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The end of one year and the beginning of another brings so much potential. It fosters well-meaning thoughts of making resolutions, or “setting intentions,” if you want to sound extra fancy. We start the way we mean to go and make promises to do some things less and other things more to create new, more virtuous versions of ourselves.

You won’t find me arguing against the practice or trying to convince you otherwise. Who can resist the idea of a reset?

Sonya is wearing: Radiance Shawlette by Tina Whitmore in Knitwhits Freia Handpaints Ombre worsted; Knitting Pure & Simple # 9725 Neck Down Cardigan for Women in Manos del Uruguay Classica; 100 Acts of Sewing Dress no. 1; pants (own pattern); and Maine Morning Mitts by Clara Parkes in Knitwhits Freia Handpaints Ombre worsted.


I think there’s no better way to get a start on the year than giving new things a try. It could be an unfamiliar food or an alternate route home from work. While there’s comfort in the familiar, it’s essential to shake things up from time to time. Different experiences help keep the curiosity keen. You never know, the new way might become your favorite way.

Bitterroot Shawl by Rosemary Hill in Twirl Twirling Petals; cardigan (own pattern) in Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca Silk; Dress no. 1; and Pants no. 1.


Maybe you want to learn something for the first time, say (in a not very subtle hint), taking your first sewing class. Then again, it could be spoon carving, ballroom dancing or perhaps auto mechanics. We might desire learning to occur effortlessly, but that very seldom happens. The first time your brain and hands (or feet) coordinate in an unknown way, the result is bound to be awkward. When this happens, try to find the humor in it. Everyone needs to start somewhere, so find a way to laugh at your mistakes and then keep going.

Knitting Pure & Simple # 9724 Neck Down Pullover for Women (modified) in GGH Soft Kid; Dress no. 2; and Pants no. 1.
You might know exactly the kind of learner you are and can ask for what you need. However, if learning new things provokes anxiety or you’ve tried in the past without success, maybe an alternate approach is needed. There are books and websites, video seminars and DVDs, as well as in person classes, we do after all live in the Information Age. You simply need to type a search engine query and there’s a smorgasbord of resources available. And remember, there are no silly questions: it never hurts to have instructions repeated or rephrased.
Hermaness Worsted (hat) by Gudrun Johnston in handspun by Kim Andersen; Indigo Shibori Scarf by Amy Lou Stein; Cria by Ysolda Teague in Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks superwash merino; Dress no. 2; and Pants no. 1.

It’s also important to recognize the progress you make. The more you repeat a task, the easier it becomes to identify the necessary sequence of steps from start to finish. This motor memory might take mere minutes, but often is longer. We self-sabotage when we think our efforts aren’t good enough, when they actually are steps in the learning process. The aim should be for proficiency and not perfection.


Daybreak by Stephen West in AVFKW Farm Series; February Lady Sweater by Pamela Wynne in Malabrigo Worsted; dress (own pattern); shirt (own pattern); and Pants no. 2.


With all this doing and making, it’s a good idea to find your people; they are your cheerleaders and play a vital role. They can live down the street, or maybe they’re in another country, but you connect on a daily basis through social media. If you think of it as an equation, you need less of the why-would-you-make-that-when-you-can-buy-one and more of the sort who think you are uniquely talented and offer encouraging words of support. This helps in turning set intentions into viable skill sets.

Wishing you a Happy New Year, and may 2018 be a creative one!

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.


  • I absolutely love Sonya and her style! I always look forward to seeing what she is wearing and making. A knitting inspiration for sure!

    • Ditto to that Gail! I love her style and always find things I need to knit when I read her columns. Today three different shawls spoke to me loud and clear. I know I’ll never learn to sew but I can sure shop differently after seeing what Sonya has on. I also appreciate her philosophy. “The aim should be proficiency and not perfection.” I will try harder to remember this!

  • Taking my first sewing class since eighth grade on Friday! Can’t wait!

  • “With all this doing and making, it’s a good idea to find your people; they are your cheerleaders and play a vital role.” SOOOO True. I love my people and I love your style, Sonya!

  • Instead of moaning about how I can’t find any clothes that fit my aging body or suit my time of life, I am experimenting with new styles that (of course) include more of my hand knit and woven articles. So far, the reactions have been positive.

    • I am struggling with this too. All my bits that used to be in the right places, well, aren’t so much any more. I have embraced it all in theory but finding quality, affordable ready-to-wear is difficult. I am resigned to buying very expensive pieces for business, but really need casual, mix-and-match components like Sonya’s.

  • Funny story about this very topic….I have made myself multiple versions of Dress #1….and wear them layered, like Sonya, with handknit scarves, shawls, vests, and sweaters. I add funky, fun earrings to the mix as well. I LOVE dressing like this!!! I am a children’s librarian and work in a school with elementary students. Recently, I had on a grey linen dress, black pants, a turtleneck sweater, a black handknit vest and a multicolored shawl. Another teacher, who I don’t often see, commented that it must be really cold in my room, since I was so ‘layered up’— NO, I exclaimed, I always dress like this! Her eyes . It was funny…and I don’t think she will ‘comment’ again on my clothing.

    Now if I can just get my wife to stop rolling her eyes when I wear my aprons —I even made one out of Gilmore Girls’ ‘books’ fabric!

    THANK YOU Sonya for sharing your style and talents with us! I’m making pants next.

    • Maybe she was just wondering why you needed so many warm things if the room wasn’t cold. If I dressed like that in my classroom I’d pass out from heat stroke

  • I really appreciate the Sonya columns. Thanks so much for introducing her to us! I do plan to take a sewing class in the near future!

  • LOVE LOVE LOVE. Full size knitted clothing is my goal for next year. (not just accessories)

  • My friend *just* gifted me with the Tunic No. 1 pattern! I think this means she’ll help me make it, too — she’s a very proficient sewer. Can’t wait to make it. And what a joy to receive this kind of a gift, which shows that you are known well. (And I couldn’t agree more about the way you approach learning — bumps and mistakes are how we gain info and ease.)

  • I so love your combos. You have inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and start wearing more of my knits to work. I am an insurance agent a rather conservative dresser until recently. Now I really am so much more comfortable and I feel like the “me” inside is getting a peak out of my shell. It’s awesome!

  • Thank you for this. It makes me think of when I took up knitting, 13 years ago. So much to learn…and so many mistakes! It was worth it, though. It changed my life! There are still things I generally avoid, like lace and colorwork, so I think that my challenge for the new year may be the (colorwork) Winter Twilight Mitts by Laura Rintala. After all, as two wise women have said, “no project is too difficult if you crave the end result enough.” Oh, and I love all your outfits, as usual, but I absolutely adore the yellow and gray with the February Lady Sweater!

  • Sonya, you in yellow with Daybreak is tdf! Thanks for all the inspiration!

  • I love these posts by Sonya though I’m unlikely to make/wear them because… not my style. But I LOVE her style! And what I really want to know is, where are the backdrops that she uses for her photos? They are terrific!

    • I think she lives in San Francisco…

  • I love this girl. She looks like FUN!

  • I used to learn a lot, but left it behind when knitting took over my life (ha!). Sewing was reduced to mending or making curtains, etc. But Sonya’s columns on MDK and her classes on Creative Bug. I’m going to tackle a shirt and pants this year and make some time for sewing. Thank you Sonya, for your encouraging approach to making clothes.

    • I mean I used to SEW a lot. I’m still learning (ha).

  • Like so many others who left comments, I love it when there is a post by Sonya. I’ve been saving this post to read until after the holiday commotion was behind me. I love her attitude, I love her style, I love her patterns……what’s not to love?
    Thank you for a great ending to an inspired year!

  • I especially love the last outfit. Just the right amount of knitterly goodness IMO. And yellow is one of my favorite colors.

    I need to make a rose & something Daybreak and Dress No. 1 to go with the February Lady Sweater I already made. I struggle wearing that sweater for lack of coordinating pieces and the San Francisco climate (mine is in Tahki Donegal Tweed) but that will all change after we move to Chicago next year! Bonus: we’ll have a second bedroom for an office/craft room, yay!

  • Fabulous!!!

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