If you look hard enough around California’s Central Coast, you’ll find a small sewing workshop, located in a garage in the beach town of Los Osos. Inside this unassuming room- one filled with sewing machines, scraps of fabric, maybe even some old cigar boxes- you’ll also find a steadfast seamstress named Connie Brown.
You might find Connie mending a police officer’s uniform or sorting parts to fix a vintage Singer, but you definitely won’t find her stitching from a seat. As Connie herself puts it:
“I have to be able to move around and get things, so I don’t sit at work- I stand. Usually at all times. I even put my machines up on a shelf.”
Connie is an avid thrift store shopper, but we’re hoping she’s recently invested in some new shoes. That’s because Connie isn’t only running her own alterations shop anymore, she’s also the heart of Morrocco Method’s newest Upcycle Purpose Project: Chopstick Connie. Somehow, we convinced Connie to sit down for a conversation with us- in hopes that we could really get to know the tailor behind the ties.
When did you start getting into sewing, or how did it become a career?
I came from a family of sewers- my family had a sewing business for draperies out of our house. I started sewing around 7th, maybe 8th grade. We used to make our own patterns out of newspapers- our favorites were bell-bottom pants! We’d lay one leg on newspaper, trace around it, flip it over and repeat. That was our pattern. I’ve been sewing for 17 years out of my house now.
Besides Chopstick Connie, what’s one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on?
I made a tiger costume for the principal at a local High School once for Halloween. I also have a quilt I made out of polyester pants! It’s one of my “crazy quilts,” everything is mismatched and then sewn together. I don’t throw ANYTHING away.
Were you already into upcycling before teaming up with MM for Chopstick Connie?
Yes. Everything we make in-house is recyclable, like re-done furniture. I like to take cigar boxes or variety boxes from thrift shops and turn them into different things. I can take a shirt, turn it inside out and put the buttons on the other side.
“We just recycle everything here. I think you can look at the surroundings around you and use your imagination. It can be whatever you want it to be; you can use it for what it’s for, or you can use it for something else. That’s my logic in it, to look passed what it is.
You must have a favorite second-hand shop in the area then.
Yes! My favorite is The Hope Chest in San Luis Obispo. I buy old sewing machines at swap meets, too. I can get them for about $20. I know how to fix my own machines. I have a couple I’ve redone for my granddaughters, and I keep some around the house as portables, or use them for parts. I’m always recycling.
So, even your sewing machines are recycled or from thrift shops?
Well, I have a few. I have an 80-year-old SINGER with a knee-press that I’ve been using for 17 years. I also have a KENMORE that’s 60 years-old, and then I have a big one outside that I got about 17 years ago, a CONSEW. It’s for fixing sailboats- I mend holes on Sails. It’s got a 30-inch arm and a motor and it sits on a big table so I can move around and get to the middle of a sail.
Sounds like you can sew just about anything! What made you want to get involved in Chopstick Connie?
Anthony asked me to make him a chopstick holder, and I just saw a tie laying around- that was where it all started.
“I wanted something that would have such character and look nice on the table and be a conversation piece. Each one has a personality to them and not one’s alike. You can’t beat the fabric either, they’re 100% silk, really quality pieces.”
Do you pick the fabrics and the accent buttons for each Tie Chopstick Holder?
Anthony picks all the ties, he does such a great job of finding them. And the buttons? Depends on what it looks like on the fabric. The buttons we use are wood and muscle shells. We find them just about everywhere. I usually see if I can find them from second-hand shops, or I order from different sites.
How long does it take to make each Tie Chopstick Holder, and which is one is your favorite?
It depends on each tie, the fabric and the creation of each one is different, but probably about an hour. My favorite is the original- a blue-green tie with Hawaiian flowers! I haven’t found one I like in particular because I like them all!
What do you want people to know about The Upcycle Purpose Project?
“I think when things are right- they’re right, and it just works. Look passed what things are. I think that’s what the key is, to not copy what everyone else has. I think it’s a beautiful idea that people can come up with things- really anything if they use their imagination.”
You can help fight disposable chopstick deforestation one necktie at a time- thanks to Anthony and Chopstick Connie! Get your own, one-of-a-kind Tie Chopstick Holder on Morrocco Method‘s Upcycle Purpose Project site!