Purls of Wisdom

Laura Kelly

Recent Posts

A Mother's Pride - a Valentine's Story from the Heart

Posted by Laura Kelly on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 @ 10:47 PM

Those of you that know me, know I'm not much of a crafter (irony of that we'll save for a future blog).  However what I do love are kids, and this business was built around the idea of loving, nurturing and teaching kids from the perspective of a mom.

And so this past week, my dear friend, mentor and supporter Marjie sent me the sweetest email.  She knew that this email would mean a lot to me as a business woman, but probably even more as a mom.

Marjie had a Valentine's Day lunch with her long time friend Judie. This is a picture of Judie at lunch.  

Judie Koss

You may notice Judie's beautiful scarf.  It is hard to tell from the picture but her scarf is made up of red hearts, brown hearts and even cow hide like fabric hearts.  Judie's daughter made that scarf for her in our camp and Judie wore it on Valentine's Day.  As a mom, there is great joy in receiving a gift that your child made for you.  It is always perfect,  you love it just as it is and in Judie's case, you wear it proudly. 

Though Marjie knew Judie for 20 years she didn't know Judie's daughter went to our camp, but she recognized our work immediately. Marjie knew that I'd be so honored that Judie loved and wore the scarf, not only because it was made at The Handwork Studio but because it meant so much to Judie.  Now, my kids are 19 and 17 so I don't get the handmade gifts anymore, like the finger knitted bracelets that I wore for months until they fell off my body.  I wore those bracelets until they were felted and frayed and utterly gross because they kept a part of my kids close to me at all times.  So Marjie knew that sending me that picture would make my day and bring a tear to my eye. Seeing the photo made me grateful for the work we do and showed me that maybe we do touch others along the way.  Thank you Marjie and Judie, you look beautiful.

Crafting a Heartfelt Valentine's Day

Posted by Laura Kelly on Mon, Feb 04, 2013 @ 10:56 AM


Valentine Heart Pillow


So Valentine's Day for this mom is filled with conflict.  One of the things I remember most growing up was the HUGE box of Russell Stover candy that my parents gave me every year.  I loved that heart shaped box. I looked forward to that heart shaped box, no I longed for it.  Today however we know better.  Is a pound of chocolate really the best way to express your love to your kids?


Now, don't get me wrong, my kids (are they still kids when they are 18 and 19?) will get a heart, maybe just not the largest one.  Instead I'll try to express my love with something handmade.  Now you might think that is obvious coming from The Handwork Studio lady, but truth be told......I'm not the craftiest.  My work is my craft.  But the longer I work with kids the more I see the power of a handmade gift.  


In our classes, we often see kids work for weeks on a project, pouring their heart and soul into their creations. Then after much hard work, they proudly proclaim how they are going to give it to a parent, a grandparent or a friend.  Sometimes we are even lucky to watch it happen when mom walks into to the studio and is given the gift.  Such pure, honest, beautiful love.  


So this year, if you don't already, let me encourage you to make something for or with your kids.  If you are looking for some ideas, here is an oldie but goodie from an article we did last year with MetroKids, or the craft Martha Stewart did on the Today Show this morning.  You can even check out our Facebook Page and see the great, simple heart pillows our kids made yesterday in a workshop.  Send us your pictures or comment on what you'll be doing for your kids this year.  I'd love to hear about it.  


Happy Valentine's Day from all your friends at The Handwork Studio.  

Fashion Bootcamp Helps Girls Break into the Industry, One Intern's Story

Posted by Laura Kelly on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 @ 07:49 PM

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So many girls love fashion, especially in their teen years.  After years of teaching kids to knit, embroider, craft and machine sew, fashion was the next perfect skill to teach our young needle artists.  So 5 years ago we developed ourFashion Bootcamp for girls ages 12-17.  What makes our program special is that is that beside teaching sketching, inspiration and how to create a story board, we take it one step further by taking the girls on field trips to NYC and 4th Street in Philadelphia.  After a shopping spree for fabric, trims and accessories the girls come back to the design room and actually create their designs.  The pride and sense of accomplishment is just wonderful.  
Several of our girls have gone onto fashion school and we are so proud to have them come back and teach with us every summer.  This year, Maddie Kaplan, a Drexel fashion student, is with us helping in our Narberth camp before she moves over to Fashion Bootcamp to assist Miss Crissy with this summer's group of fashionistas.  
Here is a brief conversation we had with Maddie:
1) What do you love about fashion? The thing I love most about fashion is the creativity within it. People express themselves through what they wear every. With fashion, you can be whoever you want to be. It's hard to explain why, but my biggest passion is fashion design. And it has been since I was 5. I guess it's just fate sometimes. It's meant to be.
2) Is fashion school everything you ever dreamed it would be? Fashion design program at Drexel is very intense. And I can't say it's exactly what I expected, but I know all the hard work will pay off. Fashion school is not as glamorous as you think it would be. It's a lot of work, it's a lot of all-nighters in the sewing lab, and exchanging a night out with friends to do pattern making homework. I will eventually live my dream, but the road to that is a little bumpy. 
3) What suggestions do you have for young girls who think they want to go into fashion?  I would say: Expect a lot of work, it's not easy. But if you love it, like I do, you would be willing to work hard and be dedicated. If you can't imagine yourself doing anything else, fashion is for you.
4) How did Fashion Bootcamp and Miss Crissy help you? Miss Crissy sealed the deal for me. After completing Fashion Boot Camp and having that amazing feeling from a big accomplishment, I knew, hands down, this is what I wanted to do. Miss Crissy isn't easy on you, she pushes you to show your full potential.She has faith in everyone. She is one of my biggest inspirations. Fashion Boot Camp provided me with experience - experience with inspirations, drawings, patterns, and sewing. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in fashion design. I promise you, it is well worth the cost. You won't regret it.
--Maddy Kaplan

American Camp Association National Conference-Getting Ready for Camp

Posted by Laura Kelly on Sat, Mar 03, 2012 @ 10:16 AM

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Miss Julia and I went down to Atlanta last week to see and hear all the latest news that is the camping industry.  We did this so we would be up on the latest on camping trends for our kids' needle arts camp this summer. We spend 4 days listening to such wonderful distinguished speakers talk about child development, camp safety, business leadership and social media.  It was awe inspiring and an incredible wealth of information I wanted to share with you.  So over the next couple of days, since it is too long for one blog, I'll share some of the highlights.  And though you may not be a part of the camping industry, other than sending your kids to us, anyone would find this information useful.

First, Jenn Selke, told us all about the latest and greatest sites and iOS applications for productive camp directors (really for anyone looking for productivity tools: travel, webinars, podcasting, photos, web conference, personal finance management and so much more).  Here are the links to her slides and the audio.  If you are an app junkie, you won't be disappointed.  I'm not even and app junkie and I downloaded three apps sitting in the audience.  

I also spent an amazing three sessions with someone outside of the camp industry.  Kerry Plemmons is a Clinical Porfessor at Daniels School of Business at hte University of Denver and he was a regional manager for Starbucks.  I think the most important thing I learned from Kerry was don't be afraid to "love your team".  I have the MOST wonderful staff in all the world, truly - invested, smart, creative, forward thinking women who give thier heart and sole to the our mission and children.  However being a new business woman in the 80's we were taught to dress the part (blue suits), be man like, and unemotional.  Kerry reminded me that the authentic relationships that I have with the team will translate to authentic relationships with your kids.  


Handwork and History: Knitting with The First Ladies

Posted by Laura Kelly on Sat, Feb 18, 2012 @ 09:43 AM

This is President’s Day weekend, and while many folks take advantage of a few extra days off by going away, I’m going to take you to the nation’s capital.  No, it isn’t to go to camp with our comrades down at The Sidwell Friends School, but to the White House.  You read that right, The White House.  I don’t have top secret clearance, but I do have inside knowledge of the crafts that used to go on in The First House.  Time for a little bit of handwork and history my friends...Knitting Camp


During the time of the American Revolution it was considered unpatriotic to buy goods that were made in England, so many American women picked up needles & yarn and began to stitch.  Knitting was a symbol of liberty!

Do you know of any First Ladies that were handy with yarn?  Here’s a quick list:

  • There are records that show Martha Washington sold knitted socks to raise money for the Revolutionary era troops

  • Edith Roosevelt used to have knitting circles at The White House

  • Grace Coolidge sponsored a knitting competition that was judged by Vogue Magazine

  • Eleanor Roosevelt was once introduced as “first knitter of the land” and was pictured on her Christmas card knitting

Eleanor Roosevelt Knits

Crafts are important to thos of us that participate in them.  Whether it's sewing, crocheting, knitting, or embroidery there is probably a little bit of history involved in it that you never knew about.

I’ll bet that you never thought knitting was part of the fabric of our American History did you?!

Our Promise for 2012 @ The Handwork Studio!

Posted by Laura Kelly on Sat, Dec 31, 2011 @ 03:00 PM

Winter Camp 2011!
Dear Families, Host School Partners, Vendors and Industry Leaders:
We spent the last two weeks of the year teaching Winter Camp.  I received an email from Miss Alisha on Friday, that reminded me how important our work is to kids that I'd like to share with you:
"Having a great day so far.  Two parents hugged me for making their children happy at camp.  One of them was up and dressed by 7:30 so that they wouldn't be late for camp, the other was thrilled that his daughter came in and walked away easily.
And then, the coup de gras...one of our campers, who has been coming for ages asked me today how old you have to be to work here.  I told her that she can begin volunteering at 12, and she was a little disappointed because she is 10.  So then she says, "can I just start teaching people the balloon knot to practice for when I volunteer?"  So I said sure, and then she spent the next 10 minutes working the room teaching all the other kids the balloon knot.  It was spectacular."
This email just swelled my heart and made me take pause to think about what we promise to deliver in 2012.
Our New Year's Goals:
* To create an environment of love, trust and creativity for our students and staff.
* Be innovative and continue to design the most fun projects ever.
* Continue to find and hire dynamic, energetic, fun instructors that the kids will love.
* Be responsive and respectful with everyone.
* Make handwork available to more people by opening new locations - 22 planned for summer 2012! 
* Be a great partner to our host schools & rented locations.
* Be a loyal customer to our vendors who, like us, try to promote handwork & machine sewing products to children everyday.
* Strive to be the best educator of kids handwork and machine sewing!
We wish you all much happiness, health, prosperity and craftiness in the New Year!
Miss Laura

Dickens Festival - A Great Kid's Activity!

Posted by Laura Kelly on Thu, Dec 08, 2011 @ 09:04 AM

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What do you get when you combine roving carrolers, mugs of warm cider and a miserable old crummudgeon roaming the streets of Narberth? Why The Dickens Festival of course!

This year the festival will be Saturday, December 10th from 12pm-4pm where there will be more than enough for families and friends to enjoy. Children can join the scavenger hunt in the center of town and look for characters from the classic Charles Dickens' holiday tale 'A Christmas Carol'.  Be on the lookout for story folk like Ebonezer Scrooge (although, he's not fond of strangers!) walking about the town and win a priza at the very end.

While kids are searching for modern day people dressed in 19th century Dickensian garb, they can follow their fingertips on up the hill to find us at The Handwork Studio, where Miss Julia and I will be having holiday fun creating a festive craft from 1:00pm-3:30pm.

The 4th annual Dickens Festival is a wonderful opportunity for familes to spend time together and have fun at the start of the holiday season, and best of all, it's free! Chilly air, warm drinks, and memories that will last forever. Take a look at this video from last year to get a sneak peek of what is in store! Dickens Festival

We hope to see you there!

--Miss Alisha

At the Center of the Universe - Fiber Arts

Posted by Laura Kelly on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 @ 09:34 PM




As I write this post, I just happen to be in South Beach, looking out over a glistening Atlantic, feeling a cool morning breeze. And it is stunning. Today I am a Fiber Artist.

I’m here in Miami for Art Basel, the country’s preeminent contemporary art fair, of which, I am pleased to announce, I will be a part of.

As a fiber artist and a project designer for The Handwork Studio I have been blessed to marry my love of textiles with an actual job – no small feat in our current economy. And equally lucky to have Laura and the rest of our staff as my biggest fans.

Fiber arts have exploded onto the scene in the last few years, graduating from the very “seventies” weaving and knotting work into a full blown storm of dying, wearables, large scale sculpture, embroidery on paintings – you name it. “Fiber Arts” encompasses so many diverse techniques that it truly is everywhere.

Even in my hotel lobby.

As I went for coffee this morning I was greeted by Tom Friedman’s “GreenYarnAlien” installed in the lobby of the W South Beach. What a perfect way to start my day. As the mom of a 9 year old who loves yarn (just like her mom) and is a handwork junkie (ditto the mom comment), I felt this was the perfect piece to blog about. I am constantly asked… What is Fiber Art?  Well, my friends take a peek at these pictures – your kids are sure to love him. And just think, maybe one day your own little handwork junky might be down here doing the very same thing.

Check out our Facebook page in the coming days to look at images of my own work installed during this 4 day frenzy of contemporary arts. And enjoy!


Miss Melissa



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Easy Homemade Halloween Costumes | Create & Bond with Your Kids

Posted by Laura Kelly on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 @ 09:59 AM

So this is a difficult blog for me to write.  I love everything about Halloween, just not dressing up.  I guess that doesn't make me an expert on making easy homemade halloween costumes.  

What I do know...kids!  I have two wonderful kids ages 18 and 16, and I can tell you the time goes fast!  You might think being the owner of a kids craft business, I made all their costumes. Nope.  But as I prepare for my kids to leave for college in the next two years, I think of all the simple things I could have done and didn't.  It is so easy to make a kid's halloween costume, I look back and wonder why I didn't.  Halloween Workshop Photo 2011

See the look of joy on the face of one of our students, Elektra, from our Halloween Workshop.  Her mask is adorable, cute and simple!  This is something you could do with your child in just a half an hour and you'd be creating a simple costume and a memory to last a lifetime.

Be sure to visit Miss Alisha's How To Tuesday on how to make a Pirate's Eye Patch.  

For those of you Halloween Costume Challenged like me, here are a few links I found that might help with your homemade halloween costume.  Good luck and enjoy!

Miss Laura

From the Queen of Craft herself Martha Stewart.

For those who want to try their hand at machine sewing try our friends at Simplicity.

From QuickandSimple.com


Your Weekend Project - Teach a Child to Knit!

Posted by Laura Kelly on Fri, Oct 14, 2011 @ 08:58 AM

Learn how to knit


Sharing your love of knitting never goes out of style.  Here is an article we wrote for Interweave Press back in 2009 on how to teach kids to knit!  With this beautiful fall weather, what better time to snuggle up with your loved one and share a part of yourself.

Read our article here.

If you have trouble, class us for help or sign up for one of our kids knitting classes (610) 660-9600.  Miss Alisha is there to help.