Who taught you to sew?
My Momma, who was my first hero, and a single parent to three girls and one boy. Although she taught herself to sew, most of our clothes were store-bought during our elementary school years. But once I learned how to sew and was able to buy/translate patterns for her, she created some of my most memorable outfits in high school as well!
Why did you start sewing?
The summer before I turned 13, my Mom came home from visiting a friend. It was summer school vacation in a border town in
Texas, 1967, and not much to do. She was put off when she found me and my other two sisters, ages 10 and 6, just watching TV.
So my Mom threw the challenge out by saying that her friend’s two daughters, ages 10 and 9 had been sewing their school clothes when she had stopped by. It was the good old “shame on you” tactic and it worked.
I like to think that part of the success came about because the 60’s and 70’s were the most awesome time (style-wise) to sew in
America. There was the “mini” – the “maxi” – the “midi” – hot pants, bell-bottomed pants, the “granny” dresses, the poncho, the peasant blouse, dresses with cutouts, I even remember a short stint with paper dresses! Add to that, the fall of 1969 was the beginning of my high school years and the disco era was another hook into sewing for me.
What inspires you?
When I first started to sew, it was the opportunity to have many outfits at a very low cost, something that was doable for my single parent. Then the inspiration was fueled by styles of the 60’s and 70’s and the ability to own one-of-a-kind outfits.
I did try to sew some shirts for my husband early on but somehow men’s clothes were not fun for me. When my daughter was born, however, that was a whole new “territory” to explore. Dresses on a small scale, “new” fabrics to sew with, wow! It was like Alice in Wonderland falling down the hole all over again!
When my son was born in 1980, I found out that infant/toddler clothes for boys were very limited. So I sewed for him as well. Sometimes, both of my kids reminisce about the MC Hammer pants/shorts era when Mom used to sew those whacky shorts made of different colors/prints! My son, who is now 31 will say, “Mom, I can’t believe I wore those shorts!” My answer is always, “You weren’t the only one, but no one else had your shorts and I didn’t pay store prices for them!”
Today, my inspiration comes from my six-year-old granddaughter (and soon, my new infant granddaughter). She loves dresses. She gives me the opportunity again to explore a whole palette of colors and to go back to an era when little girls dressed like little girls.
My granddaughters and my dolls, they are my inspirations!
What do you love most about sewing?
Spring and summer are my favorite “sewing seasons.” I love the fabrics (whites, pastels, summer prints) and styles for those seasons. Because I live in the southern
Californiadesert where temperatures can reach 118 degrees in the summer and winters are paradise, I’m able to indulge myself. Our “spring” is ready to go as early as mid-February and our summer heats are still with us into late October.
What are your favorite things to make?
In my younger and working days, women’s dresses and suits. My favorite styles were in the 1990’s when all pattern companies were cranking out beautiful jacket styles.
Today, the vote goes straight to little girl dresses, from infant to size 8, and doll clothing. Unlike my granddaughters who will one day “outgrow” those sizes, doll clothing is a journey that will always stay the same “size and age.”
What is your favorite sewing tip or trick?
That’s a tough one since sewists, whether you’re just starting out or been at it for a long time, we’re always learning new/better/smarter ways to do things.
But one of the tips that I will teach my granddaughter as she learns to sew, is visualize, visualize and visualize. It’s important to learn how to “visualize” what your finished product, especially an outfit, is going to look like before you even begin. How is it going to fit YOU? Do the colors fit my skin tone? Is this print too loud/not appropriate? Will the fabric fit the style?
It sounds like a lot, but once it becomes second nature, it actually becomes part of the shopping pleasure we experience in a fabric shop – or at least, I do!
What is your favorite project you have created?
When my daughter was about 16 months, I made her a denim overall, with matching fleece-lined coat and bonnet. It was a hard project for me at the time but I got so many compliments from other moms with children the same age, I’ve never forgotten it.
What are you currently working on?
I’m planning and currently working to establish myself on-line to sell my homemade dresses and doll clothing. I am currently laying out plans to find a clientele of Moms who still like to outfit their infant/toddler daughters (and their dollies) with clothes appropriate (and fun!) for children.
Towards that end, I’ve been adding to my doll “family”, exploring the Internet (wow! and is that overwhelming!), putting together “libraries” of tutorials, help sites, notion vendors, looking for vintage sewing patterns, “inventorying” my supplies, etc.
Oh, yes, and admiring all the beautiful creations of my fellow sewists!
Thank you for sharing your insights, Arleen! I hope everyone who stops by will leave her a comment!