Daughter Fish


Liesl Gibson of Oliver + S, Thread Cult’s 25th guest

When I think about the past year, it’s a little hard to believe that I’ve had a baby, started a podcast, and that my day job as a freelance writer and editor has only gotten busier. When it rains it pours, and I’m not complaining, but it’s left me very little time for anything extra.

This past month I finally updated the Thread Cult website, which has been on my to-do list since I started the podcast at the end of 2012. The new website is an awesome spot to catch up on episodes you may have missed, and read all the posts I’ve written about them. And, of course, to listen to the most recent episodes, like this week’s with Liesl Gibson, founder of the fabulous children’s pattern company Oliver + S, as well as several women’s pattern and fabric lines. Liesl is such a warm and engaging person to talk with, and she has a lot of great insights into sewing, motherhood, and life in general.

I’ll still post updates here about  new episodes, but mostly I’ll be reserving DaughterFish for my own makes again. Eight months postpartum and I’m finally starting to feel like myself physically and mentally. Looking deep into the recesses of my closet I’ve been sorely disappointed lately.  What I want to wear just isn’t in there. I have a lot of ideas simmering for new pieces for myself and my little minnow. I’m excited to document them here again.  

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week’s episode. It’ s a nice long one, perfect if you’re in the middle of a good sewing project. So head on over to Thread Cult to listen!


 ”Quilting is such a social process. It’s such a self expression, in that the quilts are beautiful designs and they can speak for themselves. There’s such a wonderful story behind them, whether it’s the maker, or what they were doing, or what was going on at the times, or how the fabrics came to be, or whether it’s one piece of fabric that was salvaged from a great grandmother’s dress or something. There are just endless stories within quilts.”

– Maura Grace Ambrose

When my baby girl was born in June, we received many beautiful gifts, but three of my favorites are crib quilts. Not only do they provide warmth, protection against the floor, padding in the crib, and art when draped over the crib railing or the back of a chair, but it’s the thought and love that went into each one, the hours of construction, and the women behind them that truly touches me. Each has their own story and I look forward to passing these tales to baby girl when she’s old enough to understand.

My newest Thread Cult  guest speaks to this kind of care. Maura Grace Ambrose is an Austin-based artist and founder of Folk Fibers. She makes incredibly beautiful quilts, constructed of hand-dyed fabrics that she dyes using dyestuffs she forages for and grows. She then meticulously hand quilts her blankets, each of which are also made of natural fibers.

Recently Maura and her husband and business partner, Chapman Ambrose (pictured at top), moved to 10 acres outside Austin so that Maura would have more space to run workshops and have a bigger dye garden. I know. Dreamy!

I found Maura’s work through the Martha Stewart American Made awards, for which she was honored in 2013. Like my most recent guest, Denyse Schmidt, Maura brings her own unique style to her quilts, while also borrowing from tradition. And like many great craftspeople and artists, Maura’s career path has been circuitous, full of bends in the road and interesting pitstops. I always like to hear about how people make what they love into what they do.

If you’ve been waiting for new episodes of Thread Cult, thanks for your patience! The past few months have been hectic, but I have some exciting episodes lined up for the following weeks, including an interview with Liesl Gibson of Oliver + S and a follow-up interview with couture wonder woman Susan Khalje. So stay tuned!

Happy listening!

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Outro Music: “Smoothest Runes” by Thick Business


One of my artist friends, who moonlights as a custom quilter, likes to call her creations bed paintings. I love this term, and I think it’s an apt description for the work of Denyse Schmidt, my most recent guest on Thread Cult. I’ve admired Denyse’s quilts for years. Her modern take on a very old craft has made her pretty much a rock star in the modern craft movement. However, her work goes beyond craft or “crafting.” Denyse is very much an artist. In fact, I find her work a lot more interesting than most of what I see in big galleries around NYC.

Like most creative people, Denyse’s path has been circuitous. I was tickled to learn that she used to do performance art, took on odd sewing jobs (including stitching ecclesiastical vestments) to pay the bills, and it wasn’t until her 30′s that she really found her passion in patchwork quilting. I love these kinds of stories.

Denyse’s work will be featured in three museum shows this fall,  a two-person show that opens at the National Quilt Museum in Kentucky in October, a group show at the New England Quilt Museum in November, and part of a show at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts in January. So, if you’re in any of these locales over the coming months, go see her work!

In the meantime, there’s plenty to entice you in this episode. Happy listening!


Gee’s Bend Quilters

Anni Albers

 Interaction of Color app

Denyse’s Florence line of fabric

Denyse Schmidt: Modern Quilts

Denyse Schmidt Quilts

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Outro music: “Cantina Rag” by Jackson F. Smith


Back in March, I visited The Oriole Mill in North Carolina, where I recorded a couple episodes with Bethanne Knudson, co-founder of The Oriole Mill, and Libby O’Bryan, owner of the Western Carolina Sewing Company. While Libby and I were chatting, I spotted a blouse Libby had made from the most fantastic dyed fabric. I could tell the design was shibori—Japanese tie-dye—but I couldn’t figure out how the perfectly pleated design had been made. Here’s a picture:

See what I mean?

Catharine working at a Jacquard loom in The Oriole Mill

The fabric was designed my Catharine Ellis, who I hadn’t heard of before, but is very well known in weaving circles for her woven shibori technique. Back in the early ’90′s, Catharine—a trained weaver—had a Eureka moment when she realized she could actually weave resist stitches into cloth. The stitches are simply supplemental warp and weft threads used to gather the cloth before dyeing. The results are really beautiful, and totally unique. Now Catharine designs fabric on the massive Jacquard looms at The Oriole Mill, and sells scarf-sized pieces through Cloth Roads (a very cool business, btw, that works with indigenous textile artists from around the world).

Here are a few other examples of her work, all dyed with natural dyes. It makes me want to get a little loom to try this, even though I have absolutely zero space for another hobby! The green scarf was dyed with a combination of woad (blue) and weld (yellow) on cotton.

Catharine is a sought-after teacher and literally wrote the book on woven shibori, Woven Shibori. Happily, she made some room in her busy teaching schedule to chat. Beyond shibori, we discussed ikat weaving and the organic indigo batch Catharine tends at her home in North Carolina.

If you’re into natural dyes, make sure to catch episode #2 on growing your own dye garden and episode #8 with lovely color master Audrey Louise Reynolds.



Textile Arts Center

Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada

Memory on Cloth: Shibori Nowby Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada

Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing, by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Mary Kellog Rice, and Jane Barton

Michel Garcia

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*Outro music: “Little Wooden Church,” by The Trumpeteers


The last time I sewed a silk dress, I nearly lost my marbles trying to figure out how to press, cut, and stitch up the slippery, shifting yardage. Despite finding some helpful tips in Claire Schaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques and on plenty of websites, I remember wishing that there was someone I could call with questions. Like a silk fairy godmother, or something.

Who I really needed on the line was Katrina Walker.

Katrina is a silk expert and teacher who contributes regularly to Threads and other sewing publications. She’s studied silk production in Japan and knows quite a bit about shibori techniques as well. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Katrina also raises sheep on her ranch, Rose Butte Ranch, in eastern Washington (state, for all you East coasters!). You must check out the adorable shots of her animals. When I first caught up with Katrina in April, we had to reschedule our interview because one of her sheep was actually giving birth out in the pasture.

Katrina also teaches a variety of sewing classes, as well as the Craftsy course Decorative Seams. (BTW, you can get the class for 50 percent off through this link. Cha-ching!) Also, check out this recent Threads article on Katrina’s work studio, a dreamy retrofitted cabin/guesthouse on her ranch.

Happy listening! 


Kai Scissors

PerfectSew Fabric Stabilizer

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*Outro music “Island Pop” by Drama for Yamaha


It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything personal here. The combo of a good amount of work, the intense experience of being pregnant and becoming a parent, podcasting, and life in general just hasn’t left me with a lot of time or energy for sewing this past year. Now that I have my body back to myself, I’m looking forward to making some new things. But right now what I’m really excited about is this appliqued quilt sampler.

Mama Fish has been visiting since the beginning of the month, and we’ve hidden ourselves away in a little paradise an hour or so out of the city where there are trees and lakes and rivers and you can breath a big lungful of air without that particular summer city potion of hot garbage fumes and sticky exhaust. Let me tell you, I am digging “upstate” New York this summer. Mama Fish brought along this quilt, which she’s finishing for Baby Fish, that she started way back in 2007.

I first glimpsed this handy work a couple years back, on a visit to my grandmother’s house in Idaho.  I fell hard for this quilt the second I saw it. Mama Fish said, with a wink, that she was making it for a grandkid. I got the hint. I won’t deny that I was a little motivated to have a kiddo just so I could have this beauty in my possession. She machine stitched the wreaths and vines, but all of the leaves and flowers are hand appliqued.

Before little minnow arrived, I’d planned on making a Gee’s Bend-style quilt for her, but I nixed that after we received a dowry-worth of handmade quilts and knitted blankets. This kid is never going to lack for something soft and made with love to wrap up in. I’ll have to share some of those here once I’m back in the city. For now, I’ll leave you with a few snapshots of summer, upstate style. I hope you’re having a good one, too.

A sewing blogger is only as good as her cats. Maybe that’s why I haven’t gotten anything done…


Summer has officially arrived in a hot and sticky way here in NYC, and it’s definitely time for light-as-air dresses and blouses. Linen is one of my favorite summer fabrics, and it’s on my sewing list to make more garments of this fabric. That’s why I was very excited to speak with Linda Lee, of The Sewing Workshop, about all things linen.

Linda Lee

Linda is an accomplished seamstress, teacher, and writer. She contributes regularly to ThreadsSew News, and Stitch magazines, and she also designs The Sewing Workshop pattern line, a very cool collection with a casual Eileen-Fisher-meets-Issey-Miyake feel (I’m planning on making a few soon).

I really enjoyed speaking with Linda. She’s clearly very passionate and knowledgeable about linen, but also about sewing in general. She was an interior designer for years, before making a midlife career change when she bought a fabric store and became a sewing instructor. I love chatting with people who have made a success of their passion, and Linda has done just this.

This episode is the first part in a series I’ll be running over the next few months on sewing with summer-appropriate fabrics. Stay tuned for the next episode, an interview with the lovely Katrina Walker on sewing with silk.

Happy listening!


Gray Line Linen 

IBC glass-head silk pins

G Street Fabrics

A couple good resources for finding indi fabric stores around the country:

Fine Fabric Stores (25 indie fabric stores around the country)

Project 95 (searchable fabric and quilt shop database)

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* Top image from Country Living

*Outro music: “Spears” by Drama for Yamaha


Well, it’s official. My little bambina, every perfect inch of her, has officially arrived. Actually, she came on her due date—incredibly punctual (like her daddy)—exactly three weeks ago. It’s taken me a while posting about her because, well, motherhood is a lot more consuming than I thought it would be. Free moments have been spent napping, binge watching Netflix, letting my body rest, and generally tripping out on my baby. I feel like I’ve been in a place where, outside of “feeding time” and “sleep time,” time really doesn’t exist. It seems like I was in labor either yesterday or years ago.

To be totally honest, I’ve been hesitant posting about my little girl here. I’ve had an internal debate brewing over whether I should share her picture on my blog and on the internet in general. (I’m sort of doing a half-assed compromise by showing her beautiful half profile up top.) After discussing it with Mr. Fish, we’ve decided little fish should control her own internet privacy when she’s good and ready. I won’t be posting pictures of her, at least not with her face. DaughterFish will continue on as a place for me to share my makes (many of which, I’m sure will be for her) and Thread Cult episodes.

Speaking of Thread Cult, I’m hoping to get the latest episode, a great interview with Linda Lee of The Sewing Workshop about sewing with linen, up this week! Now I just need an hour to edit…


If I had to pick one type of dress to live in for the rest of my life, it would probably be some number cut on the bias. Even before I really knew what bias-cut clothing was, I lusted after hip-hugging 1930′s ball gowns. And I probably spent way too much time studying reproduction patterns from the ’30s before my wedding. I’ve experimented with some bias-cut designs, and I hope to do more after my little one arrives. For this reason, I was very excited to chat with Julianne Bramson and Susan Lenahan, co-owners of Fashions in Harmony, a pattern and fabric company specializing in bias-cut garments.

Julianne has spent years studying and designing bias-cut clothing, and I found her to be a wealth of information on everything from the right fabrics to use to the best finishing techniques for bias-cut garments. Julianne also reminded me that a lot of sewing on the bias comes down to old-fashioned geometry. Although my mind splits at that a little, I also appreciate the challenge of brushing off my high-school math skills.

I hope you enjoy this episode!


Center for Pattern Design

Patterns of Fashion 2: 1860-1940, by Janet Arnold

The Vintage Pattern Lending Library

Decades of Style

Color Catcher 

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When I decided to start a sewing podcast this past winter, one of the first people I reached out to was Sarai Mitnick, founder and designer of Colette Patterns. I’ve admired Sarai’s patterns and blog, Coletterie, since I started getting back into sewing a few years ago. To my delight, Sarai immediately agreed to an interview. Rather than do a Skype chat (Sarai is based in Portland, OR), we decided to wait until she was going to be in New York, touring with her newest pattern the Laurel dress.

In mid-April, Sarai and I were finally able to catch up. She stopped by my apartment in Midtown, before heading out to a party at Brooklyn General for the new pattern. Sarai is just as smart and sweet as I thought she’d be. We chatted about everything from how she comes up with her designs to how hard it can be, as a woman, to pare down your wardrobe.

Before becoming a pattern maker and entrepreneur, Sarai worked in Silicon Valley doing user experience for places like Google. This analytical background has really shaped her approach to designing patterns and instructions, and I think ultimately makes her patterns wonderful teaching tools.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did recording it!

As I mentioned before, I’m only posting episodes every other week through the summer, because I’ll have my hands full with my newborn (who could really arrive any day now!). Stay tuned for the next Thread Cult episode, all about sewing on the bias (one of my favorite topics!) with Julianne Bramson and Susan Lenahan from Fashion in Harmony, in which we geek out on Madeleine Vionnet and all things related to fabric grain.

Happy listening!


Colette Patterns

Brooklyn General

Laurel Pattern

Grey’s Fabric

Mood classes

The Colette Sewing Handbook

Fabric Depot

Mill End

Bolt Fabric Boutique

Modern Domestic

Josephine’s Dry Goods

Free Sorbetto pattern



Thread Cult episode on sewing for your sweetie (and why it’s so hard to sew for men!)

Thread Cult episode with the Williamsburg Seamster

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*Photo care of Sarai Mitnick