The Power of DIY Sewing

Y'see, when I was a girl, fashion was expensive and hard to come by. Even in an upper middle class family, my back-to-school wardrobe was limited to one dress, one jumper, a blouse, and a new pair of saddle shoes. My mother had six kids and managed a tight budget. As the only girl, there were no 'hand-me-downs'.


Thank goodness home economics was offered in public schools, so we girls had the choice of learning to cook or sew.  I had no interest in feeding my family of eight, so I enrolled in sewing, and soon learned that I could make clothes that were more interesting (to me) than what I could buy in the department stores.


During my career in Industry, I depended on retail boutiques and department stores for my office attire until one time, that didn't work for me. I had an event to host in Scottsdale Arizona, so needed a few pieces that would work in a resort setting. I shopped for two days, hitting every big time mall in the South SF Bay Area, and found nothing for my efforts. It was February (wrong season), and post winter sales, but no matter the excuse, I ended up empty handed. If I had spent that time sewing instead of shopping, I would have had more than a few outfits for my conference.


These days I take vacations instead of attending conferences, but I sew most of my resort clothes. The t-shirt caprices my model is wearing above and in my blog post preview takes at most 2 hours to complete, from the cutting board to the final hem. Equipped with a sewing machine and a quick turnaround, why aren't more sustainable fashionistas looking into DIY sewing?


Over The Moon Deja Vigil adds depth to our medallion fashion photo shoot, featuring the work of Sean Sato, a photographer from Modesto, CA, and Ken Fowkes, a photo enthusiast from Mountain View, CA.  Ken created the medallion from a photo of a single dried oak leaf. The resulting image was then transferred onto fabric to produce the ball cap and leggings that Deja is wearing.


The exuberance that Deja portrays in front of Ken's medallion is so infectious, it epitomizes the essence of being 'Over The Moon' for me. She brings her rich personality to Ken's medallion, giving it a voice and a story. My fashion helps to tie the knot, the icing on the cake so to speak.


We gave the shoot the name of 'Turning Over a New Leaf' to exemplify the process of starting over. For Ken, starting over meant reforming his simple leaf image into a magnificent medallion. For Slow Fashion Designer and sister Darcy, starting over is a core value of her design philosophy, working with discarded clothing and accessories to create new fashion.


The fashion industry is in dire straits today as the second biggest polluting industry in the world, after oil. It is urgent that designers and consumers worldwide pursue conscientious strategies to reform this industry from the top down and the bottom up. Our effort in producing Turning Over a New Leaf was to urge you to tackle this goal with creativity and enthusiasm! hhhhs://




The Breathtaking Beauty of Vigilant Sutherlin

Vigilant Sutherlin is a print and runway model who has blessed the stages of Bay Area fashion shows and California photography studios for years. She astounds her audiences so consistently, she has become one of the most sought after models in Northern California. Her talent for theater is breathtaking, and her photographic ambiance remarkable; the camera loves her.


Vigilant was part of a recent design team effort 'Turning Over a New Leaf', a project featuring the photographic art work of Ken Fowkes, and captured by Modesto Fashion Photographer Sean Sato. In this picture, Vigilant is wearing a cap made from fabric featuring Ken's art medallion, which he created from an image of a dried oak leaf. The medallion is also pictured behind her, framing her portrait.


'Turning Over a New Leaf' exemplifies what can be created from the discarded, which is what the project designer and stylist believes is a lesson the fashion industry should learn from. Fast Fashion is now the second biggest polluting industry in the world today over oil. Slow Fashion designer Darcy Fowkes would like the fashion industry to see the potential of creating beautiful wearables with discarded clothing and accessories, and zero waste byproducts.


Turning Over a New Leaf

When Fashion and Photography Collide

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Feature White in Your Winter Wonderland Fashion

People tend to wear darker colors in the winter, although I am not sure why.  This Michael Kors white vest 'hand-me-down' from my stepmother inspired me to experiment with softer colors for a winter look. In order to look for specific blends and colors of sweater knits to up-cycle into a winter hat, I shopped on, a second hand store web site that allows you to shop using very specific search criteria. 


I found the sweater I wanted to use, but I wanted more drama for my ensemble than just a vest and hat, so I hauled my sweater to the nearest fabric store to find something suitable for a cape.


I try to stay away from non-sustainable solutions when I am designing, but because the color match was critical to the outcome of this ensemble, I made this an exception to this rule. And the match and soft hand/drape of this velour made me feel OK about breaking my rule.  


So if your winter wardrobe only features dark colors, you are missing out on a variety of fashion opportunities that incorporate whites and softer colors.  Especially if your winter activities include snow sports.  Blending into the snowy landscape can create some incredible photo shots, as the background does not get upstaged by your darker fashion.  Try it, you'll like how you look!!!


Baby Its Cold Outside!

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Angora is the New Cashmere


Winter Wear; Goddess Hats!

Mantra Handmade Treasures helped me stand out from the crowd at the Pivot Fashion Show at the Anne and Mark Art Party's closing night bash.  The event featured fashion designer, artists, and performers, so so I needed a little help from my friends , like a cookie can use some chocolate chips, or ice cream hot fudge.  So my daughter Morgan Levay stepped up to the plate and offered to make some of her hand knit hats for the event.


These outfits would have paled without them, but I also could have slapped blue jeans on these girls and there presence would have been just as stunning.  So if you are reading this blog, and have any winter sports activities planned for the upcoming winter season, visit her web site at and pick out a hat to make your winter appearance unforgettable!




Upcycle Sweaters into Fashionable Winter Hats

Sweaters make a great holiday gift (or gifts), but seem to be vanishing from the shelves of most ready-to-wear department stores and boutiques the rest of the year.  There are many theories for this; mine is that they are largely too warm or bulky to wear comfortably under most winter jackets, and that fabric technology has advanced enough so that today's jackets are efficient enough to do the job this garment was originally designed for.  Also, unless you live on the east coast where you need sweaters for most air conditioned events in the summer time, they take up a lot of drawer space for a garment that is not used very often.


A good solution?  Up cycle them into hats and scarves.  Other accessories such as boot socks and/or arm warmers are easily harvested from sleeves.  The point is that your entire sweater can be used and enjoyed again.


Morgan Levay

This woman, Morgan Levay (and my daughter), makes fabulous hand knit winter hats.  She lives in Truckee, where the winters are harsh (in terms of most California communities), and where she relishes the opportunity to bring creative solutions of warmth to her community. 


Each hat is unique in its color combination, as well as the embellishments she adds to every creation.  They all feature long fringe and ear flaps lined with fur, and are adorned with crystals and/or semi precious stones, specifically designed to enhance the artistic intrigue of each work of art.  They are lightweight and roomy, so comfortable to wear without adding weight to your hairstyle underneath.


Morgan has an inventory of styles and colors you can pick from.  I like the fact that she does custom work, as I am always looking for very specific color combinations to go with specific fashion pieces or ensembles!