Abby Vakay is a popular Hamptons yoga teacher who’s spent much of the coronavirus pandemic meditating — with yarn and thread.
Lately she’s become obsessed with cashmere — unraveling and reconstructing sweaters like a modern-day Penelope, patching moth holes with brightly colored yarns in whimsical shapes. But unlike the long-suffering wife of Odysseus (who secretly unraveled her loom each night to avoid an army of suitors), Vakay has reworked her remnants into a pile of one-of-a-kind garments, which she’s now marketing under the label Re-Creations by Abby.
Priced (from $40) according to the work involved, her collection of sweaters, denim skirts and jeans incorporate only existing materials (no new fabric is purchased) — and have quickly become a hit with well-heeled Hamptonites.
“For me, mending becomes a meditation,” says Vakay, 65, the founder and creative director of Hamptons Yoga Healing Arts in Westhampton Beach. “Every sweater is a blank canvas, and each patch is a mini weaving.”
She’s been working with her hands since she was six years old, when her grandmother taught her how to knit. Lithe and energetic with a mane of long flowing hair, Vakay grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania and worked as a dental hygienist for 22 years. But her life changed dramatically after the birth of her first child in 1990, a daughter she named Nia Rachel, who was born prematurely and died soon after.
“The loss of my first child pushed me into my truth,” says Vakay, who began to study yoga and work with folk crafts, eventually traveling to India and Central America and teaching rug-hooking workshops at the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan. “The stuff that is unnecessary falls away.”
Today, the mother of two incorporates ancient Japanese mending and dyeing techniques in her reconstructed garments. She studied with Atsushi Futatsuya, an expert in sashiko mending. The ancient art (which translates to “little stabs”) originated in rural Japan as a way to strengthen fraying fabric. Vakay now uses the technique to repurpose old blue jeans that she finds at thrift stores in the Hamptons. She’s even made pandemic masks with more elaborate sashiko embroidery patterns.
“It was done for thousands of years as a necessity,” she explains. “I believe we are back in the mode of necessity.”