Purls of Wisdom

The Handwork Stories: Alisa Cavanaugh

Posted by Mattie Solomon on Sun, Sep 30, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

In this series we have been sharing stories about the people and places where The Handwork Studio team members find inspiration for their craft. In order to expand our community we will explore the different ways that people got their start in sewing, knitting, and other needlework crafts. This series explores the art that goes behind this craft and understanding the sources of inspiration for different people, and this week will be introducing you to Julia Yosen!

A Family Affair

Screen Shot 2018-08-07 at 3.08.00 PMFor Alisa Cavanaugh, her connection to needle arts has been somewhat of a family affair. After learning crafting skills from her grandmother when she was younger, Alisa continued that legacy and passed those skills onto her own children. Teaching her kids how to tap into their creativity is something that Alisa values a lot and finds super important in any kid’s life.

“Kids don’t always have the opportunity to express themselves, but at The Handwork Studio, a child can learn something no matter their age, and walk away with something that they created ton their own. I think every kid needs some sort of outlet to be creative,” said Alisa, and it has definitely been a creative outlet that has struck a chord with her eleven-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son. Both of Alisa’s children have really connected with The Handwork Studio, but their journey and passion with needle arts is very different from one another.

Alisa’s son has more of an eye for detail and does not mind the kind of patience it takes to complete some projects. He has really loved to do embroidery because of the time and skill it takes to complete this. Alisa has also recently taught him how to corner to corner knit, and he will often stitch alongside her. This image really reflects the moments Alisa shared with her grandmother, who taught her how to cross stitch. “I ended up spending some time with my grandparent when I was young, and I remember sitting with her on her sun porch and just stitching with her. Her walking me through it and explaining the counting. I liked that it was kind of like a puzzle.” Even though her son may not be able to complete as many stitches as her, he loves figuring it all out with her.

Her daughter on the other hand, will have a project in mind and want to complete it right on the spot. Alisa said she really likes machine sewing, but sometimes has trouble with the amount of time that goes along with it. A few weeks ago, at sew tech, she was super excited to make an otter from all of the kinetic threads involved. Even though the project took some time, Alisa said that seeing each step be completed and having an end goal within each day helped her feel motivated and excited about coming back to the same project day after day. Alisa’s daughter ended up being super proud of that and loved all of the conductive pieces that allowed her to really see her progress. Alisa says both of her kids, however, love to do these things because it allows them to be creative.

Before becoming a Program Manager at the Narberth Studio, Alisa worked just down the street from the Studio. When she discovered the program, she thought about how great of an idea it was. She loved the idea that kids who were not learning these types of skills could have the opportunity to see what they could accomplish and what they could gain from learning needle arts.

When asking about her own connection to The Handwork Studio, and the impact she thinks it has on kids today, Alisa said, “It’s a great place because I enjoy what they do. It’s a great opportunity for kids to learn something a little different, and you know? It’s something my kids enjoy too!” So after sending her own kids to the camp during a winter workshop, Alisa let her career lead her back to the program her children loved so much.

“It's always been about a gift of love for me,” said Alisa. Creativity and this love of creating things through handwork is something that lies very close to home for her. After learning how to cross stitch and do other arts and crafts from her grandmother and aunt, Alisa loves being able to find a way to pass these kinds of skills onto her own children and all of the children who discover The Handwork Studio.

__________________________________________________________________________Click here for a look at our summer sewing camp options for your child. Also, be sure to check out our store and our new partnership with Simplicity Sewing Patterns! 

 

Alumni Profile Series: Julia Haines

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Sep 23, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

The Alumni Profile Series will feature profiles of graduates (and some current members) of the Handwork Studio and give you an inside look into how they maintain their passion for the craft! We hope that learning about the alumni will inspire your kids to follow in their footsteps and help them see that no matter who they are, what their background in handwork is, and what they hope to be when they grow up, they can do anything they put their minds to!

For a shorter biography of Julia Haines, check out the alumni page of our website! 

Julia Haines Headshot

Name: Julia Claire Haines
Age: 22
Education: 5th year student in the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA
Majors: Fibers and Material Studies, with a certificate in Art Education
Website: www.juliaclairehaines.com/

 

Who is Julia Haines?

I sit down to talk to Julia Claire Haines on a sunny Thursday afternoon in the summer. There is a brief bit of fumbling as we both try to get our video and audio to work, but after a very friendly introduction, we get down to the interview.

Julia Haines Portrait

After asking some standard questions about her education and age, I tell Julia that I want to ask her some fun questions, so our readers can get to know her a bit more. I end up learning that the last thing Julia watched on TV was an episode of the second season of Netflix’s Queer Eye with her mom and that if she were an animal, she would be a hedgehog because she is “small and dutiful and sometimes prickly, but mostly soft.” When I ask Julia what her favorite type of art is, she immediately tells me that fiber art is her passion. She uses fabric and other craft-based mediums to create 2D and 3D works, and she particularly loves silkscreen printing on fabric and embroidery. To Julia, handwork is a very directional and soothing process.

When I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, Julia responds enthusiastically with “A lot of things! But I graduate next year, and when I graduate, I want to teach art, either in Philly or one of the surrounding districts.” She wants to teach at a public school, preferably K-12, and credits working with elementary aged students at the Handwork Studio for helping her become more open to teaching younger children. 

 

Early Involvement in Handwork and The Handwork Studio

Julia’s formal introduction to handwork is synonymous with her introduction to the Handwork Studio because she became involved with both in elementary school when her mom won a week’s worth of classes for her in a raffle at the Alex’s Lemonade Stand annual fundraiser. Before attending the Handwork Studio’s classes, Julia tried - unfortunately unsuccessfully - to teach herself to knit and was interested in sewing and embroidery, so she loved learning these skills in a more structured setting at the Handwork Studio. After being a part of the Handwork Studio family for several years, Julia took a brief break, then came back as a CIT for some time during high school. Then, she tells me, “I went to Tyler and I kind of returned to my roots, I think because, for me, my foundation in art is definitely through sewing and handcraft and not necessarily in drawing and painting. So once I became more confident in my abilities as an artist at Temple, I started really diving into fiber practices again.” Julia currently works as a counselor at the Narberth studio and ended up applying for the position after bumping into owner and founder Laura Kelly this spring.

I ask Julia to reflect on the experiences she had at the Handwork Studio as a child and how they impacted her, and she makes it clear that they “were definitely formative. I learned how to do these skills that pretty much transferred to my university education, which is kind of cool, I think. To learn something when you’re like ten years old, eleven years old, and that actually comes into your college experience.”

Another part of Julia's experience at the Handwork Studio that impacted her was the atmosphere. “I remember feeling so comfortable and safe when I was there and that contentment that I felt while I was there was a good gauge in every other situation I found myself in growing up. Whether that was like formal activities or with friends. I kind of knew what this really nice, gentle comfort was.”

 

Julia’s Journey

There are plenty of kids at the Handwork Studio who want to pursue pathes like Julia’s and go to art school or continue to involve handwork in their careers in some way, so I ask her about her work experience and what led her to decide to attend the Tyler School of Art. It turns out Julia has been involved in a lot over the past few years and loves to keep herself busy, and the diversity of her work experience only reflects the sentiment that she wants to be a lot of things when she “grows up.”

The summer after her freshman year at Tyler Julia worked as an education intern at The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, where she researched their Navajo textile collection and compiled an information booklet for docents who lead student tours. She also worked for the same foundation the summer after her sophomore year of art school, but this time she went into their classrooms and evaluated how well the artists were teaching kids about the Barnes artwork and helped expand the children's’ critical thinking and analysis skills. This same summer Julia worked for Anthropologie as a display intern. In between all this Julia has worked on the sets of several movies doing costumes, photography, and production work, and in addition to working at the Handwork Studio this past summer, she was the blogger and insight editor for one of her professors, who sells tufting guns. Handwork, she says, has basically played a roll in all the jobs she has had so far.

As someone who briefly considered going to art school myself, I am genuinely interested in Julia’s choice to go to the Tyler School of Art, which she describes as a very last minute decision. She tells me that she took advanced art in high school but never considered art school because she thought it meant mostly drawing and painting realism and she wasn’t as good at that as she wanted to be. When she was a senior Julia was accepted to Temple University as a biology major, but January of that year she decided impulsively to apply to Tyler and scrambled her portfolio together in a month. “It was the smartest and the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” she laughs when I tell her how impressive that is.

HWHaines12-1Once she got to Tyler, Julia never took any class or experience for granted because she just got in “by the skin of my teeth - the day before the deadline-” so she was open to any and all critique about her work. When I ask her what her typical day looks like, Julia tells me that her class schedule is pretty low maintenance - three studio classes a semester, each two and a half hours long and twice a week, and then two or three other classes that occur one to three times a week. This past year Julia went to the studio every day after classes, especially when she was busy preparing for her thesis show between November and January, and she easily spent 40 hours there each week. She admits that spending so much time in the studio can sometimes be rough, but that having friends both in the studio to keep her company and friends outside of the art school to keep her grounded and supports her makes it better. “If you love it, it’s fine,” she tells me. “It’s the only time that your only obligation is just to make art and if you don’t take advantage of it, you’re not being smart. At the end of the day, it’s fun.”

 

Julia’s Art

IMG_0719+copy+2I ask Julia to describe her art, and from where she draws inspiration. Does she have a theme that most of her art revolves around? Has that developed with college? “I’ve reached the most mature phase of my art where there’s this theme I’m really engaged with,” she tells me, “And mediums I’m very committed to so I’m able to compound my work one on top of another.” She warns me that she’s essentially reciting her artist’s statement and can send it to me if I’d like (she does!), but explains the concepts behind her art anyway.

“I’m inspired by the impact that genetics play in our lives, both biologically, geographically, and politically. I draw a lot of inspiration from my mom’s side of the family who immigrated to the US at the turn of the century to a coal town and exploring how each generation changes but how these initial industrial towns that were hubs of immigration have gone into a decline and that is often politicized by all sides of the political spectrum. I’m sort of evaluating the romanticization of these industrial towns and how they impact the future generations. And the mediums that I work in to explore this theme are screen prints that I print on fabric, and these prints are derived from photographs that I’ve taken specifically of the town that my great-grandparents and my grandparents grew up in, specifically their blocks and their houses. And I’m especially fascinated with these very small but beautiful details in architecture such as shingles or molding that I then try to extrapolate on a much larger scale either through installation or soft sculpture. And I play with either very muted or very vivid colors depending on what emotion I’m trying to evoke with the piece.”HWHaines11-1

I’m impressed that she can speak so openly and eloquently about her art considering it’s difficult to analyze your own work, and she tells me that it definitely took her a long time to focus on that theme. When you first go to art school, she says, people are “making art about just anything” and she got caught up in that wave, because “it’s hard to be introspective and not oversimplify yourself.” Over the years she’s focused more on making art for herself and not for others, and, in her words, “a lot has changed politically since I entered freshman year in 2014,” she is now more interested in “why politicians target these towns and what they had to gain from them.”


Trials and Successes

HWHaines001I warn Julia that we’re getting to the end of my long list of questions, but that I still have a few important ones left. I ask her what she’s done that she’s the proudest of in the last few years, and she says her thesis show without hesitation. Many complications went into the show, and she spent a wild two months putting it together, but in the end, it was worth all the stress. She tells me that she took a lot of things that were painful to her and translated them to a large-scale installation - larger scale than she had ever done before - and it turned out great. After her thesis show, Julia had to prepare for another show in April, and she said that through all this stress she learned how to trust her decisions more.

When I ask Julia what she wishes she could change about the last few years, she answers me easily, and confidently. “I could be hard on myself and I could say ‘I wish you were more honest with your art practice and you weren’t trying to make art for other people and you were just focusing on yourself first and other people second.’ Because I feel like at the beginning I was very focused on what my critique would be like and what people would think of it, not necessarily what I even thought of it. I was just picking stuff that I thought looked good or was pretty. So if I could, I would go back and change that, but I feel like that’s just something that happens with time and there's no point in being sad about that. I would have been more selective about some of the people I chose to spend my time with. I think your gut instincts are usually correct about people, and I should have relied on those instincts more. Academics wise I wouldn’t really change anything. I think things happened the way they were supposed to.”HWHaines004

I think that’s a great philosophy, and I tell her so, and she, humbly, shakes her head and thanks me.

Finally, we reach the last of my many questions. Does Julia have anything else to say about the Handwork Studio? She thinks for a good moment before telling me that being back at the Handwork Studio and in that community of educators has been wonderful and that it is great to see people’s passion and how much they support each other.

“[The Handwork Studio] definitely changed a lot of things about my life, and I know it will change things about other people’s lives too.”


Photo 1: Portrait of Julia Haines
Photo 2: Julia with her project, "In This Last of Meeting Places," 2018
Photo 3: Piece from "In This Last of Meeting Places," 2018
Photo 4: Piece from "In This Last of Meeting Places," 2018
Photo 5: Piece from "In This Last of Meeting Places," 2018
Photo 6: Piece from "Point of Replication," 201
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Photo 7: Piece from "Point of Replication," 2018

Tags: Alumni, Alumni Profile Series, The Handwork Studio, Handwork, Profile, Julia Haines

The Handwork Stories: Julia Yosen

Posted by Mattie Solomon on Sun, Sep 16, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

In this series we have been sharing stories about the people and places where The Handwork Studio team members find inspiration for their craft. In order to expand our community we will explore the different ways that people got their start in sewing, knitting, and other needlework crafts. This series explores the art that goes behind this craft and understanding the sources of inspiration for different people, and this week will be introducing you to Julia Yosen! 

“For the Love of Teaching”

After graduating college with a fine arts degree, Julia Yosen found herself at a quarter life crisis asking herself, “What am I supposed to do with this?” This all too familiar end of college standstill is something that a lot of art students face, and leaves many with the question: well, what about teaching?

164085_512037776023_2250635_n (1)For Julia, teaching seemed to be the best option, but in that choice lies a path that she believed to be quite limiting. Julia moved from Vermont back to her hometown in Pennsylvania in 2006, and it was while she was working at a Joann Fabric, that The Handwork Studio fell into her view.

An almost serendipitous job opportunity was presented to her, and in that job, she could connect some of the many things that she feels connected to and is so passionate about. Melissa, a teacher at the Handwork Studio, connected with Julia while she was working at the cutting counter at the Joann Fabric. Melissa opened up an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something that would “revolutionize needle arts.” With a dream to connect a new generation of kids to needle arts, Julia jumped at the prospect of being an instructor for one of the first workshops and programs The Handwork Studio ever held. That was when her start with The Handwork Studio began, but her connection to needle arts and crafting goes back a little earlier.

Julia first fell in love with crafting as she walked through the aisles of an A.C Moore. The arts & craft store’s endless creative possibilities excited the crafting gene in Julia. Two of her best friends and her would go down into her basement and move from one project to the next, which mimics the kind of collaboration and creative exploration that she would be facilitating at The Handwork Studio camps some years later.

Whether it was making clothes for their American Girl dolls by cutting up a box of their old clothes or making pig puppets they found in the back of the book, The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jigs, they were never short of crafts to tackle. “It was always the three of us in our basement, making all of these terrible projects. We would stay down there for hours,” said Julia, and it was here that she caught the bug for crafting.

As a kid who would always be starting her next project, Julia believes that there is something so empowering about creating something on your own. When you use your own hands to create something, there is a lot of pride that goes along with that. Julia did not discover her love for arts and crafts on her own but dedicates a lot of it to the things her mother and grandmother taught her when she was young.

Julia said her mother was always crafty, and her grandmother was a great painter who also taught her how to cross stitch. Although she says she was not that great at it, there is still something so powerful when having someone teach you a craft such as this. Although she originally thought teaching was something quite limiting, Julia has now come to understand the power of teaching needle arts to those who may not have had the same childhood she did.

“You want to be that inspirational person for these kids, and you want to create that environment where they are going to be excited about what they are doing,” says Julia while discussing her passion for working with The Handwork Studio. Even though it may not be where she thought she would be, having the ability to inspire a new generation of crafters fills Julia with an undeniable excitement. Julia believes that a lot of this creativity starts off “when we were little, and we are crafting and exploring,” and over the years, Julia has helped many little ones find their own creative gene within.

____________________________________________________________________________

Click here for a look at our summer sewing camp options for your child. Also, be sure to check out our store and our new partnership with Simplicity Sewing Patterns

Tags: The Handwork Stories, sewmorelove

Upgrade Your Back-to-School Wardrobe! 10 Fun & Crafty Ways to Upcycle Clothing

Posted by Marjanna Smith on Sun, Sep 02, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

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                      Source: Google Images

Looking for a fun, unique way to be creative with your family? How about a cheap and eco-friendly one? Try upcycling, the perfect combination of originality, creativity, and sustainability for you to try with your kids. Read on to find out what it is and how you can do it at home.

What is Upcycling?

Upcycling is the reuse or repurposing of an old object into a product that is more useful or more beautiful than the original. Upcycling can be super simple and kid-friendly -- for example, instead of throwing out old CDs and magazines, you can make them into mosaic picture frames and woven coasters. It can also be more complex, such as repainting and repairing a piece of furniture instead of kicking it to the curb.

Why is Upcycling Important?

You may be thinking, “Why should I take the time to upcycle? Isn’t recycling good enough?” Well, there are a lot of reasons why upcycling is so important. First, let’s establish the difference between recycling and upcycling. While recycling involves breaking down material to be reused (which decreases the material’s value), upcycling is all about finding new, creative ways to reuse the material (thus increasing its value)! So, like recycling, upcycling reduces the amount of landfill waste you generate; however, upcycling also creates a new product that has a functional and/or decorative use.

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                        Source: Google Images

Next, let’s talk about waste. Remember that helpful catchphrase that everyone uses when talking about how to be more eco-friendly? Reduce, reuse, recycle! Well, I recently learned that these three actions are actually in order of importance. First and foremost, we should make the effort to reduce the amount of things we buy and resources we use (i.e., taking shorter showers and avoiding impulse purchases that we don’t really need). Next is reusing, which includes upcycling! Last is recycling -- so, while it's obviously important to recycle, it is more important to prioritize those first two steps over recycling.  

What Can I Upcycle? Why Should I Upcycle Clothes?

Upcycling can be done with any object or material you can think of -- if you can repurpose, modify, or personalize it, you can upcycle it. For this post, I decided to focus on a popular material of choice for "upcyclers": clothing. Clothing is a great medium for upcycling because it is versatile, available, and can be modified in an infinite number of ways. Clothing is also a big issue when it comes to keeping our planet clean. In 2014, the U.S. alone generated approximately 32.44 billion pounds of textile waste even though 95% of all textiles have the potential to be reused or recycled. This number will only continue to increase unless we raise awareness of this issue and the different ways we can reduce, reuse, and recycle clothing.

Now that you’ve learned how upcycling is an economical, eco-friendly, and creative activity, you must be ready for some inspiration! Whether you have thrift store finds, hand-me-downs, or old clothes of your own, here are 10 different ways you can upcycle them with your kids.

1. Tie-Dye

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Tie-dye is a fun, kid-friendly way to upcycle that never goes out of style. This easy DIY will instantly upgrade any plain, light-colored clothes (and it can camouflage stains). Dye a t-shirt, tank top, skirt, pair of leggings -- or even accessories like headbands or socks! Thinking outside the box is encouraged. Let your kids’ imaginations lead the way as they combine colors and patterns into their own custom work of wearable art. Check out this guide to tie-dye for plenty of tips, tricks, and pattern ideas.

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Don’t have any white clothes laying around? Don’t worry! If you have solid-colored clothing, try tie-dyeing with bleach for a new twist on this classic activity.

2. Freezer Paper Stencil

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Who knew that you could use freezer paper and paint to add a design to a t-shirt? I didn’t until I found this tutorial on how to do it, and it looks as simple and fun as the pictured results.

3. T-Shirt Tote Bag

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Basically all you need to make this tote bag is an old t-shirt, sharp scissors, and 10 minutes. This no-sew project is a great way to repurpose a t-shirt that is too big or no longer worn.

4. Patches, Pins, and Appliques

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Personalize an old hand-me-down (or even cover up stains or holes) by adding some 3D art to your clothes! You can buy patches, pins, and appliques at craft stores and online, or you can make them yourself! See this tutorial for no-sew felt appliques and this tutorial for no-sew fabric flowers. And if you’re up to the challenge, you can try making embroidered patches by hand.

5. Stamped Clothes

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To make your own printed clothing, all you need is a stamp and some paint! You can buy stamps of all kinds at your local craft store, or you can make a quick DIY stamp out of a kitchen sponge, sponge brush, or even a potato! Then simply dip your stamp in acrylic or fabric paint and press it onto any piece of clothing that you want to make 100% cuter.

6.Throw Pillow

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Your child doesn’t have to say goodbye to that beloved t-shirt that has become too small to wear -- preserve it as a throw pillow! Try the no-sew, hand sewed, and machine sewed version depending on your available equipment and skill level. Leave the shirt plain or embellish it with buttons, sequins, fabric stickers, or paint designs! 

7. Unconventional Dye Techniques

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Looking for something different from the average tie-dye or bleach methods? Try using some Elmer’s glue to draw a design or make a pattern with found objects and let the sun do the work!

8. T-Shirt and Tank Top Upgrades

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Cutting up a top is a surprisingly popular DIY project -- and there are sooo many ways to do it. Turn a regular old t-shirt into a cold shoulder top, workout tank, or tie-front tank. Also, don’t hesitate to explore the internet for hundreds of other ideas.

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If you're looking to use an old shirt in a completely new way, you can repurpose t-shirt fabric! From a simple headband to a woven pillow, t-shirt “yarn” has many colorful and practical applications.

9. Peplum Shirt

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Embrace the timeless style of a peplum shape in your upcycling endeavors! Convert an oversized t-shirt into a peplum top or increase the charm (and length!) of a shirt by adding a different colored fabric for a trendy color block effect. While this project can be created through hand sewing, it is also an excellent way to practice and develop basic machine sewing skills.

10. Denim Shorts Upgrades

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Cut an old pair of jeans into shorts and make them stylish using a variety of techniques! This video shows how to do modifications such as adding lace, bleaching, painting, and adding patterned fabric.

 

Have fun with your new, upcycled clothes! And don’t forget to share your upcycling projects with us on Instagram using the hashtag #SewMoreLove so we can see your wonderful creations!

If you and your family is feeling inspired after your adventures in upcycling, make sure to check out The Handwork Studio’s camps and classes so your child can continue to make more handmade art! Our students flourish in our nurturing environment, and we encourage creativity and original projects while developing handwork and needlework techniques for multiple skill levels.

Tags: sewmorelove, Machine Sewing, Studio, Gifts, Kids' craft class, tie-dye, Upcycling, Embroidering, Kids Activities, Eco Fashion, Inspiration, Fall, embroidery, teach kids to knit, fiber arts, stitch, Fall Class, Fall Class Registration, creativity, imagination, How to Tuesday, kids programs, crafts, kids knitting, Kids' craft class, Sewing Machine, Fashion Design, Fashion & Machine Sewing, Fashion Bootcamp, camp, fun kids activities, project ideas, kids, activities, Teen Fashion Bootcamp, Fashion, Fun, Sewing, Knitting, eco friendly, DIY, clothes, clothing, thrifting, back-to-school, blog, blogging, mom blogs, craft blogs, tutorial, upcycle, sustainability, sustainable fashion, kids DIYs, DIY ideas, DIY projects, t shirt DIYs, repurpose clothes, t shirt pillow