TC Media - David Cox The workshop

*Updated* Homesteading is the increasingly popular method of living a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, and as an emerging movement those leading the charge are taking a risk. Amanda Elias and Valerie Schoof have embraced their own role in this social economy revolution. Usually characterized by subsistence agriculture and home food preservation, the two entrepreneurs are bringing back a lost skill – sewing.

In the heart of Verdun, at 3993 Wellington St., Atelier Fiber Arts is the culmination of a life-long love of quilting and sewing that Amanda Elias has combined with her supply-train management experience. Hosting workshops and clinics, she is teaching an old skill to a new generation. Some of the most popular clinics are her Basic Sewing class and in the new year, she will be offering courses on how to alter sewing patterns.

The entrepreneur believes homesteading is needed to counter the « disposable culture » that has been created around cheap clothing and dollar stores. « When I kept seeing ‘made in Bangladesh’ and saw a special report on the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse, I wanted to find alternatives. Now I only shop second hand or local, or I make my own clothes, » says Elias.

She believes that homesteading is just people taking back the things that have been set aside over time.

So far, sew good

The idea came when Elias visited her parents in Burlington, Ontario. Entering a local quilt shop, she saw a young man stitching a stuffed dinosaur at a table with multiple sewing machines. She chatted with the woman running the shop who explained that they rent out the machines and ran workshops.  Elias said that Montreal needs something like that and the woman answered, « So do it! »

Shortly thereafter, she looked into how to make the idea a reality. It has been about six months since Elias finished the entrepreneurial program at SAJE Montreal. The program helps entrepreneurs to solidify a business plan and bring it to fruition. She took the courses they offered and was joined by Valerie Schoof who brought soap-making and sewing machine repair. After Elias had found an ideal space, they started offering workshops.

« It has been hard, I have had to make a website, do the bookkeeping, plan workshops and run the space, » says Elias. Having Schoof has lightened the burden, and has become a valuable partner.

« I have always loved tinkering with machines, » admits Valerie Schoof. « The sewing machines have become a specialty. People are bringing in their old machines and we fix them and teach them how to use one all in the same place. » She teaches small groups how to repair their own machines.

Marsha Lawrence, an attendee, believes that it is another step in recovering our past self-sufficiency. « It is a cottage craft handmade industry that is rising from the ashes of disposable fashion trends. »

The average American throws away 82 pounds of clothes every single year. The Atelier Fiber Arts are doing their part to end that waste.

You can reach them at, and, or on facebook  at 

The Atelier will be hosting the Holiday Season Market from November 18 and 19 from 11 am to 4 pm.

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