Blanket Statement I love blankets. Blankets are functional textile displays of the individual heritage alive in every culture of the world. I make blankets that are just that. Created from used textiles collected from discarded clothing that is so prolific in our wasteful way here in the grand 'ole US of A.09.07.15.Trip.1

I cut up wool, cashmere, alpaca, and mohair sweaters, jeans, corduroys and anything else made with mostly natural, nice quality cloth. Cut shapes are pieced, even collaged, together using one of several alternative sewing techniques developed over the last 25 years.

Function is key so the processes used are geared toward long lasting use and heirloom quality. These materials and techniques are used to create blankets from the smallest crib sized snugglers to larger bed sized blankets. The process translates well to wearable pieces, smaller in scale allow for more detailed and intricacy.

The BEST news is that Shire City Sanctuary is hosting my Blanket, Shawl, and Scarf Immersion Workshop on September 26 and 27!


Students will be introduced to an array of construction techniques using hand and machine sewing on home and industrial sewing equipment.

Pieces will be cut with scissors, rotary cutting tools, and even die cut using a clicker press. The workshop spans two full days filled with creative high jinx literally turning a pile of clean laundry into a beautiful stack of handmade blankets, shawls, and scarves!

The process is empowering and deeply connected to our shared cultural history. Finished pieces most often contain pieces cut from many garments that have been worn and discarded by others. There is nostalgia in there, a history of a time past and a person who contributed cloth to the project in the act of discarding their garment.

Materials are affordable, common and accessible. Construction techniques are skillfully taught without judgment or pressure. There is no experience necessary although sewing machine comfort is helpful.

The use of all tools and materials are included in the cost of tuition, however, if specific colors are needed students are asked to bring those materials with them. All materials should be machine washed and dried prior to the workshop.

Register here:

Feel free to leave a comment below if you have questions or would like additional information about this workshop. Oh and if you miss this one, my 2016 Workshop schedule will be released Sept 30 – stay tuned!

Job Opportunity - Seeking Super~Ninja

Shire City Sanctuary is seeking a Super-Ninja to replace our current Super-Ninja, Cate, who is off to seek her fortune next month. The skillset/character traits required for this position are listed below. The position is full time, hours are 11-7 daily, closed Wednesdays and Sundays. Cate the Super NInja Screen Printing during 10x10 Festival at Shire City Sanctuary



  • Eloquent Smart, Positive, Honest, Confident and Clear, Friendly, Sincere and Fun-Loving
  • Greeting/Meeting visitors, giving tours
  • Writes kick-ass Press Releases
  • Gives good phone
  • Represents Shire City Sanctuary in community



  • Keeper of open hours at Shire City Sanctuary
  • Keeper of Shire City Sanctuary Calendar including Promotional/Press
  • Schedules weekly/monthly workings of Shire City Sanctuary



  • Physically strong
  • Organizes space for events, ie, moves furniture
  • Weekly Trash, Recyclables, Cleaning inside and outside of building
  • Plant watering


Cyber Savvy -



  • Screen Printing Knowledge/Interest
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Graphic Design
  • Sewing Knowledge/Interest



  • Curates/Assists onsite gallery shows
  • Heads-up Event Production
  • Manages Makerspace and oversees Rectory (next door)

job Opportunity at Shire City Sanctuary

Send letter of interest with resume or CV to

Shire City Sanctuary is The Berkshires first Makerspace housing a Screen Printing Shop, Sewing Lab, and Commercial Kitchen, with Meeting, Workshop, and Event Space. We are located in a former Roman Catholic church in the heart of Pittsfield, MA. Crispina ffrench and her husband Chris Swindlehurst own Shire City Sanctuary and rectory next door that has been converted into 6 apartments.

Blessed Life weekend I taught a Sweater Chop Shop to a group of friends who gathered in my studio for two full days of hands-on used sweater alchemy. We had a blast chatting, telling stories, sharing memories and the sweaters they made were fantastic! It was such a wonderful way to connect scattered friends – sharing creativinty a lot of laughter. The weekend flew by and each person left with a unique, handmade garment that they had made in a circle with their friends. Magical.

Think about planning a creative weekend with us and a group of your friends! Choose from all manner of workshops offered at Shire City Sanctuary and stay near-by at one of the many options for accommodations. We can help you plan you trip! Shire City Sanctuary is The Berkshires’ first Makerspace focusing on textile arts and silkscreen printing. My hubby Chris and I own the property – a former Roman Catholic cathedral in the heart of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts 'Uptown Cultural District'. The church houses a sewing lab, screen printing shop, commercial kitchen and event space. We turned the rectory next door into 6 separate living units with a lovely garden with outdoor sitting areas.

Once this post goes live, I’ll be packing my bag for a trip to California to meet up with my family and head to Craftcation at the end of the week. Stay tuned for posts about our adventures.

Blog Theme - Handsewing, Tatting, Embroidery, Cross Stitch

Sweater Chop Shop at Shire City Sanctuary Last Friday and Saturday Shire City Sanctuary hosted my workshop entitled The Sweater/ Sweatshirt Chop Shop. As with all my workshops, a whole bunch of overwhelmingly amazing students turned up from far flung places from West Stockbridge, Ma to Northern Ontario! We spent two solid days delving into creative high-jinx cutting and hand sewing garments from the thrift shop into personalized wearable art.  Finished pieces were as noteworthy as makers, ranging in age from 13-60 this time around.

Witnessing the empowerment that free-range creativity has on a roomful of willing workers makes me know this teaching path is the right one for me. Hand sewing is magic in my summation. The simple act of pushing thread through fabric with nothing more than ones hands can transform a flat piece to anything imaginable. Inexpensive, Simple, Transformative, and Ancient.  Magic Certainly.

Maybe you are a hand sewer? What is your favorite kind of hand sewing? Each Friday, a column here called One Thousand Words features a collection of images submitted by readers based on that week’s theme. Send an image with 1000 Words in the subject line by Wednesday night to Crispina for inclusion this week!01.06.15 Handsewing 2

pure Creative Joy

The best gift I can imagine is an uninterrupted day in the studio.  One single day of pure creating time.  No kids home from school, no phone calls, no visitors, no contractors making messy noises, no questions, no meetings, just joy in making.  It’s coming soon!  I can feel it. The seemingly endless construction/renovation of the church my hubby and I own, started in March 2012 will wind up tomorrow.  (Can that really be TRUE?!)  Once I see that last fire door completely installed hardware and all, once that is visable with my own two eyes, Jim Harwood, our trusty architect, will come over for a final walk-through.  He’ll check to be sure that every last detail of our plan has been carried out to his specifications.  Then he’ll draft a letter to The City of Pittsfield stating that the work is complete.  The buiding and fire departments will collaborate (highly unusual in our fair city) and draft us up a bonifide Certificate of Occupancy.  I think it might go in the church entryway on display with a 24kt gold frame!  Holy SHIT!  Never did I expect this project to be so consuming for such a very long time!  Wowsers!  I can’t say WE DID IT! yet, but I do think that by the end of the month that is what I’ll be singing, no, BELLOWING from our rooftop!  Three cheers for progress!

Once we have that blessed little bit of Occupancy Permit Paper in our hot little fist, the party planning begins!  We will certainly keep all of you, out there in cyber land, in the loop and hope that many of you join us to celebrate the awesomeness of our church on Melville right in the heart of Pittsfield.  (I prefer to call our city Field – seems like a real positive spin on what is generally construed as a downtrodden Western MA city.  So come to Field, MA and party down with us this Spring.  Prolly going to be somewhere around Spring Equinox – stay tuned.


First Wednesday Free Give-Away ~ Workshop Starter Kit

Did you know I teach many sorts of workshops?  Subject matter is mushrooming as popularity continues to grow – from Potholder Rug Weaving to Gardener’s Vest Construction.  Seasonal specialties happen with Wreath and Ornament Construction in time to make for your Holiday giving and we have a Mothers’ Day Open Workshop on the calendar for next month!  Some of my workshops happen in my studio located in the former Notre Dame church in the heart of Shire City (better known as Pittsfield), MA.  At each Studio Workshop there is one ‘free’ tuition spot.  To take advantage of this generous offer, you just need to be financially unable to pay tuition, and the first one to ask.  In exchange we ask that you help in the studio preparing for, and cleaning up after, the workshop you attend.

 I also teach off-site and have regular gigs in a couple super cool venues.  One is with Eileen Fisher, in their Irvington NY headquarters, as part of their pretty extensive (and still growing) textile-recycling program.  Check out Green Eileen when time allows.

The Guilford Art Center in Guilford, CT is another fanciful location full of the magic of making where you will find me teaching a handful of new workshops this Spring and Summer.

Additionally I am available to teach in your location.  Does your children’s school have a budget for daylong creative adventures?  Maybe your sewing guild is up for some unconventional stitching high-jinx?  Students range in age from 5 years on up!  Contact the studio for our helpful information about planning your Crispina Workshop.

Oh and today, is the first Wednesday of April!  So this is our First Wednesday Free Give-Away!!!

If you leave a comment below this post, you will be entered in to WIN a Workshop Starter Kit (over $50 value)!  The lucky winner will receive a big  bag of amazing bits and scraps from the cutting room, a book of needles and some assorted sewing yarn  to pique your creative interest.  Tell us a little bit about what you might make and which workshop sounds best.  A winner will be chosen randomly on Friday morning from the pool of comments left below and announced via email and on Facebook.  They must have a US address for shipping and not have won anything from Crispina in the last 12 months.

Holiday Studio Sale 2012

Every year since 1989 I have hosted a studio sale for the holidays. When the event initially came to fruition its purpose was to offer local clientele an opportunity to buy my wares. At the time my business was focused on 350 domestic and international wholesale accounts, none were especially local. Many aspects of my life have morphed and changed. This year (my 23rd) Shire City Sanctuary Holiday Shindy will be held on December 8&9. Come join us in the heart of Pittsfield, MA at the former Notre Dame (Roman Catholic) church my hubby and I bought in 2006. Forty strikingly accomplished, mainly regional, artist/makers are working tirelessly to stock their coffers for our festivities. Each maker will be featured here beginning October 1 and culminating December 8th. May we pique your interest in our regional ware/fare and entice you to come shopping – in person is most fun and online works just fine too.


Oh and PS:     shin·dy  shin-dee] noun, plural shin·dies. Informal . 1. a row; rumpus. 2. a shindig.

Sweater Chop Shop - September 22

Are you looking for an inexpensive and empowering way to express yourself?  Maybe you would like to make personal and earth-conscious gifts for the upcoming holiday season?  Here is a way to be creative without prior knowledge.  Attend Crispina's Sweater Chop Shop!  The Chop Shop is taking place Saturday, September 22, 2012 at her studio, 40 Melville Street in Pittsfield.

*Special "Bring a Friend" Offer - Sign up with a friend for the Sweater Chop Shop on September 22, 2012 and you BOTH receive $10 off your tuition!

Learn how to recycle discarded sweaters into a custom fit creation!  Pre-registration is required and class-size is limited.  This full day workshop (10am -5pm) is $160 and includes a delicious lunch.  Students end the class with a finished product to take home. The use of all tools and materials are provided.  No experience necessary!  We use basic hand sewing with large needles and yarn.  We will teach you every step.  Call or email with any questions or for details about off-site, corporate, and private group teaching.

We now offer online registration!  Just click this link

Not sure you are interested in a full day workshop?  Come test the waters during our biweekly Stitching Open House!  Crispina will be welcoming people into her studio to learn a little bit more about what happens at workshops.  Try out some basic stitches, become familiar with the tools we will use, and get your hands on some yummy sweaters to see what the materials are like.  You can bring a project to work on but you don't need to bring anything at all to see what it is all about!  No registration needed.  Stitching Open Houses will take place on the first and third Tuesday of each month beginning on September 18, continuing through the end of the year.  Come by 5-6:30pm at the studio, 40 Melville Street, Pittsfield, in the former Notre Dame Church.