I come from a long line of sign writers and am happiest with a brush and some paint! Add
paint to fabric and I get really excited!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My mother, myself

I don’t remember exactly when I first learned to sew, but it was my beloved mom who taught me. I watched her sew beautiful pieces of clothing for so many members of our family and for many of her friends. She created brocade gowns with matching hats, sewed silk sheaths, whipped up taffeta dresses by the yard, made numerous figure skating outfits for cousins, created sweet coats, baby clothes, men’s clothes, costumes, pants, aprons - a seemingless end stream of clothes came out of our home, all created by her. I remember a favorite plaid dress with smocked cuffs and yoke, a seersucker bathrobe for my hospital stay when my tonsils had to come out, a terrycloth beach jacket (which we still have...), Barbie clothes (which I have always refused to sew myself), more Barbie clothes and lots of Ken clothes. It was a rare week that my sister and I didn’t come home from school to a new doll outfit lovingly crafted by her.

I know I was using a needle and thread at a very young age and she was the one who inspired me. By the time I was 10, I was creating stuffed toys out of soft flannel for the Red Cross because of her influence. Mom showed me the basics, bought me patterns and fabric and allowed me to work away on her mother’s beautiful Singer sewing machine with the handsome curved wooden cover and by the time I was 12, I was sewing clothes for myself.  When we were ready, it was Mom who showed my sister and me how to take foil cooking wrap and use it to make patterns of favorite blouses and shirts so we could make more of the same. 

I am sure Mom sewed out of necessity as she grew up in a family of 6 girls. Her own mother had sewn clothes for her daughters, many times out of cast off or outgrown clothing, and Mom often mentions matching wool coats she and several of her sisters had that were created this way. But Mom has always had a creative flair and just a wee bit of drama in her....The pieces she created always had that extra something that took it to the next level and made it so much more than a homemade garment.

My mother also made bright fun quilts from the scraps left over from her sewing projects, and often times the tops were pieced over old, worn out quilts that either she had made years before or that my great grandmother Cook had made many years before. I have several of these wonderfully worn quilts, now soft with age and use and whenever I wrap myself up in them, I remember wonderful childhood summers at the family cottages in Rosebank where time seemed endless. 

Creativity was encouraged all the time in our home growing up! Mom would cover the table and floor with clear plastic sheets and let us take over the kitchen with our paint and crayons and sticky glues. I can honestly say she never said no to our desires to make art though I am sure there were days she would have preferred we read or played somewhere else.

When I had my own children, I fashioned my own attitudes to having art as part of your daily world after my Mom's. I tried to follow her example and allowed my children free reign with paint and paper, clay and fabric, whatever was of interest that day. And I made clothes for my children out of our old clothes as well as from new fabric, and felt great about up-cycling items. Using these materials made sense. I cut up items we were finished with and resewed them into something useful.

Using my new longarm is interesting for so many reasons. As I work on it, I feel my mother’s influence and love of the process. I have generations of experience in the needle arts behind me and as I guide the machine, I feel these forces coming together to help me create in a manner that is totally new to us all.


  1. What a lovely inheritance!

  2. This is so nice for you....glad you shared it with us.  My mother didn't like to sew; my mother-in-law taught me to quilt...we had so much in common.  Thanks for visiting my spot Jennifer; appreciate it.

  3. What a wonderful thank you letter to your mother. She did give you a wonderful gift!

  4. Mad About ColourJuly 30, 2012 at 1:31 AM

    Lovely tribute to one of mum's many talents Jen. We are so blessed with our parents.