here that inspires me and influences what and how I make.  Part of that process comes from being a blogger and taking pictures.  I am by no means a “Photographer,” I am just a woman with a camera who enjoys taking photos. When I started blogging and reading more blogs, I was truly in awe of some of the beautiful photos I found on the internet. It rekindled an old flame, photography. I set about improving my skills, which meant taking a whole heck of a lot of pictures. There is no shortage of subject matter out there. I started by taking walks in my neighborhood and capturing things that caught my eye. Then, every outing meant bringing my camera along and noting my environment; shapes, textures, colors and patterns sprung up everywhere I looked.


I started to see things differently. Everyday ordinary objects took on new beauty and interest. As I would go through my photographs, I would see them again in yet another light.  After a while I started to see a connection between my pictures and the projects I was working on. The colors and patterns of seasons would make their way into my making.



Winter Barberry some gray and red stitching




A riot of spring flowers and some colorful quilting

Small moments, little vignettes, places just down the street were captured by my camera and somehow made their way into my making. Even my backyard became full of inspiration.

4 4a

A gorgeous little caravan and some fabric printing

5 5a

My little red hen Fran and her cohorts have played muse to me many times

Often when I find myself stuck, when I feel I have run out of ideas, I grab my camera and take a walk. It allows me to get out in the fresh air, clear my head and have a good look around. I always, always come back with a number of pictures that get me pondering. Sometimes I do not even realize until much later how much my environment really affects me and what I’m working on.



This picture has me thinking about making something right now- love those colors!


And of course going hyper-local, my favorite subject is a constant source of inspiration.

So why not give it a try? Take your camera out and capture whatever interests you. Your photos don’t have to be perfect; it’s all about seeing things differently, noticing the colors, shapes, and patterns of your surroundings. Make it Local in pictures! I bet that wherever you live, there is no end to what can inspire you.


During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

The theme for this month is Make It Local :: with Alexandra Smith of Lola Nova.


Inspired by my last post about the Farmer’s Market, I decided to whip up a simple tutorial for a handmade market bag called “The Origami Market Bag”. The name is taken from its unique folding technique. It makes up in a flash and is nice and roomy for all of your market treasure.

You will need fabric, thread, scissors and a sewing machine.

For the fabric, I suggest something a little heavier such as: canvas, linen, denim, or home décor type weight.

We start off with a piece of fabric whose length is 3 times the width. I found using a piece that is 17” X 51” (43cm X 130cm) makes a good size bag; you can play around with sizes if you like.

Once you have cut your piece of fabric to size, hem all of the raw edges.

(In the following photos I’ve used a smaller piece of unfinished fabric just to show the folding technique)

Start by laying your fabric with your hems facing away from you and follow the folding technique as shown below.




Now pin and stitch as shown for both sides of the bag. I used about a 1cm seam allowance.



It is ok if your bag is a little off center, this may happen if your hems are not perfectly even to one another.

Now that you have sewn your 2 seams, you can leave the bag as is for a nice triangle shape, or you can create some shape by sewing boxed corners, or simple angled corners. Now turn your bag right side out and press if needed.



The next step is to create the handle for your bag. I used some coordinating fabric for a handle.

Cut a piece of fabric that is 3.5” X 6.5” (aprox. 9cm X 16.5cm) turn under and hem the 2 short sides of this piece. Fold the piece in half length-wise with right sides together and stitch raw edges with a ¼” (just under 1cm) seam allowance and turn right side out creating a tube.




Take one of the long top triangles of your bag and thread it through the tube of fabric as shown. Overlap the other top piece with the bit you have threaded through the tube and pin. Now stitch in place. Slide the tube over the stitched overlapped section and center it.





Ta Da! You now have your very own Origami Market Bag!


Go ahead and make a few more, you know you want to!



Please note, this tutorial is intended for personal use only. Therefore, do not reproduce, sell or commercialize in any form. Thanks for understanding!

Edited to add: My version of this bag was originally based on a bag I received many, many years ago that was handmade by a family friend from the Philippines. That first bag was made from old cotton rice sacks (similar to vintage flour sacks) and the handles tied in a knot. Not long after receiving it, I made my own bag using a couple of bandannas sewn together. In the years since, I have seen many versions of this very simple bag. Many variations of it have shown up as craft trends come and go, then come around again. I have seen similar patterns in vintage craft books, Japanese craft pattern books and high end leather bags on the runway. I have even seen some in macramé!

I make no claim to have “invented” this style of bag; its origins are ageless and elusive. I did sort out just how to make it on my own and put my own spin on it. The only bags I have sold from this tutorial were the prototypes pictured here, after materials cost, 100% of the profit from them goes directly to the fund for the Shugg children. I have no intention to sell any more of these bags.

Thank you,

Alexandra Smith


During most of 2013, will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

The theme for this month is Make It Local :: with Alexandra Smith of Lola Nova.

Today, Alexandra introduces Nancy Langdon, the designer behind studioTANTRUM/Fledge and author of Sewing Clothes Kids Love: Sewing Patterns and Instructions for Boys’ and Girls’ Outfits.

For you, I have a little downloadable Ebook to construct a fun, summery tunic dress based on macramé.


I’m pretty sure we’re at the tail end of hipsters being fascinated with all things 70s. All the good 70s things, as few as they were, like Milo Baughman and Curtis Jere, have been done. We’ve even gone through Corningware, muscle cars, black lights and Afros. All that is left is macramé, rotary phones, 8-track cassettes and TAB (not that new-fangled Diet Coke, thank you very much). And my vote is for macramé. I was recently wandering about Retro Row in Long Beach and saw dusty old macramé owls selling for upwards of $70. So, yes, macramé is upon us again. Right on!

The stringy Strigiformes is the official state bird for the year 1973. According to witnesses, the year 1973 was, in fact, a state (of mind...of quite a state). The stringy Strigiformes is the official state bird for the year 1973. According to witnesses, the year 1973 was, in fact, a state (of mind…of sorts…in quite a state).

Macramé, the craft of knotting lace, is likely the earliest of the string-based arts, predating knitting, crochet and tatting by millennia. Fiddling and tying up bits of cord in fancy ways did not seem to have geographic or cultural limits, as ancient examples can be found in places as far-flung as Peru, China and Egypt. The earliest example dates to 3500 BC; since some anthropologists argue that civilization is only about 4000 years old, well, that means macramé is old.

Arabs were probably the first regular practitioners, tying up the weft ends of woven textiles in artistic ways. Sailors over the centuries have used macramé in innovative and creative ways, for example, around tool handles, so sharp knives and heavy hammers wouldn’t slip out of wet hands. The craft, brought from the Holy Lands to Western Europe by the wives and servants of crusaders, was fancied in later centuries by Louis XIV and William of Orange’s Queen Mary. Macramé found its most refined form near Genoa, Italy, where punto á gruppo was taught as a skill to poor children during the 19th Century and resembles fine bobbin lace. Be that as it may, macramé is now synonymous with Nixon-era housewives penchant to release small flora from terrestrial bounds with hemp houseplant hammocks. And lest we forget the hippies: Here, a cautionary tale of what happens when twine is combined with 70s era hallucinogenics (some of these items appear in fact be made from psychoactive hemp …)

And if you thought macramé owl wall hangings were bad, say hello to the macramé owl bra! “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972) And if you thought macramé owl wall hangings were bad, say hello to the macramé owl bra! “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972)



No words. Just no words “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972) No words. Just no words “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972) Wait, one word: MANcramé. Enough said. “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972) Wait, one word: MANcramé. Enough said. “Macrame Accessories: Patterns and Ideas for Knotting,” Dona Z. Meilach (1972)

On the other hand, if we embrace macramé fashionably responsibly, we can evoke that sense of hope for a better world, which is, I think, at the heart of the new hippie style.

Elizabeth and James Elizabeth and James




Catherine Malandrino Catherine Malandrino Gucci Gucci

I hope my addition to the macramé trend this fits the bill.


“La Jolla” (lah HOY-ya”) is a simple, super-duper quick DIY dress with a lot of California soul. This straight shift dress with macramé overlay is an easy-living, flip-flops and popsicles kind of summertime piece to wear anywhere, anytime fun is to be had: as a swimsuit cover-up, as a dancing dress to the end of the school year party, or as a flexible, easy-to-throw-in-a-suitcase piece to take on vacation.

Made up in all white, I think La Jolla is pretty enough to wear to a beach wedding. La Jolla is a beautiful coastal town near San Diego. “La Jolla” is a corruption of the Spanish word “joya”, which means “jewel.” I find this to be a gem of a dress, because with a little cutting and polishing, some cruddy old tee shirts or a clump of boring plain knit fabric can really shine. “Jollas” also happens to be a genus of South American jumping spiders. Since this dress has that SoCal spirit, but also sort of has a spider web look to it, I’ve decided to call it “La Jolla”.

This pattern is sized for girls, ages/sizes 5 to 12. The design concept is great for teens and women, however, the knotting has not been calculated over all size sets within the Ebook instructions. La Jolla is available as an Ebook here.

And speaking of making the world a better place, all proceeds from the sale of this Ebook will go to benefit a home-grown, grass-roots effort to help the people of Enwen, a small village of about 1,000 in Cameroon, Africa, to help themselves. The story of Enwen is not a complicated one, but amazing nonetheless. A young man, Tichi, from this village was educated in Germany. Upon returning to his village, even though he had grown up in Enwen, he was taken quite aback by the poverty. And so he and his partner, Katrin, decided to do “something.” That “something” is Nahow, which in the native Pidgin means something like “S’up brah”. has developed many “somethings” and those “somethings” include an adult learning center to teach valuable carpentry and sewing skills, outfitting the village with solar panels, refurbishing the elementary school and sponsoring doctors’ visits. And this at very, very low cost. For about EURO 20 a month, a villager will be given an apprenticeship in carpentry. Like real, super-duper, hard-core, high-quality carpentry as only Germans can. The people at Farbenmix, my partner in all things sewing, have become personally involved with this project, even having gone to the village to teach sewing.


I’ve kept the price low as makes sense. As you know, PayPal will have their take. The Ebook has over 20 pages of instruction with lots of photos and illustrations. And the basic pattern pieces are there. I’ve translated it into German, too, just in case. It is a PDF file, so, if EURO 4 is a bit steep, maybe you can go halfsies with a friend.


Enjoy! And thank you for supporting the craft of sewing!


Sonya Philip is a fiber artist who likes to nestle down in the space between art and craft. You can find more of her work here. Sonya lives in San Francisco, with her husband and three children.

In spite of the relatively uneasy relationship I’ve had with sewing in my past, I started the project, 100 Acts of Sewing, with the goal of making one hundred dresses. Even though there always seemed to be too many rules dictating the “right” way of doing things, I never stopped sewing. I lugged my mother’s old Singer Fashion Mate with me through many moves; Halloween costumes were made, as well as baby blankets, and quilts with corners that didn’t meet. But I wrote off sewing clothes when I had to cut my then 3-year-old daughter out of a dress that I was able to get on over her head, but not back off again. Time passed, I discovered knitting and my textile-creating urges were satisfied for many years. However, there are only so many sweaters, scarves, and other wooly things one person needs, even in foggy San Francisco.

Something about being older and somewhat broader in the hips made me crave simplicity in my wardrobe. I didn’t want to put a lot of energy into getting dressed each morning. I wanted a uniform. I discovered lagenlook or layered look, along with the clothing of Krista Larson, Flax, Cynthia Ashby, and others. It wasn’t in my budget to spend several hundred dollars on a single item and I spent many hours watching eBay auctions. I scourged thrift stores and found some lovely items, but also bought a lot of things that would never be worn. I started refashioning long linen jumpers by chopping off the bottom, ripping out the side seams, and inserting the extra fabric to create shorter, A-line dresses. Then I took a pattern making class at A Verb for Keeping Warm with Cal Patch. I’m not sure if it had to to do with my being older and more patient, or an improved understanding of garment construction due to sweater knitting, or that Cal was such an amazing teacher, or if it was the desire to use all the beautiful fabrics at Verb. It was probably all of the above. But I made a dress. And then another. In one week I made four dresses. With this eager excitement, 100 Acts of Sewing was born.

What was conceived as a personal challenge, has developed into a larger exploration of making versus manufacturing. These days we buy more clothes and wear them for less time. Clothing companies, chasing higher volume and cheaper production costs, have largely moved manufacturing into sweatshops, maquiladoras, or overseas. Because of this, we don’t often think about the real costs of cheap labor and lax environmental control. When we know how to sew our own clothes, we can become more discerning consumers and put more consideration into what we purchase. Sewing clothes is an investment of time over convenience. It provides a welcome way to slow down. Compared to other crafts, like knitting, sewing on a machine is less social. There’s more concentration required so you don’t sew through a finger. But sewing on my mother’s machine or hearing stories from women whose grandmothers made favorite pieces of clothing are reminders of a rich legacy of wisdom and expertise. Learning how to sew is a way to reconnect with this tradition.

Sewing is also a way of reclaiming personal style. By making your own clothes you can make things that fit and flatter your body type instead of fighting against it. Although, many of my dresses are made with patterns I drafted, I also sew with commercial sewing patterns. Even using someone else’s designs offers choices, from the color or fabric type to print. Sewing clothes enables a way to truly express individuality. I am personally drawn to a flared silhouette and most of the dresses I make reflect this. They tend to be on the shorter side, cut to the knee, and usually worn layered over pants. I mainly incorporate comfortable and easy to wear natural fibers like cotton and linen into most of what I sew. As much as I am captivated by the beautiful prints of new fabrics, I also try to use vintage yardage when possible. Readers might notice how pockets are often an important feature in my dresses. They provide practicality and often act as a focal point to showcase some great fabric. The best part, is you only need small amount to make a big impact.

One aspect of 100 Acts of Sewing is encouraging others to sew for the first time or to give it another try. I put this into practice by teaching workshops on how to make dresses from my designs. These are very minimal in their construction, some having no more than four pattern pieces. It’s true that sewing can be unforgiving. Even the most deft hand can make wonky seams and there’s no way to un-cut cloth. But like many things, skill in sewing comes from practice as well as care. By making a garment simple yet very wearable, sewing becomes truly accessible. A person can then build upon the foundation of each successful project. I know the more dresses I’ve made, the more I’ve found myself following those rules I once resisted.

Many of the dresses in the project were made for me and I wear them on a regular basis. I also made dresses for friends, as well as several that act as size models for workshops. None of them are for sale, as the plan is to display all of them in an end-of-project exhibit. I am currently almost two thirds of the way towards my goal and on track to finish in December. In the coming year, I plan on developing a sewing pattern to sell based on the workshop dress. I will also continue to exhibit and teach, locally here in the San Francisco Bay Area, around the United Sates, and hopefully farther afield. Through this project, my aim is to inspire people to use their sewing machines, as well as value the skills it takes to create the garments they wear.