community garden


Blog Theme - DIY (Do It Yourself)

Sewing Thread Each week there is a blog theme that usually has something to do with what is going on in my world.  This week we are focusing on DIY and The Maker Movement.  (DIY means Do It Yourself.)  This movement has been compared to The Industrial Revolution by The Christian Science Monitor in a cover article published last summer.

This theme connection to my life is deep but most notably is the weekend of workshops I'm teaching in my studio on October 4th and 5th.  You can join in the learning and making and go home with a sweater +/or rug you have made yourself, along with a head full of confidence and knowledge to continue your making process.

More detailed posts about my upcoming workshops will post Thursday and Friday but let me just whet your whistle with a few details.  Class size is limited to 12 in my light-filled former Roman Catholic Church studio at Shire City Sanctuary.  The day is filled with uplifting creativity full of possibilities.  Amazing people gather bringing with them a range of experience and ability.  No prior experience is necessary and each student finishes the day or weekend with a huge sense of empowerment, accomplishment, and a finished product (or two) to take home.  Workshop tuition is $195/day.  (I do offer tuition assistance for one person in need at each class I teach.)

I am blessed to have had the opportunity to walk the DIY path my whole life through.  Whatever you choose to accomplish, all you really need is confidence to try, and chances are, that you will be successful.  If you are looking for a little confidence boost, come to my workshop/s and leave with just what you need to take the plunge into something magical.

Oh, and if you are interested in playing in a different way, leave a comment below about how DIY Makers Movement has come into your life.   You can also participate in this, here, blog by sending me an image that speaks to the theme of the week.  Just email it to by Wednesday evening for inclusion in One Thousand Words my Friday column - a gallery of pictures submitted by our readership.  Captions include the photographers name and business name (if applicable).

Sweater in Process

ReConsumerEyes ~ Peek-A-Boo

I listen to podcasts often. This American Life and Alternative Radio are my favorites.  It is enjoyable to learn current events without the pace and need for filter that other ‘news’ sources require.  Lately, it has become crystal clear, that the MOST important issue we all face is the dire situation with our environment.   Without clean air and water – our BASIC human requirements – nothing else can really matter.  Seeing the gravity of our headlong dash toward human species ruin is daunting.  Terrifying. I feel uplifted when I  hear David Suzuki speak on how we have the ability to create a new way and he makes me aware that I HAVE to take a positive role – present solutions, teach perspective options, lead.  It is our duty as truth seers to share our visions.  No judgment, no us vs. them just a new way to see things – ReConsumerEyes.

Recycling Cotton T-Shirts with Peek-A-Boo Embroidery

Have you seen the things that I make from recycled wool sweaters?  I started doing that in 1987 while a student at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.  Back then it was my mission to introduce the idea of recycling.  There were no blue bins on any curbside and recycling was not a household word.  The ‘bottle bill’ had been introduced in Massachusetts in 1983 and all the talk about that piqued my interest in environmental affairs.

Since the 1980s things have changed in so many ways – most people in our culture have curbside recycling available to them.  Maybe, even, most people actively recycle their household waste.  A movement of crafters creating from all manner of discarded materials has certainly developed.   In this span of time, I have learned a whole bunch about our solid waste habits, and specifically, textile waste stream.

Since the advent of Polar Fleece, the growth of our cultural turn toward reuse, the number of wool sweaters has dwindled - few, and far between at most thrift shops.  What was once a true waste material, wool sweaters (or wool knits, as they are known in the ‘rag’ trade), have become a sought after commodity.

So what do I say to that?


There are so many people recycling wool sweaters that I don’t need to do that any more!

(Some days, I have to confess, I say Fricken YIKES !! – EVERYONE seems to be wearing plastic clothing without out even a thought of the environmental or health impact/s)

Next, I head to the thrift shop and see what is prevalent – and cheap.  What are people discarding that is prolific and nice to work with – (to me that means it is natural fiber)?

T-Shirts!  Sweatshirts!  Corduroys! Oh My!

Took me a little while to configure design and structural elements to enhance these new non-wool elements.  Peek-A-Boo Embroidery is the best yet!  Amazing possibilities come to mind!  From detailed panels that add flair (and structure) to simply constructed handmade garments, to intricate all over embellishment establishing regal richness, the quality of the finished product will blow your mind!  There is something quite magical about turning common cotton t-shirts that we all have WAY too many of, into fantastic art to wear.

It is so much fun and garners such a sense of accomplishment, to witness such transition, I have drawn up a day-long lesson, teaching my process.  On June 15, in my studio – located at 40 Melville Street in Pittsfield, MA I will be holding a Peek-A-Boo Embroidery workshop.  Students will choose to make a simple long sleeved pullover, skirt, or cute Dixie Dress in whatever size/color they want.   Garments are completely handsewn.  There is no experience necessary.  Hop off your screen, sign up at or 413-236-9600 and learn to stitch magic into your wardrobe.  

The workshop runs from 10-4:30pm on June 15th.  The cost is $195 which covers tuition as well as the use of all tools and materials.  Students are asked to bring a bag lunch.

Thank you to Jane Feldman for the center image of Bridget Conry wearing a Peek-A-Boo top I made.  Thank you Bridget too!

Dandelion Jam

OK, before I get started let me just tell you that it concerns me, actually deeply horrifies me, that most food available to us in our standard American grocery stores is tainted.  There are all sorts of ingredients of questionable origin, unnatural dyes, extenders, sweeteners, and packaging that are harmful to humans – yet served to us as food.  Unlabeled genetically modified fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish are available to purchase and consume.  There are caged, beakless chickens who never see the light of day laying our eggs.  There are vegetables that have been grown in soil depleted of any natural nutrient, sprayed with chemicals, and shipped across the world to us in little plastic boxes. I feel it is our job to seek out and support natural foods in any way we can.  Shop at Farmers’ Markets.  Grow gardens.  Buy a share in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Wild harvest what you can.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every public school across this great nation had to grow and preserve the food they served? Think what a wonderful skill set that would impart in our students.  Think of the ripples.

Dandelion Jam


Blender or Food Processor (a big knife and elbow grease works just fine too)

10 ½ Pint Canning Jars (or 5 Pint sized jars) with covers

Measuring Spoons and Cups


Large Soup Pan or Equivalent

Small clean dry cloth (washcloth will work)


10 half pints (or 5 pints)


1 Pomona’s Universal Pectin kit

4C. Dandelion Blossoms

6C. Water

4C. Sugar

1C. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

4TBSP Freshly Grated Ginger Root

Wash the jars and covers in hot soapy water and let dry.

Rinse Dandelion Blossoms in cold water and measure them into a blender canister.  Add water and blend just enough to break up blossoms.  Pour that inot a large saucepan.  Add Lemon Juice, and 3 tsp. calcium water (from Pomona’s Universal Pectin kit).  Stir well.

Measure Sugar into separate bowl and stir in 3tsp Pectin (from Pomona’s Universal Pectin kit).  Stir well to mix evenly.

Heat Dandelion Mixture to a boil.  Add Sugar Mixture and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes to be sure the Pectin has completely dissolved.  Continue stirring and return to boil and remove from heat.

Fill jars to ¼” of top.  Wipe rims clean with clean dry cloth and screw on lids.

Put filled jars in a pan full of boiling water that completely covers them and boil for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from water and let cool.  Jam will continue to set as it cools for up to 24 hours.  Check seals to be sure lids are sucked down.  Jam (preserves) will last for months on the shelf and about 3 weeks in the fridge once opened.

ReconsumerEyes - The Egg Man

Always on the look out for helpful ways to maintain the lifestyle I/we love while reducing the pile of waste at the end of the day. This weekly column showcases my findings to inspire our collective strive for a diminishing footprint. What do you use, or do, in your life that helps reduce the waste you create in your day? Suggestions welcome.

We love Easter because it signifies the start of spring and the rejuvenation of life around us. But this holiday tends to land us with a lot of waste – all those decorated Easter eggs! This year, we went on a hunt for an innovative way to dispose of Easter eggs while helping Mother Nature regenerate.

Paul West of Gardening with Urban Nitrogen sent out the word in March 2012 that he was collecting Easter eggs from homes in West Seattle to turn into homemade nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Nitrogen, he says, is the most important component for supporting plant growth. And some of the best sources of nitrogen are in our everyday food waste like sour milk, expired or hard-boiled eggs, beans, lean meat, low-fat yogurt, and tofu.

Paul ended up with oodles of eggs for his pilot project, and luckily, left us instructions for how to do it. We love Paul’s method – as simple as putting eggs in a blender – and wanted to share this bit of inspiration. Consider giving the Earth a rebirth by making fertilizer from old eggs this year. Or, tell us your own solution for a waste-free Easter!

You can find Paul’s recipe for homemade garden fertilizer on his blog

ReComsumerEyes - Bar Shampoo

I get frustrated by the blindness our culture exhibits as we blithely consume increasing amounts of disposable plastic.  Did you hear about the plastic pollution in the seas? Try getting through the grocery store without plastic!  Impossible in my experience.  We recently discovered bar shampoo to avoid plastic bottles. Works great and is more widely available that I realized.  Every little bit of conservation helps – we need a lot of help repairing our fragile biosphere.

Sweater Chop Shop - September 22

Are you looking for an inexpensive and empowering way to express yourself?  Maybe you would like to make personal and earth-conscious gifts for the upcoming holiday season?  Here is a way to be creative without prior knowledge.  Attend Crispina's Sweater Chop Shop!  The Chop Shop is taking place Saturday, September 22, 2012 at her studio, 40 Melville Street in Pittsfield.

*Special "Bring a Friend" Offer - Sign up with a friend for the Sweater Chop Shop on September 22, 2012 and you BOTH receive $10 off your tuition!

Learn how to recycle discarded sweaters into a custom fit creation!  Pre-registration is required and class-size is limited.  This full day workshop (10am -5pm) is $160 and includes a delicious lunch.  Students end the class with a finished product to take home. The use of all tools and materials are provided.  No experience necessary!  We use basic hand sewing with large needles and yarn.  We will teach you every step.  Call or email with any questions or for details about off-site, corporate, and private group teaching.

We now offer online registration!  Just click this link

Not sure you are interested in a full day workshop?  Come test the waters during our biweekly Stitching Open House!  Crispina will be welcoming people into her studio to learn a little bit more about what happens at workshops.  Try out some basic stitches, become familiar with the tools we will use, and get your hands on some yummy sweaters to see what the materials are like.  You can bring a project to work on but you don't need to bring anything at all to see what it is all about!  No registration needed.  Stitching Open Houses will take place on the first and third Tuesday of each month beginning on September 18, continuing through the end of the year.  Come by 5-6:30pm at the studio, 40 Melville Street, Pittsfield, in the former Notre Dame Church.