Hello! I’m Ronya Lake. This is the story of how I learned to sew.

Ronya Lake standing near the lake, and smiling in a handmade blouse with the wind in her hair.
My favourite spot by the lake on a windy day wearing a handmade blouse, sewn from Penina’s ‘Wind-whipped Tangles’ on Cotton Poplin

My mother is the kind of sewist that tucked homemade flannel pajamas under the Christmas tree every year. Our home was decorated with quilted table runners, and floral curtains, and when I got married her quilting group presented me with a spectacular hand-embroidered wedding quilt. She speaks of loving stitches, and what it means to hold someone in your heart as you create something beautiful for them to wear. She taught me how to sew and I dove in.

When I graduated from high school my Oma, ever practical, gifted me with a sewing machine of my own. The first thing I made was a highly impractical dress out of a bath towel. It was green and lumpy and I wore it all the time. In my university dorm, where most students had laptops, my roommate and I had our sewing machines side by side, and we memorized art history while creating thrift store upcycle masterpieces.

I danced all my life, and when I started a full-time professional training program in Vancouver, I brought my sewing machine. Costuming for dance afforded me the creative freedom to work with whatever materials, in whatever style I could imagine. By sewing for ensembles, I learned how to tailor a pattern to fit different bodies, and how to quickly trouble-shoot backstage with a pocket sewing kit, safety pins and, if all else failed, body glue. I would buy used silk parachutes at the army surplus store and make colorful silk painted dresses, sew flashlights into crinolines, and make very very long pants for stilt walkers. Sewing for stage is just so much fun.

I travelled to South Africa to study dance and to do outreach, and my sewing machine was my carry-on. The textiles in Johannesburg were spectacular, wax-print cottons and beaded sari fabric, stacked high in the markets.

Sewing has been the background of so many milestones. I made colorful Hawaiian shirts for my husband and cut up his old ones to make tiny dresses for our newborn girl. When I became a mother, I realized the importance of sewing cute matching outfits for Dad and Kiddo. I decorated my home with handmade accents, and I carry on the tradition of giving gifts made with loving stitches.

In 2020 when the lockdown started in BC, my husband was classed as an essential worker, but they had no P.P.E. I pulled the batik cotton tablecloth off our dining room table and sat down to sew him a mask. And then I just kept sewing masks. I made thousands of them.

Whereas I used to sew costumes for theatre, I found a new way to sew for the performing arts, this time contributing to a crowd-sourced pattern for singer’s masks. I sewed for choirs, musical theatre performers, tradesmen, teachers and children.

Heading to rehearsal with The Choir in a singer’s mask, sewn with Pysanky Blue by Laura May Designs

Now I sew for my family, do pattern testing and make samples to show off my textile designs. I love making purses and bags. I’ll share some of my favorite sewing patterns and introduce you to the beautiful work of some of my fellow designers. I’m looking forward to connecting with other sewists and sharing tips and techniques for working with all the beautiful fabrics.

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