We’ve had our eye on Sonya Philip for a long time. We always want to know what she’s up to—knitting, sewing, making art, walking her charismatic terrier, Willie, around her San Francisco neighborhood—but most of all, we want to know what she’s wearing. Sonya’s handmade wardrobe combines ingredients we love: linen dresses, tops and trousers + handknit cardigans and scarves + a covetable clog collection, into a style that is colorful, comfortable, and all her own. As we enter the last week of the Instagram hashtag #MeMadeMay, we welcome Sonya to our pages with a series of pieces about making and wearing handknits and handmades. But first, an introduction from Sonya herself.
—Kay and Ann
This is an autobiography of a maker. My name is Sonya and my earliest memories of making are of late seventies summer camp crafts with yarn and plastic beads. There was an obsessive macrame making period in fourth grade, and I learned to sew on a machine in seventh grade. With that came the crashing realization that the ideas in my head could not effortlessly translate into an actual physical object in the world. This was a difficult lesson and that frustration accompanied almost every future attempt at needle crafts, even a month-long dabble with crochet in my early twenties.
The Knitting Bug Bites
Fast forward several years, and I learned to knit. I learned to knit because my son was attending a Waldorf school and it seemed to be the “thing to do” since a frequent question asked was, Do you knit? So, with a copy of Kids Knitting and the help of my eight year old, I learned how to pull one loop of yarn through another. Little did I know how the universe would align, trendwise, with a wooly renaissance, ushering in yarn stores and books and blogs and websites, all to feed and foster my new hobby.
There was a too-many-stitches-cast-on first scarf that ended up using four balls of Brillo-pad mohair. I gritted my teeth and wore that scarf, because I MADE IT. Those feelings of accomplishment and pride canceled out my questionable yarn choices. I knit feverishly, as if making up for lost time. From scarves to hats, socks, briefly ponchos and eventually sweaters, I contentedly stitched up as much as I could. I covered myself and my family with as much wool as one could wear in the Mediterranean climate of the San Francisco Bay Area.
From Cardigans to Clothes
Along with my skills growing, there was also a desire to make clothes to accompany the cardigans I was knitting. Again, I proved very susceptible to suggestion and took a class with Cal Patch at A Verb for Keeping Warm, a shop in Oakland. Somehow the slower, stitch-by-stitch pace of knitting had given me the patience I needed to turn sewing from aggravating into enjoyable. I started making dresses and then documented my progress, turning it into a project called 100 Acts of Sewing.
Sonya is wearing: Margot by Linden Down (steeked to make it a cardigan); 100 Acts of Sewing Shirt no. 1, Dress no. 1 and Skirt no. 1.
My eventual embrace of sewing proved to be the missing puzzle piece. I have never had a conventional body shape and found shopping for clothes to be a constantly demoralizing experience. Now, if I want an all-linen wardrobe, I can sew it! If I want a cropped sweater, I can knit it!
Knitting Pure and Simple Summer Open Cardigan #294; 100 ACTS OF SEWING SHIRT NO. 1, DRESS NO. 1 AND pants no. 1.
The Slow and the Fast
Sewing and knitting became perfect bedfellows, satisfying the desire to finish an object in a day versus one in months. These opposing forces, instant gratification and slowly crafted, work in tandem to satisfy my wardrobe needs.
Sceles tee/pullover by Anna Maltz, 100 ACTS OF SEWING DRESS NO. 1 AND PANTS NO. 1.
Knitting made me slow down, made me pay a little more attention to detail, and this helps my sewing enormously. Conversely, I feel being a knitter who sews makes me less hung up on certain things. Sewing isn’t as forgiving as knitting, indeed once you cut fabric there’s no ripping and reknitting or spit-splicing it back. This doesn’t bother me as much. I’ve become more comfortable experimenting and even enjoy untangling my mistakes. Maybe that makes me an improvisational stitcher of sorts. It works for me.