Becky here, posting for Dr. Grace Peng of Bad Mom, Good Mom (BMGM). Grace is a HUGE source of information and inspiration, and I asked her to eke out some time from her busy schedule and tell us who inspires her sewing. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with Grace, she will make you think and consider all perspectives, which is, IMO, her greatest gift.
Grace Peng has been blogging about whatever she feels like since 2005.
She learned how to sew in middle school Home Ec and from her mother. She learned how to knit from another gymnasium (HS) student while she was an exchange student in Germany. She earned a BA in mathematics and a BS in chemistry from UC Berkeley and a PhD in Chemical Physics from the U of Colorado at Boulder .and. the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics.
Since then, she has been paid to work at the intersection of environmental science, environmental policy, data analysis, data management and software engineering. She has not been paid to be a mother, daughter, wife, and community volunteer, but she works plenty hard at those jobs, too.
She is a lifelong slayer of BS.
Sew Becky Jo asked me to write up a post about five sewists that inspire me for the Sewcialists blog and I am happy to oblige.
I had to step back to think a little bit about what that means, or how I want to interpret this assignment. I’m exhausted from all the bad news lately, and have been reflecting deeply about how I can respond — push to make the world more in keeping with my values, while protecting my emotional core. Depending on how you see it, I am either a procrastinator or a researcher.
Several of the books I read in the last year dealt with how social media and technology is harnessed by authoritarians and liars for their own ends. Thus, I decided to focus on five sewists that are less active and “hot” (in the sense of popularity), but resonate with me. I’ll also explain why.
Ever hear about Weak Ties Theory? Changing Minds has a good synopsis. In short, social ties are either strong (between tight clusters of members connected only with each other) or weak (bridge between strong networks.)
The more weak ties we have, the more connected to the world we are and are more likely to receive important information about ideas, threats and opportunities in time to respond to them.
Strong ties are the echo/bubble chambers in which misinformation can ricochet without challenge.
Weak ties are the ways in which we expand our understanding about how others experience the world.
(If this interests you, read an academic paper by Mark Granovetter, who first explained and gave a name to this effect.)
Sewing is a great way to add weak ties to your social media. We are all makers who encounter and solve similar problems. We can learn about sewing *and* about the greater world by following people who experience much different lived experiences than our own. In doing so, we can learn to empathize with people who don’t look like us.
If I want to direct attention to less-known sewing bloggers, why am I starting my list with super-popular Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic? She’s a super-star among bloggers for good reason. She’s been putting out quality content about her sewing journey since 2006, when the sewing blogger world was much smaller. She’s so generous with her time — showing what worked, what didn’t, and analyzing why.
I’ve learned so much non-sewing information from her, too.
Through Carolyn, I’ve learned how challenging it is for plus-sized women to find professional and on-trend clothing, how much it means for African Americans that one of them was our president, and how personal BLM is when a mother has to send her son or grandson out in the world when so many see them only as a threat.
I read Carolyn to be a better sewist and a better person.
I’m intrigued by what sewists call Pattern Puzzles, novel ways to cut and shape garments. Issey Miyake designs often fall in this category. So do the garments in the Pattern Magic series of books by Tomoko Nakamichi.
I follow many sewists that sew Pattern Puzzles and document their experiences to help others. Some are less active on social media than they were in the past, but quality content is evergreen.
I first learned about Pattern Puzzles from Kathleen Fasanella of Fashion Incubator. She’s
blogged about Pattern Puzzles no fewer than 251 times!
Kathleen is less active in her open access blog than in the past. She runs a (paid) member forum for clothing manufacturers working in the US. I am not a member of that forum, but I hear it is a friendly and nurturing site full of people helping each other.
I have her book and it is an encyclopedia in one volume. Sometimes, I have to read it over several times because she can pack so much information in one paragraph and a few illustrations. Browse through her tutorials and use them. Your sewing will be so much better.
In 2015, she bought a factory — or rather, she built one in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can follow her and her partners on IG @abqfi.
Another reason to follow Kathleen is to learn more about neurodiversity. She writes very movingly about how many of her life experiences made sense once she learned she is on the autism spectrum. The apparel manufacturing industry has traditionally been home to immigrants and people who think differently. This is it’s strength.
Like many people who are on the spectrum, Kathleen is a slayer of bullshit.
She compiled all her wisdom about The Myth of Vanity Sizing in one place. FYI, I went into this thinking vanity sizing is a thing. She completely convinced me I was wrong. Now I am smug because I know the right answer and there is no one more evangelical than the converted. 😉
IG: @kathleenfasanella @abqfi
Lauriana of Petit Main Sauvage has sewn many pattern puzzles, though her recent makes lean more towards activewear. She works in a wedding dress salon and is generous with her knowledge.
I also enjoy her slice of life writing and photos of rock climbing, bicycle commuting and life in general in the Netherlands. Plus, her organized, utilitarian and beautiful apartment (in the background of many of her photos) is a life goal.
If you like pattern pieces shaped like this, then this is a blog to read. Start at the beginning and slowly work your way forwards in time. I don’t know if she is on IG.
Di of Clementine’s Shoes took down all of her blog posts, so you can’t see any of her Pattern Magic sewing experiments. Some of the experiments worked. Some failed. They were truly experiments. It was truly inspirational just to watch someone who was up to try anything.
I’m quite sad that she didn’t leave her old posts up when she quit blogging.
Recently, she started posting on IG as @clementinesews. She also posts her work as an architect @dijonesarch. I hope she re-posts her old blog content, because it was really, really good. Oh, she knits and makes shoes, too.
The last two deal with disability or caring for the disabled along with sewing.
Many sewing bloggers order interfacing and other notions from Pam Erny of Fashion Sewing Supply. She is now my sole supplier of interfacing. No more bubbling from shrunken fusible interfacing!
Did you know that she also posts many helpful tutorials on her Off The Cuff Shirtmaking blog?
She doesn’t write much about her personal life, but she’s inspirational in that she is another math/physics person who created a second career for herself and her husband.
Ms. Little Hunting Creek and I were frequent commenters on each others’ blogs when we
were both much more active bloggers. We bonded over the fact that we both had the
same Home Ec lesson in the 1970s in California. We both earned BAs from UC Berkeley (Cal) — she in Classics, me in Mathematics. We also both earned our livings in software,
despite not formally studying computer science in school. Hey, if you can learn ancient Latin and Greek grammar, modern software languages are a piece of cake.
Berkeley’s breadth with depth requirements for BAs meant that she had to take quite a few science classes (enough to earn a minor in Biology) and I had to take quite a few history classes. This is probably the reason why Cal grads did not go on to found and run the tech companies that took down democracy around the world.
I suggest you read Sewing as Political Protest.
Her blogging slowed down due to health challenges that you can go over there to read about. I find it inspirational that she could continue to work (but from home) and carve some time out to make stuff and blog about it. Oh, she also wrote essays for the Toast.
From Wearing the Pants: A Brief Western History of Pants
According to Herodotus, when Greek soldiers met the Scythians in battle, they were amazed to see Scythian women on horseback fighting alongside the men, all wearing pants and decorated armor. When they went back to Greece they immortalized those Scythian women for posterity as the legendary Amazons in their poetry and art. Painting them looking both chic and fierce, their pictures of the Amazons are some of the earliest Western artworks showing women in pants. But even though pants came to the West from the Scythians and others (along with riding horses), in the West, wearing pants was associated with warfare and restricted to men only. Perhaps, remembering those Amazons, men feared what might happen to them if women were able to wear pants and get their hands on some weapons.
This is why I overcame my initial resistance to arming school teachers. If we armed the (mostly female) school teachers, perhaps they will enjoy the same high pay and cushy pensions as police men. Amirite?
Each of these five bloggers have taught me things and even changed my mind by giving me new information or reframing it. Let’s keep on learning and making together.
Grace – thank you for including me on your list! I am thrilled that not only the items I sew but the things I believe in have influenced and affected you. It is one good thing about sewing – if we share not only our garments but also the things we believe and why maybe our community can affect change in the world.
PREACH! Yes!!! <3
Carolyn, you are one of my style heroes too. I have learned so much from you about sewing and fashion, but about life too. Like how to make a mistake and recover, figuring out the solution and recutting a sleeve (or changing your job or whatever. I can apply your lessons to lots of areas!) Like accepting myself as I am and enjoying my body and the ways I choose to clothe it. I admire your courage and generosity in expressing your experience, including pain, when the world at large intrudes; #WhyIStayed, #BLM, #MeToo, and other serious and important issues. It takes a lot of strength to address these topics on a public forum, where you open yourself to painfully disappointing reactions from some. So thank you for your grace and generosity in sharing so much of yourself with me.
I do miss the pictures of that beautiful first family though.
It is always so much fun to “meet” :o) new sewists, and those they read.