Guest Maker: Sonya Philip

We are excited to present a series of guest bloggers to the Soakworthy space. They will be posting on all sorts of topics, from Lingerie design and production, to knitting and sewing as art. We look forward to expanding our idea of what is soakworthy. As usual, the opinions expressed are those of their author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Soak Wash Inc. Enjoy!

dress forms
fabric stack

My name is Sonya Philip and I’m a fiber artist, living in San Francisco. The techniques I use in my art are knitting, felting, and sewing. Last year I started a project called 100 Acts of Sewing, where I made one hundred dresses and documented each one after it was made, posting a photo on tumblr. The project was inspired after taking a pattern making class with Cal Patch at A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland. Although I learned to sew when I was in middle school, I always found it frustrating and never imagined I could make my own clothes. Because of this, a major goal of the project is to make sewing accessible. There’s an incredible amount of satisfaction gained from making something instead of buying it. By mending or altering your clothes, you can give them new life and make things your own. Making clothes is a way to express your individual style, something that goes beyond whatever is the fashion of the moment. It’s a means of creating something that you feel comfortable in and works with your particular body shape.

cutting table

I work out of a studio located in an old Best Food Mayonnaise building in the Mission district. There’s still a terrazzo ‘BF’ on the entryway floor. Like most industrial spaces, it has high ceiling and concrete floors. I moved to the building in 2010 and share my space with four other artists. Since sewing more, I’ve made changes to my studio space. Yarn now competes for storage space with fabric. Although I’d love to have it all out on shelves where I can see it, most of the yardage is folded into several plastic bins. I have always loved fabric, with its varieties textures, patterns, and colors. Combining these elements in each dress is my favorite part. The design process is very intuitive, I treat it like a collage. Many of the dresses I make have are relatively simple in construction, but I love to include details, like bright bias tape facing or pocket plackets. The other major difference in my studio is now my sewing machine and serger stay out all the time, as does my iron and ironing board. It seems to go without saying, but if you have room to make a dedicated space for your sewing machine is out, it gets used more often. Several other artists in my building have started sewing either again or for the first time.

studio view
pins and needles

As the first year came to an end, I realized that I wasn’t done and decided to keep going – another year and another hundred dresses. After keeping the dresses together for an end of project exhibit, I am now working on putting them up for sale on my etsy shop. I’ve just come back from Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago, where there’s an exhibit of the project. I was also fortunate enough to teach a two day dress making workshop. Even after all the dresses I’ve made, I draw a huge amount of inspiration from students, seeing the different approaches they take or the modifications they choose. It’s so fulfilling and I cannot wait to spread the creative energy and get more people making!

You can also find Sonya on her Facebook ( and on twitter @sonyaphilip.


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