#ICanDoThat Episode 3 with Sandra Sawatzky

In the third episode of #ICanDoThat we interview Sandra Sawatzky . Sandra has had a long and successful career producing and running fashion events. Her knowledge and advice in this interview is not only applicable to individuals interested in the fashion industry, but to everyone who wants to have a rewarding and successful career. Little Red Fashion introduces Little Red Village and it's first interview series #ICanDoThat on instagram. Our #ICanDoThat campaign is a one-question interview for our IGTV that asks industry professionals across disciplines to respond to the question: "What advice do you have for a kid who wants to do what you do within fashion?"


Hello and thank you for taking the time to read the transcript from our third episode of #ICanDoThat with guest Sandra Sawatzky!

We are working on a number of exciting projects at Little Red Fashion and before you jump into the transcript we wanted to share a couple of updates with you. 

In the next week or so we will be publishing a younger audience version of our #ICanDoThat interviews. We recognize that many of our conversations can be difficult to follow for a younger audience, so we will be releasing a summary of these interviews that will be more digestible for them.

Our summaries will contain:

  • Important career and life advice

  • Fashion Vocabulary

  • Fashion Figures

  • Places to visit that are near our guests and are art/fashion relevant

  • List of books mentioned during the interview

  • Tech Tools for aspiring artists 

Stay tuned for more education focused announcements in the coming weeks and please contact us with any feed back you may have!


The video of this interview can be found here!

Live Video Recorded: May 6th, 2021 


Jonathan Joseph

Rachel Elspeth Gross

Sandra Sawatzky

Jonathan  0:22  
For those of you who are just joining us for today's #ICanDoThat. We are so so lucky, up there is Sandra. It says that she joined. She should be here any second says waiting for Sandra. So let's see. logging on for a minute Instagram has given me a little bit of a problem on my iPad too. So it's like Oh, boy.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  0:46  
Oh, yeah, okay, perfect. Hi. Hello.

Jonathan  0:50  

Rachel Elspeth Gross  0:53  
Can't quite hear you. Is your volume up? The audio?

Sandra Sawatzky  1:07  
Can you hear me? 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  1:08  
Yeah, yeah, we can.

Sandra Sawatzky  1:09  
Okay, good.

I was a bit confused. I was up on Gmail, and then it's right on igtv.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  1:22  
Oh, how are you today?

Sandra Sawatzky  1:23  
I'm very good. Thank you. And hello, Jonathan. Hello, Rachel.

Jonathan  1:28  
It's so nice to meet you. Thank you so much for joining us here. For as part of our Little Red Village initiative for #ICanDoThat to show kids that they too can create beautiful tapestries as tall as buildings if they want to. I love what you're doing. I thought, you know, I'm a big fashion nerd in general, but was not really given the gift of manual dexterity to the extent that I can do that kind of beautiful work. So whenever I see something like that, I'm just like in awe, and especially at the scale that you're doing it. So I'm really excited for you to share some of your insights with our audience today.

Sandra Sawatzky  2:01  
Oh, thank you so much. I have to say, you know, it took years and years to grow that dexterity, so it doesn't come naturally. I don't think, I don't know.

Jonathan  2:11  
Before we get started here, I really want to encourage everyone who's watching once this is done. There's a wonderful digital walkthrough of Sandra's black gold tapestry, which I've put into the little red fashions linktree, if you want to go in there, you can see it's full and complete majesty. And from what I understand it doesn't even begin to do the final work justice. But it'll give you an idea of the scale. Just enormous amount of work that you put in. 

Sandra Sawatzky  2:39  
Yes, thank you. I really, really loved what the Esplanade did, I think they did a great job of the show. And you can see that in the virtual tour. So because it's in the room, so I was very, very excited about that.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  2:55  
So Sandra, you start off by maybe talking to us, how did you start with embroidery? How did that even become something you were interested in.

Sandra Sawatzky  3:04  
So I'm, I've been sewing clothes since I was 13. That was the first thing I sewed was a pair of Fortrel, purple bell bottoms, they were hideous. And over the years, I found out that it's way better to work with natural textiles. And I just sold a lot of clothes. And when you're sewing a lot of clothes, there's a lot of handwork done. And I just got better and better at making neater and neater stitches by hand. And then I had done a little a tiny, tiny little bit of embroidery when I was about 16 because I thought oh, I just love decorated clothes. And it was kind of in at the time to decorate your blue jeans and a few other things that I was trying to do a shawl. And I was overwhelmed by it. I was planning I was trying to do a gypsy, Gypsy styled shawl that would just be covered in embroidery, something that you'd find you know, from a long time ago. And I was overwhelmed. So just kind of gave it up and just kept on sewing. But then I went to a show of at the Glenbow Museum here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They had this beautiful show of Pioneer women's embroidery, a lot of samplers. And work done by children, probably maybe starting at five or six, all the way through to a very advanced age. And like it made massage embroidery very it was on that part. It was beautiful. So clearly, you know most people can pick these things up. So we did a little sample.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  4:54  
Which has been around I think like since the late 1700s.

Sandra Sawatzky  4:57  
Yes, yes. So I, my daughter, and I did some samples. They had a little, it's called a discovery room. So my daughter was about 10 at the time. So we all just did a little sample. And I did a small teapot. And I thought, I'm really good at this, like, there was a satin stitch, cross stitch, a few other stitches that they had little cards to show you how to do it. And then because I've been I've been a filmmaker for quite a time and I sort of given up drawing and everything I wasn't doing very much. But for the two years before I went to that show, I had started to draw every day in just draw a little tiny figures. And they were all fashion figures, because that was what I was keen on. And I thought, oh I'll embroider this, I'll embroider a few of these drawings. And they turned out so well, like they were, you know, little figures. And they're quite small. But I thought, wow, they're, they're quite, I just loved the way that the thread made it three dimensional, like a freeze. And I thought, well, what else could I do with it? I had always wanted to make an epic film. But in Canada, epic filmmaking is impossible, because we just don't have the budgets. You can make a small budget film, but you can't make a big budget. And there was a number of other things that were going on at the time where I felt like maybe I want to move out of filmmaking, because it's, you're raising money on your own, you're doing so much by yourself. I thought, well, if I'm going to do something on my own, maybe I could do a massive tapestry, like the bayeux tapestry. And I thought, well, you know, I thought I could do this, because I'm used to doing long term projects. I got all the sewing skills, clearly I can embroider. Anyhow, that's how it kind of started.

Jonathan  6:58  
I love that. I think that's so great. I love you know, it's it's a journey, I think it's really important to, you know, let kids who love fashion and the adults in their lives realize that like everyone has to start somewhere you gotta you know, in your estimation, like, what do you think the best way to get a kid into embroidery is? Does it start with samplers? Does it start with just, you know, learning the different stitch types? I mean, what would you recommend? Do you have any books that you love in terms of the ones that you think are great for kids and their families to start dipping their toes into the ocean of embroidery?

Sandra Sawatzky  7:34  
Now, that's a good question. I, I don't know very many books for kids. But my start was my grandmother wasn't embroidery, she was doing very fine crocheting. And she would crochet with very fine thread, almost like button twist, which is quite thin, awesome. And make these huge, tablecloths like, spectacular. And I would be there with my little scissors, I was three. And when she needed to change colors, because these were also multicolored, I'd be there to snip the thread. That was my, that's my job at three. But I think kids can start learning to use needles pretty quick. When the show was on of the embroidery for, for these pioneer women, they had real needles available for kids and parents to do the the samples that they were doing in class, when they had my show up. They brought in plastic needles and horrible net fabric. So I was really easily do more. You know, there's kids can easily handle something once they poked themselves once, and there's just a tiny bit of blood, they'll figure it out.

Jonathan  8:58  
Yeah nobody wants to feel that.

Sandra Sawatzky  9:01  
No, no. And so they'll figure it out. But I think just giving somebody a little piece of fabric with some pretty thread and just, you know, find out what you can stitch and it probably on the internet, there's like everything that you could possibly want to, you know, just start you off, but I'm sure there's books. I just don't know I'm sorry, I don't know.

Jonathan  9:23  
Yeah, no thats ok.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  9:25  
We just love books here. So I always try to ask.

Sandra Sawatzky  9:29  
Yes, I've actually got my iPad stacked on top of a bunch of books. And the one on the bottom is one of the the volumes of Grace Coddington's series of photographs. So it's really fat and it can kind of lift up the iPad. 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  9:47  
This orange book behind me is Grace's biography. So we love Grace.

Sandra Sawatzky  9:51  
Yeah, she's great.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  9:54  
So Sandra, what if you're going to explain how to keep up the steam on a project like this, something that takes, there's no, you know, 24 hour instant result, this is something it takes dedication over time. What do you think inspires you to keep working? And how do you think we could help kids do the same kind of thing?

Sandra Sawatzky  10:17  
I would say that discipline isn't, you're not born with it, I wasn't born with discipline, it grows, and you have to think, first, it's the interest, and then the results. And it certainly helps when you're quite young to help people notice that you can do some half decent things. So I think what happened was, as a few things that I that have nothing to do with making clothes or, or any of that, I'm just gonna put that light on. I was a runner, and I started running, and I did it pretty much every day. And that's like just learning to kind of keep going doing something, find something that you can do every day, then I started journaling, that was back in the 90s. And just keeping up with something like and it doesn't have to be like, maybe you just go out for a walk. But just being consistent about it then leads to well, what if I did this every day, it has to be very small, I think anything that you start should be with this idea that like, even when I was stitching, my tapestry, I had a set, it's in a frame, and all this fabric is off to the right of me and all what I've completed is off to the left, but I only had to think about the 12 inches in front of me. So keeping focused on just what you have to do today, one stitch at a time. My, one of the I don't know my by word is keep it small,. Small and the more you just think in terms of just the little bit, and everything. You know, it's like raising children, they don't happen, they don't go from being born to being raised, it takes 20 years of and probably the rest of your life, you'll be a parent, and you just, it is what it is. But it does take it's putting the time in every day. So I and that can apply to anything. So sewing clothes, I'd sew every day I draw every day, like just find ways to make it habitual. And they'll always be a fight. There was so many days when I was working on that project. And I was putting in long hours in the last three years of that project. I was getting up at 5:15 in the morning. And I would do my last ditch at 10:15 at night. But I did go for a run every day. I go for a walk with my daughter, I would have dinner with my family. And you know and try and and also talk on the phone I have a phone beside me and I'd be stitching as phoned. So I could I could do two things at one time sometimes. But I I would fight with myself there would be times where I didn't want to be there.

Jonathan  13:14  
But you have that 12 inch square, looking back at you. It's, I mean, it's it reminds me of you know, look at Christian Dior, right, like a consummate creative genius, and spent so much time balancing that out between Atelier and his garden and weeding and that daily discipline through something that's not directly related, but structurally related. I think that's such an important piece of my belief of what we're doing a little bit of fashion is finding different ways to give kids different modalities to occupy them and give them that structure around fashion or, you know, create content like this where we're talking to people like yourself, who are doing these amazing long term projects and just teaching kids how to break things down. I think so many kids see like, I have a big goal. Okay, this big goal is really scary though. This is a lot how do I break it down and I think teaching kids the process of breaking things down into smaller actionable steps is so so important. I mean as a consultant, I love to teach adults how to do that.

Sandra Sawatzky  14:16  
When I was a kid, I remember my friends and I had troll dolls. And my friend had felt fabric and we had these little patterns and I think I was probably 10 or 11 and we cut out the patterns and I made a little night gown and sleeping cap for this troll and that was the first kind of like hand sewing clothes that I had done. So I think with kids like just making it fun, like I have a big box of remnants of fabric. Sometimes textile, like places that have samples of textiles. For decorating, they might be getting rid of those books, and they might donate them to you. So you, I would give my daughter those samples. And because I had a little form like a dress form, she would just start pinning the fabric onto the foreman to I don't know, six or seven years old and doing really fun things. And taking mylar you made a little skirt other than my light was gold mylar, and then she went to her dance class in it when she was four. So, you know, just making making things available little, you know, materials that can be pencils, pens, a little bit of fabric, few.

Jonathan  15:42  
Creative play is so important. We use the phrase creative play a lot. Yeah. We had a segment for a while Make It Monday where the idea was, every Monday we did something that was fashion related, where it's, it doesn't have to be this big, big project. And it can just be navigating what material feels like and how you drape it on the form and how it feels in your hand. You know, all those things are so simple, but often overlooked, I think, for kids where they don't get that so we're here to fill that gap. I would love to learn what your inspiration was for the tapestry in terms of the theme to you know, because the work itself is stunning. And I think it's such a timely issue, obviously to be discussing in such a way. So what was what was your sort of impetus and inspiration behind discussing like evolution of a fossil fuel thing right within the tapestry?

Sandra Sawatzky  16:37  
I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and maybe you know a bit about Alberta. It's like Texas, it's kind of the oil capital of Canada. And let's see, I started when I thought I wanted to do the Bayeux tapestry Initially, I was thinking, well, maybe it should be a war theme. Like, you know, let's talk about war, because that's what the tapestry, the Bayeux Tapestry, it's about the Battle of Hastings. But I read the story about what's its name, Darcy, William Knox Darcy. And he made his first billions, millions back in the day in gold in Australia. And he moved to England. And he was bored out of his mind living the Millionaire's life. And he found out that there had been some oil, like bitumen had been found in Persia. And this was in 1900. And he bought the rights to this, this oil patch. And then he spent most of his fortune and seven years looking for oil. And this is and then he had to get the government involved. And the war was going to becoming this first world war, like everyone knew that something was going to happen. And so there's a real race to find oil because all these boats were being transferred from coal to oil. So there was a lot of shenanigans going on. And there's a lot of spies. And it was a very interesting story. And I thought I Oh, well, I live in the oil capital of Canada. And there's so you know, this climate change has been on, like I knew about climate change back in the 80s. Like, we were talking about it, but it's just takes so long to turn the ship around. So I thought that would be a really interesting subject. I don't know very much about it. I've lived here all my life. And I've just always like, I don't want to know, I don't want to think about it. It's not interesting to me, I thought, How do I do that make it interesting. And I thought everything that's about what's going on with climate change is done in a way that's really meant to shock and to make us feel horrible and guilty. And I thought, well, what if I did something that changes the way people look at it and kind of understand that it's allowed us, you know, all these wonders of the world, and at the same time, it has taken things away from us. So I think that's a really interesting story. And I thought why not? And it gave me an opportunity to do dresses and history of costume and you know, use all these things that I've been learning about. 

Jonathan  19:33  
I love that.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  19:34  
I do to the idea of making something beautiful and having I mean beauty isn't frivolous or can be but it doesn't have to be and feel easy to introduce people I mean kids, yes, people to a topic that's maybe difficult by not making it scary and ugly and guilt ridden. And all of these things

Sandra Sawatzky  19:53  
right? I live in a city where probably one in three, maybe One in four people, I've maybe I don't know what this statistic is, but there's so many people who work in the oil patch in different kinds of jobs. And I think we, you know, they're not there, they This is it's not about evil, it's about energy. It's not about, you know, right and wrong, change is always happening. Coal was, you know, has been around since the, I guess, the 16 or 1700s, that they've been burning it for fuels, there's so many things that eventually we do make transitions in different ways we used to be, you know, chopping down all the forests to, to get fuel. So it's an ongoing concern. And we, I think it's important to find new ways to talk about things in everything. Like when we look at life, we become so narrow, focused about the way in which we look at anything, and there's so many more shades, you know, when you're making something with fabric, and it's beautiful, it's the shades and the gradations, and the way the light plays on it, that makes you feel like it just comes alive. Yeah.

Jonathan  21:13  
yeah, I think fashion folks of any kind, we have this sort of innate sense of nuance, just because of the nature of what we're working with and working in. And I love what you said about, you know, taking this thing that is normally presented in this scary, aggressive and or, you know, climate change anxiety is real, especially for kids who are getting fed all these messages. You know, one of our titles in the lineup, on the for Little Red Fashion in our library does deal with, you know, the fashion supply chain and the impact of the fashion industry on the environment and things like that. It's all about for me, making sure we do that in similar to you a way that is presented in a bright and fun and engaging way that's not trying to induce this climate change anxiety, but still present the information of course, and thankfully, with the technology, we're developing for augmented reality, we get to, you know, make it a little more interactive, and a little more fun for some of our auditions. And, and that's going to be really exciting. But I think we have a similar ethos, in wanting to present this information in a way that is new, and refreshing, and uplifting instead of terrifying, because there's so many serious issues that we're tackling within the fashion industry, whether it's diversity, equity, inclusion, sustainability, all of these things that are really important to shaping families and kids consciousness about fashion. And it just always boggles my mind that no one's ever thought to do that for kids yet, because fashion is something we can all relate to, no matter who we are. And where we come from, we all wear clothes, and getting kids to understand the world around them through their relationship to clothing is something that excites me. So I love anyone like yourself, who is creative within that field, in a way that's all about storytelling and relatability.

Sandra Sawatzky  23:03  
Yes. And I think too, with fashion, is that what we, what I learned from fashion is that you can make, like we were saying before, it's like and like nuances. So like just even the way you know,the the depth of a collar, the kind of button that you've chosen, all those things become nuances, their choices that you've made, and, and every artist is making those kinds of choices. And it means that you're problem solving. And I think the thing that's so great about fashion is it can help you to like everything you do is about making choices and solving problems. and looking for that thing that's outside of you're like going okay, what do I have in my toolbox, what's nearby that I can use, and do it in a way that makes it fun and attractive? And if we couldn't make everything that we're doing to help with the climate, more or less brown shoes, and more. You know, Wow, that's so cool. We'll have more success than telling people you know, it's good for you.

Jonathan  24:18  
Yeah its the Finger wag. Yeah.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  24:23  
Makes sense. Before we wrap up? Um, what what are you thinking next? How do you start a new project? This behind you? Where would you Where do you see yourself going? What's your like?

Sandra Sawatzky  24:34  
I'm working on another project. It's called the age of uncertainty. And it's another textile project. I have a show for it. It was going to be in the fall, but now it's moved into January because they're not opening the museums and galleries anytime too soon. But it takes up the story from the story of oil to the repercussions and looking at the things that are keeping people awake at night. But making it interesting fun and sort of like looking at it from different angles again on trying to switch both my thoughts and the thoughts of others to sort of make them look further afield to what how we can problem solve.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  25:20  
It's so important. I mean, diversity of intelligence and diversity of problem solving and finding ways to approach a global issue that are innovative and not terrifying, but inspiring things

Jonathan  25:32  
Something that hasn't been done before. I think like for embroidery especially, it's such a phenomenal medium to do this kind of storytelling. And it's simultaneously, you know, innovative for now, but also back to the roots of embroidery. When you look at it anthropologically, like that was the purpose of both embroidery. And really any embellishment in agrarian culture is when they were doing like the earliest stages of that it was all about storytelling. It's always been about storytelling. So it's both full circle and innovative at the same time, which I think is great.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  26:02  
Referential and modern. It's wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this for you know, generously giving our audience and the kids that they, you know, are trying to help get insight into the ways that they can make something big that matters, they can tell us their accounts.

Sandra Sawatzky  26:21  
One stitch at a time. 

Jonathan  26:24  
One stitch at a time is definitely the key takeaway, I think from this interview for the grownups and kids that are watching one stitch at a time. I know in our journey as a startup, that is definitely part of the process. Again, I

Rachel Elspeth Gross  26:39  
I encourage anyone to go look at the digital tour that's in our bio. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing. And Sandra, thank you. I don't know how to express it. Thank you.

Sandra Sawatzky  26:50  
Thank you, Rachel. Thank you, Jonathan. It was a real pleasure. And I really enjoyed talking with you both. And I wish you all the best for that. It sounds like it's just a great, great idea. 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  27:01  
Thank You.

Jonathan  27:02  
Thank you so much, Sandra.


Jonathan Joseph


Little Red Fashion Creator and CEO Jonathan Joseph is a fashion loving visionary & consultant who's loved fashion since childhood. After consulting in the luxury space for a bit, he was inspired to write The Little Red Dress. From there he realized kids who love fashion lack the same level of targeted resources from books to tech that their peers who love music or sports have had for ages. Our entire vision is dedicated to his mom, Margaret, who started his love of fashion as a kid looking for unique socks to cover his leg braces!


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