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Sonya Philip is a revolutionary. She has been sewing easy-to-wear and easy-to-love garments since the early days of the slow fashion movement. And from the start, she has been a powerful advocate for the idea of a handmade wardrobe that prioritizes the celebration of our bodies. Since her own first stitches, she has been generously and encouragingly sharing what she knows.

Where it all began

A decade ago, Sonya took a sewing class and made a single dress that became an art project called 100 Acts of Sewing. She made 100 dresses in a year to show the practical, creative, and conscious act that is the sewing of your own clothing. 

Her 100 Acts of Sewing site and patterns—simply shaped and easy to make, even for a first-timer—became an integral part of a movement of makers for clothes that fit, are comfy, cute, creative, and are not part of the fast-fashion industry. (“It has pockets” memes are part of this movement—not entirely funny to women who are utterly exasperated and wholly pissed at the offerings of the commercial fast-fashion machine.)

Fans of Sonya have been waiting for her to publish a book, and The Act of Sewing: How to Make and Modify Clothes to Wear Every Day is worth the wait. It has everything I want—except for Sonya dropping by for cake and a chat about textiles.

In the MDK Shop
The sewing book knitters have been waiting for!

Come one, come all

The Act of Sewing is a book for both beginners (like me!) and more experienced folks who want to make simply shaped, beautiful clothes that fit in a way that’s comfortable for their body and life. 

Four full-sized patterns are included in sizes XS–5X as part of the book: a top, a shirt, a skirt, and pants.

The patterns in this book are not the same as Sonya’s 100 Acts of Sewing patterns, but they are kin. Sonya sees them as “100 Acts of Sewing 2.0, riffs on the existing patterns.” She also points out that all the modifications and embellishments in the book work with her 100 Acts of Sewing patterns.

This book is a revelation for me. I am the product of 1970s Midwestern Home Ec sewing classes where having curves was distasteful, if not outright heresy. My options: sewing tent A or tent B in a pastel calico. I was sewing-scarred for a long time. 

Sonya’s 100 Acts of Sewing opened my eyes to making my own clothes, and The Act of Sewing firmly puts my sewing machine pedal to the metal.

It’s not just the patterns and the ease of sewing and modifying them, it’s Sonya’s attitude. I would sew anything she told me I could. Her enthusiasm and utter embrace of body positivity—showing the world exactly who you are with your clothes—make me feel powerful.

Solid basics

The Act of Sewing is broken down into two parts. Part One takes you through the basics of assembling everything you need including tools and techniques and sewing the four basic patterns. 

While this book is suitable for beginning (and lapsed) sewers, if you have never sat at a sewing machine before, I suggest you take a class before using this book. 

The basics are solid—perfect refreshers from my beginning sewing classes. Sonya speaks with such succinctness and clarity; her instructions make things I fret about seem like no big deal (tension issues, anyone?).

She sequences the patterns to allow for skills to build on each other, so that by the end of the fourth pattern, you will have sneakily learned what you need to know to build your own wardrobe. The instructions are illustrated with line drawings, which I find much easier to learn from than photos for sewing. 

Modifications galore

Here’s where I got really excited. Part Two shows you how to make adjustments and modifications so that you can make clothes that fit your body and your personality.

For me, I’m looking for adjustments for short everything and big boobs—they are all there and easy to find. I also found adjustments to make my pants as wide at the bottom as I want. I now dream of recreating a pair of beloved lime green elephant bell-bottoms from my childhood.

Modifications include changing the type of neckline, style and depth. There are different types and lengths of sleeves, including puffed, and different cuff treatments. You can add yokes, button plackets, or panels to the body of shirt. Widen your waistband or add belt loops or a sash. Does your top need a tie back or button tabs? It’s in there, as are hem treatments including vents, and adding contrast. 

Looking to fancify your projects? Thanks to Sonya you can add gathers, pleats, tucks, ruching, and eight (!) different types of pockets.

The last chapter in the book walks you through combining patterns. The book starts with four basic patterns, two tops and two bottom, and this chapter magically transforms them into a dress, a lined tunic, a tie front shirt, and (be still my heart) a jumpsuit.

Rebel, rebel, put on your dress (or tunic)

The Act of Sewing isn’t just about the sewing. Sonya makes it clear that making our own clothes is about expressing ourselves, feeling comfortable in our skin and our clothes, and making intentional choices about where we spend our money and our time.

She is body positive and earth protective. She is the voice we all need in our head when we feel like we don’t fit in our clothes or the false constructs around them. The Art of Sewing is equally an act of rebellion and act of self-love.

There are a few color photos of Sonya in her own handmade outfits sprinkled throughout the book. I found them inspirational, and seeing her smiling face was as good as hearing her cheer me on.

About The Author

Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Keep up with her exploits at


  • Long time fan of Sonya! I wasted no time putting that beautiful book in my cart! The teaser about pockets sealed the deal. I sew a lot of my own clothes— some complicated, some not— from various patterns, and Sonya’s basics get the most play. Love how she styles her outfits, showing off beautiful handknits as well as what she has sewn.

  • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    I want to like this style but just can’t. These clothes are really frumpy. I am all for each person expressing her personal style nevertheless. Good on you that for amplifying this type of endeavor.
  • I discovered Sonya on Creativebug right before we shut down last year, and thoroughly enjoyed turning my fabric stash into wearable garments using her patterns. I now have fun, flirty, nicely -fitting dresses with pockets!! Can’t wait for the book!

  • Bring on the pockets! (But you can hold the puffed sleeves) I’ve had this book in my cart at a certain Large Retailer for months, awaiting its pub date. But I am much happier getting it from MDK—-infused with yarn fumes. Yippee! Thanks for reading my mind.

  • I have been waiting for this book too! When I decided to dust off my sewing machine and learn how to sew, it was Sonya and YouTube that held my hand. Sonya’s patterns are completely doable for a novice seamstress! My order is in. Thank you MDK!

  • I have made her pants one pattern at least six times. I’m a fan.

  • Ordered! Now to get some fun fabric.

  • I taught Beginning Sewers in Berkeley for 12 years. I can’t count the number of students who sewed her patterns and became devoted sewers. Her philosophy is inclusive and encouraging and fit everyone. I would highly recommend them.
    Also, all of her designs benefit from a cute hand knit sweater or shawl….
    Just saying!

    • “Short everything and big boobs” made me laugh – I’m long everything and hardly any boobs. Takes all kinds! And it sounds like Sonya’s book will cover them both.
      And don’t even get me started on the lack of usable pockets in women’s clothes….

  • This could very well turn me into a sewist. And lime green bellbottoms sound DREAMY.

  • Whoa, those went fast! Where else can we purchase the book? I just went out to her website and there isn’t a spot.

    • More copies on the way, hopefully they’ll arrive this week.

  • Thrilled to see this. And timely – everyone wants to know what my May holiday gifts should be.
    Yay for Sonya and yay for clothes and yay for sewing. 🙂

    • I mean: Sonya. Sorry, have a young cousin in the family who is Sonia. Realized as soon as I clicked.

  • Congratulations to Sonya on the publication of her book! That is a real accomplishment and one that so many will enjoy and actually use..

  • Let me know when back in stock. 🙂

  • Thanks for the detail about this book. I just ordered it because I am now starting to weave fabric with my rigid heddle loom and working on sewing my first top with it. Having Sonya’s guidance and infinite patterns will allow me to create what really works for me with my handwoven materials.

  • I so look forward to learning to sew clothes! My extra-spunky grandmother, in addition to serving as a ‘Rosie the Riveter”, was a talented seamstress. She worked in a sewing factory, sewed for lots of private customers from her humble home – including some famous rodeo personnel and professional baseball players! I need to continue the tradition beyond the pillows she taught me and love Sonya’s approach.

  • Congratulations, Sonya! What an accomplishment!

  • I hope the Act of Sewing will give me some new approaches and insights into sewing. I am looking forward to it! I love nothing more than creating and the joy it brings.

  • I started reading this book this morning. I have made 3 quilts, a couple of bags and about 16 garments. I learned so much and am only on page 13. I don’t buy many books, but BUY SONYA’S BOOK!!

  • This is so great!! I enjoy sewing , knitting, crochet and cross stitch so I’m a crafty person my garments don’t look homemade I’ve been sewing since I was 12 yes old however, while doing all this I quit sewing and quilting and now I’m back to square 1 as far as I’m concerned and would like to teach others how to sew and crochet, knit. But this book seems to fit what I need. To gain my skills back I’ve not seen the entire book and I’m looking forward to reviewing it soon where can I get this book I’m ne’er books a million is it there??

  • my bell bottoms were lemon yellow hip-huggers and I thought I was really something.

    Congratulations, Sonya. I have enjoyed all of your articles and will get the book when it is back in stock. I’m thinking about the tunic. . .

  • I loved your mention of favorite green bell bottom pants from childhood. After dragging my sewing machine out of the closet to sew some face masks, I’m ready to try sewing different garments. I always enjoy your articles on MDK.

  • I am also a survivor of late 70s Home Ec classes, and it scarred me for years. It did nothing to teach me a love of sewing; I could not remember how to thread the machine, and the teacher was more interested in those girls (no boys allowed!) who already knew how to sew. I made my skirt entirely by hand, and received the worst grade I ever got in school. The trauma (haha) caused me to eschew all “domestic” skills and it took years for me to return to them. I love Sonya’s patterns, and they would have been perfect for those classes!

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