Crispina Ffrench: The Sweater Chop Shop


A few months back I had the pleasure of attending a workshop led by Crispina Ffrench. Crispina began her career with soft sculpture comprised of recycled fabrics which eventually led to the creation of stuffed toys and wool sweaters that represented her unique art. Before graduating with a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Crispina had 40 employees and was selling her product line internationally. The distinctive aesthetic helped her to generate a style that is obviously refurbished materials, but infused with new life and color.

Having retired from her large company, Crispina now runs workshops out of her studio in Pittsfield, MA and teaches at Kripalu in Lenox, MA. People travel from all over to learn the simple practice that allows one to imbue old duds with new life. The workshop I attended was sweater recycling.

I had seen Crispina at the Berkshire Co-op from time to time wearing muted tones of wool contrasted with bright piping and wondered where these creations originated. When I found out she actually taught the method I jumped at the chance.

We learned, in one day, how to chop up different garments to make our own one-of-a-kind piece. The style is deconstructed with visible seams of thick, colored yarn, if so desired, but the pattern is easily adapted and modified to create whatever look one wants to achieve. Crispina provided treats throughout the day, including yummy vegan fare – hot tea, scones, and fresh-baked oatmeal cookies.

Crispina has just released her book: The Sweater Chop Shop: Sewing One-of-a-Kind Creations from Recycled Sweaters. The launch party is being held in late August at Crispina’s studio in Pittsfield. There are also many events throughout the year, including workshops such as blanket and scarf making, pot holder rug classes, and fabric flower instruction.

And if you want your own original piece, but don’t want to make a mess in your own home, there are open hours every week when people can go into the warehouse where Crispina works and create their own pieces for a modest materials fee. Crispina’s instruction is clear, concise and being around her inspires.