Peg and Awl grew from two ideas – the desire to create things missing in our own lives, and a fondness for giving new life to old and abandoned things.
In Philadelphia, the history, brimming with magic and adventure, was there for the taking – including the crumbly bits. Our Fishtown neighborhood had been undergoing a transformation – row homes built two centuries before were seeing their guts tossed out of windows into dumpsters below. Old growth wood holding countless secrets rested in sad and dusty piles, and bricks were thrown into haphazard mounds. We’d use Walter’s rusty old pick-up to gather these forlorn bits with the hopes of transforming them into useful objects once again.
Our Philadelphia Home
The first two years of Peg and Awl found us nearly bursting out of our home with the weight of materials, makers, and ideas. We were making art and building a business.
We had a small army of people in the house working everywhere: woodworking in the basement – until Walter built a woodshop out back, bookbinding in the living room, jewelry making on the dining room table, riveting, stitching, and cutting leather in the kitchen, and processing tin types in the bathroom. We were even building chicken coops in the backyard whilst our ever-curious chickens roamed amongst the bustle!
Our house smelled of natural finishes – citrusy and nutty – and sounded like a chorus of contraptions and chatter. The filled-to-the-brim space must have looked like a kind of time travel.
Søren and Silas breakfasting amongst Spice Racks made for Anthropologie.
Margaux and Bjorn in the original bookbinding studio.
When we first moved into our Philadelphia Row home, we cleared out an abundance of weedy overgrowth and discovered that our backyard nearly double in size! As our home filled up with materials, objects, and a suddently growing team of makers, we found ourselves needing more space. In the space where the weeds had been, we decided to build a studio from discarded wood from local buildings built in the 1800s!
Shooting our first catalogue!
Walter working in the new backyard woodshop.
The Atlas Casket Factory
With only bedrooms remaining work-surface free, and our new backyard studio filled to the brim, serendipity lead us to the Atlas Casket Factory, a short bike ride from our home, where we set up shop for the next 5 years! Of course we loved the spooky origins and the old bones of the building. In addition, there were trolly tracks inside, and a conveyor belt that moved materials and our adventure-seeking boys to the second floor!
Walter making wooden swings in the woodshop.
Developing the Hunter Satchel.
The Foundlings Shop
Ready for our own space, we began a search and found a shop nearby in Port Richmond, Philadelphia. Our new spacious piece of land was filled with sunshine and a derelict building on a heavy acre of concrete and rubble against a backdrop of abandoned train tracks and weed trees. It begged for the lightness of a garden and bees and hands that make. When the cinderblocks came out and the windows went in, the building warmed with sunlight that it hadn’t felt for decades and its belly swiftly became a bustling and inspiring place for our small but mighty team to spread out and make all of the magic happen.
Our building came to life one piece at a time.
Former iceskating rink, transformed into Peg and Awl gardens.
The West Chester Barn
Thirteen years into our Peg and Awl journey, and one year after officially beginning our homeschool adventure with Søren and Silas, we decided to move out of Philadelphia in search of a new home amongst the trees. We quickly stumbled upon the patch of land that we’ve come to call The Five Acre Wood– consisting of a ton of invasive growth, some lawn, woods, ponds, animals, two creeks, our house (built in the late 1700s or early 1800s), a spring house and – just across the road – a dilapidated barn. Truly, our timing was perfect.
We renovated the barn and moved Peg and Awl. Read on!
Margaux and Pearl in the barn.