Guest Blogger

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!


About: Sarah writes the Blog Sewing Parts Online and makes video tutorials too. She loves inspiring others to create and challenge themselves through crafting and sewing. Her guest post fits in perfectly in our Functional Creativity themed month.


We live in a world where goods are available so cheap, that it’s standard practice to simply buy ‘new’ instead of fix or extend the life of an older object. When I became a parent, I realized I’d have to buy new clothes every 6 months. To me, this was absurd. I’d been wearing the same clothes for years. I refashion and alter to get the most wear possible. It didn’t dawn on me until my son was a year old that I could be doing the same thing with his clothing. I might not get years, but an extra 6-9 months is good enough for me!

I buy long sleeve shirts and pants at the end of every summer to last my son through the winter. I buy jeans and athletic pants as well as long sleeve jersey shirts and long sleeve button-ups. They’re slightly big, to last through fall and winter. By the time the weather starts warming up, I set aside a weekend to alter the majority of his winter clothes into summer attire by simply cutting the pants into shorts, and the long sleeves into short sleeves. If I have extra time, I’ll draft up a pattern by tracing his ‘new’ shorts and shirts.


Over the years, I’ve found the ‘assembly line’ method to be the most efficient way to tackle this project. Instead of finishing one pair, then starting all over to do the next pair, I do all the alterations step by step. Do all the measuring at once. Do all the cutting once, etc.

I use a seam gauge and measure the inseam of some that already fit. Then, I use that measurement for shortening the pants. Same goes for the arm seam. So simple and easy. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. Thankfully, young children don’t care if the hem is a little off, they just want to get back to playing.


Then I can get creative! Who doesn’t love some rainbow thread? My son loves the colors and it’s a small detail that say’s “Mommy made this for you!”. It’s so rewarding to see your child wear something you made for them not just because you wanted to make something, but because they needed it and you fulfilled that need.

I ended up adding the rainbow thread to all his pants and shirts. It’s so magical when they are young and love things as simple as rainbow hems. When I finally show him his “new” clothes, we’ll probably talk about what colors he sees and which ones are his favorites. It’s those simple moments that make motherhood and creating so memorable.


All that’s left is to cut the thread tails and add a couple snaps. In one weekend I was able to dress my son for another 6 months without spending money or adding to landfill. When he outgrows these clothes, they will be donated or reused for something else.

Doesn’t it feels good to fulfill a need without buying more junk? Until next time — Thanks for reading!



Reviewed by: Renae Beardmore is the owner of the whimsically named suzy hausfrau yarn store, a Canberra (Australia) based online yarn store specialising in gorgeous unique and artisan yarns, with a focus on natural fibres and textures. Renae is passionate about sourcing quality products that will inspire and enable people to undertake their own creative journey. You can read more about Renae’s own creative adventures over on her blog.

textured stitches

Any book featuring Madeline Tosh yarn on the cover has me at ‘hello’. Textured Stitches: Knitted Sweaters and Accessories with Smart Details (Interweave Press January 2012) by Connie Chang Chinchio does that very thing, and then goes on to surprise and delight throughout.

Connie like many of us fellow knitters, leads a bit of a double life. Working as a consultant during the day, designing patterns and clicking the sticks at night. Her patterns in ‘Textured Stitches’ reflect her strong technical background and her mastery of the art of knitwear design.


The pattern on the cover, Intaliata Henly is a standout not only for the yarn she has used, but in how easy it makes up. The body and sleeves both knit in the round, and you know what that means. Minimial seaming – yay!  The patterns in the book include small textured-knit projects such as hats and gloves, through to tunics, tops and cardigans. This book also includes a wide variety of textured stitches, such as lattice stitch, cables and more. I can’t stop dreaming about the Gioielli gloves pattern, with the most divine smocked cuffs. Sublime!

The recommended yarns in the book read like every yarn tragic’s wish list – Madeline Tosh, Malabrigo, Louet, The Fibre Company and it goes on. Connie has brought out the best of these yarns, particularly the semi-solids by her pattern design and garment construction techniques.

You also get a lot of helpful information such as how to read charts, step by step instructions on knitting gloves, and written and pictorial descriptions of stitches included in the book. This book is suited to the intermediate-advanced knitter, or a confident beginner who is ready to take on a challenge with Connie holding their hand.

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Nichola, founder of Nikkishell and creator of Wardrobe Refashion, was also the co-creator of Mixtape Zine and was Australian representative for BurdaStyle. She has been profiled in various publications including The V&A, The Guardian and The Age, and has done extensive work in the craft sector. Leisl, founder of Jorth! has worked in the textile industry and also as a content writer, specializing in craft and food articles for publications such as, Mum’s Business and Mixtape Zine. They are the founders of Handmakers Factory.

Handmakers factory

Floral Etro Dress :: This is a dress Leisl made using a gorgeous Etro remnant. We are huge fan of remnants – often from designer labels, the quality is usually excellent, and by purchasing a piece of remnant fabric, you are ensuring that nothing goes to waste and that the fabric doesn’t end up in landfill.

Our world is overrun by consumerism. Everywhere you look, there are signs, ads, magazines, celebrities exhorting you to Buy more! Spend more! You can only be a better you if you own this! It’s a vicious cycle, and one that had sadly become so normalised that escaping it feels nigh near impossible. Never mind the impact that our consumerist ways has on the planet – just spend, spend, spend!

Handmakers factory

Refashioned T-shirt:: Nichola had previously sewn up this top as a long-sleeved batwing design. While it look pretty darn fabulous, the batwings drove her crazy, and were always in the way. So she refashioned it to become this beautifully fitted t-shirt, which has now become a firm summer staple.

Thank goodness, then, for the internet, and the ability to find people who are striving to think outside this mandate and who share their philosophy via their blogs. That’s how myself, Leisl of Jorth and Nichola of Nikkishell met. At the time we started our blogs, we were both stay-at-home mums who shared a fondness for making our own clothes with a determination to tread as lightly as we could environmentally. We began to bond online over things as diverse as our favourite knitting patterns to making our own laundry detergent. Soon we began to meet up regularly in real life, and would regale each other with our latest attempts to be as green as possible. Look! Leisl is going plastic free for a month! Hey! Nichola has pledged to make her own clothes for a year! We were fun-loving crafty greenies, and proud of it!

As the kids began to grow up, we both ended up working together on a lot of projects outside the home, and also were colleagues at a fabric store. The more we learnt about the textiles industry, the more concerned we became about the impact our clothing choices can have on the environment. We soon realised that making your own was the way to go. A lot of clothing companies run on the back of ill-paid labour, and the environmental cost of this cheap, mass-produced clothing is huge. The worst part is that because the clothing is so poorly made, it is often only worn a few times before being designated to the bin. When you make your own clothes, however, you tend to seek out good quality fabrics. You take a lot of time to ensure that the fit is right, that the style suits your body shape. And then after you have  put all that hard work in, you wear it and wear it and wear it, because you are proud of your creation, and you appreciate the effort that has gone into it. Plus it usually looks totally amazing, and nobody has anything like it anywhere. And if a seam rips, or a hole appears, you can mend it.

Not only do you have the pleasure of creating something with your own two hands, but you are no longer contributing to fast fashion, and it’s many hidden costs.

Handmaker factory

Japanese pattern “Drape Drape” dress :: We are both huge fans of Japanese pattern books. The designs are timeless but often with a twist, which appeals to our sense of fashion enormously. These are clothes that will always look stylish, and will see you through many years, which checks many of our sustainable boxes!

It was one thing to come to this realisation by ourselves, but we soon decided that we wanted to share it. Imagine if all those marvellous garment creation skills – from sewing to knitting to crocheting to refashioning – were lost, simply because they were no longer taught and passed on as in days of yore? Something had to be done, so we decided that we were the people for the job! Nichola had already run a website called Wardrobe Refashion that focused on refashioning old garments into new. We decided to take this website, do a bit of refashioning on it and relaunch it as Handmaker’s Factory.

At Handmaker’s Factory we aim to have a strong focus not only on refashioning, but on general sewing/knitting/crafting skills, empowering people to make their own garments and give them a chance to opt out of the fast fashion merry-go-round. The website is a place for people to share images and information about the garments they have created, be inspired by others, learn new skills and find out more about sustainable fashion. We will also soon be offering classes, and hope to inspire many more people to make their own clothes.

It’s been said before that if everybody took small steps often enough, we can make a huge difference environmentally to our world. So we are here to help you save the world – one fabulous frock at a time!

Handmaker factory

Texture Cable Hat :: Leisl’s best friend can often be found proudly wearing one of the many knitted garments her grandmother knit for her over the years. Her grandmother sadly passed away recently, so these items hold an even greater significance for her – it’s a way to keep the memory of her grandmother alive and close to her. Recently she moved to a colder climate, so Leisl knew that if she knitted her a beanie it would serve two purposes: it would keep her head warm on chilly days, and give her another garment made especially for her with love. We know she’ll use it forever!

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Elizabeth Hartman is a self-taught quilter. She has been making things her entire life but, when she tried quilting for the first time, she fell in love and hasn’t been able to stop. Elizabeth is the author of The Practical Guide to Patchwork, Modern Patchwork, and the popular blog,

One of the most important parts of my creative process is maintaining a clean and organized space in which to work. I’ve been lucky enough to have a designated sewing room for just over 7 years now, and I’ve learned through trial and error the things that work best for me. I want to talk a little about my favorite parts of my sewing room and how they help me to be more productive.

Fabric organization

Since the process of making a quilt always involves pulling out and auditioning a bunch of different fabrics, it doesn’t take long before every surface in the room is covered. To keep things simple (both for finding fabrics and for putting them away!) I like to keep my fabric organized by color, with print and solid fabrics stored separately.

I keep my folded fabric in clear plastic drawers that fit under my sewing room counters. The drawers make it easy to put away extra fabric, or to pull out an entire drawer if I want to, say, go through all the yellow prints I have. Since I’m not always able to stop and put things away as I’m working, I also keep a “to be filed” basket on the counter.

Another thing that I find hugely helpful in keeping my fabric stash organized is editing. I routinely go through my entire stash and pull fabrics that have sat unused for too long, or that I’m just not as crazy about as I once was. This process was painful at first, but the benefits of having a smaller and less-cluttered fabric stash have made it worthwhile. I also feel better about giving my unused fabric to other quilters who will actually use it.

Design wall

My design wall has become such an important part of my process that it seems crazy to me that I quilted for so many years without one! A “design wall” may sound like something super-fancy, but the one I’m using now is, literally, just a giant piece of cotton batting tacked to the wall. (Some people use flannel, but I find that batting works much better.) Fabric sticks to the batting, making it possible to temporarily place fabric and piecing on the wall, step back, and consider the arrangement.

In order to make my design wall a full 8’ x 8’, I had to work around a few light switches and electrical outlets. To do that, I started by removing all the outlet covers. Once the batting was tacked up on the wall, I carefully cut away the batting from around the switches and outlets. Then I replaced the covers, which hid the raw edges of the batting I had cut away.

If you don’t have the space for a permanent design wall, it’s quite easy to make a smaller, portable one by wrapping sheets of lightweight foam insulation from a hardware store. The portable wall can be stored under a bed or in a closet when you’re not using it.

Pressing board

As a quilter, I almost never use a conventional ironing board. Instead, I have a counter-height pressing table that’s about 29” x 39”. To make it, I simply had a piece of plywood cut to match the top of my IKEA countertop. I wrapped the plywood in three layers of cotton batting and one layer of cotton fabric, and used my staple gun to tack the excess batting and fabric to the underside of the board. Simple!

My countertop pressing board stays in one place, but it’s easy to make more portable versions. I have a smaller version that I made by wrapping the top of a wooden TV tray. The smaller version can be set up and used right next to my machine and is portable enough to bring to sewing circle.

Keep things simple

When I was setting up my first sewing room, I approached it as I would approach setting up any other room. I picked regular furniture, I painted the walls red (really!) and I hung up lots of pictures and things on the walls. As a room, it was lovely. As a creative workspace, it was a nightmare. The red walls permeated everything I worked on, and having so many decorative elements around was distracting.

Today, my sewing room is painted a very light gray and I’ve made a point to choose white countertops, shelving, and other elements. The space is so much brighter and cleaner – like a blank canvas for my projects!