Kids These Days: Stick&Poke by Ava

When Ava Ronning was just 7, she went to an afterschool sewing program called Jemz, where they mainly made stuffed animals, but the skills stuck — and she kept the machine around, working on occasional projects. Fast forward to last summer, she was sorting through her closet, culling the things she didn’t want to wear anymore and thinking of ways to recraft them into something a little more funky. She was left with a big pile of T-shirts that she couldn’t bear to toss out.

The 17-year-old Tribecan, a rising senior at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, now makes super fun patchwork pants out of upcycled T-shirts and sells them on her website, — it was a way “save” those old T-shirts.

“The first pair was not as refined as they are now — I didn’t have a system,” Ava says. She soon developed a better pattern, learned how to line them and found the softest fabric at the best price (Ikea bed sheets), figured out how to make pockets and how to source the best fabric for the waistband. She acquired a serger, which allows her to sew a seam, trim the seam allowance, and overcast the edge all in one step, using four threads at once.

Then the pants started getting some attention.

“I was working at Brandy Melville and wore my pants and got a bunch of compliments,” Ava said. “People asked if I sold them so started looking into what that would take.”

She joined a mentorship program called WIT — Whatever It Takes — which offers group or one-on-one sessions to help people launch ideas. And then she made a few more pairs on spec, which moved pretty quickly. When friends spotted them, she started making pairs to order. The (mini) mass production required a new source for raw materials, so she drafted her mother for a trips to Queens and New Jersey, where she buys old T-shirts by the pound.

So far she is barely keeping up with making and selling. Clients can send in their own T-shirts too — up to 16 — or just direct her for specific colors or themes — Disney, for example.

She’s found some special Ts lately: a Trader Joe’s one was a favorite — she bought it at a thrift store for $5, more than she would usually pay, but since the company doesn’t sell its shirts she figured it was worth it. (Thrifting is also a passion.) She’s recently repurposed a British flag from a tank top, a Keith Haring print, an FDNY logo.

She really does love sewing, she said, and she loves that her new project is a lesson in sustainability. “I felt like growing up, there was so much fast fashion and people never think there’s an alternative for cute, sustainable clothes,” she said. “All those Goodwill clothes get chucked if they don’t sell. This is a great way to save them.”



  1. Way to go, Ava! So cool.

  2. Love it Ava! Very fun and funky pants and a powerful vision/mission. Keep inventing and creating!!!

  3. Ava, Well done for pursuing this passion… love seeing that in a young person, what a bright future ahead for you!

  4. You are an inspiration, Ava! Keep up the great work and can’t wait to hear about where you will take this!