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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.

About The Author

Sonya Philip is an artist, designer, teacher, and the author of The Act of Sewing. She has made it her mission to convince people to make their own clothes, by teaching classes and selling patterns. When not covered in bits of thread, she can be found knitting another shawl or cardigan. Sonya lives in San Francisco with her family and their scruffy terrier duo, Willie and Hazel.


  • Delighted to find Sonya here. Fascinated by her confidence and style. Yesterday bought material to attempt my first Tunic of hers. Thank you so much for including her ♥️

  • Sonya is a great addition here! Just in time for me, too. I am wanting to learn to sew and Sonya’s got me thinking If she can do it, I can probably do it too.

  • Someone just told me about Sonya’s website … But I digress. I have one quibble. As a sewist (first)(longtime) and a knitter (taught as a child, but really took it up in graduate school) I find it much much easier to alter a sewn garment than a knitted one. In knitting, you are creating the fabric, and it must be knit to specifications. You cannot cut, dart, alter, take in a seam in the same way you can with a sewn/fabric garment. With fabric, if you cut too much you can take it in, and make the results look good and fit. Not so with a knitted garment …. but all being said, having a sewing brain does help with knitted fit issues.
    (and one day I will make an Alabama Chanin garment ….)

  • Gahhh! Fangirl moment. So happy to see this post on the morning when I’m wearing my very first 100 Acts of Sewing make, Shirt No. 1 with flamingos.

  • Have recently decided to get back to sewing my own wardrobe.
    Why? Price, fabric choices, awful things put together with spit….
    Also, I am a woman of a “certain age” and although I’m not going for the elastic waists, I’m also not 15 !
    Wonderful addition to your blog. Thank you.

  • Whoop. Whoop. Welcome Sonya! Look forward to your posts AND pictures.

  • Hello dear friend Sonya! Frijoles forever!

  • The MDK Alabama Chanin articles had started me thinking about using my sewing machine for creating again, instead of just the mending work of the last twenty or so years.
    Then the Yarn Harlot asked on her blog for advice on some sewing blog sites and going down that rabbit hole took care of a morning and lots of new favourited sites – one of which is the 100 Acts of Sewing! So great to now find you here and love your philosophy of balancing sewing and knitting as ‘perfect bedfellows’.

  • Love the way she puts outfits together. She is her very own canvas!

  • Yey! For Sonya! This round lady in North Carolina LOVES your patterns!! So happy to see you teamed up with MDK!

  • Love the layers, the fabric mixes and the personal look. I’m returning to sewing after a significant break. This is the inspiration I want. I have lots of special fabric and just ordered two patterns that will help me pull together my own personal look.

  • Lover her patterns. Sonya’s style is inspiring.

  • Already wanting to start making my own clothes and this article just inspires me all the more. Love Sonya’s style and story.

  • I am quite drunk with the wonders that are Sonya Philip’s patterns. I spent all my mad money on three of them that got put into the mail to me this very day. I am short and round with too much chest and bum so I have a terrible time finding commercial patterns that don’t look like my grannie’s clothes. I can’t wait to find the patterns in the mail and get snipping and sewing. Thanks, thanks, thanks, MDK.

  • I followed 100 Acts with admiration and have often thought of it since…what a great project, and so many cool moments along the way. Love love love your wardrobe, Sonya, and am now looking forward to reading and seeing more from you, here on MDK 🙂

  • I adore Sonya’s work and am so delighted to see her here! I agree with her assessment that knitting teaches the patience to make sewing a faster and more rewarding experience, to be sure! I find that it’s much easier to knock out a sewn garment in a weekend with the knowledge that knitting one may take months!

  • These patterns are refreshing! I’m sad that I can’t find the pants no. 1 pattern. Am I missing something? (Perfectly possible.)

  • So happy to stumble on the talented Sonya! We have in common a love for sewing and knitting! Because my body is no longer close to perfection, I find myself seeing and knitting for new babes and grandchildren. Can’t wait to try 100 Acts of Sewing!
    Thanks for the courage Sonya!

  • Goodmorning! Our dear ,lovely sonya! Once again you’ve made my morning! Can you please help me with this question, what are the best pins you use for blocking your knitting? I want to start on a project, with some beautiful fyberspatates “srumptious” yarn 45% silk, 55% merino wool, in the color primrose. I could not find any 100% stainless steel t-pins, they were nickle, and steel, I read I may have a problem with rust? any suggestions would be so appreciated, thankyou so much! have a great safe day, Sincerly dorian

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