Meet Andrea Birkan

Andrea Birken

28 Jan Meet Andrea Birkan


Dear Readers,
You must meet Andrea Birkan, a 2014 and 2015 RTW Faster! Andrea’s  garments display such inspirational creativity that I asked her to write a guest post. I’m writing very little to avoid spoiling the lovely text and photos to follow.

Read on to learn more about Andrea, and visit her blog at:



I discovered Sarah’s blog while searching for some fabric off the Mood Fabrics website one morning, and have been an avid reader of the blog ever since. I’ve always had a love for sewing, but she really inspired me to get back to sewing on a daily basis. By doing RTW Fasters in 2014, it made me realize how much I love creating garments and how much pleasure I get out of wearing things I have made rather than purchasing ill-fitting ready to wear clothes.


My grandmother taught me to sew when I was a little girl and have been sewing all my life. I immigrated to the United States 18 years ago from South Africa and have lived in Chicago ever since. Since I was a child, I’ve always sewed my own clothes and reading Sarah’s blog re-inspired me to start making my own clothes again and stop purchasing ready to wear clothing. By joining RTW Fasters in 2014, I have been inspired by all the amazing creations others have posted. I was really honored when Sarah asked me to write a guest post for her blog and share some of my creations and inspirations over the past year.

Due to my work commitments, I was never able to sew as much as I wanted, but I recently retired from my corporate administrative position and have devoted most of my time to my sewing and other crafts. Through Sarah’s blog and all the other blogs I started to read, it reinvigorated my love of sewing.

I have always been an extremely creative person; I never take patterns and sew them as it looks on the pattern envelope, but rather, I put my own twist on it. I particularly enjoy using vintage patterns that I find on Etsy or Ebay and seeing all the vintage sewing techniques they used. One of my favorite fabrics to use is Liberty Fabrics. Every time I travel to London my first stop is always Liberty and have accumulated a number of pieces over the years.

liberty-shirtsI’ve really learned a lot of skills I didn’t know by reading the pattern sheets from the vintage patterns. I also love taking unusual things such as old tablecloths or fabric scraps and turning them into wearable pieces as well as re-purposing leftover scraps into new pieces of clothing.

Brooks Brother

I took my husbands old Brooks Brothers shirts and combined them into a blouse.


Above is a blouse made from an old tablecloth.

In March, I will be attending Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing School in Baltimore for a week, which I’m sure will inspire me and definitely influence and improve my sewing techniques.

I am always on the look out for unique and different embellishments and the first stop in any city I visit are the various fabric stores. Embellishment is very important part of my own personal style, and I always try add some sort of embroidery, trim, lace, vintage buttons, etc. to my creations to make them stand out.


My love of heirloom sewing was really cultivated after attending a number Martha Pullen’s School of Art Fashion classes in the summer over the past few years. Heirloom sewing has really come back into style, and has been featured in all the top fashion magazines such as Vogue and Marie Claire. Last summer, numerous designers incorporated heirloom sewing into their runway shows.


About me:

Home town: Suburban Chicago, Illinois; moved from South Africa in 1997

Family: Husband, Brian; two sons – Jaron, 28 who is a lawyer in Chicago and Seth, 26, studying for his Masters in Dramatic Writing at NYU.

Yorkie-poo Beasley; Toy Poodle Yati

When not sewing: I’m knitting, baking, gardening, entertaining, or walking.

Major sewing accomplishments for 2014: My major achievement in 2014 was having a blouse I created out of scraps of lace and fabric featured in the January 2014 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine. Also attending a one-day sewing seminar with Rhonda Buss and Susan Khalje at Soutache in Chicago.











  • Alice Elliot
    Posted at 20:57h, 28 January Reply

    The shirt made from men’s shirts is terrific! Unfortunately, I was denied access to the rest of the photos unless I wanted to sign up at the BlogSpot and create my own blog. Don’t want to do that, and I’d have loved to see all the photos.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 01:32h, 29 January Reply

      Try again. I believe it is working 🙂

  • Mary Ann Bassett
    Posted at 21:02h, 28 January Reply

    Would love to see the pictures – I was denied access also.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 01:33h, 29 January Reply

      Try again. I believe it is working 🙂

  • Stephanie
    Posted at 21:04h, 28 January Reply

    I too was denied access to the pictures and I would really love to see them.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 01:33h, 29 January Reply

      Try again. I believe it is working 🙂

  • Debbie Williams
    Posted at 21:10h, 28 January Reply

    I was also denied access…..maybe she could give us a code or post them to the Face book Fasters site.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 01:34h, 29 January Reply

      Try again. I believe it is working 🙂

  • Dona
    Posted at 21:10h, 28 January Reply

    I love the shirt but I was denied access to all the other photos 🙁

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 01:34h, 29 January Reply

      Try again. I believe it is working 🙂

  • Julie Johnston
    Posted at 21:12h, 28 January Reply

    I actually signed in at WordPress and was still denied access.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 01:34h, 29 January Reply

      Try again. I believe it is working 🙂

  • Vancouver Barbara
    Posted at 21:13h, 28 January Reply

    Yup. Me too.
    Can you post the pix a different way so we can see them? I went to her website but the pix are not all available. Her work looks very interesting.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 01:35h, 29 January Reply

      Try again. I believe it is working 🙂

  • Nancy Schaub
    Posted at 21:23h, 28 January Reply

    I, too, was dedied access to the photograps, other than the multi-fabric shirt at the beginning of the article.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 01:35h, 29 January Reply

      Try again. I believe it is working 🙂

  • Charry Camara
    Posted at 21:27h, 28 January Reply

    Unfortunately, I was denied access to all photos as well. Would love to see them as I’m sure they are amazing.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 01:36h, 29 January Reply

      Try again. I believe it is working 🙂

  • Laura Arriola
    Posted at 21:31h, 28 January Reply

    I, too can’t see the pictures of Andrea’s work. To see the pics you are required to create a web site on WordPress. No pics takes all the fun out of the post unfortunately.

  • Martha Ann Murray
    Posted at 21:41h, 28 January Reply

    me too! They don’t come thorough on iPad or Mac but the multi fabric shirt is wonderful!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 01:35h, 29 January Reply

      Try again. I believe it is working 🙂

  • Melissa Schulze
    Posted at 21:47h, 28 January Reply

    Still no pictures but I am sure they are fabulous!!

  • Susan
    Posted at 21:50h, 28 January Reply

    Also denied access. The pictures would add so much to the post.

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 01:35h, 29 January Reply

      Try again. I believe it is working 🙂

  • Candy De Leon
    Posted at 22:06h, 28 January Reply

    Beautiful work love all her creations.

  • Cissie Wellons
    Posted at 22:20h, 28 January Reply

    Andrea is so creative. Love seeing her combination of fabrics!

  • Millie Payne
    Posted at 22:28h, 28 January Reply

    I am inspired! And I will visit my Tana Lawn collection tomorrow and begin thinking about a shirt. I am an “old” fabric lover who sews less, but I still enjoy learning and reading about what others are doing . Blogs have brought kindred spirits into my daily mental sewing. My list of projects is long, my time feels like it is evaporating, but there will always be something in process using good fabric and a classic design. I am always happy to find others who like that too. Thanks for sharing your projects!

  • Sandra J
    Posted at 22:44h, 28 January Reply

    Your Chanel inspired jacket looks beautiful and I really do want one of your white shirts! Enjoy your retirement and especially the week with Susan Khalje, that would be just wonderful.

  • Angela
    Posted at 22:48h, 28 January Reply

    Andrea, your work is inspiring! I am now following your blog. I haven’t had any problem seeing pictures, I wonder if something was just fixed?

  • Laura Casey
    Posted at 22:57h, 28 January Reply

    I saw it all….along with being part of RTW-FAST 2014 and always looked forward to Andrea’s post throughout the year….love her liberty shirts best! Thanks Sarah for Andrea’s post it was interesting learning more about her and her sewing.

  • Julie Starr
    Posted at 23:04h, 28 January Reply

    it so nice to learn more about you and see additional examples of your beautiful work, Andrea. Your pieced garments have such a sentimentality about them – I can practically feel the love in your sewing and your beautiful cakes. Enjoy your week in Baltimore; I can’t wait to see what you create!

  • Nancy McCarthy
    Posted at 23:59h, 28 January Reply

    I’ve read this blog since the beginning – always enjoy it. Especially enjoyed this guest post! Thanks!

  • Jackie Shepherd
    Posted at 00:05h, 29 January Reply

    I am enjoying your guest posts.
    Your garments are beautiful! That you for sharing your story.

  • barbara
    Posted at 02:11h, 29 January Reply

    What beautiful and original work! thanks for introducing us to Andrea Sarah

  • chris Johnson
    Posted at 03:08h, 29 January Reply

    Andrea, what a treat to see all your garments together that I so fondly remember from the 2014 fast. I can’t believe how may items you made while working full time.. All of your work seems so thoughtfully created.

  • Eileen
    Posted at 03:37h, 29 January Reply

    Beautiful work, Andrea. I especially love the tailored shirt made from your husband’s Brooks Bros.
    shirts. Very creative!

  • Tracy
    Posted at 05:32h, 29 January Reply

    What an inspirational sewer, with her own unique style. I love the sew beautiful lace blouse and the idea of not sewing anything as it is on the pattern envelope. Thank you for this feature

  • Sharon Goodman
    Posted at 08:22h, 29 January Reply

    Your work as always is beautiful!

  • Rosa Andrew
    Posted at 08:31h, 29 January Reply

    Speechless with admiration ! wonderful , so creative and inspiring – already eyeing up my husbands shirts .
    Thanks for sharing

  • Barbara Hewitt
    Posted at 10:49h, 29 January Reply

    I loved that your sewing stayed with your creative style.

  • Roberta Fahrni
    Posted at 11:28h, 29 January Reply

    Thank you for introducing Andrea! I will follow her blog for sure. Love her work!

  • Robin
    Posted at 11:57h, 29 January Reply

    It was such a treat to see Andrea’s creations. Thank you for showcasing her work here!!

  • Anna O'Day
    Posted at 13:22h, 29 January Reply

    Loved it. It’s always exciting to see someone take something traditional and make it their own, unique creation. Thanks for sharing.

  • boutis
    Posted at 15:19h, 29 January Reply

    The shirts are gorgeous. To take one of my favorite garments, what my adult children call my “little man clothes”, and turn them into such beautiful and practical garments is terrific. Thanks so much for the post and inspiration.

  • Andrea Birkan
    Posted at 15:42h, 29 January Reply

    Thank you for all the wonderful compliments on my sewing adventures.

  • Sarah Jo
    Posted at 21:20h, 29 January Reply

    Lovely! What beautiful work!

  • Jet Set Sewing
    Posted at 22:33h, 29 January Reply

    Wow, what a lot of beautiful creations! I just love that jacket, Andrea. What fun to study with Susan Khalje. Enjoy!

  • Jane Mary Green
    Posted at 00:27h, 30 January Reply

    Andrea…you are a true inspiration.! I wish that I lived next door to you. I would stop over with food, just to make an excuse to watch and learn from you! I am so busy with my career and only have a few hours a week to sew, but talent like yours inspires me to find more time. I really love each of your designs. Everything is so precise and amazing! Someday, I hope to be in your league….and the others members who are apart of this great network. No friends or neighbors of mine sew, which makes it difficult to explain to them what I am really interested in, as a hobby. This group helps me see that I am not alone in my love of this creative, relaxing activity. There are others out there, all over the world who share the same interests in this unique association. Please keep sharing your work. I really appreciate your talent and hope to meet you some day at a sewing class or while shopping at an amazing fabric store! Best Wishes!!!

  • Annette Botting
    Posted at 08:57h, 30 January Reply

    What a lovely article to read on a snowy morning in Staffordshire UK.
    I am inspired by the way you have used fabric as well as how you assemble your own ‘fabric’ to make garments. Like you I love Liberty art fabrics….. But lucky for me I can be on the doorstep in an hour…… But have you discovered their website… Fabric arrives beautifully presented in tissue, and you can earn points against your next purchase if you sign up for a free loyalty card. I can also recommend the book ‘ Liberty Style’ I received this as a Christmas pressie and have been able to overdose my Liberty love affair, as well as get real personal with Mr Liberty.
    Did you get the to programme about Liberty’s… It was fab… Worth looking on ‘I Player ‘ to see if you can use ‘catch up’ or on the Web?
    Our next visit will be during Easter holidays as planning a trip to the V & A as the Alistair McQueen. Exhibition is on… So a lovely weekend of fabrics and inspiring clothes to look at.
    Happy sewing Annette.

  • Andrea Birkan
    Posted at 12:24h, 30 January Reply

    Thank you Annette for all the information on Liberty. I have taken a few classes at thei sewing school. It is one of my favorite stores to visit in London. I hope the Alexander McQueen exhibit comes to New York. I will definitely take a trip too see it.

  • Denise Thompson
    Posted at 16:51h, 30 January Reply

    I love the shirts that you’ve done in particular! You’ve inspired me to do more. Great article and I look forward to seeing what you’ll do next.

  • NaTisha
    Posted at 18:33h, 30 January Reply

    I love the repurposed brooks brothers shirts into a beautiful blouse. What a thought! My dad has tons of beautiful dress shirts that he will probably never wear again. I could snag a few and that gives the garment so much more value/meaning than picking up shirts at thrift stores. I love the idea!

  • Gail
    Posted at 02:03h, 31 January Reply

    Oh, Andrea! Your work is so inspirational! I love them all! You have a wonderful eye for color and design. Thank you for sharing!

  • Margaret Winters
    Posted at 07:03h, 31 January Reply

    Sarah, thank you for showcasing Andrea’s lovely and inspiring works — another very talented Faster!

  • Joen Venitsky
    Posted at 21:26h, 02 February Reply

    Beautiful work Andrea! Your Heirloom sewing is lovely!!

  • Sarah Wilson
    Posted at 18:01h, 14 February Reply

    I have only just found this post and Andrea I love what you do. Turning a table cloth into a shirt, so creative . Thank you for sharing.

  • MrsBodkin
    Posted at 20:22h, 15 February Reply

    I love that table cloth shirt! It is so awesome it makes me want to go to resale shops to find one! Beautiful garments and the sewing looks great.

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