I'm very pleased to have Sarah Kate Beaumont of verysweetlife studio featured on Styleposium today. Sarah Kate has been profiled in many top industry publications, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Yes! Magazine, and more, including international coverage with Ultimo Segundo of Brazil and profiled in books, Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline and the Routledge Handbook of Sustainability and Design.
Eight years into her "Slow Style" project, the designer, artist, and writer is synthesizing the experience into a book, including advice on being a "Conscientious Consumer."
Beaumont's lifestyle and work is exemplary of what we aim to cultivate here at The Maker + Menders Styleposium, so we were very honored to be greeted by Ms. Beaumont herself on Instagram. What followed was a series of email conversations and today, I am thrilled to publish our "interview."
May it bring you joy + inspiration.
Would you share how you came to be a sewist
prior to starting Slow Style?
I consider myself a maker, primarily. I have been engaged in art-making for as long as I can remember. I have a distinct early childhood memory of playing outside and arranging many tiny rose petals into a mosaic design on the driveway. (I do hope they’d fallen to the ground, but I may have pulled them off the rose bushes!) The impulse to make something beautiful has always been with me.
I was teaching art in New York City high schools for a number of years. In addition to teaching drawing and painting, I taught craft classes, introducing students to a range of traditional crafts including linoleum block printing, batik, beading on a loom, knitting and sewing.
An art teacher who was a colleague and mentor impressed me with how she would see something in a shop and think, “the kids could make this” and mentally deconstruct the process to be able to teach it in her classroom. I began to see the world this way.
Anything like early sewing memories, how did you learn, from whom, inspirations, what was your first project…
My grandmother sewed. She must have been the one to hand me a needle and thread. By the time I was 13 I was embroidering and sewing.
And how did Slow Style come to be? Impetus, aha moment…
With the financial crisis I thought,
“why should I buy clothing?
I know how to sew. I teach students to sew. I will make my own.”
It was one moment.
The seed was small. It has yielded a garden!
I read that you were an art teacher before starting verysweetlife studio.
Would you share what that transition was like, the initial idea...
I left a high school art teaching position, which I loved,
to attend graduate school for a Master’s in Elementary Education.
As part of the program requirement,
I applied and was hired to be an assistant teacher in an elementary school.
The two years I taught first grade then second grade were great.
However, when I got home after a day of teaching
I had only enough energy
to make dinner and prepare the next day’s lesson plan.
I missed art so much!
I had began teaching sewing on the weekends in my apartment.
The number of students grew.
Before long I was crawling over furniture to reach students seated all around the table.
To continue growing the business I needed a larger space in which to teach.
The stars aligned in unexpected ways.
Before long I learned of an art studio for rent. Something bizarre happened as I was mulling over the decision whether to rent the space.
Light bulbs in my apartment kept burning out: the kitchen light, the living room ceiling light, one lamp, then another. I'd hardly replace one when another would dim.
One evening as I was talking on the phone with a friend about my fear of signing the lease, another light bulb burnt out with an audible crackle.
The friend framed the question in a way I hadn’t thought of it--
how much would the total rent be for a year?
That gave it a manageable framework.
I signed the lease. I didn’t return to teaching in a school that fall. Instead I started building a teaching practice in the studio.
Do you have a favorite teaching moment/memory?
In over a decade of teaching there have been countless memorable moments.
One: In an after school arts class I was able to create for a New York City public high school, there was a student who was extremely shy in class.
Jenni [a pseudonym] spoke quietly when she spoke at all.
She usually looked down at her work, disengaged from the frenetic high school vibe in the classroom.
I loved the crowd-control magic teaching New York City high school students requires, having to hook their interest and
keep it sustained with humor, quick pacing and clear instructions to keep everyone busy and engaged. (The room was over-flowing with students and there was a waiting list to get into the class.)
A quiet student stands out in that environment.
Jenni enrolled in my after school art class two years in a row. The second year I taught a unit on knitting. She took to it with abandon.
Observing this, I asked her to assist me when I circulated around the room responding to students’ knitting dilemmas
(e.g. “How do I cast on again?” “Did I drop a stitch?”).
Having two of us to answer to questions was more efficient.
This however, wasn’t the primary reason I gave her the role; I thought she might enjoy the responsibility and benefit from knowing she had something to offer her peers with a directed path to do so.
She gained a reputation as an amazing knitter. Suddenly Jenni was entering the classroom with other students as pals.
“Miss, look what Jenni made,” they would boast. “She knits everywhere!”
That handicraft was her ticket to crack the shell of shyness. (There may have been other factors, a confluence of events.) She wasn’t shy afterward at all!
If there was something you could tell yourself 8 years ago that you know now, what advice would you give yourself?
May I turn this question around? I like to look to the future.
Right now the Future Self might say to the Present:
put your story out there. Be bold!
From delicate lingerie to durable snow pants,
I’ve been making everything I wear--
not buying any clothing for eight years.
I’d love to share more about this journey.
What advice do you give to people just starting to sew?
Start with something simple--
when I have students new to sewing I teach them the basics by showing them how how to measure and draft a custom pattern for a pillow.
This uses the same techniques they will draw upon if they decide to delve deeply into pattern making.
I’m helping them build a foundation.
I recommend Kwik Sew patterns for beginners.
Their instructions tend to be very clear.
Sewing is a practice. Keep at it.
There’s always a balance between accomplishment and challenge.
Small steps will give you a necessary sense of confidence and large leaps will make you question your ability.
Combine these and your skills will grow!
I read you've been involved with the Fixer's Collective. Back when I lived in Chicago, I had the opportunity to be involved with a fixer's group called, Community Glue. I loved this monthly "appointment" that carved out fix it time. Is this something you're still involved with? How can people begin one in their neighborhood?
I volunteered with Fixer’s Collective for years. Such a great organization! I was the Master Seamstress. I began to host mending workshops in my studio where we had the space for a lot of people to be sewing together. This fall I’m starting up a new series of these classes.
I would need to really think about what advice to give if someone wanted to form something like FC in their area. I joined the collective at the outset, but I wasn’t the person who started it.
I loved your video tutorials and Conscientious Consumer series. You have a great way of conveying information with text and visuals, and the music, the handclap - so perfect. Very concise, relaxing, calming, and positive. Did you enjoy doing them? Any more on the horizon?
Thank you for watching the videos! I love making them. I have worked with two talented directors/videographers to film the videos. Collaborating with them has been a gift. I would like to make more. The filmmakers have moved on to a large project. I need to find more collaborators to work with and funding for future videos. Know anyone?
Back in March you wrote asking what a Slow Style sabbatical might look like? Have you taken one? If so, how did it look, how did you feel?
It was funny to be reminded of this. I’m writing a book that partially comes out of the experience of trying to return to buying clothing after 8 years of making. It’s a guide for consumers that illustrates how to look past the price tag and brand name to find quality. Also woven into the narrative is the story of my Slow Style project.
I continue to make all of my garments, expanding the practice and experimenting with new designs. Perhaps there will be a gradual shift into buying a few items.
Slow Style is such a rewarding endeavor. After three weeks of working exclusively on writing the book, this week I made a dress. It was a tremendous joy to return to the sewing machine, building with my hands, transforming a rectangle of linen into a garment.
Finally, if there are any thoughts yet that you'd like to share, please do!
When you buy, satisfaction is instantaneous, but tends to fade.
When you make what you use, the joy mounts and your skills develop.
The process is energizing.
Evidence of your time, learning and imagination energize
the object you made.
Find something you love to make.
Today before I opened the computer to begin a writing session,
I treated myself to sewing a bandanna
with a narrow rolled hem and mitered corners.
Morning meditation at the sewing machine.
Making is breathing through the hands.
Below is one of Sarah Kate's video tutorials on how to mark tailor tacks.
She really has a knack for visual storytelling and I know this style and skill will translate beautifully into her upcoming book.
Well done and thank you so much, Sarah Kate Beaumont, for generously sharing your time and experiences with us.
If you'd like to keep up with Sarah Kate, please visit her at
Thank You for being here and see you next Monday for more inspiring, informative stories and resources to help us move towards a better relationship with our clothes, our resources, and our global community.
Until then, find us at the usual places.
This here is a celebration at the intersection of