Something Very NewNew from the NewNew for March

March has come in like a lion, and The {NewNew} York Etsy Team is "roaring" to go! This month, The {NewNew} Blog will be offering fabulous giveaways TWICE A WEEK from many of its talented members. From unique ceramics to glamorous jewelry to incredible paintings...each post will bring you a chance to win a {NewNew} item from some of the best Etsy shops in New York! Please share these amazing contests with others, and please visit this blog often for updates!

We kick off this Month of Giveaway Madness by featuring well known {NewNew} member MAY LUK a Brooklyn based ceramic artist who creates a line called TAKE ME HOMEWARE.
May Luk's shop is full of handmade, curiously decorated, functional pottery items including attractive contemporary slipware, adorned with art inspired by antique advertising and illustrations.
May Luk has this to say about herself: "I started to get my hands into clay when living in London, I studied ceramics at Kensington & Chelsea College and Glasgow School of Art. I loved the medium, the combination of art and science, hours of experimentation mixing glaze and colors, each resulting piece a series of creative decisions and technical endeavors. I found it an ideal way to use my background in illustration, producing pieces that have an emphasis on image making and graphic decorations."
The wares are white stoneware or porcelain clay. They are fired to cone 8 - 1272°C [2320°F] in an electric kiln. The glazes are food and dishwasher safe and lead-free.
All the ceramics in May Luk's shop are artistic and unique. They are not mass-produced by automatic machines and big corporations. They will enhance your domestic environment, impress your friends and increase the deliciousness of your food.
May Luk sometimes collaborates with another {NewNew} member, Cakehouse.
who produces second hand textiles repurposed as hand printed home accessories.

What better way to set a fresh and exciting Spring table than with items from May Luk's shop? AND GUESS WHAT? YOU CAN WIN THESE TWO GREAT PIECES!
A pair of his and her ditsy bowls for holding all your precious things. These will make a beautiful addition to your home.

Make sure you are a current follower of this blog. Visit May Luk's shop and take a look at all of her beautiful work. Then come back here and post below in comments and let us know what your favorite item is. You may comment one time only, but if you tweet or blog about this giveaway you get an extra entry, so mention that in your comment! CONTEST ENDS MARCH 7. Sorry- US entries only.

Good Luck!

Red, White, and {New New}

With Independence Day just around the corner, enjoy this star-spangled selection of red, white, and blue wonders from members of the {NewNEW}.

Better Than Jam, Metal Sugar, MilkMade, paperelle, wish by Felicity, Karen's Monsters, cakehouse, Mary Savel, knitknit

-MaryAnne LoVerme

wardrobe refashion: t-shirt recon

i found this tee in one of my local thrift shops:

i loved the kitties on the sides, but it was too big for me. my standard fix for a shirt that's too roomy is to just hack off the sleeves, take it in at the side seams, and re-attach the sleeves (or leave it sleeveless). but that was impossible with the placement of the kitties. so i had to figure out a different plan of attack on this shirt.

i began as usual by cutting the sleeves off at the seams, but then also cut through the shoulder seams, which made it into a big tube.

i then opened it up and reoriented it so that the kitties were in the front and back, instead of on the sides:

then i went about taking it in, first by marking it at the bust line with my measurement....

...then by doing some very (not) precise pinning of the shoulders and sides while wearing it inside out:

i sewed in the new shoulder and side seams, and that was that! a slightly tricky project brought to completion. i left the neckline raw because i like that look, but i could have finished it with a quick hem or some bias tape.

just goes to show: there's more than one way to skin a cat. (sorry, couldn't resist...).

- cakehouse

Artist interview with Kristen from Cakehouse

Kristen, from Cakehouse, and I were able to have a great chat several weeks ago about how she transforms vintage sheets from the Salvation Army into lovely screen-printed napkins and other soft home goods. Just after, we met up at the Brooklyn Flea where I got to check out her products in person. Recycling vintage sheets is not only a great way to bring eco-consciousness to the table, but you also get the gorgeously soft hand-feel of the softest cotton as a result of lots of washing. With lovely llamas, foxes and cats screen-printed in the corner, they are a must-have for any table setting.

Alexandra: OK, tell me a bit about how your business got started.

Kristen, cakehouse: I guess to really see the genesis of the whole thing, I have to go back a few years... I had been working in publishing, which was something I had fallen into and was starting to not enjoy. So I quit and went to FIT for the textile design program (which was fabulous). But I wasn't sure what I was going to do when I graduated, because I didn't want to design on a computer, and I didn't really want to work for someone else. Thankfully I was spared having to make that decision by getting pregnant about 7 months before I finished school! ;) So I stayed home with my son for 3 years, and slowly formed the idea in my head of doing something handmade---during those three years, I started going on craftser and other sites, learned about etsy, and became more and more familiar with the indie craft community, and knew it was somewhere I could see myself. so when my son went to pre-school in the fall of ‘07, I traded in my childhood savings bonds for a laptop and a vintage sewing machine and dove in.

Textile design is so fun. There are so many gorgeous fabrics out there.

I know! it was definitely all of the amazing vintage textiles that I found in thrift shops that led me to the focus of my work.

Speaking of thrift shops, I know you re-purpose a lot of materials to make your products. How do you find your materials? What criteria do you have when shopping to help you decide what will be used and what won’t?

95% of my fabrics come from the good old Salvation Army, in the form of sheets and pillowcases and bedspreads. I am a total thrift store devotee---I get all of my clothes and most of my son's clothes and tons of the things in our house at the thrift shop. my mom always took me when I was little, and I’ve always loved the sense of discovery when you find something wonderful and unique. And now that I’m older I appreciate the value of re-using rather than buying new. My criteria mainly is that the patterns need to be appealing and in that 50s-60s-70s aesthetic wheelhouse. And they mostly have to be lighter-colored patterns, with an all-over motif that will work well with one of my silk-screened designs printed over it. And, of course, it can't be excessively stained or ripped... ;) though I will buy a sheet that I am totally in love with even if it's torn or stained and I can only get maybe 1 or 2 sets of napkins out of it.... ;)

There can be some amazing things in thrift stores, but you often have to dig through a lot of junk to find it. Are there some neighborhoods that have better thrift stores than others?

Oh yeah, there's a lot of digging.... thankfully, I live three blocks from a great and relatively undiscovered Salvation Army. I think I’m the only person to shop in the sheets aisle... Generally, Salvation Armies are the best for my needs. Goodwills carry hardly any sheets at all, and in general are less interesting to me because they get a lot of donations of overstock from stores, so you're less likely to find things with a lot of personality. The best thrift stores I have found, actually, are in Philly.... and thankfully, one of my best friends lives there, so I can go visit her and call it a business trip. hee.

Oh, and Florida! My mom lives down there, and I always get to as many shops as possible when I visit. Those little old ladies downsizing from big houses into condos give away some great things.... actually, I thrift on vacation whenever possible. I found this great site,, where you can put in a zip code and it tells you all of the local thrift shops. brilliant!

It’s a great excuse to go shopping. People get rid of some amazing things. Have you noticed any difference between wealthier neighborhoods or less fancy ones? I always wanted to hit up the Greenwich Salvation Army and see what they are throwing out...

Wealthier neighborhoods are as hit or miss as any others, in the long run, I think. I’ve found just as wonderful things in the Salvation Army in my neighborhood (which is definitely not wealthy) as in the ones on the Upper East Side. It all depends. I think a good amount of the good loot being given away in wealthier neighborhoods goes to consignment shops, rather than thrift shops. And the ones in wealthier areas are definitely pricier!

So once you have found an amazing sheet, what is the next step?

Once I have a sheet, I take it home and wash it with natural detergent and a natural enzyme cleaner, and hang it out in the yard to dry. I’m so lucky to have a yard with a clothesline. I don't know if I could function without it, nothing makes things smell as good as being hung out on a line.... Then I take it in and cut it up into napkin-sized pieces (with my trusty rotary cutter...), or a combo of napkin-sized and placemat-sized pieces. Then I print one of my animals on, cure the ink in the dryer (the only thing I use my dryer for at this point), and sew them up.

Tell me more about your printing process...

I have a great silk-screening table---it's an old iron table that I got on from a photographer who was dismantling his studio. On that is a wooden top that my husband and son made to my specifications, into which I’ve screwed some clamps that hold the screens steady. I’ve marked out on the table in black masking tape where exactly I need to place my fabric rectangles to get the motifs in the same place on each one---this is especially important in the 2-color designs, which need to be printed with two different screens, so the fabric needs to be in exactly the same place for printing with the 2nd screen as it was for the 1st screen. I’m totally anal about getting my two-color designs to match up (getting proper "registration", as it's called). I get more frustrated than I probably should when things don't line up and I know I can't use that piece of fabric.... I think it's because I have such a limited supply of each fabric. Anyway, I mix most of the colors myself, and though I coordinate them to the fabrics, I don't drive myself nuts trying to match exactly. I only do the printing myself. I don't burn the designs into the screens myself. I don't have the equipment for it, and don't feel like I’m ready to invest in that yet. So for now I have a great local screen printer, Roxanne of roxy's tees, burn my screens for me in her studio.

I would love to learn how to screen print one day. It’s such a science.

It is! it was my first class at FIT, and I fell in love with it. I was just saying we should do a new new screen-printing class....

Sign me up. You mentioned your son--how do you find balancing home life with your company?

It's difficult sometimes to balance the boy and the work. One of my goals for this year is to really put a strong line in the sand between my work time and my time with Wile. He's only in school 3 days a week, so on his days off, because my studio is in our house, and my laptop is always there, it's really tempting for me to try to get some work done.... but I’m trying to resist that. My time with him, when he is so little, is more valuable than anything to do with my business. I know it's a cliché, but childhood goes by so quickly---I’m still shocked every time I remember that he's going to be 5 this year... so I’m doing my best to be ultra-productive on my work days, when he's in school, and to put the laptop away when I’m with him. My husband has been really supportive of me, carting me and my tent and my tables all over creation to this fair and that fair, and/or taking Wile for the day while I’m selling in person. Fairs definitely cut into our weekend family time, but they're a big part of my business right now.

That leads to my next question... where else could people find your products, other than Etsy?

I’m doing a booth at the Brooklyn flea with may luk ceramics and box design (custom furniture from the people who brought us beacon bookmarks....), the third weekend of April, May, and June, and I’ll be doing two big spring fairs: Art Star Craft Bazaar in Philly, and Renegade here in Brooklyn. I’ve also gotten into some great stores: Youngblood gallery and boutique in Atlanta, and Renegade handmade and Sprout home in Chicago, both of which carry my things in their online shops as well. I’m aiming toward building my wholesale/consignment business. Though I love Etsy and want to always maintain a presence there, it's hard to keep up with the photographing and listing process when everything I make, I only make 4 or 5 sets of, because I only have that much of each fabric....

It’s really neat that everything you make is by nature limited edition.

I do really like that aspect of it, it makes them even more special.

Why should people buy handmade? What would you tell them?

To feel a connection with the object. To know that someone put thought and care into it, that it wasn't created by a marketing team to appeal to the masses, but by an individual with a unique creative viewpoint. And I have a personal relationship with all of the objects in my home and all of the items in my closet, and it makes me happy to look at something and think "oh, I remember buying that from so-and-so at that craft fair, they were so awesome."

Do you plan to expand into any other product categories or new screen designs? Where do you want to take your company next?

I’m about to have two new screens burned: a dachshund, and letters for monograms. I’ve done a few monograms in the past, but haven't had a screen, so I hand-painted them, which is crazy-making. so I’m excited to have the screens done. I love letters and typeface and fonts, so I’m really excited to incorporate those. And the dachshund is for my husband, who has a thing for them.... as far as new products, I’m working on wall hangings---for the people who look at my napkins and say "they're too pretty to use!"---and squares, which will be single-layer squares of fabric that can be used as a handkerchief or a bandana.

Next up? I’d like to eventually have someone coming in and sewing for me (which would mean actually coming up with patterns/guidelines instead of eyeing everything like I do now, ay yi yi!). And like I mentioned, I’d like to do more wholesale/consignment. I’d also like to eventually move my studio out of my house---though it's super convenient, it would be nice to have a more tangible divide between work and home. and I’ve always wanted to have my own shop. When I was little I dreamed that it would be a clothing shop, but now I dream of somewhere I could sell the things I make, and things I love that other people make...

Do you have any creative tricks that you could share?

I’d say that what has helped me be the most creative has been finding a niche that really appeals to me. Once I put together my philosophy and aesthetic---vintage, repurposed, home---the ideas just started flowing. Find what you love, and don't be afraid to run with it. Others will love it too. And: don't go anywhere without a pen and paper!

Where do you want to be in ten years?

In Brooklyn, still part of this awesome indie craft community, seeing my friends and still creating things that we love and being able to support ourselves with it---seeing more people being able to do that!

craft on draught!

last thursday, i attended a really fun crafting event: the first craft on draught night at spacecraft in south williamsburg. with me were two other {newnew} refashioners: kayte of this is love forever and kari of ikyoto.

craft on draught is a series of crafting parties, co-sponsored by the {newnew}, that promise "the ultimate happy hour of destruction, reconstruction, and social mixing!" as you can see here, it was just that:

your admission fee gives you access to a huge heap of awesome donated fabric and clothes, tons of trimmings, and all the tools and supplies you could desire, from needles and thread to hot glue guns. some people used all these goodies to give new life to old clothes, while others chose to create entirely new garments.

here's me with kayte and kari and our creations:

i turned my old mock-turtleneck sweater into a cardigan with the help of a giant button and some reverse applique. kayte gave a stripey dress some sequin-infused appliques made from a gorgeous marimekko print. kari took a shirt and some coordinating fabric and put them together to make a cropped summer cardigan. do you see the horse print on that shirt? there really were some amazing materials to work with. we ripped, we sewed, we laughed, we drank pbr. all in all, the perfect night.

hope to see you there for the next one. it will be at 3rd ward on thursday may 7th, and will focus on felting old wool clothing. come and catch the refashioning spirit!

- cakehouse

Meet your {NewNew}

meet alex of alexandra ferguson!

alex and i had a really fun chat the other night, dishing about everything to do with her business and her fantastic, eye-catching, recycled-felt applique pillows.

so, let's start at the beginning... were you crafty as a kid? do you remember the first thing you ever made?
My mom was always super crafty with us as kids---I'm not sure if I was crafty by my own inspiration, but there was always some project going on. She was a patternmaker before she got married, so she would make loads of clothes for us, and we were subjected to fittings, which were really annoying because we kept getting stuck with pins. And there was always something baking in the kitchen. The first thing I made...that's really hard. I was in art classes since I was a baby, but my memory hadn't kicked in was probably a painting

did you study arts or design in college?
I went to NYU, which doesn't really have a good art program, but they do have an amazing photography division in the Tisch school. I did a mixture of photography and sociology because I wanted to be a photojournalist. I did do a summer at RISD to do fashion illustration and computer graphics, that turned out to be much more relevant to my career since the New York Times didn't hire me and fashion did...

so what is your day job currently?
I work freelance as a tech designer for a huge fashion company that sells to Kohl's and Walmart. Before that I worked at Rebecca Taylor and Zac Posen as a tech designer and studio manager. But I am reducing my hours more and more as my pillow company takes off. I now only work 2 days a week in the city, and the rest is pillow time.

oh, that's fantastic that you're able to make the transition to more pillow time... do you find that anything you do in your day job influences your pillow work?
For sure...making a pillow and making a dress aren't all that different really. As a studio manager, part of my job was to look over the sewer's shoulder and check the quality as they go. It also gave me a really good understanding of how to run a company, from initial concept through production. Working in fashion developing a product that would be sold in the market has given me a lot of confidence to put my own product out there for sale.

did you ever consider doing clothing as your personal craft/design work?
NO! My housewares company is my ticket out of fashion. Fashion can get really rough.

so when and how did you decide to get into the pillow biz? and how did you settle on pillows over any other kind of housewares?
It was totally by accident. I decided to make my best friend some pillows to girl-ify her apartment and it was so fun so I kept going and made everyone pillows for Christmas, and then just when I had put my sewing machine away my best friend's sister saw my original pillows and told me about Etsy know the rest! Now that I have the aesthetic down, I am slowly expanding into other categories beyond pillows. Next up are tote bags and little zipper cases, and after that I want to tackle table settings. I have a table setting fetish.

did you know from the beginning that you wanted to use recycled materials?
That was an accident too. I ordered so much felt from my supplier that they just sent the whole bolt, which had the manufacturer information on it. So I looked them up and discovered all this information about how it is recycled! It is such a win-win situation--it is really great quality felt (so much better than the store-bought stuff that my friend got) with a beautiful color palette AND its recycled?? Awesome.

very cool. do you plan to stick with recycled/repurposed fabrics for all of the items in your line as you expand?
If I can keep to organic or recycled fibers I will, but I don't want to price myself out of the market either so it depends on what I can source with a quality that I like. Realistically, I am sure I will have to have non-recycled materials at some point in the collection. But I'll be sure to note for the consumer what is recycled and what isn't.

how do you come up with the inspiration for your designs?
They come from everywhere. You can put anything on a pillow, really. I always keep my ear perked for neat lyrics or expressions for the pillow talk collection. For the botanical collection, i have a bunch of books with gorgeous flower photography that provides endless inspiration. sometimes an idea will pop out of nowhere--sometimes those are the best ideas.

do you have any creative thinking tricks you'd like to share? when you get stuck in a creative rut/drought, how do you get out of it?
My best creative trick is to invest in the right tools for your trade. I kept struggling with my sewing machine stretching and and distorting my applique shapes, and then I decided to buy a teflon foot and, much like a cheeseburger, the stickiness went away. Amazing. Jumping on the rotary blade bandwagon had the same satisfaction. I am so lucky to have not gotten stuck in a creative rut yet, but I am sure it will happen. In the meantime, I am keep copious lists of all my ideas now, so that when I run out of new ones I can go back and reference those ones.

i saw that your "i heart my soldier" pillow is inspired by your brother. is he deployed at the moment? have you sent him a pillow?
He was in iraq for 15 months but came back in October. He is stationed in Germany now with his wife. He does have a pillow but not that one ;). As soon as I have time to build up my inventory I want to send him both that one as well as the Army Wife one. I'll be advertising every time they have a dinner party. The military community is really tight knit...

glad to hear your brother is somewhere safer. have you gotten any feedback on those pillows from military families so far?
People in the military that know me through my brother really dig them, but they havent been big on Etsy. It must be a demographic thing.

so you make everything yourself at this point, right? would you like to get to the point where you have people working with you? where do you see the business in five/ten years?
Yeah, I am a one man band, although my friend will cut out patterns for me sometimes, and my boyfriend once assembled some hangtags. I plan to bring in an assistant to work side by side with me part time soon, I have some calls out. I'll still cut everything out myself because I can't let go, but I'll let them do the stitching.

do you sell mostly on etsy now, or are you selling wholesale/consignment as well?
I have a showroom in Dallas that I started with about a month ago, so I am definitely keen to build my wholesale business. Once that gets set up, I want to find showrooms in NY and LA, but one at a time. I always want to sell on Etsy though, not just out of fondness for the place that started me off, but also because it is a great way to read the market, see what styles people respond to and which ones they don't. Plus, selling retail is better than selling wholesale ;)

speaking of selling, what is your biggest seller? what design do people seem to love the most? Hands down, my best seller are the monogram pillows. It is so fun working with my customers as they pick colorways. After that, the Bud Explosion series as well as the Be Nice or Leave pillows are a big success.

tell me about your workspace—where do you work? what would be your dream workspace? I think I am in my dream workspace! I work out of my mom's house in her separated two car garage that she turned into a studio for herself a couple years ago. now its my studio, mother/daughter relationships are awesome that way. We hand painted the walls and stenciled the floors, and I have a wood burning stove to keep me cozy, and when it is nice out (like today!) I open up the sliding glass doors and move my sewing machine out onto the deck and sew with my sunglasses on.

i'm completley jealous. so what do you find to be the most challenging part of running your own business?
Keeping up! I am trying to hit all the grass roots marketing resources like blogs, flickr, twitter, facebook....I definitely spend more time on the computer working than I do actually designing and sewing. I also need to redesign my website to get that up to snuff, and I want to make it an e-commerce site, but I just have to find the time. Right now I work 7 days a week until 1 or 2am every night trying to get through it all. The hours are the same that I put in when I worked as a studio manager in fashion, but it hurts so much less when you are doing it for your own company. I guess the discipline to work hard is another thing fashion industry did to prepare me for this....

if you were trying to convince someone to shop handmade, what would you tell them? and what is your most beloved handmade item that you own but didn't make yourself? I love handmade because it is so much more interesting and different than what you can find out on the market! Mass manufacturing has its place in this world, but not so much in my apartment (when I can avoid it!) Plus you can work directly with the artist and custom make something just for you. Walmart can't do that. I grew up around antiques that were all handmade, so its super hard to choose a favorite. But I think it would have to be the dining table that I grew up with. It was an old work station for a carpenter, and has all his dings and dents. Plus we contributed as kids--my brother's name is scratched down one of the legs.

and lastly: what is something about you that surprises people when they find it out? That I went out on a Saturday night! They just assume now that I work 24/7. But after several years in fashion, my friends are used to it. :)

you can find alexandra on etsy and at

reported by:
- cakehouse

wardrobe refashion: small changes make a huge difference...

i bought this dress at the salvation army a few weeks ago, and though i loved the fabric and general shape, i had a couple of issues with it:
the band of dark fabric at the bottom seemed too wide, and strapless bandeau-type tops aren't the most flattering on me. so i figured out a way to solve both problems in one fell swoop.

i started by hacking off about half of the band at the bottom:

then i measured from the top of the dress to where my neck and shoulder meet, and based on that, drew a rough pattern of a halter strap, which i pinned to the fabric i had cut off:

i used a double layer of fabric, for two reasons: 1) i thought it would look right beside the thick elastic-filled top of the dress, and 2) i hate to hem. so i ended up with 4 halter strap pieces, which i sewed together at the middle and then along the edges...
...then turned inside out. and i made a boomerang! thanks for coming, next time: fabric nunchuks! hee hee.
to attach them without the stitches showing, i sewed them to the edge of the interior seam at the top of the dress, where the elastic band met the main fabric:

then i hemmed up the bottom edge, and ended up with a dress that i love!

- cakehouse

in the kitchen with the {newnew}: espresso shortbread

though i first made them for christmas gifts, these very grown-up cookies seem tailor-made for valentine's day. they'd be right at home next to a big cappuccino or latte on a breakfast-in-bed tray, or tucked into a bowl of ice cream for dessert. your valentine will thank you....


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 cup ground espresso
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (or use chips)

1) beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until creamy and smooth (about 2 minutes). add the vanilla and beat well. on low speed, mix in the flour, espresso, and salt until just combined.

2) scrape the the dough out of the mixing bowl with a spatula, making sure all ingredients are incorporated. form it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least two hours.

3) preheat oven to 300˚. roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4" thick (it should be about an 8" x 10" rectangle). using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 2" squares and place 1" apart on ungreased baking sheets. prick them with a fork, and bake until pale golden around the edges, about 20-24 minutes. cool completely on a wire rack.

4) when the shortbread is cool, melt the chocolate on medium-low heat in the microwave until liquid---about 2-1/2 minutes in my microwave, possibly faster in yours. dip half of each shortbread square into the chocolate. as you get down to the bottom of the bowl, use a spatula to scrape out the dregs of the chocolate and coat the last of the cookies. though the picture below shows them cooling on a rack post-chocolate, i found the chocolate stuck to the rack, and had better luck when i cooled them on wax paper in future batches.

- cakehouse