Living the Wellmade Life
Teacher of sewing, patternmaking, crochet, embroidery, block printing, and more!
Cal lives in Ulster County, New York, and is realizing her dream of being a crafty farmer. She currently teaches sewing, crochet, patternmaking, embroidery, and lots more at Brooklyn General, Home Ec, Lena Corwin’s studio, and Treehouse in Brooklyn, and through her new upstate joint venture, Double Knot. She also wrote a great book, Design-It-Yourself Clothes!
People absolutely need to start thinking differently about shopping and what they buy, and who they support with their purchase. Disposable, fast fashion is a disaster in every way. We need to return to the concept of buying clothes (and products in general) that are made with care and quality and will last a long time.
- What’s one thing that has surprised you on your path so far?
- I could never have planned my path, because much of it didn't exist back when I was in school. It has developed organically, and I've loved every minute of it. Younger people ask me for advice, but I don't know how to guide them because the world has changed so much! I think you just have to follow your instincts and learn as much as you can along the way...
- Many of us have done interesting and weird things before we got to where we are now. What were some of your past lives? How did they lead you to the present?
- For the most part, since college, I've done jobs that relate to my path, but sometimes there were slight forays... like the time my shop in the Lower East Side was rented as a set for a cop show for a day. A few customers rushed in, even though I was closed, thinking there had been a terrible crime (probably because of all the "police" and the pool of fake blood on the floor). It was really fun, and my shop made more money that day than any day I was actually open for business! Another gig I loved was doing custom embroidery (mainly initials) on jeans for TV celebs at the annual event where the networks unveil the new shows and stars for the season. I stitched for some of the cast of The Office and Gossip Girl. It was a wild event!
- When did you actually start doing what you are doing now as your job? How did you get started?
- It's hard to say when I actually started, because it's all been a long, slow progression. I left working full time in the fashion industry in 1998, when I opened my store and I've been self-employed ever since. It was at the store that I began teaching, then after 4 years I closed shop and opened a craft school. I began teaching at shops around NYC, while still freelancing and I also began selling at craft fairs and on Etsy. After moving upstate in 2009, I started doing more travel-teaching at retreats and events around the country. Currently I teach at a few local shops, as well as online with Creativebug and travel to teach at events about 6 times per year. Hodge Podge Farm is my teaching page. I still sell my clothes in my Etsy shop and at a few fairs, and design crochet patterns, and soon, sewing patterns.
- What is the oddest job you had to take along the way to get by?
- I designed leather macrame net wrappings for an unknown perfume brand... I was hired by an ad agency and they gave me samples of the bottles to use, but wouldn't/couldn't tell me whose bottles they were. I have no idea if they were ever used, but it was a fun project!
I don't believe in trends and "fashion". I see the whole industry as a scam, convincing people to buy more than they need, and throw it away the next season when something new comes along.
- What/ who are some of the biggest inspirations on your aesthetic ?
- I'm largely inspired by practicality and daily life. I want to get dressed once in the morning and wear my clothes for everything I do, and I want them to last for many many years, if not forever. I don't believe in trends and "fashion". I see the whole industry as a scam, convincing people to buy more than they need, and throw it away the next season when something new comes along.
my role models and inspirations include Natalie Chanin (aka Alabama Chanin) and J. Morgan Puett.
- What’s one piece of advice you have to give to anyone who wants a job like yours?
- You have to follow your own path. You have to find your own niche. Don't lose sight of what you believe in, or feels right.
- What’s one piece of advice to someone who has no clue what they want to do?
- Try EVERYTHING! In college our program included 6 internships, for 3 months each. I worked in several different facets of the garment industry, and learned a lot about what I DIDN'T want to do. That was very valuable and saved me a lot of time.
- What’s the best part of your job? What's the worst?
- I think the best and worst might be the same: I have complete freedom and control over my schedule and my work. for the most part, that's a wonderful thing, and I try to remind myself of that, but it can also be overwhelming, and i'm not the most disciplined or organized person...
- What daily rituals help get your creative juices flowing?
- Tea is a necessity throughout the day! I run on tea. A daily walk with my dog is also essential for both of us, and keeps me in touch with nature and what's going on outside.
- What are you working on these days? Anything else you want to promote, share, write about in our blog ?
- I'm developing sewing patterns, so that people can sew their own versions of the clothes I design. I'm also writing another book on pattern drafting, to continue on from where I left off with my first book.