Purls of Wisdom

Cameron Lee

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Alumni Profile Series: Lizzy Gee

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Nov 04, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

We hope you enjoy the fourth installment in the Alumni Profile Series, which features profiles of the Handwork Studio graduates (and some current members) and gives you an inside look into their lives!

For a shorter biography of Lizzy Gee, check out the alumni page of our website! 

Lizzy Gee Headshot

Name: Elizabeth Marie Gee
Age: 22
Education: 2018 graduate of the Pratt Institute
Majors: Fashion Design BFA
Website: www.lizzygee.com
Instagram: @treslizzy

 

Who is Lizzy Gee?

SHe's a Rebel 1-198551-editedFrom perusing Lizzy Gee’s website before our interview, it is easy to tell that she is a colorful person, an imbues that sense of boldness and brightness in her designs. Seeing Lizzy’s outfit and a small section of her apartment on our video call only confirms that she loves color, and I can’t want to hear what she has to say. Lizzy graduated from the Pratt Institute in New York just a few months before our interview with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design and is currently working as a head teacher at The Handwork Studio as she makes plans for her future.

I ask Lizzy a few fun questions to get us into the interview, and in the process learn that the night before our conversation she watched the movie Stardust on Netflix. (Lizzy is a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan.) If Lizzy could be any animal, she would be a flamingo because she loves pink, and her website is full of vibrant shades of the color. Lastly, I ask Lizzy what she wants to be when she grows up, and she laughs. “Well, I’m being it! A fashion designer!”

 

Early Involvement in Handwork and The Handwork Studio

Lizzy started knitting classes at the Handwork Studio when she was eight, and after a year of that she started machine sewing. Lizzy also did Fashion Bootcamp at the Handwork Studio for four or so years, and credits her experiences there with helping her develop her entire fashion skill set before she went to college. “Without them, I wouldn’t have known any of it, because no one in my family can even hand sew. So I’m officially the seamstress of the house, thanks to them.” Lizzy was interested in handwork before she began attending the Handwork Studio classes, however, because she was always intrigued by the idea that she could draw something and have an idea and then actually bring that idea to life. She dabbled in making board games when she was younger, but nothing clicked with her more than knitting and making clothes.

While she was 13 (and still attending Fashion Bootcamp at the Handwork Studio), Lizzy also started working as an assistant instructor, helping out at birthday parties and camp during the summer at the Narberth studio, an experience that foreshadowed her current position as head teacher. Lizzy tells me about a time during Fashion Bootcamp that stands out to her as a perfect representation of how great the Handwork Studio was in helping build her as a person and a designer. “I remember Ms. Alisha and Ms. Julia tried to help me figure out how to thread a serger. That’s a much more complex machine than a sewing machine, and it uses five threads, and they sat with me for like two hours trying to figure it out. That was the next step, and they were happy to help me through it.”

 

Lizzy’s Journey

Wilder WoMann 2-379538-editedBecause Lizzy has known that she wanted to go into fashion for so long, she was able to start having incredible job and internship experience at a relatively young age. When she was still in high school, Lizzy took classes at the Moore College of Art and Design and interned at the costume department at Villanova University (where they thought she was a college student until the very end of the internship, when they found out she was only 16!).

Once she arrived in New York for her freshman year at Pratt, Lizzy started interning right away, even though her university advised incoming students against doing so because companies might try to take advantage of them. Lizzy heeded the warning but once met a woman near her school named Julie Mollo who had her own studio and made performance-wear for different musicians, Lizzy jumped at the opportunity to learn from the business and see what it takes to run your own brand. Lizzy planned to intern for bigger and bigger brands over the years to gain a variety of working experience in different environments, so her second internship was with a designer named Mara Hoffman. Hoffman taught Lizzy all about print design, something she had been interested in ever since she attended the Handwork Studio. Lizzy’s third internship was with her “idol, Christian Siriano. When I got an internship with him, I was like ‘I think this is the pinnacle. I don’t know how I can get any better than this.’ I just love that he does plus size too, and I’ve only ever made designs for myself, and I’ve been plus size since middle school. So it was really nice to meet someone who doesn’t care what size you are, and is going to make something nice no matter what.”

I, like Lizzy, attend university in New York, so I ask her what it was like to move from outside of Pennsylvania to the city. “I love it. It’s definitely a different pace than any other city. But I love it. I think it helps that I went to a school that still has a campus feeling, so you feel that calm amongst the crazy. If I had gone to Parsons or FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology] I would have felt very overwhelmed and I wouldn’t have stayed after graduating. But I plan to stay for at least a year.” I agree. I love the city, but without a quiet, collegiate campus, my university experience would be very different than it is now.Wilder WoMann 4

Like many people, my sense of the fashion industry, especially in New York, is that it can be pretty cutthroat. Movies like The Devil Wears Prada depict a very specific image of what that world resembles, and I ask Lizzy if it was at all daunting to enter that universe as a young designer. “There’s definitely stereotypes for a reason,” she tells me, “And I’ve met all of them. Surprisingly enough there’s all different kinds of personalities and brands out there, but you can find a really different experience than the harsh, cutthroat environment they make it out to be. My very first big brand internship was Mara Hoffman and...it was one of the most welcoming environments. So it depends on the environment, and there’s definitely brands out there that can take advantage and make you feel like you can’t do it, but there’s also brands that want you to succeed. Even though The Devil Wears Prada tries to tell you different.”

Apparently, other people in Lizzy’s life were concerned about how she would fare in the New York fashion industry as well because she would get a lot of "'Oh, you’re too nice to be in fashion. Oh, you’re too sweet, you’re not gonna make it. But you can always be like a teacher?’” Lizzy ignored all those comments. “My main thing is to run my own brand, and the only way to do that is if I work for a brand...Why not try to go in there and make a change? I love it so much; I’m not gonna give up just because some people tell me they think my designs are ugly or something.”

 

Lizzy’s Art

As I guessed from looking at her website and seeing her for the first time, Lizzy loves color. She elaborates on her art and vision, and why she creates the way that she does.

SHe's a Rebel 2“I always have had a lot of color and boldness with my designs. I try to balance femininity and edge, so I design for a girl who wants to wear pink and wear bright colors, but also, you know, don’t mess with her. That’s the vibe I’m trying to bring out. Also when I went to Pratt, I started to learn about menswear, and I love the idea of helping straight men not have a fear of dressing flamboyant and wearing what they want. I have a lot of friends who are guys, and they love my designs, but they’re too afraid. If they want to wear a really bold print, they’re worried people will assume certain things about them rather than think they just really enjoy color."

"I want to create a brand that blends that aesthetic together and is not really defined by gender or a demographic; it’s just a personality. And that is a more feminine edge, I guess. It would be made sustainably. What I tried to learn in school is the best way to sustainably create prints and textiles, because that’s where most of the pollution comes from in fashion. All that dying, all that manipulating of materials to create the fabrics we have. Which ones are the best in terms of decomposing, which ones last the most so we won’t be throwing away garments? I’m trying to find a universal quality to having fun with prints and color.”

Lizzy’s artistic vision changed significantly while she attended Pratt, and she expects more change to come. She made five mini-collections before she even started college, so she thought she knew what she wanted, but learning about menswear, prints, and accessories at Pratt helped expand Lizzy’s horizons. She’s now more open to starting her brand with accessories and building into clothes or experimenting with a more versatile range of techniques and demographics.

 

Trials and Successes

One instance immediately comes to mind when I ask Lizzy if there’s anything she’s done over the last few years that she’s especially proud of.

Dancing Lobsters

“I’ve always dabbled in costume design, but that’s never been where I definitely wanted to go because I want to design for the everyday person as well. I’ve never wanted to design clothes that feel exclusive, you know? That’s why I get rigid if I know I have to sell something for slightly more expensive than I’d buy it at. But there was a costume design competition at Pratt. They partnered with a famous boutique in Manhattan to do this competition, and the winner’s costume would be displayed in the front window. Which is a dream come true for anyone who wants to show their own designs. I initially didn’t think I was going to do it because I was stressed out with what I was doing, and the theme was under the sea, and I was like, okay, a million people are gonna do mermaids and jellyfish. I like to put a humorous spin on my work, and I couldn’t think of anything for the first week. My professors kept telling me to apply and try, and midnight the night before it was due I remembered The Amanda Show, and my favorite part of that show was with Judge Trudy, who always yelled “Bring in the Dancing Lobsters!” and I was like ‘Oh, my God. I’m gonna make a dancing lobster. But I’m gonna make it sexy and elegant, but it's still gonna be the dancing lobster. A costume that you can dance in.’ So that’s what I made.”

Lizzy describes the lobster dress as “kind of cartoonish but elegant,” with sequins, long antennae, and a tail like a train. “And I ended up winning,” she tells me, with a smile. It was the first time Lizzy had a window front with her name on it, and she was thrilled when she was it in person for the first time. After the competition, Lizzy ended up getting a contract with the store and sold a few more dresses to them.

When I ask Lizzy if she would change anything about the last few years, she has a surprising and refreshing answer. “I don’t know if I would change anything.” She pauses for a long time to think, and I make sure to tell her that she doesn’t have to have something and that it’s a good thing if she doesn’t want to change anything about her recent life. Ultimately, however, Lizzy tells me that if she “had to choose something...I did a summer abroad in London, and I loved it so much; I applied for the college experience and decided not to go. I wasn’t sure if I should do that, because I was so young. But after going, I totally could have done it. But I love New York. So if anything, maybe I would have done that as my fashion degree. So if I decide to get my masters I’d go there.”Wilder WoMann 1

Lizzy’s final words prove to be fantastic advice for anyone reading this, but especially for kids at the Handwork Studio who wish to pursue careers in fashion. “Don’t listen to anybody who says what you’re doing is weird or out of the ordinary or that it can’t happen,” she says, “Because you can make it happen. That’s literally what being a designer is. You design clothes you’ve never seen before. What makes you different is what makes you succeed. That’s not pushed in the classroom enough. There’s multiple ways to get to where you wanna be...Having patience with yourself and learning the skills to create is the hardest at the beginning. I’m teaching a group of machine sewers right now, and they already think they’re bad at it, almost. Every time they make a little mistake. That’s probably the hardest thing. Once you learn all those mistakes are learning experiences you can build upon, fashion will come so naturally to you, and you can go and have a career in it.”


Photo 1: Portrait of Lizzy Gee
Photo 2: Lizzy wearing clothes from her "S/he's a Rebel" Collection, 2016
Photo 3: Model wearing clothes from Lizzy's "Wilder Wo/mann" Collection, 2017
Photo 4: Model wearing clothes from Lizzy's "Wilder Wo/mann" Collection, 2017
Photo 5: Model wearing clothes from Lizzy's "S/he's a Rebel" Collection, 2016
Photo 6: Lizzy's "Dancing Lobsters" costume in the window of Screaming Mimis
Photo 7: Lizzy and models wearing clothes from her "Wilder Wo/mann" Collection, 2017

Tags: The Handwork Studio, Handwork, Alumni, Alumni Profile Series, Profile, Lizzy Gee

Alumni Profile Series: Emilie Patton

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Oct 21, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

We’re happy to share the third installment in the Alumni Profile Series, which features profiles of the Handwork Studio graduates (and some current members) and gives you an inside look into their lives!

For a shorter biography of Emilie Patton, check out the alumni page of our website!

Emilie Patton headshot-1

Name: Emilie Marie Patton
Age: 21
Education: Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, Final Year
Majors: Fibers and Material Studies

 

Who is Emilie Patton?

Emilie Patton (Emilie, not Emily, a mistake I made the first time we emailed) has a bright, bubbly personality and a friendliness about her that makes me look forward to speaking with her even more. Before we get into the meat of the interview, I realize that both Emilie and Julia Haines, a Handwork Studio alumnus I interviewed a few weeks before, both attend the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and are both majoring in Fibers and Material Studies. When I ask Emilie about it (without specifying Julia by name), she guesses who I’m talking about immediately, and tells me that in addition to being in the same, relatively small class at Tyler, they also danced together in high school. Small world! 

Here’s Emilie Patton in a flash: The last thing she watched before our interview was a series on Netflix called Haven, which she describes as a police show, but also a milder version of Supernatural. She laughs as she tells me she’s on season three and only started it two weeks ago. If Emilie could be an animal, she would be a rabbit, because “they have such nice eyes, eat grass all day, and hop around.” I ask what she wants to be when she grows up, and Emilie tells me that she plans to be “a working artist.” She pauses. “Well, a successful working artist,” she adds with a laugh.

 

Early Involvement in Handwork and The Handwork Studio

Emilie first truly got involved in the handwork world when she started taking classes at the Handwork Studio in 6th grade. She took a sewing class with her friends and made pajama bottoms, and from then on she just “really liked going there.” Emilie attended a Handwork Studio class every summer, and sometimes she would attend classes at night during the school year as well. I wonder if she expressed any interest in handwork before she started going to the Handwork Studio classes, or if her parents just decided to enroll her, and she makes it clear that she “was really interested in it. My great grandmother was a seamstress, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to sew because I learned hand sewing from a family friend when I was around 6. My mom doesn’t know how to sew, and my grandmother who lived an hour and a half away couldn’t teach me because I wasn’t there, so going to this was the best option that I had to learn to do this skill that I really wanted to learn.”

Emilie fondly remembers when she took the Fashion Bootcamp at the Handwork Studio when she entered high school. She tells me that it was a nice environment, a really fun class to take and that she and her friends had a good time making garments together. “It was a good highlight of my childhood.”


Emilie’s Journey

Emilie patton outfitsUnlike Julia, who decided to apply to Tyler very shortly before the deadline, Emilie was aware that she wanted to go to art school earlier, but she also struggled with choosing between art and another path. Emilie was originally going to attend school for pharmacy (her dad’s a pharmacist, and her mom’s an ICU nurse), but then she took art classes in high school and realized that she could apply the skills she loved, like sewing, to 3D art, amongst other things, and “it kind of took off from there.” At the end of her sophomore year of high school she told her parents that she didn’t want to go to school for anything related to health care, but art instead.

Emilie is from Havertown, PA, a place she describes as a “small town,” so everyone knew her parents and knew that Emilie originally wanted to go into a medical field. When she decided to embark on her art school journey, not everyone was thrilled. “Some of my high school teachers told me that I wouldn’t find a job,” she admits, but a beloved high school art teacher helped her get to where she is now. “You’ve got to find those people who believe in you and stay with them.” Emilie pushed through the confusion and criticism and took AP art her junior year of high school, an experience that solidified her love for art and convinced her that she was making the right decision by planning to go to art school. “Junior year is when I was like, no I want to do this. I do not want to be a pharmacist for the rest of my life; I want to be an artist. I think taking an art class and seeing I could apply those skills, helped.”

When I ask Emilie if she has had any job or internship experience related to handwork, she hesitates. “This is not like a ‘true job,’” she says, “But I used to teach kids in my neighborhood how to sew. Like on my own, with my friends. I would make bags and bring them to class, and a lot of people asked me where I got them, and I told them I made them by sewing. And in middle school a lot of people wanted me to teach them. I did that freshman year too, in my dorm.” I tell her that even if she doesn’t consider that a “true job,” it’s still really cool. I would love to learn handwork, and if I had a peer who could teach me how to do it, that would be so much easier. Rather than try to teach myself, or go to a class. “I taught myself how to knit,” Emilie laughs, "And it’s a lot easier to learn from someone else.”


Emilie’s Art

Emilie Patton (front)We cycle back around to talk about the Tyler School of Art, and what Emilie’s life has been like attending school there. What kinds of classes does she take; does she concentrate on something specific in her major; does she mostly take studio classes?

“I focus more on garment construction,” she tells me, “And on the ideas of processes. I really like to weave my own fabric. The idea of making something completely from scratch really intrigues me, and I usually focus my work on garments and exploring the body through clothing. A lot of the classes I take are - I took a garment construction class last year and a weaving class, and that’s kind of where it started - but I like taking classes that are more hands-on in physical processes. Silk screening, natural dyes, everything’s kind of from the ground up. That just really intrigues me.” Emilie typically takes three studio classes a semester, and one non-studio, so much of her time is focused on actually making art.

In my experience, artists go through a period when they come into their style and discover their artistic voice, and this period can last anywhere from a few months to a few decades because style is always evolving. I ask Emilie to tell me about her artistic passion, how and when she developed her style, and whether her interest in building structures from the ground up was something she always wanted to do, or whether it came into play later. “It came into play later,” she responds. “Way, way later. I’ve always liked the idea of the processes of things, but more recently, last semester, it took hold. I was in Rome for four months for a semester abroad, and there were no fibers classes over there, so I was taking whatever I could that was craft centered. I took bookbinding, paper making, and a sketchbook class. I really struggled. I had the worst block ever, it was awful. It wasn’t until the very end until one of my professors told me ‘Just don’t think’ and it clicked. So I started making things, not as a concept, but that the way of doing things is in itself an art.”

Emilie told me at the beginning of the interview that she wants to be a working artist. I wonder if she has any idea what she wants that to look like.

“My goal in life is to own my own brand in a sense. I’m really interested in functionality. I want to do work based on making something functional in someone’s life, not just extremely contemporary, which I don’t have an exact knack for. I’m jealous of people who have that knack. I would love to own a store where I could transform my work into things people can use every day in their lives, and become almost a household name, in a way. That’s always been something I’ve wanted to do.”


Trials and Successes

When I get to the part of the interview where I typically ask what the interviewee is the proudest of, or for an accomplishment of theirs they’d like to share, I’m pleasantly surprised when Emilie wants to give me two. Both pertain to garments she’s made, at two different times in her life. Emilia Patton (back)-1

“Senior year I made my prom dress, and it was one of my favorite dresses I’ve ever made. It doesn’t fit me anymore, but it was just something I didn’t think I’d be able to make structurally. I made the pattern myself, and I never did that before, and it was something I was really proud of.” She had to sew herself into it, she laughs, but it was worth it. “The second one was designing a three-piece collection of 11 pieces total for a class I took last year. I made a killer pair of pants that were completely pleated around the bottom that took me five days to make. I worked on them for like 12 hours a day, and when I was done I was so happy, and they looked so good on my model, and I was like ‘Yes! Finally!’”

When I ask Emilie the opposite - to tell me something she wishes she could change about the past few years - I’m surprised by how similar her answer is to the one Julia Haines gave me. “I wish I had a better sense of my artwork a couple of years ago. Going through that struggle of finding your own style is really hard. Because you doubt yourself a lot.”

Close to the end of the interview, Emilie tells me another story about her time at the Handwork Studio. “This is my second year working at the Handwork Studio, and I had the opportunity to help teach the Fashion Bootcamp last year, and I’ll be doing it this year as well if there are enough campers. And it’s really inspiring to see these girls who are like 13 and 14 make a two-piece collection from scratch, from fabric they get to choose, and they get to design everything, and they find patterns and alter patterns. It’s so inspiring seeing that as someone who does this almost as their career. Seeing it start so young kind of reignites the fire and makes me think 'Yes, this is what I want to do! This is great!' It’s so great having these kids get this environment that, a lot of times, they don’t get at school or anywhere else, and people saying, 'You can do this, we believe in you.' And then they do amazing things. It’s crazy. A girl made a dress based on the night sky, and I helped her dye it, and she put all these stars on it, and it was beautiful. Like that came out of your mind. You made that. It’s such a nice feeling that you can help these girls get there.”

I want to end with some advice Emilie offered for any kids at the Handwork Studio who may be inspired to follow the same path as her, or just to pursue their passions: “Stick with it, because there’s going to be times when you wanna give up, and you think your work isn’t good enough or it’s too hard or stressful. People will try to tell you that you’re in school for something you don’t need but stick with it, because you want to do something you’re going to enjoy for the rest of your life. If it’s something you’re passionate about, keep it.”


Photo 1: Portrait of Emilie Patton
Photo 2: Emilie's designs
Photo 3: Emilie wearing her designs, front
Photo 4: Emilie wearing her designs, back

Tags: The Handwork Studio, Handwork, Alumni, Alumni Profile Series, Emilie Patton

Alumni Profile Series: Sharon Baranov

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Oct 07, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

Welcome to the second installment in the Alumni Profile Series, which features profiles of the Handwork Studio graduates (and some current members) and gives you an inside look into their lives. Happy reading!

For a shorter biography of Sharon Baranov, check out the alumni page of our website!

Sharon headshot-1

Name: Sharon Baranov
Age: 18
Education: First year at the University of Pennsylvania
Major: Mechanical Engineering

Who is Sharon Baranov?

Sharon tells me that in addition to engineering she paints, sews, and does fashion design. Her favorite type of art is probably making clothes, but the week before our interview she took a still life painting class (where she tried oil paints for the first time) and loved it.

When she grows up, Sharon most likely wants to do something in mechanical engineering, but she also wants to relate her engineering back to fashion, because she finds that “they’re kind of intermixed a little bit because they’re both about making things.”

 

Early Involvement in Handwork and The Handwork Studio

Sharon started sewing at a remarkably young age. Her mom bought her sewing kits from Joann Fabric that she really enjoyed and she attended a knitting class at another camp and had a great time, so her mom signed her up for classes at the Handwork Studio. She tells me that she was 5 or 6 years old when she started attending the Handwork Studio. To start that young, someone else in Sharon’s family must have been interested in handwork if she got involved that early, but she shakes her head. “No one else in my family really did sewing. My two older sisters had learned to knit so when I first started knitting one of my sisters (who is about ten years older than me) was starting to help me, but she didn’t know a lot. She couldn’t really cast on or anything, so then my mom sent me to the Handwork Studio.”

Sharon has been a part of the Handwork Studio family for virtually her entire life. When I ask her about her journey with the Handwork Studio, she tells me that she started taking hand sewing lessons after camp, did doll making, and then once she was old enough she started machine sewing. (She had a private teacher that taught her how to machine sew before she began to machine sew at the Handwork Studio because she wasn’t yet old enough to be in the class. If anything evidences Sharon’s dedication to the craft, this is it!) “Once I was old enough to do [machine sewing] at the Handwork Studio I took a class every week and a bunch of my friends did it with me because my mom told their parents about it so I would take the doll making class on Monday kind of by myself or with one other friend and for machine sewing it would be me and like six of my friends. We would go for the Friday class. And after that they kind of...I guess by the time we went to middle school they had stopped and I kept going, and by then I stopped taking classes and did volunteering in classrooms. And then once I turned fourteen, I started working at the Handwork Studio.”

It’s telling of Sharon’s dedication and love for handwork that she stayed committed even when those around her found other things to do. Even after Sharon aged out of the Handwork Studio, she remained involved, working at the Narberth studio through summers and school years.

Its hard to imagine that the Handwork Studio has been anything less than formative for Sharon because of her lifelong relationship with it, and she agrees wholeheartedly. “It definitely had a lasting impact on me because it kind of got me going in sewing, and I had really great teachers, and they were really fun. Especially because I had a lot of friends that went with me and I made friends that kept me going. Taking sewing classes by yourself - which I also did with a private sewing teacher - can sometimes not be as motivating because you’re by yourself. With a bunch of friends you’re all picking your projects together, and it just makes the experience really fun. Eventually, as I got older...they still kept me on volunteering because I was too old for the classes. I never had a break when it was like “Oh I’m too old for the classes but too young to work.” They just kept me going with it.”

Sharon immediately launches into a story when asked if she has a favorite anecdote or experience that she wants to share. She talks about this “huge fat bunny that one of the teachers had knitted a while ago” that sat in the studio that all the kids loved to play with. “One summer,” she recalls, “I decided that I wanted to make it. So they just let me do my own thing, and every time I had the chance, I would work on knitting this bunny. They weren’t very strict that I had to do every project and they let me do my own thing. It was really exciting because I finished the bunny and it was a huge bunny.” She forms a circle with her arms, indicating how large the project was, and laughs. “It was really cute.”

 

Sharon’s  Journey

Instead, she is asked to talk about the most significant way handwork plays a role in her life, outside of working at the Handwork Studio of course. She tells me that the Handwork Studio taught her “about the fun you can have with sewing,” so now she focuses more on doing projects that make her happy. “I just finished making my prom dress in April, and I just do little fun projects. I don’t make it something that is difficult for me; I just do what I like. That’s what they taught me.”

“It was really hard,” she admits, “because I decided to make the pattern for it myself, so that was really difficult, but once I got the pattern it kind of went a lot smoother and I was able to finish it.” She thinks for a moment before telling me about her 3-week internship for a tailor that she completed as her senior project, alongside making her prom dress. She worked at a store called SewRob near where she lives and got to see more of the business side of sewing.  Did she focus on administrative tasks? Fashion related work?

“I saw what he was doing with the tailoring and the pinning, but I didn’t work as much with the actual sewing of stuff because it’s still his business and he had to let his workers do their own thing,” she explains. “But I basically checked if everyone finished the work right. I would take a pair of pants and press the hem and make sure there weren’t any threads hanging off, and then I would check it off. I also watched him pin different dresses. A bride came in, and I was able to see that.”

 

Sharon’s Art

Despite pursuing a career in something outside handwork, Sharon makes it clear that sewing will always be her hobby. She chose not to embark on a fashion career because she likes being able to make clothes for herself, and she likes the freedom of making patterns for things she wants. “That’s how I got into engineering,” she says. “I was thinking that I really like making things and fitting them together and seeing how they work.” She starts to tell the story of how she moved from fashion to engineering.

“I went to Parsons for a three-week summer program, and I did fashion illustration there which was a lot about putting the design and the colors together and stuff like that. And I liked it and thought it was really fun but it wasn’t really what I was going for. I was thinking a lot more about the patterns and how you can construct different clothes, and that’s really what I like to do. I don’t do as much fashion illustration at home; I just like to put things together and make the actual clothing. I know there are jobs like that in the fashion world but right after Parsons I had physics in school (my junior year) so we started doing projects like building a catapult or a bridge. I saw that I liked those two and how making those things connected to making the patterns in my sewing. I was thinking that if I get a degree in mechanical engineering and learn a lot about how things go together and how you make things then if I don’t like doing anything other than doing that with clothing then I can always go back and use what I’ve learned from my degree in mechanical engineering and apply it to clothing.”

 

Trials and Successes

When I ask Sharon what she’s done over the last few years that she’s the proudest of, I’m thrilled to hear her say her prom dress. She goes into detail about the process and design.

“Basically it’s this corset pattern, and it’s not like anything I’ve made a pattern for before so at the beginning I was really struggling. I did pattern draping on a mannequin, and it took me six tries and so many months to do it and finally I just was like ‘This is close enough’ and started cutting out fabric and making it into the dress. And as it came together it felt really good because I got so many compliments from people who were like ‘Oh my god, how’d you do this’ and it felt really good to see a final product. And that's really what I like about sewing. You get through the whole process which can be really challenging sometimes, but then you get a product in the end that you’re really proud of.”

As a visual artist who normally sticks to drawing and painting, I don’t really know what it’s like to use your artistic skills to make something intrinsically functional and to be able to wear your creation. Sharon agrees, saying that “You’re really close to your clothes. A lot of people express themselves through their clothing or just like nice clothing, so I feel like when you can make it for yourself, it’s just really nice. And it feels really close, even more sometimes than a painting.”

What is something Sharon wishes she could change about the last few years? She pauses for a second, then tells me that she wishes that she’d kept sewing more after she decided not to pursue fashion as a career. Before she attended the Parsons program, Sharon had sewing teacher that had her make something new every week, and even though it was challenging, she wishes she had kept up with that schedule. Sharon essentially took a six-month break from sewing and only really got back into it to make a dress for her winter formal, her junior year. “It was a little bit of a sore topic, but I wish I had kept going because there are so many things I could have made during that time…then I did my junior formal dress, and it was like, okay, I really miss this.” She’s coming into the realization that she needs to find a way to keep sewing in her life (which is why she took this summer off from work - to make art). It’s always a balance to keep space and time for your art alongside everything else school throws at you.

Does she have anything else to share about the Handwork Studio?

“It was a really good experience and made sure that I’ll always have something that I like to do and that I’ll always make time for. It helped me approach the arts. My mom is very into sports and stuff, and she’s never done any art, and my older sister was into painting, but I’m the first one to get into sewing. So it really helped me find ‘my thing.’”

 

 



Photo 1: Portrait of Sharon Baranov
Photo 2: Sharon wearing three of her designs
Photo 3: Painting of Sharon and her sisters
Photo 4: Jacket designed by Sharon 
Photo 5: Sharon in her prom dress, front 
Photo 6: Sharon wearing three of her designs
Photo 7: Sharon in her prom dress, back

Tags: Handwork, The Handwork Stories, Alumni, Alumni Profile Series, Profile, Sharon Baranov

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
8
Photo 7: Piece from "Point of Replication," 2018

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

Quilting: Learn Its Unique American History and How to Start Making Your Own Quilt Today!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Aug 26, 2018 @ 10:10 AM

Good morning and welcome to the last of the summer activities blog posts! My final topic is somewhat fitting for these final days of summer vacation as we move into the chilly fall season: quilting! I remember helping to make class quilts when I was in elementary school, so I hope that this post inspires you and your kids to start your own family quilt today.Camper holding memory quilt-674506-edited

A quilt, as defined by Merriam Webster, is a “bed coverlet of two layers of cloth filled with padding (such as down or batting) held in place by ties or stitched designs.” Therefore, quilting is the process of making a quilt! Quilts have three main components: the top, a piece of fabric that is often decorated, the bottom, and the filler, which is the padded section sewn between the top and the bottom to form a kind of sandwich. Quilting has a history that predates the United States, but since the tradition of quilting is so intrinsic to the history of this country, I thought we could start there.

English, Welsh, and Dutch settlers brought their handwork skills with them when they traveled to the New World, as well as their knowledge of the use of padded fabrics in clothes, bedding, and armor all over the world. In the US, quilts had many uses throughout the years, starting mainly as a way to keep people warm at night and prevent cold wind from coming thro

Chintz Whole-Cloth Quilt, circa 1815, United States Courtesy American Folk Art Museum

ugh doors and windows, and evolving into an expressive art form. In the 1700s and 1800s, thousands of quilts were made by women in the US, and many were passed down for centuries.

One of the most popular forms of quilts in the early 1800s was a whole cloth quilt, which was made from a single piece of fabric on the top and another large piece on the bottom, and most of the decoration on this form of quilt was made using corded or padded material. Inspiration for whole cloth quilts came from East Indian fabrics because the highly valued imported Indian cotton was too prized to be cut into pieces. The medallion quilt is anoth

er kind that drew inspiration from Indian art and was decorated with a central image surrounded by other designs. The patchwork or pieced quilt was made from scraps of fabric sewn together, which saved crafters from having to buy large swaths of fabric. The applique quilt, on the other hand, was considered very elegant and was made by using extra pieces of fabric and incredibly detailed needlework to decorate the quilt. Only the wealthy typically had the time and expenses to make this type of quilt. Quilting was so crucial to American communities that it was a tradition for mothers to make their children quilts before they left the house, and for women to sew twelve quilts, including their bridal bed quilt before they were engaged.

“Log Cabin”—Single Block “Courthouse Steps” Variation, by Loretta Pettway, circa 1958Although quilting practices and foundations were brought to the US via European settlers, the country also has a history of African-American quilting traditions that trace back to slavery. Although most textiles in Africa were woven and not quilted, the bold, geometric, colorful aesthetics of fabrics like kente cloth served as inspiration for enslaved women, who were often taught to quilt in order to make help and serve their mistresses.

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, the practice of quilting died off some but came back in the ‘70s and ‘80s as people expressed a desire to return to handwork skills in the face of increased mechanization. Quilting became an important part of the feminist movements in the ‘70s because it served as means of artistic expression, and after the bicentennial celebration of the United States in 1976, it became a representation of national pride and love for the country.

Unlike sewing, the actual process of quilting hasn’t changed too much over the years, so it is a really cool way to feel connected to women who lived hundreds of years ago, and it is also an amazing way to create a family heirloom that can be passed down to your kids, their kids, and their kids! When starting out quilting, the most important tip is to keep it simple. Choose simple patterns with lots of straight lines, rectangles, and squares, use larger pieces of fabric so there will be less sewing involved, and maybe even buy patterns with precut fabrics so that you don’t have to spend time measuring and cutting your own. You will probably need sewing pins, safety pins, sewing scissors, thread, a seam ripper, a measurement tool, a fabric pencil or a marker, and a rotary cutter, as well as your fabric and patterns! The four stages of quilting include preparation, making the quilt top, quilting, and finally binding it all together, and if you can sew a straight line and are willing to follow instructions, you can definitely make your own quilt! Quilt by Emma Redmond

Now that you’ve learned all about the uniquely American history of quilting, you can grab your kids and get started on your own! For detailed quilting instructions, check out this awesome blog or this great article. If you want your child to have handwork experience but you’re not sure about helping them yourself, you can always send them to the Handwork Studio’s amazing classes.

Finally, I hope everyone has an incredible school year! It’s been awesome learning about different kinds of handwork with you this summer, and I hope this blog series inspired you to get out there and try these crafts yourself! As always, post a picture of your incredible creations on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove so we can see your art! Happy quilting!

Image Descriptions:
1) Camper holding Memory Quilt, Handwork Studio camp
2) Chintz Whole-Cloth Quilt, 1810-1820
3) Quilt by artist Loretta Pettway, 1958 
4) Quilt by artist Emma Redmond

Tags: Summer Camp, Fun, Summer, Handwork, Inspiration, Kids Activities, Quilt, Memory Quilt, Quilting

Learn about Wet Felting and How to Try Out This Awesome Craft Yourself This Summer!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Aug 19, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

Kid wet felting, Narberth Handwork CampGood morning crafters! Do you remember when we learned about dry felting last week, a technique used to create felt from wool with a barbed needle? Well this week, as promised, we are going to learn about wet felting. Wet felting can be defined as the process of continually rubbing wool fibers together with mild soap and warm water to form a firm, felted object,” and is often better for beginner felters to learn before they start needle felting because it does not involve any sharp objects. The history of wet felting is closely aligned with the history of needle felting - the tents and yurts made by Nomadic people of Asia are most often wet felted - so let’s jump right into talking about the craft! 

Wet felting involves creating rectangular fabric made of several layers of wool (not plant or synthetic fibers because those won’t felt well), applying water and mild soap, and sponging or agitating the wool to encourage the fibers to lock together. In dry felting, the wool is agitated with a needle rather than water, but in the end, you will have a tight, sturdy felt fabric no matter which method you use. By the end of the felting process, the wool can shrink down to more than 50% of its original size, one of the reasons that wet felting is a craft more concerned with the feeling and the process of creation rather than the precision of the end result. (A good felting tip is to measure the size of the layers of wool you create before you begin applying water so you can measure just how much the wool tends to shrink).

I am no expert at wet felting, but I’m going to attempt to share my knowledge of the process with you so you can test it out with your kids at home! First, the materials. Before you start crafting, you need to make sure you have everything you need to felt: wool, a spray bottle, hot water, mild dish soap, a large sheet of bubble wrap, netting or tulle, and a bamboo mat or a towel. You can also grab some scraps of wool or yarn for decoration if you prefer! Once you gather all your materials, you should lay down the mat or towel on a large, flat surface, like the kitchen table, and then place the bubble wrap, bubble side up, on top. Then, after pulling your wool into strips about half a foot long, you can start to lay them down on the bubble wrap, all facing the same direction. Try to make a layer of wool and fill in all the empty gaps, and when you finish with the first layer, you can start the second! The second layer should have the strips of wool oriented 90 degrees to the first layer, so the second layer of strips crosses over the first. Keep creating layers rotated 90 degrees from the one below them until you have four to six layers of wool, all stacked in a rectangle on top of the bubble wrap and the mat! If you want, you can make some designs on top of your wool with the scraps of colorful wool and yarn you gathered earlier! Kid with wet felted creation, Narberth Handwork Camp

Once you’re done with the layers, it’s time for the water. Place the netting or tulle on top of your wool, making sure it is all covered, and then fill your spray bottle with the mild liquid soap and warm water and spray it onto the wool. Use enough water so that the wool gets thoroughly wet, but not so much that water starts to spill out from underneath. After the wool is all wet, gently rub it with your hands. In this part of the process you are agitating the wool, an essential step in creating felt. After about ten minutes you want to roll up your mat (or towel) with the bubble wrap and wool inside, making sure that the roll is tight. Slide some rubber bands on the rolled mat or towel to keep it together, and roll the whole thing back and forth across the table for ten or so minutes, then unroll the mat or towel and flip the felt over before rolling it up and rolling it around for ten more minutes. After you’ve rolled both sides, unroll the mat or towel, carefully separate the felt from the bubble wrap and netting, and then gently rinse the soap out in tepid water. Once all the soap is gone, carefully squeeze out the water, and roll out the felt again on the mat to flatten it before leaving it out to dry!

Artist Andrea Graham's Wet Felted Art

Once again, there are many different ways to wet felt and dozens of tutorials to follow, but I hope my tips and tricks helped. If you want to try a slightly different, simpler kind of wet felting, check out The Handwork Studio’s YouTube tutorial on how to get started! If you already have some understanding of how to felt and are looking for inspiration for new projects, take a look at this amazing list of wet felting projects or this slideshow of great felt creations to try!

We hope that this blog post convinces you to get out there and try wet felting today. Incredible felt artists like these inspire me to try this craft one day, and I hope they inspire you too! If you want to send your kids to The Handwork Studio this summer to learn how to wet felt, among many other amazing crafts, don’t worry! The summer isn’t over yet! We still offer camps and classes so your kids can have a fantastic experience learning a new, special skill. As always, if you do end up trying a wet felting project, post a picture of your creation on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove so we can give your art the love it deserves!

Image Descriptions
1) Child in background, rainbow wet felting project in foreground, Handwork Studio camp
2) Child with wet felting project, Handwork Studio camp
3) Wet felt art by Andrea Graham

Tags: crafts, Summer Camp, Fun, Summer, activities, Handwork, Inspiration, Kids Activities, Felting, Wet Felting

Learn about the History of Needle Felting and How to Make Your Own Adorable Felt Creations This Summer!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Aug 12, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

If you’re like me, the term “felting” might not ring a bell when you first hear it, and you may be confused about its significance. But chances are you have seen a felted creation before and not even realized it!

Martha Stewart penguin needle felting

Felting is the “process of separating, tangling, and relocking animal fibers found in items such as yarn or wool,” and can either be achieved through a wet technique (which we will talk about on the blog next week!) or a dry technique, which is typically done with a needle. When needle felting, t

he crafter uses a special barbed tool to repeatedly stab into the wool, pulling the fiber into itself and ultimately creating a round, firm shape. Once this firm, felted piece of wool is created, you can add more felted shapes or pieces of wool to form a sculpture!

Felting has been around since the Neolithic period, and samples of felting date back to the Bronze and Iron Ages. Felted creations were used to keep people warm and dry during a time when knitting wasn’t yet invented! Nomadic people in Central and East Asia still practice felt making, using the craft to create rugs, tents, and clothing both for themselves and for tourists, and Roman soldiers made breastplates, tunics, boots, and socks out of felt because it is a relatively speedy process that requires fewer tools than some other handwork techniques. Legend has it that Saint Clement of Metz and Saint Christopher filled their sandals with wool while fleeing persecution to protect them from blisters and that at the end of their long journey all the walking and sweat had turned the wool in their shoes to felted socks! These days felting has come back into fashion in Great Britain, Scandinavia, and the United States, and more modern designs and techniques are always being invented to adapt to current felting trends.felted creatures, Narberth handwork studio

Felt is used in anything from cars to musical instruments to picture frames, and to create hats, jackets, decorations, pillows, and bags, but its most exciting usage is probably to create figurines and sculptures! Animals are very popular to make with dry felting because their fuzzy hair and fur is easily copied using wool. Before you start trying to create needle felted sculptures, however, you’ll need some tools. The first thing you should acquire is wool! It may be beneficial to do some research on the best type of wool for felting because there is no general consensus in the felting community on which type of wool is better, but I am confident that you will find the perfect material for your project! Next, you need a felting needle, which has sharp barbs on it that all point in the same direction in order to pull the wool into a firm, sculpted shape. Finally, you should have a foam block or a sponge on which to felt so that you don’t hurt yourself or damage your needle or the table while stabbing your wool.Chick needle felting feltify

Once you’ve gotten your needle felting tools, it’s all about practice! You can start by following this Handwork Studio YouTube tutorial to learn how to make a felted turkey or this YouTube tutorial to learn how to felt an owl, just in time for fall! You can also try these really cool felted spider earrings to get you in the mood for Halloween. If you want to create something more summery, you can also make a chick, a rabbit, or a koala, all out of spheres, or check out this list or this site to find more amazing step-by-step needle felting lessons. Needle felting is an incredible activity to try with your kids this summer, and not only is it fun to pass the time, but they end up with adorable figurines and sculptures at the end! If you’re not so sure about teaching your kids how to needle felt on your own, you can always send them to The Handwork Studio’s camps and classes so they can learn amazing handcraft skills, make friends, and have a wholesome, unique summer experience. If you do try out needle felting, post a picture of your creation on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! We would love to see the fantastic things you create. Have a great week, try some needle felting, let us know how it went, and then tune in next week to learn about wet felting! 

Image Descriptions
1) Person dry felting penguin, Martha Stewart
2) Dry felted figures, Narberth Handwork Studio camp
3) Dry felted chick, Feltify
4) Dry felted snails, Narberth Handwork Studio camp

Felted snails, Narberth handwork studio

Tags: Fun, The Handwork Studio, Summer, activities, Handwork, Kids Activities, Felting, Dry Felting, Needle Felting

Weaving: A Beautiful, Ancient, Craft That You And Your Kids Can Try This Summer!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Aug 05, 2018 @ 10:05 AM

Not too many activities that we take part in today have been around for thousands of years, but there is evidence that weaving, a craft involving the intertwining of yarn or thread to form fabric, existed in the Paleolithic era. Early humans weaved branches and twigs together to create shelters and baskets, but weaving as we know it was only able to develop with the production of string and thread. Finger weaving, lacing, and knotting were also early forms of weaving, and are still used today!Yellow, blue, pink, and white weaving pattern on wooden loom

For a long time people mostly weaved with their hands, but when humans began to settle, looms came into play. A loom is a frame, typically made of wood, meant to improve the weaving process. Horizontal looms that lie flat on the ground were typically used in warmer climates where weavers would sit outside and work, and vertical looms were often used in colder, more temperamental climates and kept inside so the weaver could avoid the harsh weather. People also weaved different materials and fabrics depending on where they lived and what the weather was like and could create anything from linen to silk to cotton to wool.

Weaving was a craft mostly kept to the home until the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, which meant that weavers (who were usually women) took their looms from their houses to factories. In 1733 John Kay invented the flying shuttle, a device that sped up the weaving process significantly and revolutionized the craft, allowing for faster, more efficient production. Then, in the early 1800s, Frenchman Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented the Jacquard Machine, a loom operated by a punch card that allowed for patterns to be created in the weaving automatically. Handweavers were so afraid that Jacquard’s invention would put them out of work that they burned many of his looms! (Sound familiar? Something very similar happened to Frenchman Barthélemy Thimonnier in 1830, not too many years later when he invented a sewing machine!) After the Industrial Revolution, 90% of weaving looms in North America were automated, and the craft was changed forever.Woman weaving geometric pattern on upright loom

There are many different kinds of weaving, but all of them involve the intertwining of warp threads and weft threads. Warp threads are strung over the loom vertically and provide the backbone for the weaving, and the weft threads are woven in and around the warp threads to create the design.  In the most common type of weaving, a plain weave, the weft yarn goes alternately over and under the warp yarn and creates a flat surface on which it is easy to print patterns. Basket weaving creates a checkerboard pattern, and twill weaving create a strong, heavy fabric like denim.

There are many tools that go into weaving, like a tapestry beater to push down the weft threads, a tapestry needle to pull the weft threads through the warp threads, and shed stick to create a gap to easily pull the weft thread through, but you won’t necessarily need all of them at once. A fork is an excellent substitute for a tapestry beater, and you can even make a homemade loom out of cardboard! When you first start out teaching your kids to weave, it might be useful to string the loom yourself with the warp thread so that it’s all ready to go, and even have your kids practice weaving with paper first - the stakes will be lower, and it will help them get a sense of how the process goes. You can even invite some friends over and make it a party, and set up a “yarn buffet” to make it easier to distribute supplies without chaos. When a kid runs out of yarn, they can return to the buffet!  Five colorful weaving projects hung on wall by branches, pom poms

If you’re stuck without any ideas for designs or how to get started on a project, check out this fantastic weaving, complete with branches and pom poms! For some great tutorials on simple weaving projects, check out The Handwork Studio’s videos on straw weaving and hand weaving. And as always, if you want your kids to learn amazing handwork skills with incredible teachers and also make lifelong friends, check out The Handwork Studio’s camps and classes. We hope you enjoy weaving, and if you want us to see any of your cool new projects, post a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! Best of luck!

Image Descriptions
1) Yellow, blue, pink, and white weaving pattern on wooden loom
2) Woman weaving geometric pattern on upright loom
3) Five colorful weaving projects hung on wall (https://www.artbarblog.com/weaving-kids/)

Tags: crafts, history, fun kids activities, activities, Handwork, Summer Camp Spirit Crafts, Inspiration, Kids Activities, Weaving

Machine Sewing: Learn Its Wild History and Why You Should Try It This Summer!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Jul 29, 2018 @ 10:10 AM

What enjoyable, kid-friendly summer activity has a history filled with theft, sabotage, and fortune? Your first thought might be that there aren’t any, but it might surprise you, as it surprised me, to find out that machine sewing fits all those categories! How is that possible, you might ask? Keep reading to find out more, and learn how to teach your kids to machine sew today. hands using sewing machine, close up

As I mentioned, machine sewing has a long and rather complicated history that originated with hand sewing, something humans have been doing for thousands of years. Early humans used bones and horns for needles and animal sinews for threads. The first real sewing machine was patented in 1755 by a German gentleman named Charles Weisenthal. Weisenthal never actually designed the sewing machine, but he had the idea and acted upon it, so he’s pretty important.

After him came an Englishman named Thomas Saint who in 1790 created plans the first sewing machine. It was to be powered by a hand crank and used for leather and other materials. (Unfortunately, he never built it, but a man named William Newton Wilson made a replica in 1874 based on Saint’s plans, and it actually worked!)

The first truly successful sewing machine came in 1830 when a French tailor called Barthélemy Thimonnier invented a machine with a curved needle that used one thread. The French government patented Thimonnier’s invention and commissioned him to produce uniforms for the French army, but about 200 tailors burned his factory down (with him inside!) because they thought his machine would destroy their business. Luckily Thimonnier survived, but his machines were burnt to a crisp.Painting of Isaac Singer, Singer Company

Ultimately a now famous man named Isaac Singer drew inspiration from the many machine designs and plans that came before him to create the Singer sewing machine. The Singer Company became an incredibly famous and well-loved brand, and Singer died with a personal fortune of $13 million to his name. At a time when the average American household income was $500, Singer managed to sell his machines for $125, and they were extremely popular. Although Singer reportedly didn’t care much about sewing, he did care about money, and he built his company into one of the world’s leading sewing machine suppliers for many years.

Even though the history of the sewing machine is intriguing, to say the least, you might still be wondering why you would need a sewing machine when hand sewing is seemingly less expensive and potentially less challenging to learn, but machine sewing definitely has its benefits. For example, machine sewing can save you money on clothes and other items once you learn how to make them yourself. You and your kids can also customize clothes, blankets, and other items and make them personal to you in a way that store-bought things won’t necessarily be. If you are a non-traditional size you can make clothes that fit you, and express your personal style through special items that you make for yourself! Learning how to machine sew can also save you a trip to the tailor if your child accidentally rips their clothes because then you can fix them right up at home. You and your child might even be able to start a business with your new machine sewing skills, like The Handwork Studio’s very own Anna Welsh, and sell clothes and items you make to friends, family, and others. Like knitting and crocheting, machine sewing also helps strengthen your mind and relieve stress, so in addition to being a fun activity for you and your kids, it is a beneficial one as well!Girl working with sewing machine, The Handwork Studio

If you’re like me and aren’t sure exactly what parts make up a sewing machine, you can check out The Handwork Studio’s YouTube videos on getting to know your machine and its components. Here are a few of the basic parts of the sewing machine to get you started. Sewing machines also allow for crafters to use a variety of stitches! Most machines have settings for straight stitches and zigzag stitches, and higher level machines also have decorative stitches, blind stitches, and stretch stitches. Each stitch has a different use, and once again, it is always beneficial to do some research on which stitches are best for what you and your child are trying to create.

I hope this blog post inspired you and your kids to get informed, go out and buy a sewing machine, and learn how to use it today! If you still want some extra help or guidance, don’t hesitate to check out The Handwork Studio’s camps and classes, particularly the Fashion & Machine Sewing Camp for children ages 9-15, and our line of Simplicity Sewing Patterns. We can’t want to see what you and your kids dream up with your new sewing machine skills. If you want to share anything with us, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! Happy sewing!

sewing machine with Handwork Studio Simplicity Sewing PatternImage Descriptions
1) Close up, hands using sewing machine
2) Isaac Singer, founder of The Singer Sewing Machine Company
3) Child working on sewing machine at Handwork Studio camp
4) Sewing Machine with a Handwork Studio Simplicity Sewing Pattern 

 

 

Tags: history, Machine Sewing, Summer Camp, Sewing, Fun, Fashion, Summer, Handwork, Fashion & Machine Sewing, Sewing Machine, Inspiration, Kids Activities

Embroidery: Its History, How To Teach Your Kids, and Why It Makes For Great Summer Fun!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Jul 22, 2018 @ 10:15 AM

So far in this blog series, we’ve learned about kumihimo, knitting, and crocheting. Each is special in its own way and attracts a variety of people, but just in case you aren’t interested in any of those, we thought we would discuss another handwork craft today that’s just a little different from what we’ve talked about before. Here’s a hint: It involves a needle, thread, fabric, and a whole lot of creativity. That’s right: we’re here to talk about embroidery!

Butterfly embroidery, emillieferrisEmbroidery is a personal favorite craft of mine because of the amazing representative capability of the art: you can make a design or pattern with embroidery like you can in kumihimo, knitting, or crocheting, but you can also create a hyper-realistic animal portrait or depict an entire, detailed scene. Embroidery, or “the art or process of forming decorative designs with hand or machine needlework,” employs dozens of different techniques, has an extensive history, and can be used for any number of things. Let’s dive in!

Embroidery is global, and has history all over the world. Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings depict embroidery on clothes, hangings, and tents, and some Ancient Chinese silk robes were decorated with embroidery. In Northern Europe, embroidery mostly focused on Christian themes until the Renaissance, when embroidery became more of an amateur craft rather than a profession and crafters could experiment more with their designs. Certain indigenous tribes in North America practiced quillwork, in which they would embroider skins and bark with porcupine quills, and other North American embroidery practices mimicked European styles, yet tended to be simpler. During the Industrial Revolution, France was the first country to mass produce embroidery through the use of machines.

There are many different ways to embroider, and many different stitches you can use. Embroidery can be done in the crewel style, which uses two wool threads and dates back to medieval periods; you can do needle painting, which is typically used to create realistic images; you can try stumpwork, which creates more dimensional designs; and finally, surface or freestyle embroidery, which encompasses anything else! This style of embroidery is most popular today because it allows crafters the most freedom to explore what they want to design.

There are many kinds of stitches to use when you embroider, but some of the more simpler and more popular ones to teach your kids are the running stitch, the back stitch, and the split stitch. The running stitch is used for outlining and creating straight and curved lines, and there is space in between each stitch. The back stitch is also used for outlining and creating straight and curved lines, and the stitches should be touching.  The split stitch, which you use for outlines, lines, and filling a shape, is created by splitting the last stitch to create the next. If you or your child wants to achieve a specific look, it may be beneficial to research what kind of stitch would work best for your project!

Dog embroidery, The Handwork Studio Although the type of stitch and style of embroidery are necessary to determine before starting a project, it is also important to know how to teach your kids to embroider! In general, it is good to keep your thread from twisting around while you work, keep your hands clean, and create uniform stitches by marking your fabric, but helping kids out with handwork can be particularly challenging, especially if you aren’t familiar with the craft yourself.

When you and your kids start, they should work on fabric scraps and use big stitches to help them get the hang of the movements and processes. Make sure you choose bigger threads, thicker needles, and a medium weight fabric that is easier for kids to hold and use and show them some examples of what they can achieve to get them inspired. Maybe even invite over a friend and make the lesson a fun social event! After making sure your kids understand the dangers of scissors, needles, and other tools you may be using, make sure the lesson is fun and memorable, and choose a time that your child wants to learn so they can get the most out of it.Girl with her embroidery, Garrison Forest Handwork Studio

If you can’t teach your child to embroider yourself this summer, The Handwork Studio has amazing camps and tutorials where they can learn these awesome skills from incredible teachers, surrounded by kids their age! And remember, if you and your child create an embroidery project that they want us to see, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! Happy embroidering!

Image Descriptions
1. Embroidery of a butterfly by @emillieferris on Instagram
2. Camper's embroidery, Philadelphia School Handwork Studio
3. Camper with embroidery, Garrison Forest Handwork Studio

Tags: embroidery, Fun, Summer, Handwork, Inspiration, Kids Activities, Embroidering