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Late autumn is a favorite season for knitters, with the dip in temperature necessitating more layers and more wool. Of course, where I live in San Francisco, we usually enjoy stretches of sunny days throughout the month of October. Even with the warm temperatures, it’s still a time to celebrate the harvest and shearing of sheep. The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, or Rhinebeck as it is known to many, is just one of the fall fiber fairs, often full of animals, foliage, apple cider doughnuts, and the collective pleasure of being around people who understand your passion for yarn.

In addition to knitting sweaters and shawls, I also have a collection of garments made with sheep print fabric. What better thing to wear when visiting a farm? Sometimes, what looks like an abstract scatter of dots from a distance, turns out to be a flock of sheep complete with its own tiny herding dog.

sonya is wearing: Wainwright by Bristol Ivy in Jill Draper Makes Stuff Empire; 100 Acts of Sewing Tunic no. 1; and Simple Skirt.

Other times, the animal may occupy a more prominent position.

Neck Down Cardigan #9725 by Knitting Pure & Simple in Manos Classica; shirt (own pattern); skirt (own pattern); and Pants no. 2 (100 Acts of Sewing pattern coming soon).

Some might wonder, why sew garments with sheep on them? For me, as always, it’s a way of having fun with the clothes I wear. I grew up in the 1980s, a time period whose plastic homogeneity seemed a direct reaction to the funky creativity of the preceding decades. This was the birth of branding, with every teenager girl either wearing or wanting to wear the ubiquitous Esprit sweatshirt, acid wash jeans, Reeboks, and a scrunchy. While I never fully immersed myself in the punk and grunge scenes that followed, the pendulum swing to non-conformity came at just the right time.

Cria by Ysolda Teague knit in Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks Superwash Merino; dress (own pattern); and Pants no. 2 (100 acts of sewing pattern coming soon).

My playful attitude is partly a way of paying homage to other women, real and imaginary, who I consider wardrobe adventuresses. There’s Cyndi Lauper, whose debut album said it all (She’s So Unusual), the New York nonagenarian fashion icon Iris Apfel, or Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus series, known for coordinating her clothes with whatever subject she was teaching her class. Each offers lavishly extreme examples of dressing outside of trend. Their choices of clothing and accessories that delight are also the same ones that make people stare.

However, adulation can only go so far and doesn’t always lead to emulation. I won’t be dyeing my hair candy-colored hues any time soon.

Liz Christy by Kirsten Kapur in Starcroft Nash Island Tide; coat (own pattern), modified Dress no. 2; and modified Pants no. 1.

As much as I love the look, my neck cannot handle the weight of chunky jewelry and large multi-stranded beads. And yes, dear reader, I know every outfit need not didactically match the occasion.

Acer by Kirsten Kapur in Beaverslide Dry Goods 2-Ply Worsted Weight Merino; Shirt no. 1; modified Dress no. 1; and Pants no. 1.

Being in a creative profession and working from home with a terrier as the closest thing to a co-worker, what I wear doesn’t come under close scrutiny or need to adhere to a dress code. So it’s always a pleasure to see the ways in which people push the creative envelope within those constraints. Separating the goats from the sheep as it were.

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.


  • Thank you for being you!

    • You’re so sweet Elaine, thank you!

  • I am surprised that you aren’t into the hair-of-many-colors trend!
    I love the sheep on the clothes — actually love all your clothes.

    • I’ve tried it, but there are a few things – first my hair is so dark you have to peroxide the heck out of it to get it light enough for color to show and second, is the upkeep part, having to re-do roots and re-dye, I want to spend my time on other things 🙂

  • Dear Sonya, I just looked at my new e-mail from mason-dixon. It’s new for me. But what caught my eye was you. Your lovely, beautiful happy face, and your wonderful , beautiful, fabulous, quirky style! Your beautiful clothes you, knitted, and sewed! And it almost brought me to tears (I’m so darn emotional lately) you, are a much younger version of what I think I am. You go child (I’m 64, close to cindy lauper’s age, I’d like to think I’m young at heart, but with a young, playful, adventurous spirit, no going along with what I’m supposed to be wearing, no ,polyester, convenient, clothes, in safe colors for me! LOL. My mom who is almost 83. is constantly criteaking me (I don’t like that on you, don’t like that lipstick, oh and another one (are you wearing a bra?I was, thankyou) whew! My oldest son I think paid me the nicest complement, he said mommy I always thought you were the first “hippie” when we were growing up. Now to me that made me feel so good, because he said, you made bagels from scratch, homemade pizza, from scratch (white, and wheat,) saurebraten, all kinds of breads, I sewed, knitted. And I was always taking them to new places, and the public library was our dearest friend! And Sonya we are brown ( to me it sounds better than black american, because my family, brown, has some of this a lot of this and that, and we are very nice. decent people who love everyone, and don’t feel like we are better, or are owed anything but love. So Sonya I just want you to know how you have made my morning indeed, brought such a smile to this woman today! I have to get that pattern you are wearing, the cardigan “cria” by Ysolda teague. I saw it before, but seeing it on you, and the yarn you used, it looks so nice on you, so I said to myself, Dorian you have to make that one! Thankyou again Sonya, have a great, safe rest of the weekend, sincerly, Dorian mcclain

    • Dear Dorian, I have a mum like you and so much of the joy in my life comes from what she shared with me growing up – making things from scratch, sewing, knitting and growing my own. The sense of accomplishment and adventure these things still bring me is one of the best things a mother can give, teaching me independence of thought has ensured I live a full and happy life. I live on the other side of the world from my mum but we still share these things and it keeps us close, also they help me find new friends in strange cities. I am pretty sure your son feels some of this too.
      Keep being you and finding joy in the delightful details that make your life unique and special.

      Thank you Sonya, such a lovely article and your wardrobe inspires me to get off the internet and go make something!

    • What a wonderful comment, thank you for sharing!

    • Oh Dorian. You have brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for taking the time to write, I have read and re-read your comment and each time, my eyes well up. I mean, me? Who would have ever thought that I would be able to get this kind of response? I’m also a daughter who got (and still gets) criticized by my mother. I have spent a long time trying to make other people happy and while I’m learning that’s not possible and I don’t have to. Sometimes I wonder, what kind of person would I be if I had parents who thought everything I did was wonderful. But I am grateful for all of my experiences, they are all lessons and they made me who I am – the empathetic person who cries at kind comments, someone who never fit in the mold so stopped bothering to fit into it. Thank you Dorian, you have made my day, my week, my month. And YES do make Cria. Though I warn you, I had to stop several times while I was knitting and wonder at the clever construction! I hope you have a wonderful weekend, filled with making things and spreading love. <3

    • A lot of my thoughts but better words than come to mind right now. My grandkids instinctively have spoken of their brown friends…. I love this.

    • Between this wonderful post from Sonya and Dorian’s delightful reply, I am doing a happy dance. What lovely sentiments from both – I’m going to smile all day.

      • I’m with Linda! Thanks to Sonya and Dorian!

    • Dear Dorian,

      You just made my day. Right after Sonya’s piece made my day! Thank you both for bringing such inspiration and joy to us all! xoxoxoxoxoxox

    • Your kind note to Sonya made me smile. You, too have a wonderful weekend. Regina (MDK email is the first email I read every morning)

  • So much of this resonates with me. Just being yourself and comfortable in your own skin. The whole bucking the trends of the 80s! I went through that then and finding it happening again with the trend of neutrals. I just don’t look good in greys and beige and cream. Give me blueberry, greens and bright pinks. I may stick out a bit but color really makes me happy. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Hurrah Martha! Let’s hear it for colorfully sticking out! So happy this resonates with you. I also recommend you check out the piece Anna Maltz wrote in the latest issue of PomPom Magazine, it’s a good one.

      • Probably teenagers now have their brands and styles because partyof growing up is trying to fit in. It doesn’t usually last forever. I don’t know many people who are slaves to fashion. I do know people who dress in beautiful clothes because they enjoy it.

  • Good Morning Sonya! I love that I now have your voice in my head and can hear you as I read. Yay!
    I adore that you mentioned the magic fabrics of Miss Frizzle’s clothing, that always made me smile. You (among others) have inspired me to add more whimsical bits to my handmade clothing. Thank you for the fun. xo

    • Aww Nell, meeting you at Rhinebeck was so wonderful! And yes, Miss Frizzle is my muse 🙂

  • I’ll be working on a skirt for my Ms. Frizzle Halloween costume this weekend! 😉 I think it will be something I can incorporate into my regular wardrobe after Halloween. Lots of love on this post and in the comments! I love your beautiful cardigans!

    • That is wonderful Margo, I’m a huge fan of dressing up year-round. And thank you for the cardigan love!

  • My inspiration! I no longer wear matchy matchy clothes. I have made five pairs of pantsNo1 and I wear them all the time:) Need to make some more tops though. November is assess the tops situation in NY. Some people look at me funny. I walk a little taller.

    • You walk tall in your amazing fancy pants Martha!!

  • I want to be Sonya Philip when I grow up! You are the embodiment of joy, creativity and beauty and just seeing you in my feeds brightens my day. Thank you for sharing all that with us and always offering inspiration.

    • Oh my gosh Gayle, way to make me feel all fancy, I’m just going to dash off to the mirror and preen. Thank you for your sweet words and I’m so glad you enjoy what I make and wear.

  • People tell me I’m an adventurous dresser, but I still find myself self-censoring. Sonya, you put me to shame and inspire me to go with my wilder and more colorful instincts! Like Martha commented here, I also look bad in neutrals and feel worse. I love to mix up colors and prints like you do. Lately I’ve been putting down my knitting (gasp!) to get back to sewing, so I can dress how I like and not remain beholden to the very little in the stores that fits and suits my fancy. Thank you for the creative motivation! ~ aaaand thank you, Ann and Kay, for bringing Sonya into our lives!

    • No shame! I have to say, I feel like I self-sensor. We probably all have things we feel might be too outlandish, either on their own or in combination. One person’s fun is another person’s clown shoes. As for the stores and trends, I consider myself very lucky I can work towards making exactly what I want and not waiting round for certain patterns or colors to be in vogue again. Hurrah for wild and colorful impulses!

  • Indeed! Thank you Ann and Kay for bringing Sonya into my life.
    I suspect I am old enough to be her mother ( my youngest child is 46), but her joy and enthusiasm are very contagious.
    Have been dressing my way as long as I can remember, but some some great patterns and new ideas are always welcome.

    • I’m so glad you find my enthusiasm contagious Jane! There is so much outside influence placed on how women should dress and while writing I thought a lot about the unfortunate sheep aphorism, Mutton dressed as lamb. The book and website, Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen is hugely influential to me, I love looking at photos of older women who know themselves, their style or those who have never stopped dabbling and playing.

  • Sonya’s outfits making me happy again – I am so glad you are a regular to MDK! I am a child of the 80s, always loved Cyndi Lauper’s look to any of the other 80s trends, but I tend to self-censor my wardrobe, sadly. I wear lots of muted colors and patterns – sometimes I excuse this because I have a black cat, grey-brown cat, and brown dog and I wear clothes to match the pet hair I’m always covered with. 🙂 But inside, I’m a free spirit who loves bright colors all mixed together, and I love knitting and sewing. This week, I promised that each day, I would wear at least one homemade item to work, which was easy enough to do – but I don’t have ‘head to toe’ homemade outfits yet (very new to sewing). Anyway, Sonya’s championing of bucking trends, making your own, and wearing what actually makes you smile is totally delightful – even to this 50 yr old dressed most often in grey!

    • Wanda I hear you about the pet hair, the struggle is real! And what is it about short-haired animals, where the hair seems to have a life of its own, tunneling into things. It makes me so happy to hear about your weekly goal. It’s a slow process, it’s taken me many years of knitting and now sewing – really truly HURRAH for handmade!

      • Yessss, hurrah to that!! With the world being what it is, a happy homemade outfit every day is truly a good thing. 🙂

  • I’m also probably old enough to be her Sonya’s mum (pfffft. leave out the “probably” and you’ll be closer to the truth) but will always, always remember with joy the first time I saw the words “100 Acts of Sewing!” Your words and work have helped get me “back in the saddle,” after a multi-year break from sewing most of my own clothes. I thank you (even if my bank account doesn’t always thank you) muchly.

    • So it looks like I might need to get some laminated cards made up that read something like: if you like the way I dress CONGRATULATIONS you are a fellow color lover, a connoisseur of bold prints and young at heart. A license for whimsical dressing. What do you think?

      • I often tell people I got dressed in a crayon box, so I would LOVE “a license for whimsical dressing.”

  • I, too, love all the sheep things! In fact, as I type this, I am wearing pajama bottoms with a sheep print! And, as usual, I love everything that you are wearing and am in awe of the fact that almost all of it was made by you. I think that both the subtlety of the abstract print of the skirt, and the well…not subtlety…of the hat-and-scarf-wearing sheep are great! Ewe-nique!

    • I did no think of that pun. You are brilliant Laura! Sisters in Sheep Print

  • Love your funky look‼️

  • I like your stuff!

  • You are my new style icon. So much love!

  • I adore you. You are such an inspiration!

  • Sonya, I love everything about this post (your Pom Pom necklace!! Stap!!) I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Shirt #1. Loved hanging with you a bit at Rhinebeck and look forward to doing more harmonies with you LOL.

  • Miss Frizzel – yes!!! Thank you for being such an inspiration, Sonya 🙂

  • I am constantly inspired by your wonderful outfits! I’m always impressed by people who can put layers of clothes together, and you do it beautifully.

  • Everytime I see an article by Sonya I get a strong urge to do as she’s done, and make my clothing. However, most clothing I have made in the past is not particularly flattering and my mother’s voice is forever in my head. Maybe someday!

    • I express this urge via knitting scarves and sweaters to wear on top of my standard-issue trousers, jeans and skirts, along with the occasional me-made Alabama Chanin (which can take years the lackadaisical way I do them). My takeaway from Sonya is to care more about pleasing myself and feeling good in what I wear, whether I’ve made it or not. It frees me up at the Eileen Fisher sale to buy all the colors nobody in NYC wanted for 70 percent off. CHARTREUSE.

      • Agree totally! I bought that Fisher chartreuse sweater that no one wanted and the color makes me so happy!

  • Sonya–thank you SO MUCH for gifting us with your fabulous patterns and the kinship of your perspective. Dress No. 1 has changed my wardrobe! While my color palette is completely different than yours (muted greys, browns, plum, blue, greens), I have at this point enough handknits and handmade clothing that virtually every day is me-made. Everything goes with anything. And that feels SO GOOD.

    Like many who have written, my mom was a hypercritical type, and like many of you, I have wondered how my life would have been different had she been different. It seemed like nothing was right–my size, my design choices, my sexual orientation….nothing. Yet. My mom was the original me-made gal—from circumstances rather than choice. She taught me to knit and sew at a very young age. I learned how to garden from her and how to really cook. So much of what comprises the adult me…which gives me joy…came from the person who was also like a little bird on my shoulder reminding me of all that was wrong with me.

    At some point after she died, I understood how much of my daily joy came from what she gave me…and I let go of the criticism. Her photo sits next to my sewing machine…and she is an ever-muse….always able to point out my mistakes…to which I respond, it’s okay, I don’t have to be perfect anymore and neither do my handmade goods.

    So Sonya, this is my long-winded way of saying thank you to you too—for sharing both your words and designs, which give powerful moral support and design action for a 60-year-old maker who no longer has to pay any attention to what anyone else says is fashionable or “right.”

    • I love this post. Reconciling the different influences of the Mom, and keeping her gifts with you as muse… it’s very beautiful, and I’m amazed at the wealth I have found in all the comments here.

      I’d been thinking about how my own semi-obsession with clothing was borderline unbalanced, but hearing how other women examine themselves through dress encourages me to see it as integral to this mid-life experience of knowing myself, and that “thinking about clothes” is not just thinking about clothes, but can be something more.

  • Another fabulous read, Sonya!!!! You are always such an inspiration to me. And I can’t wait for pants #2 to come out! 🙂

  • It’s always a good day when I see Sonya’s combinations. Inspiring!

  • I’m sewing my Dress #1, right NOW! Just had to share my excitement at the revelation of French seams and bias tape. A new dawn…. Thank you, Sonya

  • What a brilliant article. I love your clothes and you wear them well. Very inspirational. Thank you

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