maya donenfeld, you had me at hello…

i sewed.

yes. i. did.

at the june session of squam art workshops – which was, wow, nearly a month ago…june is always a little different for me. i’m not a particularly good knitter (read – can’t knit) nor am i a particularly good seamstress (read – can’t sew). and while there are many, amazing, classes and teachers at the june session, i find i’m a little out of my element. the last thing i made in the textile realm was 28 years ago and it was an embarrassing failure of a turtle pillow…remember these guys? yeah – he never even made it home. poor thing…

this photo has nothing at all to do with maya donenfeld

needle-less (ha!!) to say…the talented creators who find their way to the june session make such incredible wearable art! give me some paint and paper and an abstract idea and i’m game to play…but to be challenged to make something that might need to actually be identifiable by the conscious mind or another human being and i feel a wee bit of anxiety.

so i chickened out. i mean, i didn’t even bring anything on the supply list i had been given in order to be prepared to take the class i had registered for – Reinvention. it had sounded so GREAT, such a cool class about reusing old stuff to make new cool stuff, and i’d heard such incredible things about maya donenfeld and her teaching from last year that i was instantly hooked. and i knew i wanted to try something out of my element. then when maya emailed us about the projects we were going to do – we could make a skirt or a burlap bucket, i chose the skirt – i read through the pattern and actually thought – oh my god. i can TOTALLY do this!

so what happened between that moment and the moment of packing up my stuff, i have no idea…i just know i didn’t think i could do it anymore. didn’t want to try. didn’t want to put in the effort. didn’t want to be embarrassed…ah-ha! there it was….shame. because i had done so poorly in 8th grade.

enter maya. i met her in the days leading up to our class on friday…and sheepishly admitted my anxiety. she stopped me, parked me in front of her, took my arms in her hands and looked me dead in the eye with all the seriousness of a mom trying to get something important through to her kid. “You can do this,” she said. “just come. i have everything you need. i’ll be with you. i’ll show you. you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to, but just come.”

friday morning before i got out of bed, i still wasn’t going.

but then i did.

maya rounded us up first thing to introduce ourselves…i admitted my fears but i wasn’t the only one who had no idea what i was doing. she took us through the structure of the day, set us loose on some incredible linen scraps to make a scarf and we were off. i sat down at my machine. it was brand new, had never even been used before (i found out later that singer had donated them all to the workshop, how cool of them!?) and it sat there all shiny and unthreaded and daunting with all it’s knobs and hooks. so i opened the manual and guess what?  it was BRILLIANT and easy to read and i threaded the whole thing by myself! when maya came by to get me started – i was already done! she gave me some pointers on how to start and finish (locking the stichtes) and then it was all about piecing together my design. cutting, sewing, adding in more linen: you can see me focusing back there on my plan (and isn’t her classroom cute?).

photo by maya donenfeld

the afternoon was intended for us to tackle our skirt or bucket project. but i was really into my scarf and afraid of walking out of the class with two unfinished projects. so i opted to stick with it and finish…and it just kept getting longer and longer, turning into this dr. who-ish patchwork. i even got to add a little bit of ruffle to the edges to learn how to do that too (easy!). then it was topstichted and voila! done!

photo by maya donenfeld 

and maya is such a natural. not only sweet and complimentary and supportive but truly all the things you want in a teacher…she teaches you the skills, demonstrates, explains them well and a few different ways, supports you, let’s you try, tells you if there’s a better way and gives you the confidence you need so that when you leave you are ready to try again.

and really…that sums up my squam experience every time…not just in the classroom but in the life skills department too…seriously. read that last sentence again. it’s true. xo


  1. And just look at how beautiful that scarf is! I was thrilled from the moment you walked in the door and was continuously amazed all day. You rocked that machine, and I do hope you’ll find space and time to sew more. It came very naturally to you. I’ll never forget that moment when I walked over to help you thread, and you were done and moving on to the next thing with total confidence and courage. Go Michelle!

  2. I LOVE those moments when you finally do something you’ve been so resistant to. It’s almost worth all the angst, just for that feeling of accomplishment. And the scarf is fabulous!

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